The Need for Business Certification

There is a growing need for business coaches these days. Even though one might think that business owners would be reluctant to spend the money to hire a business coach in the current economic slump, many are consulting help because they do not want to go under as so many other companies have. Coaching, then, can be a lucrative career where you are able to help others. There are coaches by the dozen online, but few hold a business coaching certification or credential. The certification for coaches in business is gained through a challenging course and qualifying exam.

This credential sets you apart from those who merely want to give their opinion over and over. Certified business coaches have the tools needed to assess a business and recommend actions that will improve the efficiency of the company. Training and certification help to teach and train coaches looking to do so in business, but it also helps business owners understand how to raise business capital. The honor of helping businesses thrive and expand is a mission that is strengthening the national and global economy. It is a part of enabling business owners to develop companies that run basically on their own.

A coaching certification course is one which teaches the tools of the trade of modern business. Knowing how to assess a business from the inside out requires looking at the company as a big picture made up of smaller parts. What parts are clogging the wheels of productivity? A coach can see more effective methods of running the business as a whole, as well as within a single part. They also help business owners move into the age of technology, with mobile data interfaces, company internet presence, and more. The fresh eyes of a business coach can see the areas that have been overlooked by a busy business owner.

While many former business owners might have great advice about what they did, business coaches who have been through rigorous training to earn a coaching certification in business have the knowledge and skills to help a wide variety of businesses and situations. They can effectively use their knowledge of models and processes to assess and improve the current business model. The certification credential can be added to a business card, resume, website, and more. Choosing a certification course includes selecting curriculum and instructor that you respect. An instructor with a successful background in business coaching is essential. This way students get an overall view from curriculum paired with the practical advice of a person who has been there before.

Which Business Idea Is Right For You

Many entrepreneurs decide to go into business and then cast about for the ideal business concept. There is nothing wrong in this approach, but it does beg the question as to how you determine which business opportunity is right for you and whether the business idea is worth pursuing. The formal business planning process provides for this type of analysis. It is a process that helps the small business owner remove their ‘rose coloured glasses’ and to investigate the business idea based on hard facts and realistic analysis. The planning tool used to determine the viability of a business opportunity is called a feasibility study.

The goal of the feasibility study is to minimise the degree of risk that a business owner is about to undertake. At the completion of a feasibility study you should be able to conclude if the opportunity has potential for profit and is therefore worth the investment of your time, effort and finance. If the study proves that the business idea is financially viable, much of the information collated can be used in the formal business planning documents.

A word of warning, curb your enthusiasm for a business idea until after the feasibility study has been concluded. Don’t spend a cent, don’t sign anything, don’t get anything underway. Heeding this single warning could save you much money, time and grief.

A detailed feasibility study should include:

The Business Opportunity

Start with a description of the business opportunity in as much detail as possible.

Legal Constraints

You need to investigate whether there are any legal constraints to conducting this type of business. This could include regulatory requirements for specific qualifications or licenses. Home based businesses usually require permission from the local council to operate from the home. There is no point launching into a business which requires qualifications or licenses you do not have.

Market and Customers

You need to undertake market research to determine the size of the market for your products and services and to profile the characteristics of both the market, your competitors and potential customers. You should also assess whether you can offer something unique, better or different to the offers being made by your competitors and determine likely purchase quantities and price points of your products. Your market research should also include identify any issues which are likely to impact the market or the industry in the near future.

Operational Issues

Operational issues such as business location and the type of facilities required need to be investigated and addressed. It examines the space required immediately and assesses whether that will be adequate given your projected business growth at various timeframes. It asks how you will identify the most suitable location and type of space.

It should also examine how you will finance the required space. Will your purchase, rent or take out a long-term lease?

It examines the logistical aspects of operating the business such as how will you handle, transport and store goods into and out of your business? What distribution channels will you use? Do you need transport such as a car, van, truck or forklift? What other plant and equipment are needed to commence operations and what is needed over the life of the business?

Management Skills

This examines the management aspects of the business. It asks what types and level of skills are required to run this particular business? Who will manage the business? What roles are required and who will fulfill those roles? This includes marketing, finances, sales, managing information technology etc.

Critically, you need to examine the skills required by this business opportunity and compare them to your own skills. Do you have the skills required to undertake this business? If not, can they be acquired readily? Are you even interested in acquiring these skills?

Organisational Skills

This examines the skills required by the business. It asks how many additional staff will be required to operate this business idea. Will you need to recruit new workers? If so, what skills and competency levels will be required. Do you know how to recruit these staff members and are you able to effectively induct and train these new recruits?

Do you have sufficient knowledge as to the legal aspects of employing staff? Are you aware of regulations relating to salaries and wages, taxation, workers compensation, workplace safety and equal opportunity? Do you know where to go to obtain this information?

Financial Issues

This takes a detailed look at the financial issues relating to the business idea. This includes the all important questions of what capital is required to start the business and how will you raise the required capital. What is your estimate of profitability after all costs, including tax, have been deducted? How much do you require to live on per annum? How long will it take to breakeven.

You also need to examine your own skills in relation to managing the finances. Are you able to do your own bookkeeping? Can you manage cashflows? Do you know where to go for expert financial advice?

Sales and Marketing

This looks at what you expect your sales and marketing strategy to be. It takes a look at how much time and money will be allocated to the sales and marketing function and determines what the most cost-effective promotional methods should be. It also asks who will be responsible for this function.

Conclusions

The above is not an exhaustive list of questions that should be asked when conducting a feasibility study but it gives you the flavour of what it should be. When you have done your research and found answers to the key questions you will be in a position to undertake a SWOT analysis. SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. It allows you to take all the information you have gathered and to make an overall assessment of the viability of the business.

