resources for evaluating/starting a small business
May 14, 2014 7:55 PM   Subscribe

I have an idea for a small business. I'm seriously considering quitting my job to start up this business. I have never thought of myself as an entrepreneur before and I'm looking for resources to help me think this through.

I'm a recruiter and have worked in big agencies and big companies. I have an idea for a niche recruiting business that I think I could do well and eventually make an ok living at. The main appeal is that it is in an area that is personally meaningful to me -- something I think I'd feel good about spending my energy and time on. And, at this time, there doesn't appear to be major competition in the field (but this scares me too -- does it mean that there's no money at all in it?)

If you're a business founder, what resources did you find helpful in getting inspired, evaluating your business' viability, getting prepared, and getting started? I've never thought about starting up a business and while I have some idea of what I'd need to do, I could really use a comprehensive list. I know I could go on Amazon and see what's out there but I really would love to hear from anyone who's actually found a resource (book? training course? lecture series?) that helped them get a successful business up and running… even if it was just something that energized and inspired you.
posted by fingersandtoes to Work & Money (9 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Check out your local SCORE, and find yourself a mentor.
posted by yohko at 8:20 PM on May 14, 2014

My library has a huge database of business plans. I would start by looking at comparable business plans and drafting a few business plans up with hard numbers, recent market research, and clear, actionable goals with realistic deadlines. Then I would use that information to evaluate whether this business is a good investment and run the business plan past a few small business workshops/networks I am aware of in my community to get honest feedback.
posted by saucysault at 9:11 PM on May 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Good for you! I too never thought of myself as an entrepreneur (not what the media think of one as, anyway) but I started a small business earlier this year, and one thing I found immensely helpful was realising you don't have to have everything perfectly planned and set up before you launch - just try doing something, anything, now!

It's all about getting to a 'minimum viable product' (or service) that you can get out the door and then start tweaking and building upon - part of the 'lean startup' mentality. You can then be open and flexible to new opportunities that you may not even have imagined exist. Having your business be something you are passionate about is super important, as that will keep you going through the hard parts.

Take a look at the Happy Startup School, they have two free ebook downloads that will help you get your ideas sorted out without spending overlong amounts of time on planning and paperwork.
posted by atlantica at 12:32 AM on May 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Oh, and on the 'inspiration' side, a couple of things that helped me personally and may also help you if you are someone who needs help sorting out useful, construction criticism from the rest - the book Daring Greatly, from which I also learned about Teddy Roosevelt's 'Man in the Arena' sppech.
posted by atlantica at 12:36 AM on May 15, 2014

You could try Score.
posted by Dansaman at 2:07 AM on May 15, 2014

Best answer: I've done this. Accountants have an interest in your success. Having access to balance sheets and payroll and, well, everything they know where businesses fail and how they succeed. They are automatically invested in your success and, in my experience, more than helpful and happy to give free advice. If you are successful then they have a client to bill. [And do use their services, it will save you far more than the expense.]

I can't overstate this.

The first stop in starting any business should be be with an experienced accountant.
posted by vapidave at 5:39 AM on May 15, 2014

Adding to saucysault and atlantica's good advice, and as the co-founder of a 20 year old small business, I would say this:

Running a successful small business is roughly half about being good at what you do and half about being good at running a business. Usually they're very different things and if you're not good at business you will almost certainly fail and probably make far too little money in the meantime. The way it's worked out for me is that my business partner manages the work and I manage the business, which suits us both.

The other thing I think is critical is market size. You can have the best service or product in the world but if nobody (or not enough people) wants it, you're sunk. Do market research. Get real numbers, which can be difficult. Believe them and act accordingly.

I also believe that planning is one of the best tools a business can have. If you get it right, it reliably informs everything you do. The plan doesn't have to be, nor should it be, set in stone. But you need to have one if you're going to survive.

If you can make it work it really is fantastic. I love running my own business; we have 10 employees now, so my job is very different to what it was when there were just two of us. I've changed careers multiple times since we started, all within the same business.
posted by mewsic at 6:14 AM on May 15, 2014

Best answer: I work in business development for the staffing/recruiting industry- I'd be happy to act as a sounding board for your ideas if you think that'd be helpful!
posted by stinkfoot at 6:46 AM on May 15, 2014

Check with your local Chamber of Commerce. They may offer free classes and other services. I have attended some of those free classes at various times and some have been quite good.

Also: SBA
posted by Michele in California at 11:40 AM on May 15, 2014

« Older What's this high-pitched whine I hear outdoors?   |   Negative scanning services? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.