Four success strategies for local business owners

By Katie Greenland
Reader Contributor

When I first moved to Sandpoint last June, locals warned me that finding work can be hard. They were right. Many people here have struggled at some point to make ends meet. In a town of 8,000, you have to think outside the box to make a decent living. Hence my local friend, the CEO who also has a photography gig and does public speaking on weekends. Or my neighbor, the teacher who runs a food truck after school’s out. People are crafty here. We have to be.

Inspired by the entrepreneurial spirit of locals, I decided to start my own business. Why not? Everybody’s doing it. Problem is, I totally dread business planning. Spreadsheets bore me and numbers numb me. I spend more time in the right side of my brain with things like creativity, intuition, communication and relationship. You know, the gushy stuff. I prefer colors, images and feelings over left-brain tables, templates and data. What were we talking about again? Oh yeah, business plans. Ugh.

According to Entrepreneur Magazine, 80 percent of businesses fail in their first two years. That number goes up to 96 percent after 10 years. The main reason why so many businesses fail is, yep you guessed it, poor business planning. Turns out there’s a lot of people with great ideas for products and services but not a lot of insight on running a business. It’s common to feel anxiety when it comes to business planning. If you can relate, fear may have stopped you before you ever got started on a business plan. Enter Strategy #1: Relax-You’re not alone.

There’s this thing called the Right-Brain Business Plan, trademarked by a corporate bigwig turned creative coach named Jennifer Lee. Lee believes that using your creative intuition will make you more successful in business. Makes sense. As a mother of two kids, I can attest to the usefulness of creativity and imagination in solving problems. I decided to create my own Right-Brain Business Plan and use it to help me get bank funding for my start-up. It worked.

Embracing my artsy side allowed me to move past the classic fear, overwhelm and frustration that traditional business planning can bring. Forming a mission and vision statement became empowering because they connected me with my passion and purpose. Identifying core values became the touch stones for how I serve my community. Painting a business landscape, finding perfect customers, turning the threat of competition into an inspiring view of mentorship, and defining success for myself were all key components to my visual plan. Strategy #2: Get Creative– it’s a legit pathway to better business.

Armed with clear vision and new confidence, I laid out my beautiful, colorful, image-rich plan for success, then opened my laptop and typed up a traditional, ten page, left-brain business plan. Having a visual map made writing a business plan more accessible — dare I say easy. I marched right into the bank to apply for startup funding. The nice folks at Mountain West Bank understand that asking for money is nerve wracking and their customer service is fantastic (bonus points for free Evans Brothers coffee). Strategy #3: Be Bold– Know what you want and don’t be afraid to ask for it.

Sitting with the bank loan officer I was able to speak about financial projections, market trends analysis, pricing structures and all that other crap that makes me nauseous but is, in fact, important to running a business. My company was approved for an unsecured small business loan that week. My Right-Brain Business Plan literally paid off. Strategy #4: Up Your Game– It’s a big world out there, and you gotta know how your business fits in.

There are more small businesses in Sandpoint than in the big city I come from, where box store giants outpriced the little guys long ago. I cherish the little guys because they make small towns like Sandpoint unique. A strong culture of locally owned business is a treasure worth preserving. May these four strategies help your local business find success and thrive for years to come.

Katherine Greenland is a licensed Right-Brain Business Plan facilitator and owner of Greenland Consulting. She’s leading a Right-Brain Business Plan workshop on Saturday, June 2 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Eureka Center. Sign up at: www.katherinegreenland.com.

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