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3 Reasons Why the Outdoor Billboard Business Rocks

Can You Imagine a World Without Billboards?

No, I can’t either! And I know there will be many people who would very much like a world without billboards. Love them or hate them, they are here to stay in many parts of the country and of the world.

Billboards have been around for around 150 years or more and they’re an enormously popular, affordable and effective advertising medium. Advertisers love them because of their cost effectiveness and because the advertising message can’t be ‘switched off’. Consumers may not know whether they love them or not, but they notice them – billboards are effective for branding and some of the best known brands, like McDonald’s, are the biggest billboard advertisers.

Billboard advertising has not been adversely affected by the rise of the internet – in fact the outdoor billboard business is one of the fastest growing areas of the media according to the Outdoor Advertising Association of America. People are out and about as much as they ever were – in fact more than they ever were and there are more of them and billboards are in full view.

Billboard technology is being reinvented – with the introduction of digital billboards and the continued growth of mobile billboards.

So this is no ‘fad’ or passing whim as far as businesses to be involved in goes.

How Many Businesses Can You Start for A Low Entry Cost?

And how many businesses can you start that are pretty much ‘hands off’ once you’ve set them up?

Sure, if you plan to own an enormous billboard on a major highway through a major US city, it’s going to cost you a pretty penny! Growth plans aside, it is possible to enter the outdoor billboard business for ‘several thousand dollars’ – check out some that are for sale to see this for yourself. If the entry cost is still too high for an individual, two partners (or more) could easily cover the entry cost with some focus and planning. Risks can be reduced (as compared with other types of businesses) and possible losses can be lessened (providing a professional approach is taken – and adequate appropriate insurance is taken out, for example).

Once a billboard is researched, purchased, leased and owned, little day to day input is required to keep the revenue flowing in over the term of the lease. This allows the business owner/investor to continue in their mainstream job or business as they grow their outdoor billboard business. It’s unlikely there are many traditional bricks and mortar businesses out there could afford the owner the same luxury.

The Beauty is in the Simplicity of the Business

The outdoor billboard business is one of the rare businesses where it is possible to do you due diligence (or research) pretty much everything you need to, to a highly detailed level, by yourself.

Traditional bricks and mortar businesses can be very complex creatures and often you won’t be able to know everything there is to know about operating the business or the financial details of the business and critical details of other areas until you have actually taken over and started operating it. It’s not unheard of for the financial situation to have been ‘doctored’ for the purposes of the sale, or for previously happy clients/customers to be lost due to a change in ownership. If this happens to a business, the results can be catastrophic for the new owner.

One real beauty of the outdoor billboard business is the fact that the purchaser is in the privileged position of being able to research the land on which the billboard sits (and any rules, regulations, covenants that apply to it), the structure itself (for compliance with building regulations etc), the possible marketplace for advertising clients (of which there would typically be multiple if the location is chosen carefully) and also the ‘environment’ at any given time. Billboards are not permitted in all states and there is significant opposition to them (or upgrades to them) in some locations. Careful due diligence into the environment being operated in is likely to reduce the risk of being affected by law changes – although all risk can never be eliminated completely.

Owning a billboard or two (or more) may not be everybody’s idea of a great business to be involved in, but if you don’t want to have to work your fingers to the bone in a traditional bricks’n'mortar business day-in-day-out, it’s one to consider. If you don’t have or don’t want to invest your life savings or put your own home on the line to purchase a business or investment with a high price, such as property or a franchise business or even start-up business, then the billboard business continues to look attractive. Often in business it’s what we don’t know that ‘gets us’ and causes business failure and disappointment so as a business that avoids much of the complexity of other businesses, we think the outdoor billboard business just shines.

Basics of Creating a Small Business Plan

Starting a new business can be a daunting task but a rewarding one. This article is meant to help give some direction to someone that is thinking about starting their own business. A general idea of what ground work you need to think about and start planning for if you are serious about pursuing your dreams and making them become a reality.

First, you need a business plan which may seem cumbersome but is extremely necessary to flesh out the feasibility of your ideas. Not to mention a good business plan is vital to gaining loans or grants to fund the project.

A Business Plan should at least include but is not limited to the following:

1. Name of the business
2. Who are your competitors?
3. What makes your product or service better than your competition?
4. Do you have any strategic business partnerships you can leverage?

• If you are a caterer can you partner with a hall? This way you are guaranteed so much business & start a word of mouth client base.

