One of the most critical, yet most intangible, requirements for a successful business is management skill. Having sufficient market opportunity as well as financing is insufficient. Your business will fail if you are not able to control and direct the business once it is operating. In addition, it is unlikely that you will succeed if you do not enjoy or do well the kind of work required.
If you have no or limited previous experience in the industry you intend to enter, your management task is more difficult. Too often, those with little related experience believe they can "learn as they go", only to find that they ran out of money before learning the industry. The overcome this obstacle, seek training in the industry before starting the business and/or hire someone with significant industry experience to fill this gap. A good place to begin is by reviewing as many books or publications that you can obtain on starting a business, specifically on businesses of your industry or type.
A second source is to contact people running similar businesses.
You should talk with at least three people running similar businesses to get a range of opinions and experiences. It is best to find business owners or operators that are out of your region so you will not be asking potential competitors to help you get started. Not surprisingly, people who think that you might take customers and sales dollars away from their businesses will not have much interest in talking with you or in giving you accurate information.
You should ask specific questions, such as those listed below. You need to understand the day-to-day life of the business operator, the hours involved, the skills and experience required, the conflicts, the travel required, the customer skills and experience needed, and as many other elements of the business as you can.
Other possible sources of information are national or regional trade associations for your type of business and your local chamber of commerce. The "Encyclopedia of Associations" (in Reference List at the end of this document) identifies trade associations that you can contact for useful industry information. It is good to contact your local chamber to help develop local connections and support for your business. They may have profiles of people in this line of business. Be aware that their primary interest is in obtaining new members, so they may be biased.
With your increased understanding of the day-to-day and overall skill requirements of the business, you are now in a better position to evaluate your own skills and experiences and identify areas in which you might need additional training or support. It may be appropriate to review your responses on the Management Skills Checklist in the related document "Business Feasibility - Personal Factors".
Please answer the questions below after you have talked with at least five sources of reliable information. Do not respond with your opinions.
What is the day-to-day life of a business operator in this business like?
What are the most important day-to-day skills necessary to be successful?
What are the daily work hours like? Weekends? Impact on family life?
According to experienced operators, what are the three most important skills or knowledge areas that I must have to run this business successfully?
What do business operators in this profession enjoy most about their business? What do they like the least?
What are the motivations of the other business operators? How are they like me? Different from me? What would they do over, if they could?
What are the most difficult challenges and tasks that people in this line of work face?
1. Encyclopedia of Associations. Detroit, MI: Gale Research Incorporated.
This reference is a primary source for identification of trade associations. Each entry gives the organization name, address, phone, and executive officer. It is indexed alphabetically.
2. Joyce S. Marder. Surviving the Start-Up Years. White Hall, VA: Betterway Publications, Inc.
Dozens of case histories of business people in a variety of fields. Discusses start-up capital, operating money, expansion, pricing, and managing employees.