So you're wanting to start a business?

Posted: July 23, 2013

You want to start your own business. How do you know where to start, or what type of business will be the right fit for you?

And how, for that matter, can you know what's the best business to start in the current economy and in the market where you'll be working.

Mike Collins, author, entrepreneur, and president of the Perfect Workday Co., based in Raleigh, N.C., gives seminars on this topic at small-business centers.

Usually, Collins said, audience members for his "best businesses" talk expect quick answers: " 'Give me a list of what's going to be hot.' "

The problem, he said, is that if you're in a city, the list is going to look one way, and "if you're somewhere 30 miles away from an interstate highway, that list looks different."

Rather than presenting a catalog of choices, Collins helps participants figure out their own right fit. Here is his advice:

Make "parachute" lists. In an exercise inspired by Richard Bolles' job-hunting book, What Color Is Your Parachute?, Collins advises making four lists.

One shows every job you've held since high school. The others outline skills learned, and job likes and job dislikes.

" 'What can I get into using as many of these skills as possible?' . . . It gives people a guideline."

Research the options. Collins points people to Small Business Opportunities magazine for ideas on how their skills match certain fields.

Once you develop a better idea of what businesses might click, Collins advises joining related trade associations.

"They'll get you in touch with people who are already doing the business. That is crucial."

Pay attention to trends. Collins focuses on the necessities - such as food and clothing - for hints about which small businesses can thrive around those basics.

Sales at secondhand-clothing stores and consignment shops, for example, jumped in recent years because of the struggling economy, Collins said.

Now, as the economy is recovering, he said, look for an increasing demand in personal-services industries.

"There are tons of opportunities out there," Collins said. "But you've got to keep your eyes open."

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