Start Up Plans

Where do new ideas come from?

by Norma Rist on December 2, 2010

Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of InnovationThe video on this link — talking about Where do New Ideas Come From is good information and so much fun to watch.  Stay until the end and be surprised.  See how much you can learn from this video about the ideas you have dreamed about, perhaps your best business idea yet!


Lots of Friends Can Help Your Biz Start-Up

by Norma Rist on November 13, 2010

Sisters share the scent and smells - the feel of a common childhood {Pam Brown}         

Yesterday I gave a presentation to a group of woman owners and professionals in the local Women’s Network organization. A couple dozen women came to the lunch to dialog with me on a topic I like: “Dialog with Norma — About Your Future.” For the best part of an hour we talked about why women tend to set goals that are realistic or modest. Women don’t want to fail at anything, so they set a goal that is fairly easy.

I suggested that they consider setting an unrealistic goal, a goal that is significant; one that you may think that you could not possibly achieve. Setting this type of goal can be scary. If you tell someone, and then don’t work on it, you were just dreaming. If you tell someone and then work on it but it doesn’t get done, does that mean that you failed? Think about it – if you work on an unrealistic goal and make any progress at all, that is a significant achievement! In fact locally, in my community, there are so many owners who wanted to work on setting and making progress on an unrealistic goal that they asked me to create a regular monthly meeting time to talk together at a coffee house and have support for their efforts. This is one example of how much easier it it to accomplish something difficult if you have friends and resources during this phase of your life or your business.

So two things happened for the women who attended this lunch. First, they connected with other women owners to hear things they might not have heard or known by themselves. Secondly, they heard a story about setting unrealistic goals, and even a way to meet with like minded women who want to accomplish something bigger.

As you start your business, look in your community and find organizations that support women owners. You may find a NAWBO chapter near you. NAWBO is the National Association of Women Business Owners. Or you may find that the Chamber of Commerce has a biz women’s chamber group. Sometimes communities have a women’s network type organization that is comprised of women owners as well as women in the professions and women in corporations. Find these organizations by asking your business and reference librarian, or looking at the biz calendar in your daily/weekly newspapers. Visit and see if they are a good resource for professional development as well as a way to find talented experts in areas you may need during the growth of your business. If you are not getting enough out of the place you chose, try somewhere different; keep visiting until you find the right organization(s).

You will need lots of friends and resources as you start your business.

Creative Commons License photo credit: {N}Duran

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I met with a woman business owner – a scalable biz

by Norma Rist on October 16, 2010

 lily pad with flower
Creative Commons License photo credit: chatblanc1


One of my favorite things to do is to meet with a woman owner in the early stages of her business development and  find that her business can be scaled.  How exciting!  The business has the capability of being developed in a way that it could be very large – it can be scaled to a continuously larger size.  A traditional way to scale is by adding locations.  Sometimes growth can be planned by licensing a product or service to others across the country.  There are many ways to scale a business; that is an entire workshop; I will talk about that later.

This particular women owner has specific knowlege that is needed by large firms all over the county.  She can consult with these large firms and help them to save hundreds of thousands of dollars each year.  But if she is the only one consulting then she is limited to one consulting job at a time, one:one service, and she is limited in earnings to the amount she can charge for the firms she helps each year.

The excitement comes when we figure out how to scale the company, a strategic plan for growth, that is a fit with the way an owner is comfortable growing.  In this case it appears to be a training program with a certification.  This is the only way to have a cadre of trained professionals to provide this type of consulting for Fortune 1000 companies all over the country.  We had so much fun outlining the nature of the training program, the target market for phase one of the training, and the certification process.

She can build a local consulting practice and at the same time be designing the national training program.  Once accomplished the certification will provide a significant boost for her branding – she will become the consulting expert for the corporate experts.  The credibility she will gain by having the certification program will carry over into her proposals for future clients.

We talked about the specific marketing plan to secure her next few local clients;  that effort will bring stability and constant cash flow,  and also will prepare her for the larger scaled firm, the company that will have value and can be sold one day.  I can’t wait for our next meeting.


Clean Space for Creativity in your Small Business

by Norma Rist on September 21, 2010

thank you Alex Osterwalder – flickr

My earliest memory of visiting the Akron Beacon Journal offices was the look of books and papers everywhere.  All surface areas seems to be filled with papers.  Where did they sit to actually write, or to make notes, or to organize their materials?

How can you organize all the parts of your new business unless you have a place that feels clean and orderly,  just waiting for you to unleash some great new idea!  So where does that space come from?

