Open for Business: Choosing the right model for your small business dream

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(Family Features) Millions toil away in their office cubicles, dreaming of owning their own piece of the American dream. Meanwhile, many entrepreneurial thinkers are using rough economic times as the catapult for making their small business dreams come true.

With so many types of business models available, it can be hard to determine which one is the best fit for you.

UPS Store

Brick and mortar

Commonly thought of as the most traditional of plans, this business model involves businesses housed in physical buildings from which they sell their products. One major advantage of brick and mortar businesses is the personal interaction typically achieved between consumer and owner. Since the retail experience is part of what’s for sale, physical appearance and location of the facility need to be factored into the overall cost of running the business. Due to the rising popularity of online shopping, many brick and mortar businesses are turning to the internet, combining a physical location with an online presence. However, small businesses that offer services that cannot be purchased through the internet, like hair and nail salons, still thrive with this method.

Bricks and clicks

The “bricks and clicks” model is typically used to describe a business with a both a retail and an online location. A major advantage of the brick and click model is it allows customers to see the product physically, coupled with the option to buy products with the convenience of a mouse click. Many businesses with a physical location also have a long-standing relationship with customers, and this can help boost their internet sales. This online component allows the entrepreneur to be well-positioned to compete with other online businesses. One disadvantage of the brick and click model is the higher overhead required to run both a physical location and keep a website fresh and current.

Many examples of successful bricks and clicks businesses are retailers which, in particular, sell clothing and footwear. Local customers can go in to try on the wares physically and then purchase from the comfort of their own home. These same customers know they can ship items anywhere with the easy distribution provided by the online component.

Franchise

A franchise is a business model that involves two parties — a franchisor and a franchisee. Franchises are a good fit for those with an entrepreneurial spirit but who also may lack business experience and would benefit from the structure, support and guidance the franchise model provides. To become a franchisee, an entrepreneur pays a fee and/or shares the revenues of the business. Because a franchise is owned by a franchisor, the franchisee must follow set guidelines. For example, fast food franchisees typically cannot change their menus, logos or signage. The types of franchise opportunities are vast, but can include hotels, convenience stores and fast food restaurants.

If you’re trying to narrow down your options, knowing your location and community is essential. Some franchise opportunities, such as The UPS Store, specialize in building franchise opportunities in small towns and rural locations. As many of these areas are underserved in business, packing and shipping amenities, such franchise models deliver a sought-after service for other small businesses and citizens within the community. Having a clear understanding of your community’s needs can ensure your new business venture is successful and profitable.

It’s also important for franchisees to think outside the box when selecting their location. For example, some businesses, such as The UPS Store, can thrive in non-traditional locations, such as hotels, rural communities, university campuses, military bases and convention centers. For more information, visit www.theupsstore.com/mainstreet.

Direct sales

Without a physical retail structure, the direct sales model sells products through independent distributors who specialize in face-to-face experiences with the consumer. One main benefit of direct sales is the ability to sell without overhead or supply costs of running a facility. Many direct sales entrepreneurs purchase their products directly from the parent company piecemeal, so no additional storage space is needed to house the product.

A majority of direct sales businesses use a party plan with hands-on customer service to sell the product, and leverage their personal involvement as an advantage over other methods of reaching customers. This type of business is often used to supplement other small businesses or as part-time employment, as it is often easy to sell through homes, jobs or other social communities. Examples of direct sales opportunities for small businesses include makeup, housewares, jewelry and vitamin products.

5 tips on creating a great business plan

Once you’ve determined which business model best suits your needs, developing a business plan is essential. Here are five tips from SCORE, a non-profit that grows successful small businesses across America, to help you get started:

  • Take the long view and do long-term planning. Map out where you want to be five years from now and how you plan to get there.
  • Write the plan yourself. You will learn more about your business by doing so.
  • Think of your plan as a living document. Review it regularly to make sure you are on track or to adjust for market changes.
  • Share the plan with others who can help you get where you want to go, such as lenders, key employees and advisors.
  • Understand you might pay a price in the short run to obtain long-term business growth and health.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images
Source: The UPS Store

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