Let’s Get to Business!

We are going to discuss a little about running a small business. After you have a name, a business license, a bank, and all that basic stuff, it’s go time. But what does “go time” even mean? Let’s deep dive into some of the main items that you will need to execute in order to launch your business.

Business Goals

There are many formal approaches to writing a business plan. But if I were you, I would start your business plan by writing down your goals and objectives. Once you have that down, dig into the details to help guide you through. Once you’ve gotten that far, do a quick Google search to find a format you like. The goal is to write down your thoughts and have your business partners sitting with you so you all agree. With so many of us working remotely, you can set up a Google Doc and then share it with your partners. Schedule a Zoom call to discuss the pros and cons of the items you have listed.

Whenever you are setting goals and objectives, you need to write down where you are starting and where you hope to end up. In addition, write down how long you want each step to take. This will give you perspective when you go back to see how you are doing (which is the whole idea here. Go back and see how you are doing on a regular basis or you will never know if you are achieving your goals!)

Financial Goals

Include items in your business plan like your unit pricing, cost of shipping, design, and website costs. Do you need a video created? Write them down. Try to add in all the items you will be needing. Set up two columns, “MUST Have’s” and “WANT to Have’s,” that way when you have the funding, you can look at the “WANTS” and spend your money wisely.

Set your financial goals. Figure out how much you need to take in each month to pay for everything you need. Look seriously at those numbers and don’t cushion them. You need to know how much this will all cost and then look at your potential billings. Are they low, close, or you will make a few bucks each month? When you are just starting, you need to be realistic on what you personally will make. Ask yourself, “is this enough?” Enough means that you will be enough to cover your personal expenses along with the business expenses.

At the very start, you need to be making enough money to cover all your expenses and personal income. Take a look at your pricing structure, if you are coming up short you might be undervaluing your work. What is the competition charging? Write down all of this research and the numbers on your Google document so you know where you are financially and where you need to be.

Planning for Employees

Before you hire your first employees, have an intentional discussion on where you want to land when it comes to covering health care costs and other employee benefits. This is a deep discussion. It involves interrogating what type of an employer you want to be. In my case, I ultimately decided I wanted to cover 100% of each employee’s health insurance. This is a very costly investment but I felt it was the right thing to do.

What Type of Business Do You Want to Be?

This is a BIG question. One I recommend thinking very deeply on. For me, I wanted to provide careers for the people we hired. Since I wanted them to stay for a long time, I dug deep into what I wanted to provide to keep them happy, safe, and productive. We provide 13 paid holidays a year, paid vacation and sick leave, and family leave if something happens to their family. In addition, we also offer paid maternity/paternity leave. These are big discussions to have. And once you decide, write them down!

The 4 P’s Marketing Mix

These four P’s are key to a successful business: Product, Price, Promotion, and Place. You will want to write each of these items within your plan and get down and dirty with all of the details. The more you can document, the better your decisions will be. Check out your competition carefully and figure out what your strengths are that they don’t have.

We work out “personas” on our target audiences. It helps us to put a face on our target audience and create campaigns that are directed right to them. Something like this: Erin, is a 45 year old that lives in Sacramento, Erin is a marketing director for a non profit and struggles to connect with their target audience. They have a limited marketing budget and are not very active on social media. Use your personas when creating any marketing materials or strategizing. With a clear idea of who you are looking to serve, you can create things with them in mind.

Ready to Hire

How do you find the right team members? That is a great question that takes a lot of looking, connecting, and conversations. Uptown Studios has grown to have a clear reputation in our industry. This means that potential employees usually seek us out because they are already aligned with our company culture. We have many healthy stalkers that reach out and continue to connect until we have an opening. These are the best team members; the ones that really really want to work here. This type of relationship builds our culture and breeds happy and healthy teams. If you are just starting out, this isn’t really a viable method of hiring. Instead, create another list of your ideal company culture. From there, derive qualities and skills you would want from a potential employee. Keep that list handy when crafting job postings as well as during interviews.

If you want to expand your diversity then you need to have diversity in your life. Join chambers like Sacramento Black Chamber, Sacramento Asian Chamber, Sacramento Rainbow Chamber or Sacramento Hispanic Chamber. You will meet diverse people and develop relationships with them, with those relationships comes recommendations and introductions. So start connecting.

Have A Vision

As you start your documents, keep your vision on the future. Building your business means always being able to pivot during times of need. Right now, COVID-19 has totally changed how any business can operate. Take advantage! Where can you innovate? How can you turn the traditional business model on its head? Above all: stay with it. Continue learning, growing, and referring back to your original business plan. We have built Uptown Studios on our relationships and our reputation. How will you decide to build your reputation? Think about it. Do what you say you will and show up for yourself!

It has taken Uptown Studios 28 years to amass our reputation and stable success. As of 2020, I have 17 creative professionals working hard to build this business up, build our reputation, and to become entrenched with our community. But, I did it one client at a time, I always watched our finances carefully, and hired new people with great care. You can do this! It is the most exciting thing that you can ever do. DO IT NOW!

You can always reach out to me with questions. tina@uptownstudios.net

Tina Reynolds
By Tina Reynolds
Tina Reynolds is president of Uptown Studios, Inc. and has been running her own design firm since 1976. She is the community face of Uptown Studios and her blog entries are directed to business owners ready to make their materials, Easy, Fun and Popular.