If you're considering setting up a Green Business, my next few posts will be step by step instructions that I recommend you run through as you begin your planning process.
These posts are for readers who are recently laid off and want to start a consultancy or new business, or for people who want to focus on "green" activities, products, and services. The same tools would assist you if you're going through a job search to find the perfect "green" job.
When we think of "Green" businesses we often think of service providers like solar panel installers, green builders and architects, and companies that sell recycled or reused products. Here's one of my own lists of 101 Green Business ideas. However, there are many nontraditional and unexpected green business ideas that are available: I'm going to start highlighting some Green Business Case Studies at The Green Girls. If you'd like to have your green business featured in an upcoming case studies, please e-mail me your details at info (at) a successful woman (dot) com.
1) Set up a plan.
While I had only a one-page business plan for my own business, I do recommend that you create a plan that outlines what products and services you intend to provide through your business, who you will sell to, how you reach them, and why you have a big enough market for your services.
I find that having the plan committed to paper helps the business owner think about the different aspects they need to keep on top of: marketing, organizational setup, finances, inventory, staffing, and systems thinking.
If you are a job-seeker, coming up with a "Career Plan" and listing out the different parts of your job hunt (identifying skills, technology needed, online networking, in-person networking, meetings with key people, followup) will also be helpful to you.
2) Develop a list of supporters.
Who will help you? You will probably find a group of people who you consistently work with in a "circle of referrals" where each individual party contributes to the whole. Who is in your circle?
For example, a very traditional circle of people who work closely together include: realtor, loan officer, financial advisor, accountant or enrolled agent, and attorney. In my own case, as a web development company, we work very closely and refer business between our affiliated graphic designers, web designers, logo creators, printers, and marketing consultants.
Who might be your natural allies and where can you find them?
3) Think about your materials.
When you are first starting out and if you have no budget, set up a blog or website (see one of my articles on 8 steps to setting up a web presence for under $150) and put together some business cards for a great start.
Do you have a designer or resource person to help you create a print and online presence? Budget what you can to establish a professional image.
Start small and build up as you gain more clients. You might start with a Facebook Fans page until you get a starter website in place. Once you outgrow your starter website, move to a more functional e-commerce or database-driven option.
4) Envision your business and create your job.
It is helpful to create a "values statement" that will help inform your decisions, give you some guidelines as you comes up with the mechanics of your business, and use to provide copy or page content to your website, brochure, or other marketing meetings.
It is also helpful to identify key tasks that are associated with your process and attaching those tasks to a potential job title. When you first begin, you may be fulfilling all those job titles (sales, marketing, customer support, order fulfillment, product development, service provider, bookkeeping) but as you grow your business, you will assign new people to take on those roles.
5) Accountability and cheerleading.
Invest the time in building up your accountability by developing a checklist or calendar and someone you can work with to fulfill your tasks. A coach, mentor, or support group will help you. For example, if you have a list of tasks that need to happen by a certain date, mark it out and find someone to help you keep on track with fulfilling those tasks.
6) Develop a networking plan.
Do you have access to some other established storekeepers or business owners so you can ask questions and get feedback within your particular industry? Find someone who you wouldn't compete with and who would be open to assisting you. For example, a jewelrymaker could work with a handbags, shoes, or cosmetics specialist to create a "circle of trust."
If you're new to networking, make an exhaustive list of at least 25 groups of people who are in your area and have events, where you would meet others in business who are open to meeting with you. These include Chamber of Commerce and NAWBO events, as well as local green and sustainable business alliances, alumni groups, school parent organizations, religious groups, hobby groups, reading clubs, any kind of focused networking groups, Tweeple (from Twitter), and nonprofit events. I'm sure you can brainstorm more ideas based on your desired industry.
7) Learn the language.
If you get traditional financing or you seek investors, equity partners, or initial seed capital, you'll need to demonstrate you understand the money part of the business. Many businesses go out of business in the first two years: to prevent this, learn what cash flow means, as well as the basics of creating profit and loss statements, showing your Balance sheet, and how to write invoices and track expenditures by category. We highly recommend Quickbooks for your accounting needs.
You can always find a tip or how-to on Green Businesses here at The Green Girls on Wednesday afternoons. We'll be going over more steps to developing your Green Business in this series, check in again next Wednesday, or connect with me by leaving an e-mail.
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Social Networking for Women in Business, 136 pages of tips on managing your social media.
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Monica S. Flores of is committed to educating, empowering, and connecting women in business — she believes in the triple bottom line of people, planet, and profits.