How Can I Ignite My Business In The New Year?
Start with a Vision
The IGNITE program includes a combination of collaborative workshops, planning guides, and one-on-one coaching sessions with specialists in strategy, marketing and finance. To start the process participants are asked: What are your big personal goals and how will your business help you reach them?
This is an important and often forgotten first step. Entrepreneurs don’t work for the man: they have an opportunity (and obligation) to create and run businesses that align with their values and contribute to something bigger than themselves! Thus, as part of the IGNITE program, participants take time to clarify these personal aspirations and ensure they drive their business planning.
Create Your Living Plan
Is a plan really that necessary? Many veteran businesses, it turns out, have run for years without one. Others owners created plans at the beginning that have become long outdated. It’s fine to run on instinct – but how can you reach your goals if they are not defined? You can’t – you react. How do you apply for grants or loans when the time comes? You don’t – or you scramble to create something fast and sloppy to meet a requirement.
The IGNITE program employs the SBA standard plan outline as a guide, addressing all the critical elements, so that when the program is complete (and if participants have done their homework), they have a tangible, useful product that will serve as their guide for business continuity and growth.
Reflect & Assess
The IGNITE process is also reflective. While documenting the various aspects of individual businesses – business description, products and services, marketing, finances – important questions are being asked: What’s working and what’s not working? Where are you now and where do you want to be?
Letena restaurant owner, Yamrot Ezineh, was one of the few businesses in the pilot group who came with a business plan. “But it was from 2016 and already outdated! The IGNITE program helped me realize that, as I shifted my offerings, to adapt to the needs of the clientele, my competition was also shifting, and marketing had to shift too. It was a great chance to rework my goals and plan accordingly, with the help of the business coaches.”
Collaborate & Connect
You’ve heard the saying: Nothing in this world worth doing can be done alone. In the workshops, participants had a chance to learn not just from IGNITE leaders, the technical trainers, but also from fellow-business owners’ successes and failures: they’ve tried this software, or hit these roadblocks with a grant program or have discovered that online delivery has become a major revenue source. By sharing experiences, owners walk away with ideas and the impetus for action.
“IGNITE got me out of the shop to meet other business owners going through similar things,” says Nelly Romero, owner of Taqueria Los Compadres. “The program forced me to take time to sit down with my key advisors, my husband and daughter, and prepare our plan – it was fun. We’re coming up on our 1-year anniversary and want to expand – how can we do that if we don’t have a plan?”
While achieving personal dreams is important, one critical part of that dream, for all business owners, is financial success. All of our pilot participants’ visions included desires to be financially independent, create a nest-egg, put their kids through college, expand – all involving money.
However, through the IGNITE assessments, it was discovered that money is sometimes the last thing business owners track or plan for. According to Dixie Duncan, CPA/financial analyst for the program, the program is a great opportunity "to get an objective look at your finances and be sure you’re on track and in compliance. As a business owner, you don’t want any surprises from the city or IRS that could take you down.”
In the New Year, District Bridges and SeeChance will upgrade IGNITE to place more emphasis on money matters, provide some quick and dirty tools so that financial management is not on the back but always on the front of business owners' minds.
By: Anne Pellicciotto
Anne is a consultant, coach and trainer, and developer of the IGNITE program. She is a native Washingtonian and resident of Mount Pleasant. She founded her company, See Change, in 2001, bringing 20 years of experience around innovation, collaboration, and resilience to each and every client project. In 2010 Anne joined the Peace Corps, living and working in a rural pueblo in Mexico. There she put her business and organization development skills to use to help build sustainable micro-enterprises. Anne currently consults with small, locally-owned businesses. Anne is a frequent speaker and facilitator of workshops on change, empowerment and leadership and one of District Bridges network consultants.