August 23, 2014

Small Business Advice

Business ideas are everywhere today

"Business is more exciting than any game." ~Lord Beaverbrook

Jerry Osteryoung | 8/12/2013

When people find out about the work I do helping small businesses, they often say there are just no more opportunities out there. When I hear this I try very hard not to laugh. This statement could not be further from the truth.

There are a ton of opportunities out there. It is just a matter of finding a business that has potential.

About two weeks ago, I was in St. Petersburg for a Rays game. As we walked through the parking lot at the stadium, I saw a car advertising a business that — hold your breath on this one — picks up dog poop. Yep. For about $10 a week, they come to your house and clean the dog poop out of your yard.

I am sure many of you are saying, “He has got to be making this up!” But I swear it is true. There are actually quite a few of these firms out there — among them Doo Care, Pet Waste Removals, Scoop Masters and Pet Butler.

There is even a company called Poo Prints that comes to apartment complexes and matches the DNA of the “sample” to the errant dog so the owner can be reminded to pick up his or her dog’s poop or be disciplined.

We can chuckle under our breath at these businesses, but the point is that these are viable ventures started by entrepreneurs who recognized an opportunity. In this case, it was that people are willing to pay someone to come to their homes and pick up poop.

If you are looking to start a business, I strongly recommend focusing on a service. The startup costs for a service business are much lower than for a business that provides a product.

I teach entrepreneurship courses to women inmates at the Gadsden Correctional Facility and my students rarely have trouble identifying the businesses they want to start. I think the reason is that they know they need to find something to support themselves and their families and their minds are completely uncluttered by what they are doing now.

The only time I decline to help an inmate with a business plan is when it is a good cause (starting a teen center, for example), but they do not have the funds or expertise to make it happen.

My point is that these women are all behind bars for various reasons, but they can come up with all kinds of neat service businesses without much effort. They simply answer the following questions:

  • What have you done in the past that you were successful at?
  • What type of business can you run on the weekends or in your home until you get it ramped up?
  • What type of service can you provide that the public will pay for?
  • What type of business can you start and keep going on less than $5,000.

The purpose of these questions is to help guide them to viable business ideas they can be successful with.

If you are considering starting a business, you should not feel intimated. Rather, start with a simple concept, do it well and go from there. Most people are more than capable of doing it.

Now go out and get started making actual plans for your new business if this is something you are considering.

You can do this!


Other small business advice columns from Dr. Osteryoung are here.

Jerry Osteryoung is a consultant to businesses - he has directly assisted over 3,000 firms. He is the Jim Moran Professor of Entrepreneurship (Emeritus) and Professor of Finance (Emeritus) at Florida State University. He was the founding Executive Director of The Jim Moran Institute and served in that position from 1995 through 2008. His newest book co-authored with Tim O'Brien, "If You Have Employees, You Really Need This Book," is an Amazon.com bestseller. He can be reached by e-mail at jerry.osteryoung@gmail.com.

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