Many people dream of having their own business. It’s an idyllic dream where they only work when they want to, they only have to do the parts they enjoy, everyone works as a team, there are plenty of profits for them to take out of the business, and consumers love their product and flock to buy it.

Hmmmm… it’s not usually like this. Instead, there is never enough money in the early stages, employees are surly, customers want deep discounts, there’s never enough time in the day and it seems like the IRS is taking more out of your business than you are.

So what are the secrets to launching any successful business?

  • Experience in the chosen field! No food experience? Get some! Work for a manufacturer, distributor, broker, etc first. As often as I give this advice, few heed it. Those who do are more prepared, more grounded and more successful.
  • Experience running a business…..any business. This will put you light years ahead when getting into a new field. Still you need to do your homework, especially about margins and channels of distribution. In the specialty food business, there is dangerous quick sand if you venture in unaware.
  • Experience in sales. If you can sell and understand the sales process, you are oriented to generate revenue. If there is enough revenue, you can make (and pay for) a lot of mistakes.
  • Understand accounting and finance. Take classes in accounting, Excel and Quickbooks. Practice by using it to manage your household expenses. If you aspire to be in business, numbers are the language you need to speak.
  • Know your strengths. Take some self assessment tests and have them reviewed with you by a knowledgeable professional. There are free ones (Values in Action) but without an interrupter, the exercise loses its impact. There are two significant benefits in understanding yourself better:
    • You can play to your top strengths, work on your mid-level ones and forget your weaknesses, as they will never be more that moderately improved
    • You can align yourself with others that complement you, i.e., employees, partners, consultants.
  • Be realistic about the amount of time and money you’ll need to invest. You will not be able to take $5000 and turn it into $5,000,000 in 2 years. Do the math. Have a plan, do the research, understand your target customer.
  • Consider buying an existing business (or become a partner in one). Don’t underestimate the value of have a foundation already in place…..revenue, brand identity, infrastructure, employees etc. Get professional help to evaluate the company and structure the deal so you don’t overpay, but this can be well worth the time it saves in start-up mode. You can improve the product offerings once you understand the current business.
  • Understand your journey. Why do you want to own your own business? To create a job for yourself? To create a lifestyle? To leave a legacy? To create wealth/equity to sell? Each of these would require a different path to accomplish.

Wishing you success as you start a specialty food business…. however you define it!

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