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New venture development expert Dave Lavinsky is co-founder of Growthink, Inc., a consultancy and investment bank for emerging firms. Here, Dave shares advice on financing, launching and sustaining a successful small business.

Q: Overall, how favorable is the current climate for small business start-ups?

It’s always a good time when you can fill an unmet customer need or do something better than competitors. It’s easy to assume that you should only wait until the economy is good. True, there may be more customers, but you’ll also face more competition.

Q: Will credit markets loosen up during the second half of 2011? Or are lenders reserving their resources for “sure-thing” business proposals?

Few people are really qualified to predict what’s going to happen. But it goes back to my answer to the first question: entrepreneurs with a solid business plan will have no trouble raising capital.

Q: A must-have ingredient for every entrepreneur is self-confidence. What are your favorite go-to sources for sustaining a positive, realistic attitude?
  • Hang out with positive people. It’s been said that you’re the average of the five to 10 people you hang out with most often. If you’re with positive thinkers, multi-millionaires or highly creative types, it will rub off on you.
  • Listen to motivational speakers. I do this when driving. Listening to people like Jack Canfield and Les Brown always gives me ideas to stay positive. You can’t listen to them just once, though. Get a few CDs and listen to them several times.
  • Create “Google Alerts” on positive topics. I do “entrepreneur,” and every day receive 10-15 headlines about what people are doing. Often, I don’t even need to read the article; the headline alone about their accomplishments can be highly uplifting.
Q: Many entrepreneurs struggle with delegating responsibility, even when faced with the overwhelming challenge of keeping their business growing. What are some tips for finding a comfort level that will allow them to feel better about “letting go”?

Use this formula: figure out how much you want to salary yourself, and divide that by how many hours you’ll work in a year. The result is your own hourly rate, say $100/hour. Then look at tasks you do repeatedly—cleaning office, going through mail, and so forth. Are you willing to pay someone $100/hour for it? Probably not. There are a lot of low-cost options for delegating these tasks—virtual assistants, college students who do it for credit. Once you delegate those tasks and focus all your time on high-value stuff, your business will flourish.

Q: You’re a big proponent of mentoring. What makes SCORE uniquely positioned to assist any type of small business at any stage of its development?

Being able to talk with someone who’s been there and done that is invaluable. The hardest thing is finding that kind of person. SCORE’s done that for you. They’ve already found these great mentors who are willing, ready, and able to advise you on what to do—and what not to do—based on their knowledge and experience.



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