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Guest Column: Are you ready to officially open for business?

Guest Column by Dean Swanson

 

Can you believe it? Not long ago, your business was just a dream — now, it’s a reality.  So what do you need to do to make this a success?

This is the 12th and last in a series of columns that provide several helpful business topics for the new small business.  It is based on one of SCORE’s recent projects that was developed with the help of and in partnership with FedEx.  This project is called “Startup Roadmap” and outlines every step in starting a business.  A SCORE mentor may use this program to help you reach your goal smoothly.

Dean Swanson

In this column I will suggest how you can prepare for your grand opening and share some important steps to take to keep your new business running smoothly during its first year of operation.

You’ll want to build awareness a month to a few weeks ahead of time to create anticipation in your target customers and get people buzzing about your grand opening. Should you send a press release? Advertise on local radio? Create social media ads?

For some businesses, you might decide to have a soft opening and plan a major grand opening event with live entertainment and food. Be sure to plan and budget for any printing needs, such as banners, posters, neighborhood mailers or door-hangers.

Step 1: Plan your grand opening and open for business. For some types of businesses, a grand opening is indeed a grand occasion. For instance, if you’re opening a restaurant, store, fitness club or another type of business where customers come to you, you may want to splash out with a big event.

Your grand opening needs to make a good impression on customers. To make sure things go well, try working out the kinks with a soft opening. Start running your business without a lot of publicity for a week or two; once things are running smoothly, hold your official grand opening.

If you want to have an event for your grand opening, figure out what that will entail. Brainstorm with your SCORE mentor to get ideas. Depending on your business, you might want to have live entertainment, food and drink, contests or games, and activities for children such as face painting or balloon-making. Contact your city to see if you need any type of special permits for the activities you’ve planned. Be sure to plan and budget for any printing needs, such as banners, posters, neighborhood mailers or door-hangers.

Build awareness a month to a few weeks ahead of time to create anticipation in your target customers and get people buzzing about your grand opening. Use social media posts and social media advertising, being sure to tap into local social networks, such as Nextdoor or local Facebook groups; use Facebook Events to announce your big day. You should also issue press releases to local media; spread the word to your friends, family and colleagues; and use both print and online advertising. Consider advertising on local radio or cable television stations or see if you can get a local radio or TV host to mention your grand opening on the air. If your market is other business owners, promote your event through the local chamber of commerce, industry groups and networking groups, too.

In addition to targeting people who fit your target customer profile, you should also invite local media and influencers of your target customer base to attend. Don’t forget to invite government officials such as your city mayor or councilperson. Also include your local Chamber of Commerce.

You want customers to have a great experience at your grand opening, so it’s important to be prepared. 

Before the big day, make sure you have plenty of staff, parking and inventory so you can serve all the customers and VIPs who attend. On the day of the event, attract passersby to your grand opening with special signage such as banners, balloons or sign spinners.

Step 2: Plan for success in your first year.  Congratulations: Your business is up and running! Now, get it growing by taking some key steps to ensure a successful first year.

• Business plan: Every quarter, go back and review your business plan. Are you on track to achieving your goals? Not everything will go according to plan, and that’s OK. New opportunities you hadn’t thought of may present themselves. Continually adjusting your business plan will keep your business moving forward. Your SCORE mentor can advise you about updating your plan to keep pace with reality.

• Financial accountability: Check your business’s financials monthly, paying close attention to your cash flow. Stay on top of your accounts receivable to ensure you can meet your obligations and start turning a profit. Your accountant or SCORE mentor can show you the financial indicators to monitor and red flags to watch out for. By monitoring your cash flow, you’ll be able to spot potential problems so you can take action quickly.

• Mentor meetings: Your relationship with your SCORE mentor isn’t over now that your business is open — not by a long shot. SCORE mentors can also help with all aspects of growing your business.

Dean is a volunteer certified SCORE mentor and former SCORE chapter chairman, district director and regional vice president for the northwest region. The local SCORE chapter can be found at  www.scmnscore.org/.