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Gray: What makes for a successful business?

Published: Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013 9:01 a.m. CDT • Updated: Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013 9:03 a.m. CDT

What criteria does a business have to meet in order for it to be successful?  What differentiates successful business ventures from the large percentage of startups that fail?  I truly believe that it comes down to passion – a double-edged quality.

Too often passionate entrepreneurs delve headfirst into a venture before thinking it through.  

Before taking that plunge, clarify your reasons and your goals. Knowing why you’re doing this and having a clear picture of what you hope to achieve is just a starting point. Understand your entrepreneurial personality. Focus on ways to maximize your skills, assets, resources and relationships.

To turn your passion into profits, emphasize the market. Focus on your business relative to the customers you serve by knowing your markets. Understanding the needs and preferences of your customers enables you to prioritize your customer’s experience and perception of value.

Passionate entrepreneurs tend to have rose-colored plans and overestimate beginning sales and underestimate costs. Write a business plan that makes financial sense for your current needs and future goals of your business.

It is imperative you have a clear picture of how your business will come together in a way that is profitable over time. Don’t see what you want to see and rely on “feeling good” about the direction your business is going in as your only measure of success. Oftentimes the reason most startups fail is because they run out of money and time. 

There are many sources that offer free advice about business plans, financing, selling and marketing. You can contact the U.S. Small Business Administration as well as the Service Corps of Retired Executives. Both of these organizations are a wealth of information for startup businesses and existing businesses. Your local Chamber of Commerce also provides assistance and offers networking opportunities with other like-minded businesspeople. The Woodstock Chamber increases your visibility, has great business resources, and your membership invests in your community.

Whether you’re contemplating starting a business or have already started the process, congratulations! You are among an elite group of entrepreneurs, and it’s an exciting time as you start your journey.   

Welcome and congratulations to our newest Chamber members: Porkies, Isabel’s Family Restaurant, The Sugar Circle, Helping Paws Animal Shelter, OWC Pro IT, Young Ones Yoga, Best Western Woodstock Inn, Woodstock Harley-Davidson, Directors Financial Group, Valuentum Securities, Video Light Sound, Jones Insurance Services, 1st Family Home Healthcare, P.E.P. Processing, JCF Real Estate, Culvers of Woodstock, Girl Scouts of Northern Illinois, D&D Plumbing, HyperStitch, Creative Letter & Office Services.

Please join Re/Max Plaza as it celebrates the grand opening of its new Woodstock office with an all-member Chamber mixer from 5 to 7 p.m. Nov. 21 at 112 N. Benton St.

• Shari Gray is executive director of the Woodstock Chamber of Commerce & Industry.

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