Starting a Business
Okeechobee County welcomes inquiries from businesses seeking to relocate or expand. The State of Florida and local municipalities are working together to expand the economic base in Florida. This collaboration continues to strengthen Okeechobee County's position as a pro-business community.
Our ideal climate, wealth of recreational and cultural opportunities, wide range of housing options and business relocation support makes the transition a pleasant experience for everyone. Take a look at the innovative ways in which we can help you succeed.
Is Entrepreneurship For You?
Starting your own business can be an exciting and rewarding experience. It can offer numerous advantages such as being your own boss, setting your own schedule and making a living doing something you enjoy. But, becoming a successful entrepreneur requires thorough planning, creativity and hard work.
Consider whether you have the following characteristics and skills commonly associated with successful entrepreneurs:
Comfortable with taking risks: Being your own boss also means you’re the one making tough decisions. Entrepreneurship involves uncertainty. Do you avoid uncertainty in life at all costs? If yes, then entrepreneurship may not be the best fit for you. Do you enjoy the thrill of taking calculated risks? Then read on.
Independent: Entrepreneurs have to make a lot of decisions on their own. If you find you can trust your instincts — and you’re not afraid of rejection every now and then — you could be on your way to being an entrepreneur.
Persuasive: You may have the greatest idea in the world, but if you cannot persuade customers, employees and potential lenders or partners, you may find entrepreneurship to be challenging. If you enjoy public speaking, engage new people with ease and find you make compelling arguments grounded in facts, it’s likely you’re poised to make your idea succeed.
Able to negotiate: As a small business owner, you will need to negotiate everything from leases to contract terms to rates. Polished negotiation skills will help you save money and keep your business running smoothly.
Creative: Are you able to think of new ideas? Can you imagine new ways to solve problems? Entrepreneurs must be able to think creatively. If you have insights on how to take advantage of new opportunities, entrepreneurship may be a good fit.
Supported by others: Before you start a business, it’s important to have a strong support system in place. You’ll be forced to make many important decisions, especially in the first months of opening your business. If you do not have a support network of people to help you, consider finding a business mentor. A business mentor is someone who is experienced, successful and willing to provide advice and guidance. Read the Steps to Finding a Mentor article for help on finding and working with a mentor.
Still think you have what it takes to be an entrepreneur and start a new business? Great! Now ask yourself these 20 questions to help ensure you’ve thought about the right financial and business details.
20 Questions Before Starting
So you’ve got what it takes to be an entrepreneur? Now, ask yourself these 20 questions to make sure you’re thinking about the right key business decisions:
- Why am I starting a business?
- What kind of business do I want?
- Who is my ideal customer?
- What products or services will my business provide?
- Am I prepared to spend the time and money needed to get my business started?
- What differentiates my business idea and the products or services I will provide from others in the market?
- Where will my business be located?
- How many employees will I need?
- What types of suppliers do I need?
- How much money do I need to get started?
- Will I need to get a loan?
- How soon will it take before my products or services are available?
- How long do I have until I start making a profit?
- Who is my competition?
- How will I price my product compared to my competition?
- How will I set up the legal structure of my business?
- What taxes do I need to pay?
- What kind of insurance do I need?
- How will I manage my business?
- How will I advertise my business?
How to Make Your Business Plan Stand Out
One of the first steps to business planning is determining your target market and why they would want to buy from you.
For example, is the market you serve the best one for your product or service? Are the benefits of dealing with your business clear and are they aligned with customer needs? If you're unsure about the answers to any of these questions, take a step back and revisit the foundation of your business plan.
The following tips can help you clarify what your business has to offer, identify the right target market for it and build a niche for yourself.
Be Clear About What You Have to Offer
Ask yourself: Beyond basic products or services, what are you really selling? Consider this example: Your town probably has several restaurants all selling one fundamental product—food. But each is targeted at a different need or clientele.
One might be a drive-thru fast food restaurant, perhaps another sells pizza in a rustic Italian kitchen, and maybe there’s a fine dining seafood restaurant that specializes in wood-grilled fare. All these restaurants sell meals, but they sell them to targeted clientele looking for the unique qualities each has to offer. What they are really selling is a combination of product, value, ambience and brand experience.
When starting a business, be sure to understand what makes your business unique. What needs does your product or service fulfill? What benefits and differentiators will help your business stand out from the crowd?
Don’t Become a Jack of All Trades-Learn to Strategize
It’s important to clearly define what you’re selling. You do not want to become a jack-of-all trades and master of none because this can have a negative impact on business growth. As a smaller business, it's often a better strategy to divide your products or services into manageable market niches. Small operations can then offer specialized goods and services that are attractive to a specific group of prospective buyers.
