Inc. Magazine included Columbia in its list of “The 50 Best U.S. Cities for Starting a Business in 2020.” They rated Columbia sixth for net business creation, 42nd for creativity and intellectual strength, 43rd for the number of high-growth companies, and 47th for job creation. Since Columbia is such a vibrant incubator for creating economic value, many people are thinking through the dynamics that facilitate starting or buying a small business.
Individuals considering entering into the small business environs would benefit from determining their capacity as an originator of the business, their aptitude to start the business from nothing, and whether they are more suited to be an “acquisition entrepreneur.” The acquisition entrepreneur purchases an existing business with the expectation of adding value to it by furthering the present enterprise or by developing a different business paradigm.
Small business developers must have a significant tolerance for risk because they are in a “situation room” every hour of the day. They are aided by recognizing the sacrifices vital for success while understanding that adversity is their most effective teacher and that failures can be their friends. Effective small business owner-operators possess an exact assessment of patience, self-discipline, and ability to forego immediate gratification. They also have the talent to maintain a positive attitude amidst the unanticipated quagmires.
Chad Hardaway, clinical professor of innovation and entrepreneurship at the University of South Carolina College of Engineering and Computing, cautions, “Remember that a startup company is a temporary organization looking for a repeatable and scalable business model. Be prepared to pivot your idea and adjust to what you see the market validate. Go with a one-page business model canvas versus a 300-page business plan.”
Appreciate the reality that owning a small business can be lonely. Finding a partner with a complementary skill set usually allows for faster business growth, but nonetheless, Columbia entrepreneur Cubby Culbertson warns, “He who has a partner has a master.” Partnerships are never perfect or equal, but they can be most effective in growing a small business.
When determining movements within a small business, individuals who are skilled with systems, organizations, and operations should find a salesperson. If you are the salesman, recruit a person excelling in the other arenas of the business operations. Be authentic with yourself about yourself. Look at yourself closely and decide if you are better at rainmaking or tending to the details. Getting the right people in the most effective positions is a game changer.
At this juncture, potential entrepreneurs might ask how their own desires and aptitude figure in their wish to initiate a small business. Julian D. Wilson, a retail, manufacturing, and brokering capitalist, believes that those desiring to build and scale their own business must “love what you do and play to your strengths. If you have known weaknesses, then surround yourself with those who complement your skill sets.”
In your present position, if you discover that making deals is more exciting than doing the work involved following the deals, you should look more closely at your fitness for owning a small business. Those primarily interested in doing the deals must first do the back-office work necessary to make the deals. Socrates was spot on when he said, “Know thyself.”
Small business developers can only afford to look at yesterday just long enough to resolve how to address tomorrow. The most prosperous small business creators know that whatever is not measured will not be accomplished. Successful small business owners are committed to growing the asset — the business — rather than their own salary. Grow the business, and the salaries as well as the cash flow will follow.
Profitable small business creators are acutely aware that most people are only competent and will only be competent in their present strengths. Your greatest room for growth is in your strengths, not your weaknesses. Reinforce your strengths with practice and study even as you carve out your role in the business that draws on your strengths. Manage around your weaknesses by partnering, hiring in house, outsourcing, and refusing to do what you do not do well.
Joel Bowers, owner of a half-dozen local entrepreneurial ventures, advises people interested in discerning the viability of going into business for themselves to focus on their core competency. “It is draining and inefficient for a salesman to manage internal staff or administer operations, just as it is wasteful for a person who enjoys data analytics to make cold calls on prospects eight hours a day. You can safely assume that new sales and increased revenue will only happen when you purposefully devote appropriate skills and time to the task.”
As “almost” business owners calculate their prospects, they should survey the market trends in the business arena they desire to enter. They should designate the trophy assets they need in order to pull the project together, determine the diversions that will deplete their most valuable resource, which is their time, and recognize that they will create their own ceiling.
Expecting the unexpected is the mantra of Brian Boyer, president of Boyer Commercial Construction in Columbia. “There will be times when you are faced with more distractions and concerns than one person can possibly handle. Prioritize your focus on those key elements of your business that will have the greatest possible impact on your success.”
The most often mentioned recommendation for those having an interest in starting their own business is to prepare well in advance for the venture by studying the failures and successes of others. Meet with many small business owners in different genres of business for their counsel on the genesis behind their successes and failures. Consider taking college and university courses in your area of interest. You have more time before you start the business to advance in understanding and perform your due diligence than you will ever have after the business is operating.
Ted Pitts, president and CEO of the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce, has an acute awareness of the business climate. His conversations with business leaders throughout the state afford him a unique perspective on developing a small business. “The Midlands is a good place to start a business. Picking the right location can be key. In addition to complying with county government rules, more than 20 towns and cities are located in Richland and Lexington counties alone. Each jurisdiction has different permitting requirements, regulations, ordinances, and tax structures that all impact the bottom line. You should do your research and due diligence before finalizing your decision about where to locate.”
From a practical standpoint, every small business needs to define itself. Evan M. Hobbs, CPA, of Columbia-based The Hobbs Group, advises, “The strongest and most memorable businesses are built on a solid brand. When developing your brand, think about what your business stands for. What are the core values that drive your business? Customers and clients are looking for companies that have a compelling brand as much as they are shopping for high quality products and services. Your business name is the cornerstone of good branding and a successful business.” You will not attract the customers and clients you desire as a small business owner until you first go into their business world to bring them into yours.
Many small business holders discover the value of establishing “their” business culture only too late. “Every organizational concern is downstream of the business’s culture,” declares Cameron Runyan, CEO of The Charter Institute at Erskine College in Due West, South Carolina. “The leader’s responsibility is to clearly define and relentlessly protect the business’s culture. A business without a unified culture will eventually fragment and collapse from within.”
The opportunities for the small business community in the Midlands are exciting. It is an area brimming with opportunity for anyone wanting to start a business.