5. Definition of who your customers are

6. How you are going to market & sell to your customers

• Are you going to use website, flyers, radio ads, strategic partnerships
• Market analysis can be done with the help of:

US Department of Commerce and Census Bureau
National Trade and Professional Association directory
Web-based: Google Trends, Trends Map & Social Mention Linked-in
Annual Survey of Buying Power produced by Sales and Marketing Management magazine – This can help with projected revenues.

7. Define your product or service
8. Develop a mission statement, branding & message you want to advertise
9. Legal Paperwork -

• Need a license, then speak to your state’s department of licensing and regulatory affairs.
• Patent ideas -Contact the Patent and Trademark Depository Library. Find out if you have an original idea and who to talk to if you need a patent attorney.
• Copyrights have to be registered with the government for about $65.
• Determine what type of business you are going to register under ie

- Sole proprietorships register a “Doing Business As” with the county clerk.
- Limited Liability Corporation(LLC), INC, PLC register with the state ie MI Dept of Energy & Labor

Working with a lawyer that specializes in zoning and business law can be helpful to avoid pitfalls. They can set you up with legal paperwork for clients to sign in an effort to reduce settlements. Business lawyers can help keep clients from coming after personal assets in the case of lawsuits ie LLC setup. They may have ideas depending on how you setup your business as to what insurance you will need too. As anything it is good to get at least three bids from different companies to get the best deal for your business.

10. What are you going to need to get your business up and running?

• New Structure & Land – Contact the planning office about zoning laws and building permits
• Existing structure – Contact the planning office about zoning laws and who to contact about getting a licensed inspector because not all inspectors have any ie electrical or HVAC licenses. If you run a business out of your primary residence you can sometimes bypass a business tax on your property but may need a inspection to make sure you are compliant with current codes. Check to see what local laws apply to you.

11. List of Expenditures ~Split into initial setup fees & annual cost of doing business:

Business Lawyers

Zoning & buying land, Setup of DBA or LLC + registration fees,client legal forms to reduce settlements, Copyrights/ Patent Costs and Business Insurance

Licensed Skilled Trades

Inspector Fees, Permits, licensed electrician/ HVAC/ plumber to bring you up to code.

Equipment / Supplies

Renting Building, computer, printer/fax/copier, Bulk supplies, Used/ surplus equipment

Marketing /Sales

Initial Market Analysis Costs, $120 setup a domain name & website/yr, $200/yr list with search engines & use clickthrough services to increase web traffic, flyers & radio ads

Employees

Your annual wage & health Insurance, employee wages, Payroll accountant or software. Speak to a business account to see if you need software for payroll that includes health insurance/workmen’s Compensation Insurance/Social Security/ state and federal tax with holdings.

Note whenever I have managed projects and budgets I add 15% to projected costs. This is in an effort to cover unexpected events ie building delay due to weather that puts you behind on opening and therefore reducing anticipated revenues. Or used equipment may break and need to be replaced. Your list will vary but the above list is a basic start to making an expenditure list for your business.

12. Projected annual revenue – Include how you are coming up with these numbers.
13. Projected Return on Investment (ROI) for investors
14. Exit plan – This defines what happens if you go out of business and how your stakeholders who invested in the business are going get their money back ie sell equipment, etc.

This is not an all inclusive list for everything contained in your business plan but should give you a good idea of where to start. Once you have a good portion of the above information worked out and written down. Then you could see one of the below organizations to help you work out additional kinks and polish the business plan. Then you can seek out people to fund your business.

Groups who help small businesses

• US Chamber of Congress
• National Federation of Independent Business
• National Association of the Self-Employed
• Small Business Administration & state level small business development centers
• Senior Core of Retired Executives (S.C.O.R.E)

Funding Sources

A.) Banks- They do not generally want ownership but interest. Their repayment times can vary but range many times from 5-10 years.

• Sam’s Club Small Business Loans • Bank loans

B.) Venture Capitol- Many times they want 15-30% ownership in the business plus 15-30% return on investment. Repayment times are varied but can be 5-10 years depending on the type of revenue being produced & amount of ownership they negotiate.

http://globalconnect.ucsd.edu/
https://angel.co/venture-capital

C.) Grants – These are funds you do not have to pay back but generally have to fill out a lot of paperwork and jump through the proper hoops to attain.

