Self-employment continues to be of great interest as a career alternative for individuals from all walks of life, fueled, perhaps, by the lingering recession. The businesses operated by entrepreneurs are viewed as critically important to our society, since small businesses represent the majority of businesses. Yet, entrepreneurship is often difficult and tricky, filled with opportunities to misstep.
In my 20+ years of small business consulting, I have personally engaged in a variety of businesses, often having multiple businesses at the same time. I have lost some battles, won a few, and learned many lessons along the way. One skill I acquired is unrelentingly thorough business research, and market trends. I greatly enjoy sharing these insights and research results with clients during my weekly entrepreneurial webinars, a line of business now in its 10th year.
One of the most common stumbling blocks to getting started is understanding what industries are growing and what is involved in getting started. When you start your own business, you have to wear many hats, of course, and perform tasks unfamiliar to you. You may also have some great ideas, but not the administrative skills self-employment requires. You need to know your strengths and weaknesses, and get help overcoming your shortcomings.
Lack of management experience and failure to plan strategically accounts for a large portion of small business failures. Entrepreneurs often think that they can do it all and may not ask for help when they need it. Don’t be hesitant to use the advice of experts, networking with other entrepreneurs and hiring or outsourcing to manage the tasks in which you have little skill.
Networking in your business community is available where business people gather. Chambers of Commerce are excellent resources, as are Retail Merchants groups, and service clubs, such as Rotary, Kiwanis, Lions, Jaycees, and others. The membership of service clubs are largely business people who are working together to improve the community through charitable programs.
Seek out professional advisors, such as an attorney and accountant, etc., to provide you guidance. Ask other business people who they use for these services, and then strive to meet these professionals. Carefully determine who is going to be a good fit for you and your business, because there are going to be hard choices to make along the way, and you will have to be able to trust and accept their counsel.
KNOW YOUR MARKET
Desire and persistence alone will not make you successful. You need to be sure that there is a market for what you plan to offer and that the competition isn’t already too strong. Market research is essential, and must begin with identifying who your potential customers are, and what features and benefits are important to them.
Using the results of interviews, surveys, focus groups, and other resources, you can develop a good marketing and business plan that takes into account customer needs, competition, pricing and promotional strategies. Make sure you are offering a product that is unique and competitive or at a lower cost than that of your competitors. Make sure you have the training, expertise and talent to run your business.
Twenty percent, or more, of all small businesses are started in the home. Home based businesses can be very successful, and statistics indicate that about 70% of these businesses survive the all-important first two years. If you are undecided about whether this is the right time for you to seriously consider self-employment, we recommend that you take the free on line entrepreneurial self-assessment (Canada: http://www.canadabusiness.ca/eng/125/) or,
(United States: http://web.sba.gov/sbtn/sbat/index.cfm?Tool=4).
The Small Business Administration provides extensive free services to those in the U.S., while the Canada Business Centers assist startups in their service area. The SBA provides free computer-based-training modules in a wide variety of topics that you can take from the comfort of your home office. The courses, located at http://sba.gov/training/index.html, include topics such as Business Planning, Finance, Marketing and Advertising, Franchising, Strategic Planning, and Business Management.
Canada’s resource, Canada Business, http://www.canadabusiness.ca/eng/, provides an extensive listing of resources for the entrepreneur, including an Entrepreneurial Assessment and “Starting a Business” as a main topic. Articles, recommended links and checklists are provided to help with planning.
HOME BASED BUSINESS
Over half of all the small businesses in North America are home based. The IRS specifies that a home-based business must have its own location (away from the family living space) that is devoted exclusively to the business. The business must be in regular operation, profits must exceed expenses in order to claim deductions, the business must be conducted almost exclusively in the home and the motive must be profit.
The maturation of the baby boomer generation, born 1946-1964, is going to have a huge affect on business. As baby boomers begin to retire the demand for leisure travel is increasing. As of January 2010 boomers were retiring at the rate of one every eight seconds in the U.S. , and that rate is going to escalate and continue growing for the next several years. Here is a listing of ten business segments that are poised to experience high demand in the years ahead.
WHAT BUSINESS SECTORS ARE GROWING?
An economic collapse means disaster for some businesses, naturally, while others tend to grow. For every retailer in trouble, there’s a movie-theater experiencing an all-time high in attendance. For every industry that got gob-smacked by the recession there is a college bursting at the seams with adults seeking degrees for new careers. For those on the job hunt or considering self-employment, focus on the industries that are growing.
