The Business Plan: What It Is and Why You Need One If You're Starting out or Starting Over

Article excerpt

YOU HAVE SPENT YEARS OF YOUR LIFE IN THE STUDIO and classroom developing your understanding of the human voice. Your performance résumé is a mile long. You have earned a series of letters to put at the end of your name. Maybe you have a BM or a BA and maybe even an MM or a DMA, but probably not an MBA. Due to this latter fact, you may hear the words "business plan" and get a little nervous, or worse, tune out entirely. You needn't be thwarted by a fancy title; you've done program notes and planned recitals. If translating a number of languages and setting up a delectable reception while learning a sixty minute program and coordinating all applicable supplemental musicians do not daunt you, then doing a little homework and clarifying your small business shouldn't faze you either.

After spending many years involved in studying voice, you've come in contact with numerous business models that support the study of the voice; for example, the private home-based studio, the local music store that offers lessons, the church choir director that teaches after Sunday services, and, yes, even the university. You probably have taken away from those experiences numerous observations and have drawn some conclusions about the way in which you would like to operate. Isn't that enough? Why bother writing a formal business plan if you already know what it is you want to do and how you would like to operate? No matter how skilled in the classroom or studio, if you are unprepared to run your small business, you may be in for some insurmountable hurdles. A business plan can prepare you for the day-to-day rigors of working for yourself. It can open your eyes to possibly unforeseen obstacles and clearly define teaching goals. It also can give you a benchmark for individual success and outline a specific timeline to achieve that success. It can help clarify professional relationships, teach you to evaluate your service, and even help secure outside funding.1 In addition, a solid business plan can validate the professional decision to become a studio teacher and help you continue on the path toward success even through the difficult start-up days, months, and maybe even years that lie ahead.

Before You Get Started

You need to make some critical decisions. These decisions are the assumptions upon which you will base a plan. Ask the following questions:

* How many hours do I want to teach each week? How many students will I need to achieve this? Take into consideration your financial needs as well as any personal scheduling and performing conflicts.

* Where is the best location for this? Can I sacrifice a space in my home? Can I afford to rent a space? Do I want to build a studio move into my business plan? For example, if I plan on teaching from home for a year, might I, once I've built a client base, move to a rented location outside of my home?

Now look at your answers and see how they impact each other. Make sure you clear up any potential conflicts before you move on to the next step.

Legal Issues and the Sole Proprietorship

Here's where the homework begins. Every state and local government has different rules and regulations for small businesses. You may need to get an occupational license or other permits to operate.2 If you live in a community with a governing council and plan to teach out of your home, you also may be subject to their bylaws in addition to municipal zoning laws. If this seems daunting and you're unsure where to begin, it may be the perfect time to contact a local Small Business Administration office, found online at www.sba.gov. This government agency exists to promote small businesses and can help in a number of ways during your start-up. Your local SBA field office offers a number of useful services, usually at little or no charge, that include legal counseling and business development services as well as advocacy programs. If you qualify, the SBA can even help get a government secured loan to start your studio or point to other reputable lending sources. …