PLATTSBURGH — As Martin McCarthy got rolling with his new Champlain business, A & E Logistics, he welcomed guidance from the North Country Small Business Development Center.
He met several times with center Business Adviser Angela Smith as he developed his business plan for his freight-forwarding enterprise. And while center staffers won’t write a plan for you, McCarthy said, they provided invaluable assistance as he developed it.
”I don’t think I’d be where I am without them,” he said.
McCarthy was among the entrepreneurs who attended a recent workshop put on by the center, where staff emphasized the importance of a well-thought-out business plan, whether for a new business or to expand an existing one.
”Basically, the center and focus point of a business plan is you,” said Andy Allison, a certified business adviser with the center.
Free, confidential assistance is available, he told participants at the workshop.
An important part of the process is to do a realistic self-assessment, he said. It should include a look at how hard participants are willing to work for success, whether this the right time to start or expand a business and if the resources to are there to help it succeed.
Banks are willing to extend credit, Allison said, but like to see evidence of a well thought-out proposal. Lenders focus on issues such as character, collateral, capacity to repay the loan, capital and conditions that could affect success.
Market research is another key, he said. It is extremely important to identify potential customers.
”The competition for them is very severe.”
To that end, business people should know what customers expect, what drives their buying decisions and demographics of the targeted population.
”All that affects how many people you can get in the door,” Allison said.
Studying the competition can help in some unexpected ways.
”If they are doing something and it does not work, that can be ammunition for you,” he said.
The ability to identify current trends is also helpful. He said green (environmentally friendly), local and organic are popular at this time.
Marketing is also crucial. It involves anything a business does to get its product into the hands of the customer.
The four P’s of marketing are: product, price, place (accessibility) and promotion. Allison said marketing is an investment in a business, something that needs to be done no matter what the business climate is like at the moment.
Once a business plan is in place, it is important to make changes to adapt to a changing business climate as needed. Allison said that lesson is evident in the failure of businesses such as Borders, which didn’t keep up with emerging trends.
Lori Matton opened Saranac Country Store with her husband, Danny, in August 2010. They received assistance from the Small Business Development Center when they acquired the smaller store next door in 1999 and when they built and opened the new, larger location.
Mrs. Matton said the center had offered advice on the financial process when they were buying the first store. She met with Development Center Regional Director Karen Stehlin for assistance with business projections as they developed plans for the expansion and still meets with her from time to time to evaluate the business.
”I absolutely recommend people seek their assistance,” Matton said.
Email Dan Heath: dheath@press republican.com
TO LEARN MORE
The North Country Small Business Development Center is located at 194 U.S. Oval in Plattsburgh.
Learn more by calling 564-2042 or visit the website at www.northcountrysbdc.org.