Identify Your Niche
Creating a niche for your business is essential to success. Often, business owners can identify a niche based on their own market knowledge, but it can also be helpful to conduct a market survey with potential customers to uncover untapped needs. During your research process, identify the following:
- Which areas your competitors are already well-established
- Which areas are being ignored by your competitors
- Potential opportunities for your business
Writing Your Business Plan - Step #1 Company Description
This section of your business plan provides a high-level review of the different elements of your business. This is akin to an extended elevator pitch and can help readers and potential investors quickly understand the goal of your business and its unique proposition.
What to Include in Your Company Description
- Describe the nature of your business and list the marketplace needs that you are trying to satisfy.
- Explain how your products and services meet these needs.
- List the specific consumers, organizations or businesses that your company serves or will serve.
- Explain the competitive advantages that you believe will make your business a success such as your location, expert personnel, efficient operations, or ability to bring value to your customers.
Next, you’ll need to move on to the Market Analysis section of your plan.
Writing Your Business Plan - Step #2 Market Analysis
The market analysis section of your business plan should illustrate your industry and market knowledge as well as any of your research findings and conclusions. This section is usually presented after the company description.
What to Include in Your Market Analysis
Industry Description and Outlook – Describe your industry, including its current size and historic growth rate as well as other trends and characteristics (e.g., life cycle stage, projected growth rate). Next, list the major customer groups within your industry.
Information About Your Target Market – Narrow your target market to a manageable size. Many businesses make the mistake of trying to appeal to too many target markets. Research and include the following information about your market:
Distinguishing characteristics – What are the critical needs of your potential customers? Are those needs being met? What are the demographics of the group and where are they located? Are there any seasonal or cyclical purchasing trends that may impact your business?
Size of the primary target market – In addition to the size of your market, what data can you include about the annual purchases your market makes in your industry? What is the forecasted market growth for this group? For more information, see our market research guide for tips and free government resources that can help you build a market profile.
How much market share can you gain? – What is the market share percentage and number of customers you expect to obtain in a defined geographic area? Explain the logic behind your calculation.
Pricing and gross margin targets – Define your pricing structure, gross margin levels, and any discount that you plan to use.
When you include information about any of the market tests or research studies you have completed, be sure to focus only on the results of these tests. Any other details should be included in the appendix.
Competitive Analysis – Your competitive analysis should identify your competition by product line or service and market segment. Assess the following characteristics of the competitive landscape:
- Market share
- Strengths and weaknesses
- How important is your target market to your competitors?
- Are there any barriers that may hinder you as you enter the market?
- What is your window of opportunity to enter the market?
- Are there any indirect or secondary competitors who may impact your success?
- What barriers to market are there (e.g., changing technology, high investment cost, lack of quality personnel)?
Regulatory Restrictions – Include any customer or governmental regulatory requirements affecting your business, and how you’ll comply. Also, cite any operational or cost impact the compliance process will have on your business.
Once you’ve completed this section, you can move on to the Organization & Management section of your business plan.
Writing Your Business Plan - Executive Summary
The executive summary is often considered the most important section of a business plan. This section briefly tells your reader where your company is, where you want to take it, and why your business idea will be successful. If you are seeking financing, the executive summary is also your first opportunity to grab a potential investor’s interest.
The executive summary should highlight the strengths of your overall plan and therefore be the last section you write. However, it usually appears first in your business plan document.
What to Include in Your Executive Summary
Below are several key points that your executive summary should include based on the stage of your business.
If You Are an Established Business
If you are an established business, be sure to include the following information:
- The Mission Statement – This explains what your business is all about. It should be between several sentences and a paragraph.
- Company Information – Include a short statement that covers when your business was formed, the names of the founders and their roles, your number of employees, and your business location(s).
- Growth Highlights – Include examples of company growth, such as financial or market highlights (for example, “XYZ Firm increased profit margins and market share year-over-year since its foundation). Graphs and charts can be helpful in this section.
- Your Products/Services -- Briefly describe the products or services you provide.
- Financial Information – If you are seeking financing, include any information about your current bank and investors.
- Summarize future plans – Explain where you would like to take your business.
With the exception of the mission statement, all of the information in the executive summary should be covered in a concise fashion and kept to one page. The executive summary is the first part of your business plan many people will see, so each word should count.
If You Are a Startup or New Business
If you are just starting a business, you won't have as much information as an established company. Instead, focus on your experience and background as well as the decisions that led you to start this particular enterprise.
Demonstrate that you have done thorough market analysis. Include information about a need or gap in your target market, and how your particular solutions can fill it. Convince the reader that you can succeed in your target market, then address your future plans.
Remember, your Executive Summary will be the last thing you write. So the first section of the business plan that you will tackle is the Company Description section.