Starting a small business Part 8

What business should I start?

Harking back to one of my early posts, does the world really need another __________?  Fill in that blank with the type of business that you are thinking of starting.  I now know that the world really didn’t another CPA firm specializing in individual tax preparation and small business accounting.  If you’re thinking about opening a “common” business, look around first.  Drive through the area where you want to open it.  Search for similar businesses on the web and in the yellow pages.  These are your competitors.  How are you going to take business from them?  Offer lower prices?  Why do you want to race to bottom of profitability?  Offer better service?  How will your potential customers know that?

Do we really need any more apps or social media products?  Here’s a Wall Street Journal blog all about software developers.  Even these guys are having a hard time finding funding as potential investors are asking themselves that question.

My original idea was to focus exclusively on consulting to manufacturers in the hopes of finding manufacturing companies that I could buy and make more profitable.  I ended up doing taxes and bookkeeping.  Again, the world didn’t need another one of those.

Here are some ideas:

Solve a problem – find a common problem and come up with an affordable solution for it.  As a misanthropic curmudgeon, I tend to drink alone but don’t always want to finish a bottle of wine on a school night.  I have not found a reliable way to preserve a bottle of red wine for more than 36 hours.  Come up with a decent solution to a common problem, whether a product or service, and you may be on your way to a business.

Increase productivity – employees suck and they’re expensive.  Find a way to eliminate employees through automation or process reduction.  PCs and Microsoft Office killed off the secretary, ATMs killed off bank tellers and automated check-out is killing off cashiers. In my last manufacturing gig, I would have loved to find a way to automate the inspection process.  It could have saved the company hundred of thousands of dollars while shortening the amount of time needed to complete an order.  Find a cost effective way to provide products or services more quickly and cheaper.

Play to greed or fear – Greed and fear are the too best motivators.  Black Friday shoppers suffer from both – greed to feed their consumerist appetites and fear of losing out.  Find a product that plays to common greed or fear and you may have a winner.

I’m not softening my stance in these last few posts.  I still don’t recommend starting a business.  Become a school teacher or a senior finance analyst at your state government.  But you’ve read this far so you must be serious.

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