by David Churchill - Treasure Valley SCORE
Even since I became a SCORE volunteer less than two years ago, I've noticed common themes among the clients who have asked us for advice. Some of these themes are more difficult with which to deal with than others, but one is very easy…. Get advice early!

There are several steps in the development of a business idea – I call them Concept, Feasibility, Develop Scope (of the idea), and Do It (execute your plan). Most of the clients with whom I speak are in one of the first three stages, and often the questions they are asking are perfectly appropriate for the stage they’re in, and they've missed nothing important from the previous stages. However, this isn't always true.

Let me give you a hypothetical example:

Let’s say that someone wanted to start a taxi business and was convinced there were some economics in it. So, they went out and purchased a taxi, got all the required permits and licenses, and began driving the streets for riders. But, they couldn't get enough customers to cover their expenses, let alone show a profit.

What did they do wrong?

Perhaps they didn't research their competition in the very beginning to understand that there were over 50 cab companies operating in their immediate local area and that the local government didn't have any regulations in place which limited the number of cab companies. It’s no wonder they had trouble finding customers!

We welcome clients to come to us early, when they are in the Concept phase, so that we can help them ask the right questions for themselves as they develop their ideas. For example, we would have talked with our taxi client above about competition and about marketing, and perhaps helped them avoid an expensive mistake or two.

The most important thing to remember – it’s usually easier and cheaper to correct problems in the beginning. Later on, the cost and other factors can be much harder to overcome. Get someone involved early as a sounding board.