One Desk for Communications – One Open Work Space for Creativity

One idea is to keep one desk for communications.  This includes your computer, your phone, your notes about calls to return and emails to send.  Those notes can stay stickied to your desk, computer, bulletin board. 

A second desk or table or even a door positioned horizontally over two two-drawer filing cabinets can create an open work space where you can create.  If you are working on a proposal, a presentation, or even a workbook, this open space will accomodate your writing pad, sample forms from other resource places, ideas from notes you wrote down last week, pens and squeegie toys.  Maybe you bring your laptop with you, but you avoid looking at email or social media.  This space then is totally dedicated to the project at hand.  No other work to pull your focus. 

I have known professionals who take all of those things and head for the nearest library; same result – all your materials are collected for the project at hand – easy to stay focused.

Some years ago we had a lovely foreign exchange student from Russia.  She was so focused on the project at hand, she could walk over to the table in our family room, push aside the other magazines, books and papers, and create a 15 inch square clean space, and start her homework.  I always admired that ability.  Not me!  I need the clean table to write my book.


Are You the Breadwinner? Need Fast Start Up Biz

by Norma Rist on September 4, 2010

Are you the breadwinner?  Need to get your little business to produce revenue as fast as possible?  The bills need to be paid?


Is your business a service business?  Are you going to offer training, or writing, or graphic design, or event planning?  If so, you probably are not going to the bank to borrow money.  You don’t plan to buy equipment; you have a computer and you are home based at the moment.


At this emergency moment you need a client who will pay you.  You do not need a business plan.  You need a marketing plan to produce prospects.  And out of those prospects you need to secure a client.  Think about the fastest way to find your ideal client.  If you are a photographer serving corporate clients, you need to go to events where you can meet corporate people. Corporate people go to Chamber events.  If you are an event planner, you need to be in the room with people who are responsible for their firm’s business events, adminstrative professionals.  If you are a graphic designer, you need to be around small business owners (established – because they can pay) and non-profit organizations who need upgraded materials.  The small business owners are at business expos, lead groups and boards of trade.  The non-profit organization managers are at their association meetings.


Ok, so what did that paragraph just say?  You figure out where your best prospects are going to be, and you go there.


There are three ways to connect with prospects if you are an individual professional with services to offer.

1) Find out where they go and go to the same place
2) Find out their addresses and mail or call on them
3) Find centers of influence who already know them and secure referrals


So we just started to discuss the first way.  Find out where they go and go to the same place.  Talk with your business supporters or your Boardroom Group about where you will find the ideal prospects for your services.  Look in the datebook in local newspapers and business magazines.  Find the dates and places that your prospects will be in the room.  You know you can attend because they list member price and non-member price – that’s YOU – the nonmember.  You are welcome.  They want you to attend.


A second way to quickly connect with prospects is to find out their address and call on them, or mail to them, or send a newsletter to them.  The main library always has a computer with all the names of the companies and organizations in the U.S.  It is searchable by city, county, or industry code.  Ask the business/reference librarian to show you the computer and how to use it.  You can print lists, or details about the organizations.  It will tell you the number of employees and names of officers.  Perfect information to get started – and it is FREE.


A third way to connect with prospects is to identify those professionals who already know many of these organizations and what services they may need.  A CEO of a small manufacturing firm will ask a current trusted consultant for names of other service company owners for additional outside services.  You identify local consultants and service providers, then you invite them to breakfast, coffee or lunch.  You indicate that you will be meeting a lot of people and you would like to know the kind of referrals they would like to have.  Trust me, after learning about them and the referrals they would like to have, they will ask you what type of referrals you want to have.


A long time ago a woman IT professional who wanted to install accounting software for small companies and non-profits ask me to join her for coffee.  She told me about her services and ask me if I would refer her if I came across someone who needed her.  I was familiar with accounting software (previously I was a Controller in a manufacturing firm) and she knew her stuff, so I said “yes.”  If was not more than two or three weeks when someone asked me for the name of any referrals I might provide for this type of work.  And she got the job!


So if you are the breadwinner in your family and you need to quickly start securing clients, delivering services, and making deposits in your back account, think about the best way to reach your prospects and start this low-cost marketing as soon as possible.  Soon you will have clients and will be growing your business.


