Why You Gotta Know the Territory

Many small business owners naturally want to start a business in their hometown. There’s a familiarity that provides some degree of comfort. But understanding the community and understanding the business environment are two different stories.

Ever see restaurant after restaurant open in the same location and they continue to fail? It’s not because the owners aren’t motivated or smart, it’s just that they didn’t conduct some research about the viability of the enterprise. Their enthusiasm overtook their due diligence.

A key to success is to conduct a market analysis. How many businesses do what I do? Is this community large enough to absorb another business like mine? Is the community financially sound (low unemployment, strong housing, etc.)? Is there access to the kind of labor pool I need? Are there vendors that can serve my business?

A good place to start is SBA’s business data and statistics page. It provides many resources that provide free access to information about business and economic conditions and indicators collected by the U.S. government. You’ll be able find data and statistics on income, employment, trade, manufacturing, and other information.

Keep in mind that the community wants you to succeed. You will create jobs and stabilize the economic base. You will find that the local government will be very supportive, as will local businesses.

Most communities will have organizations that focus on providing entrepreneurial support. Local chambers of commerce, city councils and university-oriented business centers are “go-to” resources to help you make valuable connections.

Talk to neighbors and other businesses before you launch your start-up. They will be able to provide candid assessments of the viability of your business. While competition is expected, if more than half the people you talk to say: “The XYZ company already does that and we like them,” you may have some unexpected challenges ahead.

I had my roots in the Chicago area, but I spent many years as a hospital executive in downstate Illinois. When I returned home to open my franchise, I had to “relearn” my community and start making the connections that would help me launch my business.

Just as politics is local, so is small business. Even if you think you know your community, things change once you start a business. Take advantage of the resources available to you. Remember that the community is on your side.

Contributed by Richard Ueberfluss, PT, MBA, FACHE, the president/owner of Assisting Hands® Home Care franchises in Hinsdale and Naperville; and who is also a regional franchise developer. Contact Richard Ueberfluss at assistinghands.com/naperville.

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