• Small Business Technology Transfer Program (STTR)
• Federal Grants
• Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR)

Starting A Business (With Minimal Resources)

I have had several people tell me that they want to start a business but do not even know where to begin. Honestly, it can be pretty overwhelming if you don’t have any steps to follow. Thus, what I am going to share with you here can serve as guidelines for you.

Be sure that what you intend to do is your passion.

Don’t just jump into any business because it’s a fad, your friend made money out of it, you think it’s going to make money, or whatever reason other than it being your passion. So before you even think about setting up your own business, ask yourself the following questions: What do I love to do? What do I enjoy doing? What am I really good at? What am I most experienced in doing? From here you will know what your passion really is. And if the business you are thinking of setting up does not fall in this category, forget it. It is not going to work.

Work with what you got.

Do not even attempt to think of thousands or hundreds of thousands if all you have are hundreds. I am not talking about financial projections here but where you are to begin. If all you can spare is $500, then work on that. If all you have is a computer and phone, then work with what you have. Start with what you have, not with what you don’t have. Then work your way from there.

If you need top-of-the-line equipment, look for slightly used ones for sale instead of buying it brand new. Keep your costs low.

Invest wisely.

Whether you plan to borrow money or you have enough savings to start with, learn to invest wisely. Write down everything you need, and prioritize.

Your priorities should be your main business tool or equipment, as well as your promotional tools.

Find out what business laws you have in your city/state.
Some cities/states do not require you to register a business unless your gross yearly earning is over $12000. If this law applies to your location, and if you are not sure how much money you will be making on the first year, then don’t register your business yet. Test the waters first and work your way from there. As far as I know, if your business is not legally registered, you are only allowed to use your name and not any other name for the business.

One way to really start low is to experiment first. If you plan to venture into a food business, try cooking from home and sell your food to your neighbors and friends. If you want to do wedding planning, then let your friends know and do their wedding planning for them, for a very minimal cost. You can even do it for free. This is a good way of building up your credentials.

Get all your tools ready.
Other than the equipment, furniture, supplies, and other things you need for your business, the ‘tools’ that you need to prioritize are your “promotional tools”. These include your business card, website, flyers, business sign, letterheads, brochure, social media, etc. The kind and extent of promotional tools you need will depend on the type and size of business you are thinking of. The basic promotional tools for any type and size of business are business cards, website, brochures, flyers, and social media. Do not even attempt to start a business without these tools ready; otherwise you will be like a soldier in battle without his ammunition. Likewise, do not attempt to do all these yourself unless you have the skills and experience in doing so.

And don’t forget the most important tool of all: your business plan. This is your blueprint – where everything about your business lies. It is what you will need to apply for a loan, to apply for a grant, and to create your promotional tools.

Leave your promotional tools in the hands of those who are more equipped to do it. This is where I can be of help to you.

Promotion is the key.

Once you have all your promotional tools ready, it is going to be easier to promote your business. Have your business cards with you at all times and give it to anyone you meet. Your business card should already have your website and social media addresses. Flyers help a lot when you are promoting a product or a service that is better presented through visuals such as photography, weddings, flower arrangement, etc. Brochures are most effective if your target audience are groups of people such as church, organizations, corporations, etc.

Utilize every opportunity and connections you have. Keep promoting!

Build relationships.

Repeat business is the biggest indicator of a good business. And the only way people are going to refer you to others, or do business with you again, is if they are satisfied with what you provided them with. Customer satisfaction is not so much how good your product or service is but how good they felt about you and what you did for them. It is all about the relationship that you build with people.

Integrity counts the most.

Integrity is more than trust. It is the result of consistent trustworthiness. It means that you walk your talk… you deliver what you say you will do… you stay committed to your commitments. When you have integrity, customers will prefer you over your competitors. They will choose you because they know that they can rely on you, whatever happens.

Work harder than an employee.

Some people who are considering setting up their own business think that if they do this, they can relax and act like the big boss who seems to do nothing but walk around. The opposite holds true. Since you are your own boss when you have your own business, you really have to operate like a boss. And bosses are not just walking around. They are the ones who do almost all the thinking, problem solving, decision making, financing, networking, and all the more difficult and tedious mental tasks. Add to this working like the hardest working employee you can ever find. In short, you are the boss and employee at the same time, unless you plan to hire people under you.

Stay committed and consistent.

Once you start a business, you have to remain committed to it. It’s not an experiment that you can just start, and then end when it does not work in a few months. You can’t be dictated by your emotions. You have to get going no matter what happens. This brings us back to what I said in the beginning of this article — find out what your passion is.