bouquet for spring
Creative Commons License photo credit: shaferlens
A good step in the beginning of your business development is to decide how you want your business to be perceived, how you want it to be branded.  There are so many adjectives that could describe the way you would like to be known.  Here are some of them:
Happy, good problem solver, friendly partner, approachable, caring, welcoming, non-threatening, safe, comfortable, efficient, no hassle, turnkey, energized team, transformational, no-risk, professional.
Good listener, energetic, knowledgeable, credible, clean, businesslike, excellent service provider, steady, dependable, timely, easy, attractive, experienced, expert listener, pleasant, cutting edge.
Your branding will be needed in a number of places.  It will be easier if you consider a list of potential adjectives and decide on the ones that best apply to you.  Then as materials are designed, or the web site is developed, you will already have a good idea what to tell the designers.  
If you are a social worker or a therapist you may choose approachable and professional.
If you are a photographer you may choose experienced and cutting edge.
If you own a children’s store you may choose happy, knowledgeable, excellent service provider.
If you are an organization expert you may choose attractive, good problem solver, efficient.
 Places where these adjectives will help you carry out your branding could include:
Web Site
Media Kit
As you make your list of materials or places for your branding e.g. above, you will find that a few adjectives will show up in one place, but not necessarily in all places.  Perhaps the letterhead needs to be professional, but the brochure needs to be professional but also friendly and approachable.  So you will use some adjective repeatedly, and others in just a few places.
Review your choices every so often.  Sometimes you will learn more about your business and will add adjectives, or change the importance of some of the adjectives.  You will refine your branding as your business grows and evolves.

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Filing Systems for Small Business Owners

by Norma Rist on August 24, 2010

To Start Filing


Filing systems for a new business can be confusing.  First you seem to have a mishmosh of files, all in a different order every day.

Later they get bigger than the plastic cube, where they had a nice home for awhile, and you don’t know what to do next.
In the cube, if you look at the types of files, you will find that they have names that can be sorted functionally – finance, legal, marketing, operations, prospects and customers.  So as soon as you locate a filing cabinet you can sort the files by the functional areas.  Post names on the drawers.

More Drawers

Finance and legal might go in the first drawer.  Label it.  And inside keep the finance separate, to include bills-to-pay, paid invoices, financial reports, Q instructions, CPA info.  And in the same drawer keep as a group the files from legal, to include copies from NoloPress where you were studying about contracts in preparation to see your attorney, and incorporation papers, or other legal information valuable to you about your business. 
Then go to the next drawer and put your files on marketing.  This will be a big file.  You need lots of marketing in the beginning – to get your name out there and lots of people planning to use your service as soon as they need you.  If you have sales agreements, or other sales presentations, they can reside here too.
In the other drawer you can put files for the prospects.  Each name has a cozy home in a file folder.  I like to use two variations of one color for these two groups.  For example, perhaps you use light blue for prospects, but dark blue for clients.  Then you know one from the other.  You can enjoy watching the dark blue file folders grow.  And if you do not have enough light blue file folders – aha – you might not be doing enough marketing.  Need more light blue files to turn into clients.
Operations is the other section.  All of the things that you have to do to deliver a product or a service to your client.  What is the system you use.  What forms are used.  All of them go into this drawer.
This system will work for quite some time.  Some of you are asking “what comes next?”  Next would be four or five filing cabinets, one for each functional area.  Picture you walk into an office, say the insurance office, and you see lots of filing cabinets.  One entire cabinet is for clients, one is for the accountant to handle the payable, receivables, payroll etc.; you get the picture. 
 Hope this helps.  Remember that colors are good, and pendaflex files help keep everything neat.  Nothing worse than being late for an appointment with a prospect because you could not find a file folder.  Give them all a home – and arrive on time ready to close a new sale.
Flickr photo via creative commons:bowbrick,reedinglessons


A Consistent Image for Your New Small Business

by Norma Rist on August 7, 2010

Thank You Petit Plat – Flickr

It is important that your business have a consistent image.  All of the visual parts of the business need to look like they belong together.  Think about your business cards, brochure, envelopes and letterhead.  Could you imagine a business having purple cards, pink brochures, yellow envelopes and blue letterhead?  Probably not – unless you were operating a kindergarten. 

What else needs to look as though it belongs as a part of your little company?  Entrepreneurs sometimes use event materials or speaker sheets – those materials need to be in the same theme as your other materials.  Here are some other visuals that should carry the same logo, or look:  web site, packaging, media kit, portfolios, and proposals.  It does not need to look glitzy or expensive.  Just using the same font,  the same size font, and the same color design is enough.  Prospects will get used to seeing your materials and will know they came from you without even reading the content.


So Many Pieces

There are a lot of start up questions.  Should I narrow the services I want to offer?  Where is the best place to begin to look for clients?  What do I officially need to do to get started?

