3 Things to Consider Before You Start a Small Business

When I was in college, I found a great job working for a division of the Small Business Administration. Our company offered free services to new entrepreneurs, including business plan writing and financial planning. When I first started working for the business center, I was only aware of the frantic nature of startup businesses, and I remember saying, “I will never start a business of my own.” After two and a half years of employment and after picking up some tricks of the trade, I changed my mind. If the opportunity ever arises, I think I may just take it…maybe.


I absorbed a lot of what went on in the world of business startups, including a few trends. There were certain elements that made some clients successful and others unsuccessful. In this article, I have shared three of the lessons I learned. Fortunately for me, these lessons were learned by watching others and not failing in a business venture myself.

Demand

Do you have a great idea for a business? An idea that no one’s ever thought of, one that could revolutionize a service, a product, or an industry? If it is not in demand, it doesn’t matter. This lesson was one of the hardest for our clients to learn. They could not grasp how their business could be unsuccessful when the logic was sound, when there was truly a need for their product or service. We had to explain that “need” in their minds was different than “demand” in consumers’ minds. If the consumers don’t want to buy it, the business won’t be successful (no matter how great the idea is). More importantly is the notion of sustained demand. You can’t predict the future or guarantee that your product or service will always be in demand, but you can weed out the ideas that are just trendy or fads.

Funding

Unless you are independently wealthy (in which case, you probably wouldn’t need to start this new business), you need a source of funding. Can you get it? There are many ways to finance a startup, whether you apply for loans or grants or you work with venture capitalists. If you are a woman or a minority, there may be additional funding options for you in the form of grants (which are wonderful because you don’t have to pay these back like you do with loans).The best way to present yourself as a profitable business venture to a lender is to have a well-written business plan.

Business Plan

Do you have a business plan? Not just in your head, but a well-written, documented plan that includes all of the pertinent details of your business? A well-written business plan is imperative if you want to establish credibility and receive funding. If you hate to write, never fear. You can go to the Small Business Administration office in your area and they can help you write your business plan for free.

Of course, there are many additional issues to consider when starting a business, including ownership (sole proprietorship, corporation, etc), marketing, location, etc, but these three tips will get you off to a good start.

A Study of Three Popular “Fad Diets”

How many times does the average person find themselves in a conversation about fad diets? In this profession I get confronted with this even more often. People are always going to look for a miracle diet, a plan they can easily follow to have a perfect body by summer, or a particular food that they can avoid and magically lose weight. After doing research on this very topic I feel much more comfortable about giving my opinion.
Weight Watchers is a very intriguing plan to me. I know many people who have had great success on the plan. Weight Watchers was founded over forty years ago by Jean Nidetch. It still remains the world’s most popular weight loss program.

The Weight Watchers program does not offer a “quick-fix” miracle. Instead, the plan stresses the importance of a healthy lifestyle, including mental and physical health. While most of the program is centered around nutrition, a major component is weekly meetings. There, clients weigh in, learn about new products (not just the company’s), and have an opportunity for discussion with their peers. The attendees can also share tips, recipes, and experiences. These meetings also serve as a type of “support group”. Because there are over 20,000 regular meetings organized throughout the United States it should not be difficult to locate one. In the case that the client has a hectic schedule there are now online meetings available.

To get started in the program, one must attend a meeting. This is when they are allotted a certain number of points based on weight, age, and height. Almost every food has a given number of points, including well-known restaurants and fast food chains. It then becomes the member’s responsibility to keep a journal noting everything they eat and the amount of points each food has. In order for the client to have the greatest success, the total of the points consumed should be equal to their allotted points for the day. Because of the extremely broad range of foods allowed, the member probably won’t feel restricted, thus making it an easy program to follow. Another benefit is the flexibility with the points for special occasions.

Once the member has reached their goal weight, they are allotted more points and monitored closely for four weeks. At the end of this period you enter the maintenance portion of the program, which should last for the rest of his/her life. By this time the person has learned and applied healthy eating and exercise habits.

Along with diet, Weight Watchers promotes regular exercise. In fact, on days of intense physical activity extra points may be added to the day, in order to make up for the extra nutrition required. Because of this, the Weight Watchers program can be a very realistic program for almost everyone.

The South Beach Diet
Cardiologist, Arthur Agatston M.D, developed the South Beach Diet. He claims the diet is neither “low-fat”, nor “low carb”. The basis of this diet is to teach you to eat the right fats and the right carbohydrates to lose weight. Participants in this diet are allowed to eat normal-size portions as long as you avoid refined foods and carbohydrates, and sugars. The diet claims that over time you begin to control blood sugar levels, allowing you to eat less because you aren’t hungry. In addition, other possible benefits may include lower cholesterol and reduced risks for diabetes and heart related problems.
The South Beach Diet works with the glycemic index. Foods with a high glycemic index rapidly raise blood sugar levels. This causes the body to release large amounts of insulin. When blood sugar levels drop quickly, you lack energy, crave carbohydrates, and hunger leads you to eat again.

On the other hand, low glycemic index carbohydrates slowly release sugar into the blood stream. This provides a steady supply of energy and satisfies hunger longer.

To start the diet you must go through a two-week introduction phase. In this phase of the program you are to severely restrict your carbohydrate intake. You may eat healthy size meals during this period, and will still lose between eight to thirteen pounds.

During phase two you will reintroduce good complex carbohydrates. You will continue to lose weight, however at a slower pace. This phase will continue until you reach your goal.

The third phase is a lifelong. It includes maintaining your weight for the rest of your life, while enjoying a healthy balanced diet.

The Slim-Fast Diet
For twenty-five years Slim-Fast products have been helping people lose weight and reach their goals. The diet is designed around the Slim-Fast brand of shakes, meal bars, and snacks. The company also has thirty published clinicals to support their claims. The diet includes four essential elements to help people achieve their goals: a personalized meal plan, daily exercise, expert support and advice, and motivational tools.

As the well-known commercial states, the plan consists of having a shake for breakfast, a shake for lunch, and a sensible dinner. You also should have three snacks to make a total of eating six times a day. This is a low calorie diet with a recommended consumption of 1200 calories. The idea is to burn more calories than you consume to lose weight. Slim-Fast is commonly recommended to people who are severely overweight.

The Slim-Fast diet is formulated to incorporate precise measurements of complex carbohydrates, healthy fats and lean proteins. The meals are to be low in calories and fat. To give the diet more nutrition and variety you can eat fruits, vegetables, and other healthy foods as snacks. In addition to diet, the Slim-Fast plan involves exercise and encourages activities that raise your heart rate.

This diet is a good choice for many people. First of all, it is a simple diet to follow, especially for busy lifestyles. The plan does not require a lot of preparation nor time and Slim-Fast products are one of the most easily accessible diets available. In addition, the weight lose seems to be long lasting. In 2003 a study was released from the North American Association for the Study of Obesity that showed people who had used the diet consistently for ten years weighed an average of thirty-three pounds less than those who didn’t use the plan.

I have concluded that this is a good diet that would benefit many. The shakes are nutritious and I believe the diet can support an exercise program. However, I question weather or not it will support the changing nutritional requirements one has as their fitness levels increase. I don’t feel that this diet can support training that is intense in nature. Also the shakes and snacks can get expensive.

The bottom line is that almost any diet can work, but one must have the motivation and determination to stay the course. Losing weight is not an “event”, but more of a process. In the never-ending search for beauty, people need to place more importance on achieving a healthy body and less on being “skinny”.