Startups, entrepreneurs and market forces beyond your control

By - Last modified: April 19, 2013 at 4:14 PM

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Hope Stephan. Photo/Amy Spangler
Hope Stephan. Photo/Amy Spangler

This week's theme: How to succeed in business – with a lot of hard work, meticulous planning and spot-on timing (otherwise known as luck).

In this coming Friday's Business Journal, reporter Heather Stauffer revisits a story we did several years ago about a midstate business that – at the time – planned for very specific, controlled growth. But the market had other ideas, she learned, so the enterprise shifted gears, ran with the opportunity and achieved double its original targets.

So that is today's question: Should you let your plan drive your business or vice versa? Or, to put it another way, which comes first, the market or the idea?

The Internet is full of articles and blogs about the "best" or "hot" industries for start-ups right now. This forward-thinking writer, for example, thinks you should put your money in solar panels, self-tanners and yoga, while the venerable Forbes urges online shoes sales, digital forensics and home theater installation, among other ideas.

I don't know. I always thought an entrepreneur came up with a unique idea or service and then took it to the market with passion. Can you really be successful teaching yoga or selling shoes if those things don't fire you up?

Maybe that's why I'm not in business for myself.

If you are in business, though, or thinking about starting one, advice is abundant and comes in a variety of flavors, from plain vanilla to Tin Roof Sundae and beyond. (My favorite in this latter list is No. 8. Lesson learned from when I worked at a startup back in the late 1990s: When payroll is coming due, it doesn't matter how much you have in accounts receivable. It's what you actually have in the bank.)

The week ahead

Sometimes it seems like the world belongs to a secret society of statisticians, working day and night to spin a web of numbers around us all that only they understand. A very sticky web.

This week's report highlights include existing home sales (Monday); new home sales (Tuesday); durable goods orders (Wednesday); weekly jobless claims (Thursday) and GDP (Friday).

Given that the numbers on just about all the economic reports issued last week were down, I don't foresee much cheerier news headed our way.

Meanwhile, here are some ideas on how to succeed in business.

On Tuesday:

Lebanon Valley Chamber workshop: 6-7:30 p.m., "How to Really Start Your Own Business" (for details, contact pkreiser@lvchamber.org or call 717-273-3727).

Mechanicsburg chamber AM Strategies...for Business Success: 8:30-10:30 p.m. Silver Spring Township; "Hiring Practices: How to Attract Top-Notch Employees."

And on Wednesday:

The York Economic Alliance's Small Business Seminar Series-Breakfast Plus will present Dr. David Greisler talking about "Key Measurements of Success" from 7:30-9 a.m. at the York Expo Center.

The rewind

Midstate businesses are finding success in corners many of us might consider risky or offbeat.

This one serves a rapidly growing niche market and is going global in its quest to be the best in the hair replacement industry. This one has gotten innovative in funding growth that is outpacing its capacity to produce its popular sauces.

And is there an ideal age to become an entrepreneur? Piggybackr allows students from kindergarten to college to fundraise on its platform, with the assurance for parents that their kids are learning about business in a safe environment.

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