Let’s start with the type of business that you may need.  Most owners begin their business by being a Sole Proprietor.  This type of business is not separate from you.  You and the business are one in the same.  All profits that you earn in the business are a part of your personal tax return.  Just like there is a place for employed earnings (W-2), there is a place for profits from doing business (Schedule C). 
“So if being a Sole Proprietor is the same as me, why do I have to be anything”, you say.  Your business still needs it’s own bank account.  You don’t want to mix your business revenues in with your household income.  So you open a small business (find the cheapest/convenient) checking account.  (Some may do this in a local credit union.)  Then the bank account holds all the revenue of the business and the expenses of the business.  The result is the profit of the business.  Money can be moved from this account to the household account – a draw against the cash of the business.  But it is easy to use the revenue and the expense to post on the Schedule C at tax time.
Your business also needs its own EIN number.  You don’t really want to use your social security number out in a bunch more places.  EIN numbers are issued by the IRS. Go to  and key in the search term EIN.  It will tell you how easy it is to apply on line for the free number.  Then your business has its own number.  Get the EIN before you go to the bank.
If you are starting a bigger business, say a large floral shoppe, or a bakery, or a manufacturing plant, then you may talk with your attorney and your accountant about incorporation – so the company has shareholders.  You own the shares.  There are some tax advantages for corporations, and there are some legal advantages too.  Talk to your CPA and your attorney about those. 
More about what you officially need to do to get started in the next few posts.


A Start Up Business Is Not A Perfect Thing

by Norma Rist on July 30, 2010

thank you renatamotta on flickr

Are you one of the type of people who want everything to be perfect?  You take twice as long to do anything because you don’t want to make a mistake.  Don’t want to have a hair out of place.   This is some extra baggage that will slow you down as you start your new business.  If you tend to wait forever to put your toe in the water, then you may need to look at how to reduce those tendencies.

You could spend two years analyzing your business plan and not actually starting a business.  One day I met with two women at a book store; they asked me to help them with a challenge.  They were trying to put together their business plan and were stuck on mission.  They had spent two weeks trying to hammer out a mission.  In the meantime they could have been working on the service they planned to offer and the target market.  I asked them to put the mission statement on the back burner and move to the next section.
In the course of one evening we put together the primary service they wished to offer, the ideal target market, a potentially good way to reach that target market, and a plan for all of the above with dates!
Sometimes you have to dive in and try something.  You will learn in the process, and enjoy the journey of the start up.


My New Small Business Seems So Small

by Norma Rist on July 29, 2010

My Own Small Business

Oh yes!  It can seem so small for quite a while.  But there are milestones.  Little milestones that attest to the fact that your business is getting off the ground.  You are going to have a real business.  I remember a woman coming in my office – carrying a large box of pottery – and telling me she wanted to have a real business.  She had a micro-biz producing in her home and selling at small shows.  Now she has her own store.

Here is a milestone: needing a bank stamp to stamp the back of all the checks you are depositing.  Or buying copy paper by the carton instead of the ream.  Or needing a book to log your telephone calls.  Or getting a few clients and wondering when in the world you would still have time to market and you aren’t really putting that much money in the bank yet.  Or getting a letter from a young graduate asking if you will hire her.  All of these small things are milestones.
But to actually create the larger company that will ongoing, stable, viable and profitable, you will need to keep putting one foot in front of the other.  You will need to continue to market for the best customers, those who can be served in half the time, and provide referrals, so that new clients continue to come, better clients, paying more fees to move you toward your goals. 
Keeping your focus is essential.  Create a calendar for marketing so it stays a part of your week.  Put clients in similar geography together, or prospects in one part of town.  Efficiency will need to your byword.  All of these efforts will pay off.  Read your favorite book on time management and implement those things that appeal to you.
Begin to look at ways to make your business scalable – a plan so the business can grow substantially.  Will it grow by hiring employees to do most of the work?  Or will it grow by earning more and more every time you give a speech.  Or perhaps you have a business on line and need to get much better at online marketing and funnel sites and all the things that bring you higher traffic and higher sales.
Find others who are working on similar activities and collaborate.  At my office many owners meet to blog together and share ideas and technical advice.  Monthly I meet with groups of women owners, Boardroom Groups, in order to talk about challenges and opportunities.  The energy from these groups can carry you through the week.  It won’t be long before your little lemonade stand will be a solid business providing profit for today and for the future.



So many women owners ask me if they should look for a partner in their business.  They say that it will be easier with someone to share the risk, share the work, share the vision.  Also, they picture, two of them will have more skills and knowledge to use to start and build the business.  All of that is true. 

