It seems you can't turn around without bumping into another book or software package that claims to unlock the secrets of "building your own successful enterprise."

We're so accustomed to the fast-food approach to business that we expect to read a menu, pick a couple of sure-fire ideas, and walk away with a start-up "happy meal" guaranteed to satisfy our hunger for success.

But then reality smacks us. As a presenter in a statewide Small Business Development Center meeting said last week, "Lots of people want to be successful in business, but not many want to do what it takes!"

A couple of things it takes are a written plan, plus basic skills in marketing and managing cash. Now, with the help of the New Business Starter Kit from the publishers of Quickbooks, arguably the industry standard for small business accounting software, you can design and "test drive" that new business idea of yours.

All you need are a fairly up-to-date computer, access to the Internet, and the CD-ROM available through your Small Business Development Center. Spin it up, install the software, and start with the New Business Checklist.

What follows is not effortless entertainment. Most of the information is presented in the form of text - some in note boxes, some in click-to-read documents. You may want to use the print option, because this stuff will take some thought. And if there's anybody else involved in your business, you'll want to print a copy for them too. Then you can sit down and work together (just like in your business!)

Nothing here is rocket science, just solid guidance on the most basic concepts - a critical look at your idea, legal structure and registration, products and services, sales and marketing, cash flow, human resources, funding, and writing your business plan. There are even some tools beyond the fundamentals - advice on protecting intellectual property (trademarks, patents, etc.) and a downloadable demo of business planning software.

This package presents solid, general guidelines. As you work through them, you will discover that it will take time, thought, and research to get the most out of the Kit. Some areas such as protecting intellectual property only scratch the surface, but it's a start, and at least you'll be aware that you may have to deal with it. Other areas are covered in detail, meaning lots of work on your part if you want this to pay off.

Like most books and business software, this one won't tell you what you have to do to turn your specific idea into a successful business. That will take one-on-one work with a Small Business Development Center advisor. But I'll guarantee that if you do your homework, first using tools like these, you'll arrive prepared to get a real return on the time you invest with your advisor, and you'll already have some of the work completed.

That alone is proof that you're one of the few willing to do what it takes to be successful. Not a bad first step.


Art Hill is VP of customized training, apprenticeship, and the Small Business Development Centers at Blue Mountain Community College. He can be reached at 1-888-441-7232 or through

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