To give you an example and discuss a few of the myths that cloud the concept of starting a small business. Let us go over the most common myths that typically surround the small business owner and discuss their merits and the facts in each instance. In short many of the things you will hear and run into are not facts – they are urban legends, misconceptions about starting a business that have been repeated so often now that many people believe them to be true even when they ought to know better. In many cases as with the -SBA has money to loan- myth there is a kernel of truth once you get past the misconceptions
* There is free money available to help you start your business
If something sounds too good to be true it not only probably is I can guarantee you it is! Our government only gives away money to foreign interests with whom they feel they can buy loyalty or concessions – not to their citizens. While it may be true that some state governments have policies in place to help people such as veterans, minorities or people with disabilities those special programs have very specific requirements that you have to meet before you are eligible. If someone claims otherwise, especially if they want to charge you a fee for a ‘list of lenders and free grant providers’ run do not walk away from them!
The Small Business Administration has millions of dollars of money available to loan directly to small business
The SBA is an independent agency of the executive branch of the federal government, and the government is not in the habit of giving anything away. That includes loans, believe it or not! The SBA is a great resource for small businesses, and does act as a guarantor for one of three different loan programs that can be of use to the small business owner, but they themselves do not provide or arrange for the loans.
The three loans they act as guarantors for include the Seven-A (7a), the Five-O-Four (504) and the Seven-M (7m) or micro-loan as it is known. Details about these different loans which the SBA will guarantee and oversee compliance with for small businesses are not in the scope of this article.
What the SBA does in these types on situations is to help arrange financing through various lending partners including local banks and nonprofit corporations and to oversee compliance on the part of the small business with the loan terms, thus assuring to the lenders that the loan will be repaid.
* People are lining up to loan money to startup companies
Venture capitalists DO exist, and while in some cases they have been known to finance startup companies that is not what they principally do, nor would it be wise to do so. Since a venture capitalist entire purpose of investing into a company is to make money and more then half of the startup companies created every year go belly-up just leaving that money in the bank earning 5% would do a better job them financing startup companies hand-over fist.
One of the rules of thumb that investors use is that a good three year track record needs to be in place, along with a great business plan and the potential at least for robust growth before they are willing to put their hard-earned money on the table. If you can show a great strategy with strong growth potential and have a product or service with a national client base that has so far been untapped you may be able to get them to bend a little – but the thought that investors are actively looking for someone to give their cash to is definitely an urban legend!
* Starting your own business allows you freedom to choose your working hours
Only someone who has never had a job like raising kids, or farming that has tasks to be done whether you are sick or not would ever come up with a saying like this, and yet it is one of the most common business-owner myths out there. Unless you have so much money that you don’t need your business to succeed any ‘freedom’ you have will be going right out the window the moment you open your small business or shop! You may have a bit more flexibility in the scheduling of your free time, but starting a small business will definitely cut into that free time if you plan on making it a success.
* There are many write-offs you can take on things you otherwise can’t write off
The IRS and the government do NOT give away money. Remember that – that is the reason for myth number one and two above, and unless you enjoy being audited it’s never a good idea to write off any expenses not 100% related to your business endeavors even if they are used in relation to the business as well as your personal life. The best rule of thumb is to ask yourself whether or not you would still have this expense (say your car for instance) if you were not running the small business, and if so in any form or fashion then it is not a legitimate write-off.
Some common write-offs which are normally allowable include any computer and business software, rent, salaries and monies paid to independent contractors, advertising costs and even a percentage of vehicle costs if its use can be tied to the business in question. In some cases strict rules apply, such as whether you use the computer for personal use as well as business etc. so checking the law first is a good idea!
* The right business sells itself and doesn’t need a marketing or business plan to succeed
This is very common now in the post ‘dot-com’ era, but remember folks there is a reason it’s the “post” dot-com era and not the dot-com boom. There is simply no substitute for a valid business plan and understanding what is necessary to sell your product or service to the public. Anyone trying to tell you something otherwise is likely selling something he wants you to buy from him right now before you go broke and give up the idea of starting your own business! A related myth is that if you aren’t getting a loan or looking for investors you don’t really need a business plan. While business plans are necessary to get investors the purpose is not that but to ensure you understand what it will take to be successful, and that you have a linear outline for how to achieve those goals.
So now hopefully you see the type of information and assistance considered in business startups – a little hope in the midst of all the hype out there. Remember as mentioned earlier, in many cases as with the -SBA has money to loan- myth there is a kernel of truth once you get past the misconceptions, but as is always true anytime money is involved you should always be certain of the facts before investing any of your money on the word of anyone, whether a trusted friend and advisor or a stranger. After all it IS your money you stand to lose not theirs!