Refine Your Business Ideas
With Research

Before you launch your business you want to do some research on your top business ideas. This is an important step – so don’t skip it! By doing research you will find out what other people are doing, how they’re doing it, what they’re charging – and you’ll be able to refine your own business ideas.

By doing research you can usually do some quick calculations to figure out if you can make a living doing this thing. It can help you calculate business startup costs. These are things you want to know about now rather than later.

Research can also help you do a reality check to find out if this is the right kind of business for you. For example, maybe you’re thinking about opening a day spa. A day spa sounds like a great business, doesn’t it? We all love pampering ourselves. But there’s a big difference between owning a spa and relaxing in one as a customer. Doing some research will help you find out if this business is for you.

Where should you do your research? It depends upon your business idea, but here are some places to start:

1. Internet search engines – (Google, Yahoo, MSN, etc.) – It’s amazing how much information is out there in cyberspace so I always start with an internet search. To be really thorough you’ll want to try several search engines and check out at least the first couple of pages of search results for each of them. Try a few different key words to make sure you’ve covered all the bases. Do this for each of your business ideas if you have more than one.

2. Local businesses - Is there a local business doing what you’re thinking of doing? If so, go on a field trip and find out more about the business. I’m not suggesting spying – but if you’re thinking of starting a nursery – go and visit one. Pay attention to details from the point of view of a potential business owner instead of as a customer. How much space will you need? How many different kinds of plants? What kind of employees will you need to hire? What other things can you sell related to plants?

3. Go to the library – your local library has a treasure of resources and librarians are always willing to help.

4. Local bookstores – go and browse in your local bookstores for books related to your business idea. If someone has already done it there’s sure to be a book about it!

5. Your Own Bookshelves – if you are planning to pursue a passion chances are good that you probably have some reference materials sitting on your own bookshelves. Dig through your shelves and find what’s useful for starting your business.

6. Yellow Pages – look up your business idea in the yellow pages to see how many other people are doing what you’re thinking of doing. Also pay attention to their ads and how they are marketing themselves. Are there lots of “competitors”? What ideas do you see that can work for you? What’s unique about your idea that will differentiate you from the others? (Don’t forget to consider running an ad for your own business when you’re ready.)

7. Take a Class – There are all sorts of classes available through community colleges and adult learning centers, and there are on-line classes offered on almost every subject. Most classes offer useful information for a relatively small amount of your time and money. For example, my husband wanted to be a freelance travel writer and wasn’t sure how to begin. He attended a 3-day travel writing workshop and it gave him just what he needed to launch a successful business. In only 3 days!

8. Business in a Box – sometimes your idea isn't a new business idea. Someone has already done it - successfully. So you might find someone marketing a "business in a box" - all the instructions and information you need to get started. Sometimes with some consulting thrown in. You get all the information you need to set up shop - for a price, of course.

This is different than a franchise. In the Business in a Box concept they give you all the information to create a business using their model. You take that information and either do it exactly the same way or modify it to suit your style, location, etc. Some of these business packages are very reasonably priced. The upfront costs vary depending upon the type of business, and of course you’ll want to check it out thoroughly before investing.

9. Be an Apprentice – this is a great way to do research if you’re not sure if this is the right business idea for you, or if you want some hands-on training. You can be an apprentice, either paid or unpaid. For example, if you want to open a wine shop, why not go and work for one for a while first? It would be a good education and you’d get paid! It would give you enough experience to decide if this is the right business for you.

Depending upon the type of business, you can also ask someone to mentor you to learn the ropes. For example if you want to be a stand-up comedian you'll probably need to actually do the work to gain experience. But you can ask someone who is already doing comedy to mentor you through the process. Another possibility is you can hire (pay) someone to mentor you. Businesses like VocationVacations have a comprehensive list of mentors for hire. It gives you a chance to try on a new career or business idea by spending time on the job with a mentor.

10. You can also check out FabJobs – this website offers some great resources on a variety of careers such as how to be a wedding planner, a standup comedian, how to open a wine shop, or be a motivational speaker. They sell books, ebooks and CD’s on many topics that can help you understand what's involved in the business and maybe even tell you how to get started.

With so many ways to do research it’s possible to spend too much time on this step. So give yourself enough time to get informed and inspired but then move on and get started planning your transition. You can always slip in a little more research as you go along.

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