As a SCORE Mentor I talk with a number of folks wanting to start their own business. They want to know how and where to register their business and what licenses or permits they need. They want to know if their idea will make money, will anybody buy the product or service they offer, and if there is enough of those customers for the business to support the entrepreneur’s family. I also talk with folks who have been in business for a year or two. They are learning that operating a business is more than just landscaping, fixing computers or making and selling Sun Catchers. There is keeping financial records, filing reports, finding potential customers and getting the word out to attract them to the business. So, how does someone start a business or if you have a business, how do you make it grow?

SCORE recommends you start with a feasibility study. If you’re preparing to start a business, look at yourself first. Do you have the skills and the temperament necessary to operate a business? If not, it doesn’t mean you don’t move forward, it means you look for ways to improve those skills. Next, for startups and existing businesses looking to grow, ask, is there a market for your product or service, how big is that market, will it be profitable and will those profits be enough to satisfy you and your family’s needs?

Whether you’re just getting started or taking your business to the next level, it is important to have a plan. The great American philosopher Yogi Berra once said “If you don’t know where you’re going, you might end up someplace else”. It may be a full Business Plan or one of the “lean” plans but you need a plan to make certain you’ve looked at all the options.

Part of the planning should be a marketing plan. Take the information you’ve gathered in the feasibility study about potential customers and determine how you are going to use it. Now that you have identified your target market and where they are, plan how you will get your message to them. What will you say, how will you say it and what media you will use to put your information in front of them. Once you have their attention, you need to close the sale.

Become familiar with those financial statements everyone talks about. Learn what a Balance Sheet, Income Statement and Cash Flow Statement tell you about your business. Learn how to use that information to make informed decisions about your business.

To help you prepare for starting or growing your business, Port Charlotte SCORE will present an eight week Entrepreneurial Academy beginning Wednesday evening January, 17, 2018 and continuing once a week until March 7th. We will meet from 6:00 PM until 9:00 PM in the community room on the second floor of the SMH Emergency Room, 2345 Bobcat Village Center Road in North Port, 34288.

There is no charge for the Academy thanks to our sponsors Achieva Credit Union and the City of North Port.

Seats are limited so you must preregister and commit to attend all eight sessions. For more information and to register, email eddavis@scorevolunteer.org or leave a message at 941-743-6179.

Port Charlotte SCORE is a Chapter of The SCORE Association, dedicated to the formation, growth and success of small businesses by educating and mentoring entrepreneurs. Volunteers provide confidential business advice to meet the needs of both start-up and existing entrepreneurs at no cost. Request a mentor at www.portcharlotte.score.org. Follow us on Twitter; @charlottecscore