However, it also means that one partner may hold back because the other partner is not certain of the direction.  Or one partner will wait to consult the other partner before taking action.  Or two partners will disagree about how fast to grow, or how much to invest, or when to add a service line, or when to pay for marketing/computers/etc.
I have known any number of partners who attempted to grow a business together, and of all of them I only would point to one set of partners who made it in the long run.  For every good reason to have a partner, there are six reasons to go it alone.
If you are determined to have a partner then try this exercise.  Make a job description for each of you and look at both of them and think about whether you can live with them.  Move jobs from one person to the other if needed.  (Live with them for perhaps a year, and update them every year on your company anniversary.)  Then make one more sheet of paper and title it ‘List of Shared Decisions’.  Add to the list every type of decision that you both believe should be discussed with the partner before implementing.
The job descriptions should help to keep you from trying to perform the other person’s job, and the List of Shared Decisions should help you to know when to have a company meeting.


Have Fun While You Start a New Business

by Norma Rist on July 27, 2010

Fun is Important

Starting a new business is a lot of work.  You have to really want to have this new business.  It will be worth it but in the beginning there is a check list of one time things to do.  During this time you will want to have things to do that provide for relaxation and fun.  In addition you will want to spend time with friends and family who are supportive of your new venture.  Sometimes a friend will not understand this new direction, and might ask you “why don’t you get a real job”?  Tell them that this new opportunity may turn out to be better than a job, and you have a strong desire to follow it for awhile. 

Then be sure to find the other women who are supportive of your new activities.  Find other women owners and spend time with them.  You will value this support, get ideas, resources and even some fun!
What things have you already found are helpful while you are working so hard on your start up business?



What Book Will Help Me Start My Business?

by Norma Rist on July 27, 2010

Creative Commons License photo credit: cometstarmoon There are so many books on business start-up, it is hard to decide what would be of the most help.  And then you add in the books on marketing, selling, product development and financial info and you are really on overload. 

There is a very good book that can help you to think about the special niche area for your business.  We often pick a niche that is far too large.  It is hard to narrow the niche and be an expert in that niche.  We, of course, don’t want to lose any revenue by turning down work. 

But you can narrow your niche and market for work in that niche – and still accept an invitation to quote some work that is slightly outside of that tight niche when you choose to.  Money is good.  Every entrepreneur does some work that is outside of their tight niche in order to keep cash moving through the business.  We just don’t market for everything – or prospects don’t know what your real expertise is – and don’t know how to introduce you to someone else – and don’t know what referral to send to you.

So, here is a great book to help you think through you niche of services or products to offer. 

Riches in Niches: How to Make It Big in a Small Market by Susan A. Friedmann

Susan is so good at explaining how to narrow the services you might offer and choosing a narrow niche and branding yourself in that niche.  Your prospects will know that you are an expert in this specific area and will provide referrals regularly.  This is so much better than prospects wanting to use your services but not being sure that you want that type of work.


Thank You mnchick23
Risk – How to Reduce It!

In planning your small business start-up, is the first thing you think about “what if I fail in my new business”?  Is security a priority for you?  Do you worry about how you will look if you start a new business and it does not succeed?  Women seem to worry more about failing than men usually do.  We are concerned that if the business fails it will look as though we failed.  Men seem to separate the small business from themselves; it was not the right time, there was too much competition, there was not enough capital.  If you are more on the side of concern and worrying about failure being personal, then planning for a success is really important to you.

Here are a series of things you can do to prepare for a new entrepreneurial venture and reduce your risk:
  1. Lighten your load
  2. Get support
  3. Protect relationships you care about
  4. Keep your current life rich and rewarding
  5. Get clear on what you really want
  6. Plan in phases
  7. Get a handle on money
  8. Negotiate for what you want
  9. Have a back up plan
  10. Let go
  11. Believe the universe is unfolding perfectly
  12. Enjoy the journey

What other ways have you found you can reduce your risk as you start your new business start-up?


How Will You Choose the Right Business

by Norma Rist on July 21, 2010


How do I Choose?

The Business for Me?

When you think about your new business, consider how hard you will need to work to get it started, grow it, and make is profitable.  The services or products you offer need to be something that you really enjoy. 

Read more…


Starting a Small Business?

by Norma Rist on July 20, 2010

My Fortune

Are you starting a small business – you are at the right place.  For almost 20 years I have helped women to start a business, grow a business, and find the customers they really like.  If you have a product, a capability or knowledge that someone else will pay for, then you can start a business around those products or services. 

Is it easy?  No.  Is it worth it? Yes.  With your passion to be independent, and your interest is learning how to provide your product or service to your customers, and your willingness to be business savvy, you could create a small business of your own.

  This site is intended to make it easy to find on line resources to help you on that journey.  From books to organizations, organizations and stories,  I hope all of this will help you move more quickly toward your goal of starting a small business and being independent.

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