Box-office grosses for January were up 20% since last year, for a whopping $1.028 billion intake. Attendance is up 16.78%. Watching movies at home is also popular. Movie Gallery’s reported plan to shutter 1,000 underperforming stores, including Hollywood Video locations, could make $200 million in annual rental revenue available to competitors including local mom and pop rental shops. (http://boxoffice.com/)
PHARMACY AND RELATED SERVICES
Not only are pharmaceuticals necessary, but the companies that produce them are growing as the baby boomers age. These companies have matured to the point they can do deals with their own cash and their own stock without having to go to the capital markets and ask for money. (http://www.csustan.edu/manage/harris/industry1.html)
HOME CARE AIDE AND MANAGED CARE
Health care services of all types will continue to grow for the next several years in response to the maturation of the baby boomer generation. Home healthcare services of all types, including fitness programs, transportation, in-home care and home delivery services are likely to be in high demand. (http://www.nahc.org/HCA/home.html)
Bottled water is huge. It’s the fastest growing segment in the beverage industry and shows no signs of slowing. At this growth rate, it will be the #1 beverage worldwide by 2013. Bottled water companies offer a wide array of bottled waters at prices that can provide healthy margins. http://www.bottledwater.org/
Sales of U.S. video games experienced a 22% rise in over the previous year, jumping 11% in 2008, to 409.9 million units, and rose 13% again the following January, presenting more evidence that even in the middle of a brutal economic downturn, U.S. consumers are willing to spend on video games. There will also be increasing demand for video game testers as the industry continues to grow. (http://electronics.howstuffworks.com/video-game-tester.htm)
INTERNET SERVICES AND RETAILING
Internet Service Providers continue to improve services available to their customers, and ultimately to the final consumer, as technology costs drop and competition matures. Retailing via the Internet is now a huge business as more and more people turn to this easy to use resource for everything from soups to nuts. Even in the recession eBay posted revenues of over $2 billion. (http://www.internetnews.com/bus-news/article.php/3816826/Revenues+Fall+but+eBay+Still+Tops+Expectations.htm)
Just as the need for childcare grew significantly as baby boomers entered the work place, other personal services have experienced similar growth. Today, personal chef services are also in great demand. According to Entrepreneur.com, the personal chef business is among the fastest-growing in the country and one of the best home-businesses to start this year. Personal chefs typically earn $35-$50 an hour. Annual revenue from personal chef businesses is expected to hit $1.2 billion in 2010. (http://www.entrepreneur.com/businessideas/674.html)
According to some sources, the only industry that actually grew globally during the current recession was travel. Work from home opportunities in the online travel industry are already beginning to replace the mom and pop travel agencies of days gone by. One innovative company taking the lead in leisure travel consulting is World Ventures, a four-year old multi-level marketing company based in Plano Texas that will treat you like a preferred customer and waive airline booking fees.(http://www.leavontime.worldventures.biz).
A personal concierge service is based on the most basic of premises. People want things done but don’t have the time to do them, and are willing to pay someone to take care of it for them. Although personal concierge services are a fairly recent development, the number of companies that serve time-starved clients is mushrooming, right along with customer demand for such businesses. Membership in the National Concierge Association, provides networking and educational opportunities to help you get started. (http://www.nationalconciergeassociation.com/)
Where do you shop for all those discounted home staples? If you’re like most Americans the answer is Costco or Sam’s Club and Wal-Mart. These large volume retailers are positioned to under price other stores and can pick up all the demand that’s lost at higher-end stores which are suffering the results of high unemployment. They’re going to need staff to respond to increased demand. (http://www.wikinvest.com/stock/Costco_Wholesale_%28COST%29)
If you feel that the proper conditions are in place for you to go forward with starting your own business, here is a checklist of the basic areas you need to cover before opening:
Decide on the Legal Form for the Business (partnership, corporation, etc)
Choose & Register a Business Name
Choose & Purchase your Internet Domain Name
Research & Write a Business Plan, Operations Plan and a Marketing Plan
Set Up a Relationship with professional advisors, i.e., banker, attorney and accountant
Set Up Other Professional Relationships, consultants, suppliers, etc
Get Licenses and Permits, and meet other Legal Requirements for Operating a Business
Set the Price for Your Product or Service
Determine the Financing You Will Need and How You Will Get It
Obtain Office Space, Equipment and Suppliers
Plan for Risk Protection, Intellectual Capital Protection, Business Insurance
Set up a Financial Management System
Ready to set sail toward a new life as an entrepreneur? Be sure to do your research to determine whether the business opportunity you’re considering is real . . . there are plenty of scams out there . . . and then make decisions about how to go forward. Check information sites like Inc .com, Entrepreneur.com, allbusiness.com, and similar information silos to get as well informed as you can. Remember, the more widely you read, the better the decisions you’ll be enabled to make.