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Self-employed Doesn't Mean Being an Island
Once you've created your business plan, figured out how to fund it, and launched your new business, you may run up against a "dry" spell of ideas. It's natural, it happens to every entrepreneur. It doesn't mean you've failed--it just means it's time to start talking to other people.
One of the biggest challenges an entrepreneur faces is suddenly being the one who calls all the shots, comes up with all the great ideas, and is responsible for the livelihoods of others. This responsibility is best carried out if it is not done in isolation. Some of the most successful entrepreneurs started out their companies with a "Board of Advisors" from the very inception. Before you launch, before you even have a prototype ready to show, a Board of Advisors can be very useful in helping to guide you through various procedures with which you may be unfamiliar, and also in helping to refine your ideas to make them more marketable.
Many a dotcom started out in a humble college dorm room in the '90s. Many failed, but a few succeeded--and those that did, enlisted the substantial amount of help that is often available at no cost in the academic environment. College business professors often welcome an opportunity to pontificate on an actual business deal as opposed to classroom theory, and even some fellow students may be able to lend good ideas and advice.
The Board of Advisors is not quite the same thing as a Board of Directors. The latter is usually a paid group of professionals that meets on a regular basis, your Advisors, on the other hand, are often volunteer--although a hosted dinner now and then is a nice touch. The Advisors also don't meet regularly, it's more of an ad-hoc type of group from which you are able to draw wisdom and advice on an as-needed basis. Some professionals may agree to serve on your Board just for the challenge, or in exchange for some promotional consideration. You may, for example, announce the formation of your Board in a press release or other public relations material, or list them on your letterhead. Consider approaching seasoned businesspersons, attorneys, accountants, and bankers, as well as academics to serve on your Board.
Along with the Board of Advisors, a focus group is also very often an excellent way to refine your business concept. Enlisting a small group of people to discuss your idea is a great way to spot any potential flaws, and sometimes add value that you may not have previously considered. The focus group also is not that difficult to put together--and more often than not, the only thing it will cost you is a restaurant bill for the evening.
About the Author: Audrey Hoffman is a successful entrepreneur who also helps other business owners get their start via http://www.speedy-incorporation.com - a website that helps business owners incorporate online with a lot of state specific information for those who want to form a New Jersey LLC or incorporate in Florida.