As found on BlackEnterprise.com
Entrepreneurship is one of the most important keys to wealth creation. However, too many people—laid-off or forced to take a buyout, eager to leave jobs they hate, or hungry for fast money—start businesses without taking the time to really learn the industry related to their respective businesses first. At Black Enterprise, if we’ve heard it once, we’ve heard it a million times: “I’ve found a location, written my business plan, invested my life savings, and chosen the name for my barbershop (or fashion design firm, event planning business, music production company, etc.), but I don’t know anything about the business. Can you tell me what to do?”
What?! Come on, now! Memo to all you aspiring entrepreneurs: Learn before you launch. Even the editors of Black Enterprise, as expert as we are, can’t tell you everything you need to know about how to make a success of your business in a phone call or e-mail. You have to do your homework. If you’re thinking about starting a business (or, heaven forbid, you’ve already started one), but you haven’t done any of the following, you’ve got work to do:
Get A Job
Get at least two years experience by working in or for a business similar to or directly related to the one you want to start. Ideally, this would be paid, full time work, but if you have to take unpaid work to learn an industry on nights and weekends, do it. Also, this is the time to find out about any licenses, training, certification or degrees required in the business you’re interested in. This is also a great way to find out if you’ll even like working in the business every day. If your dream business is a natural hair-care salon, you don’t want to wait until after you’ve quit your secure job and taken out a second mortgage on your home to find out that you can’t stand being on your feet for 12 hours a day, six days a week, braiding hair. True entrepreneurs work to learn, not just to earn.
Read Industry and Trade Publications
Subscribe to and read trade publications, whether digital or print, for the type of business you want to start. This includes books, newsletters, magazines, blogs and websites. There are almost no businesses that do not have at least one how-to book on the ins and outs of success in that industry. If you don’t know what they are, you don’t know enough to compete in that industry. It’s time to get started with your research.
Join Trade Groups
Join and become active in a professional or trade association for your industry. A few minutes with a search engine such as Google should help you to identify the right groups for your business. These groups often have useful websites, offer informational and education seminars, and may provide member benefits such as discounts on purchases for your business or group health insurance. Most importantly, these associations keep you connected with others in your industry, including prospects, strategic partners, customers, industry mentors, potential employees and sources of financing. You should join national groups, as well as be active in their local chapters. If the trade group for your business has no chapter in your area, maybe you should be the one to start one.
Participate in Conferences
Attend conferences for your industry as well as conferences for entrepreneurs in general. You’ll find out about these through the aforementioned trade associations, most of whom have national and regional conferences and events. In addition to industry-specific events, you should also be attending programs devoted to entrepreneurship across all industries.
For example, the annual Black Enterprise Entrepreneurs Conference is the largest gathering of black business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs in the country each year. The 2009 conference, hosted by General Motors, is from May 17-20 at the Detroit Marriott Renaissance & Detroit COBO Center in Detroit, Michigan. This is a must attend for aspiring entrepreneurs who are serious about business, not just playing at it. More than 1,000 business owners, ranging from the CEOs of the Black Enterprise 100s–the nation’s largest black-owned companies–to many of America’s most successful small business owners, will share information on financing, launching, and growing your company. They are joined by hundreds of representatives from America’s largest corporations, all looking for businesses prepared to provide products and services to their companies. (Go to Black Enterprise Events to register or for more information.)
Now, to do all of these things will take time, money, and effort. In fact, it feels a lot like work. The question is, are you serious about starting a business, or are you just talking about it–or worse, playing at it? If you don’t want to study the industry, read about the industry, spend time around other people in the industry, work in the industry, why in the world are you trying to go into business in that industry?
Too many businesses fail almost before they start because entrepreneurs want to first do, then learn. It works better, with less risk and less expense, if you do it the other way around: Learn the industry, then launch the business. And this is not only for the start-up stage, but for every stage of your enterprise—the learning must continue even after your business is established, or it will never reach its full potential for growth and profitability. There’s nothing I can tell you in a phone call or e-mail that will change that.
Alfred Edmond Jr. is the editor-in-chief of BlackEnterprise.com
Alfred A. Edmond Jr. is senior vice president/editor-in-chief of BlackEnterprise.com. He is responsible for the long-term planning and development of the Website’s content, as well as the hiring and overall supervision of the editorial staff, which consists of editors, writers/bloggers, and contributing editors.
Edmond sits on the BLACK ENTERPRISE editorial board and is also responsible for helping to set and enforce quality standards for the editorial content of the major franchises of BLACK ENTERPRISE, including BlackEnterprise.com; BLACK ENTERPRISE magazine; Black Enterprise Magazine’s Keys to a Better Life podcast series; live networking events, such as the Black Enterprise Entrepreneurs Conference + Expo and the Women of Power Summit; and the Our World with Black Enterprise and Black Enterprise Business Report television shows.