In the early stages of business planning aspiring entrepreneurs are tasked with maintaining optimism in the face of disheartening statistics: more than half of new businesses fail in the first five years. But optimism doesn’t have to equate to blind faith. George Lambros, an expert in business strategy with decades of experience in diverse industries, explains that taking the time to draft a careful business plan can not only help developers overcome initial inertia and fear, but proceed with fact-based confidence.
Lambros will discuss the stages of business planning in a free workshop titled “Creating a Business Model and Business Plan” hosted by SCORE at Princeton Public Library on Monday, February 18, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
Creating a business plan gets would-be entrepreneurs to think critically about their target audience, Lambros says. “A plan forces people to think about what they are offering, what need they are going to solve, and what points of differentiation are going to make them competitive.” Lambros considers an example he witnessed recently: a model that innovated by bringing business online, but advertised by touting its personal, face-to-face customer service. “It wasn’t committing fully to one model, so the business was struggling,” Lambros explains. Taking the time to put a plan in writing helps developers focus on a particular audience. “You can’t be everything, so it’s best to sit back and think what you are trying to accomplish.”
A business plan is also a chance to use analytical tools to create reasonable expectations and make smart decisions. Lambros encourages aspiring entrepreneurs to seek out small businesses that aren’t direct competitors but have significant similarities to one’s own vision. “Learn from them and their journey, how they started out and what pitfalls they ran into,” Lambros says.
Getting information and data from online research and in-person interviews allows new business developers to make educated choices and hopefully avoid some of the mistakes made by similar businesses in their own early stages. “The more data you have, the more you learn the more likely you are to be one of the businesses that succeeds,” Lambros explains.
In addition to aiding analytical thinking, creating a business plan allows for some important introspection on the passion behind a business proposal. Lambros encourages new owners to consider what aspects of the business they are energized by and will keep them motivated in the long-term. “What really excites you?” Lambros asks.“When you think about three, four years down the road, where do you want to be, what’s the business that you want to grow and keep expanding and be working on?”
Lambros gets his own passion for small business from his father, a Greek immigrant who owned a diner in a small town in Northern Indiana. After graduating with an MBA from Indiana University, Lambros moved to Southern California to work at Ryder System Inc. Since then he has worked as vice president, finance for Tyco Fire & Security and as the chief human resources officer of Alghanim Industries. His work has taken him across the globe; he spent four years in Mexico City with Ryder System, and more than eight in Kuwait with Alghanim Industries.
Although much of his work experience has been in financial planning at large, international corporations, he has maintained his passion for small business development. During his time in South Florida, he was assisted his wife, Michelle Pirone Lambros, as she developed her own small business, the Grape Merchant, a collection of wine shops and wine bars. Although Lambros is clear the business and its success belongs to his wife, he enjoyed sharing in the early planning as she observed a local need — a dearth of good neighborhood wine shops — and developed a business to fill it.
Lambros now works in Princeton as the chief operating officer of Carter Road-based WorldWater & Solar Technologies Inc. His wife grew up in Princeton and has close ties to the community; she owns Princeton Promotions and is now running for town council.
Lambros became involved with SCORE to become engaged in the community himself and was quickly impressed by the range of expertise and the dedication of local entrepreneurs, small business owners, and corporate employees looking to give back. “It’s a wonderful resource for people to take advantage of,” Lambros says.
“Businesses start because somebody has a passion and they have an idea of what they want to do, and at SCORE we try to help them create a path to increase the chances of success,” Lambros says. “At the core of what we do is we try to encourage the dream—but we try to probe, test, ask questions, and to get people to put together a more analytical approach.”