6 questions small business owners need to answer when developing their businesses:
The challenges confronting new enterprises starting up or seeking financing are similar to the challenges confronting immigration clients trying to convince the U.S. government to approve visas that would enable them to start businesses in the U.S.. In each case, the enterprise needs to prove to its audience that it can be successful.
As the reader should find, the following questions would also make great headings for a business plan:
1. What Does Your Business Actually Do?
Why is this sometimes a difficult question to answer? Because many enterprises define themselves using specialized, highly technical, jargon. Whether the audience is an immigration officer, with a liberal arts degree, or an MBA venture capitalist, the best way of answering the question is by giving examples of what the service or product is and how it can meet customer needs.
2. What is Your Market?
Many think that consumers do not necessarily know what they need until the product or service is presented to them. But, products and services searching for markets are less likely to get market traction than products and services that meet tangible customer needs. In the immigration universe, reviewers want to see a market analysis showing who would use the product or service, the competition in the marketplace, and the barriers to entry the enterprise would be encountering. Pitches may grab attention, but whether a product or service has a future can only really be evaluated by doing a market analysis, even if it is for internal consumption.
3. Who is Involved in Your Enterprise?
One of the most important elements of a presentation to the immigration authorities is explaining the experience and skills of the persons who would be running the new enterprise and how they would complement one another. But, in general, the success of a venture rarely depends on only one individual, but on a team of individuals, each possessing skills or experience that bring something to the table. And if one does not have the skills or experience that would seem to be objectively required then the game plan should be to bring persons on board that have them.
4. Who are Your Service Providers?
Accountants, financial advisors, and business attorneys can play an important role in helping an immigration lawyer advocate for a business, but their use goes beyond obtaining immigration benefits for clients. Service professionals can ensure that the correct corporate form has been utilized, that financial controls are in place, and that policies and procedures exist to anticipate a range of problems. While new enterprises are notoriously reluctant to spend their limited resources on service providers, like lawyers and accountants, very often the results of going it alone without professional advice are wasted resources and, sometimes, disaster.
In the immigration universe, skimping on professional counsel can lead to the denial of a petition or visa application and the failure of the business venture. Many service providers are interested in working for promising start-up enterprises and are willing to enter into arrangements that will not break the bank. Businesses owners should seek these professionals out.
5. What about Job Creation?
This is a very important question in the immigration universe (see our discussion about the immigrant investor visa) but less so in the rest of the start-up universe. But even so, enterprises need to be concerned about scale and growth, and should have some concept of who they want to bring into the organization, not only in terms of serving as executives, but also serving as troops in the field, and middle management (oftentimes the weakest link in an enterprise).
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