Undertaking a feasibility study sounds like a lot of work, especially when you are eager to get started, but if you want to save yourself a lot of time, money, energy and grief, take the time to assess whether the business idea really is worth your investment. A feasibility study can help you sift through a raft of business ideas and allow you to discard those that are not worth pursuing and help you to identify the one that is most likely to be successful.

Karen L. Paiyo is an Australian Small Business Counsellor, supporting and nurturing the spirit of entrepreneurship in the Asia Pacific Region. Karen empowers small business owners by transferring to them the skills and expertise needed to help them take their business ideas from creative concept to profitable reality, faster and with less risk.

Networking – Can It Help a Business Succeed

Recently, Justin, a friend of mine, asked me to accompany him to a business meeting. For months, I had known that he was a member of the Curio Exporters Association; a group comprising members who deal in curios – buying, selling or exporting. Surprisingly, all the days I had interacted with Justin, I had never got a chance to meet any member of the association; this feeling was thrilling to me. I believed I could get a deal or two from them although I have interests in different fields; fruits and vegetables. These interests do not arise from my involvements but those of my very close friend who is planning on exporting fruits and vegetables. Justin had very little to talk about the group due to his inactive membership despite the fact that he paid his fees timely but never created time to participate. But all this was about to change. He made many curios and sold them locally with most going to local travelers.

I knew he was missing out by not participating in the activities of his group but I did not know how to advice him well without full information on the activities of his association. Everyone was punctual to the meeting and members got to share their experiences to the forum. Majorities of them had prospered while others where about to make it big and break into success. While some members were working in groups to source for markets, the association was establishing huge linkages with others businesses in different areas and regions to connect their members. Business to business (B2B) connections were working especially for those members who had adopted the idea. Products where being modified and improved to meet varying and quickly changing market needs, members were organizing themselves and traveling to view and feel various target markets. All this was possible, as it later emerged, due to members’ devotion to the association and their active participation. Wherever members participated, they got a chance to learn and or explore new ideas and opportunities.

They were actually exploiting business networking fully although they did not know it was such. I learnt a lot and acquired ideas on how to source foreign markets and the requirements of entering them. I even got someone who was ready to guide me on the initial process of penetration. Later I shared my knowledge on business networking with Justin, believing pretty well that he needed the information for his success and that of his business. Business networking is dynamic and the experience of one person on a given idea may not necessarily be replicated by another person or may not bring out the same effect when applied in a different scenario. Very many factors apply in business networking. Some businesses succeed with very little efforts from their owners or managers while others require a lot of efforts to succeed.

Most of the time, a business set up in an expanding market will usually expand with the market even with little efforts while that set up in a mature market will require efforts to be kept profitable and growing. Ventures set up in a declining market will not only require a lot of efforts but also resources to remain in operation, let alone remaining profitable. Although it is always wise to carry out market research, the research techniques applied may not be exhaustive hence key areas may be left out. Strong business networking skills come in handy especially when one does not have adequate time to carryout extensive research. Though many people will come up with varied definitions of business networking, it can easily be described as the linking together of individuals (or entities) who, through conviction and relationship building become both walking and talking advertisements for one another. The networks help to inform one party of another and vice-versa. There are several forms of linkages but focus should be on those that are useful and beneficial to business ventures.

To succeed in business networking, a business owner or manager should do one or a number of the following.

Become famous as a dominant resource for others. Dominance will keep you visible. Once you are famed as a sturdy resource, many people will consider turning to you for assistance, suggestions, ideas, and any other form of help. As they share with you what they are going through, you will easily pick up issues that can be developed and advanced for the benefit of your business venture.
Offer to hold volunteer positions in groups and organizations. It is a great way to remain visible and give back to groups that have helped you or those that lack resourceful people. Once you become associated with an organization, your tasks and venture will become synonymous with the organization and all efforts put in the organization’s work will reflect on your business. All positive attributes will help people admire you and your endeavors and thus benefit your investment.
Possess a clear understanding of what you do and why, for whom, and what makes your doing it special or different from others doing the same thing. In order to get referrals, you must first have a clear understanding of what you do so that you can easily articulate to others. Always be alert and hone your abilities as to the areas that you can help people in especially if and when they are referred to you.
Always remember that networking should be genuine and authentic, building trust and relationships, and extending help to others. Growing a big list of people and contacts is not of any value to you or your business. The contacts should be of people you are ready to work with and not to use for show-offs.
Ask open-ended questions in networking conversations. This means that questions with a simple yes or no answer are avoided. This form of questioning opens up the discussion and shows listeners that you are interested in them and helps you gather more information as the people you are engaged with explain their ideas and involvements.
Understand your goals and objectives in participating in ‘network’ meetings so that you can pick groups that will help you get what you are looking for. Some meetings are based more on learning, making contacts, and or volunteering rather than on making business connections. As a business person, you should endeavor to look for what will give your business leverage.
Visit as many groups as possible that spark your interest and notice their tone and attitude. Many groups will allow you to visit a number of times before joining. In as much as you may feel obliged to belong somewhere, you should evaluate all the benefits and disadvantages of belonging to a particular group so that you join that (those) that make a positive impact to your business growth.
Be able to articulate what you are looking for and how others may help you so that if asked to be assisted you can know how to. It shows focus.
Follow through quickly and efficiently on referrals that you are given. When people give you referrals, your actions are a reflection on them. Also ensure to follow-up on the referrals that you give.
Call the people you meet who may benefit from what you do, or from whom you can benefit and express that you enjoyed meeting them. Ask if you could get together and further share ideas.