...and counting. Here's a little update on what I've been busy with lately, and what's still in store. Maybe it can help you get ideas for your own next steps in running your business, or maybe you even feel like sharing your experience by leaving a comment. Thank you in advance!

Last time I left you with the firm intention to work on a proper business plan. Remember this is a tool not only for when you're looking for funding, but also a roadmap to refer back to along the way to keep checking your progress (financial, marketing, product or otherwise). I'm happy to say that I spent a considerable amount of time on my first draft. I thoroughly researched my market, had a look at the competition, what how and when I was going to offer to whom, and wrote it all out in what I considered nicely put-together paragraphs, citing references and providing quotes from various reputable sources. I also came up with estimates for the various financial statements, which to me was the hardest part of the whole thing.

This is as good a time as any to share with you that I learned two new words related to the preparation of financial predictions: WAG and SWAG. The former refers to a "wild ass guess", the latter to a "scientific wild ass guess". I find these terms very funny, in a maniacal sort of way, because they are so darn appropriate. Anyhow, I gave it my best SWAG, was conservative in guessing income and more generous on the expected expenses and eventually presented this first draft, a labor of love, to the SBA consultant.

He swiftly ripped it to shreds.

In a constructive criticism sort of way, obviously, and I thank him for it because he had a point: my market is a difficult one to get into, so it will pay off in the long run to compartmentalize and find an appropriate niche as soon as possible. As you may have guessed, for me that means expats, because I am and have been one for so long myself. "Write Coach what you know" is the motto. And since I gained that perspective, it has been easier to focus my activities and channel them in a way that makes me feel more productive.

I've revisited my business plan and rewrote it in bullet points. I'm attending meetings of international clubs, I've filed for a Limited Liability Company and obtained my employer identification number (both without the help of an online incorporation service, since the necessary forms are readily available on the secretary of state and IRS websites). I participated in accounting and tax workshops, made more use of the networking sites I'm a member of, and I've even joined Toastmasters in order to work on my public speaking and leadership skills. I am still looking for professional insurance cover and a business bank account (suggestions are very welcome) and will further start contacting companies in my area, contact information of which I've obtained through the various chambers of commerce.

When you read this, are you thinking: "enough with the preparation already, let's go out there and get things done!"? That's a fair point. Depending on your personality you'll be more comfortable with either taking it slow or taking the bull by the horns. Either way, there are lessons in both approaches and I'm going to leave you with a few I've learned:

1. Find your niche and make yourself comfortable. 2a. Consult with various experts in their different fields, but do follow up with your own research. 2b. Listen to as many people as you want, but make your own decisions. 3. Enjoy the ride and don't put too much pressure on yourself; even Rome wasn't built in one day.

Til next time!

Free Image: Bogdan Lazar

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