What Kind of Business Should I Start?
It's not uncommon to reach your 30s, 40s or even 50s and still wonder, "What do I want
to be when I grow up?" Few people are fortunate enough to be certain of their destinies early
on and the rest of us are forced to do some soul searching.
The desire to own a business is becoming more common as workers grow more frustrated
with the economy and working in corporate America. If you're thinking about a business of your
own but you're not sure what to start, here are several exercises to spark some ideas.
Start by Making Lists of Your Interests, Talents, and Skills
Write down what you like and don't like about your current job and jobs you've had in
the past. Do you love writing business documents? Do you hate calculating numbers? By listing
your likes and dislikes, you can see with more clarity where some of your interests lie and
which tasks you want to avoid.
The trick is to brainstorm business ideas and find one that you will be passionate about,
one that will meet your desired standard of living and your lifestyle criteria. Someone who
doesn't like being chained to a desk should not choose a business that requires her to be stuck
in an office all day.
The good news is that as an entrepreneur, you get to make these decisions for yourself.
Perhaps you are good with numbers and you're thinking about becoming a mortgage broker, but
you don't want to be stuck in an office all day. If you are serving clients in your area, won't
you also be required to meet with them? Could you find a way to meet with them at their place
of business or over lunch?
This list should also help you identify your weaknesses. If you hate to write, then you
probably shouldn't start a local newspaper (although if you have the right budget, you can
hire writers and focus on other aspects of the business). If crunching numbers makes your brain
hurt, then you won't find joy in running a bookkeeping business. For that matter, you will probably
dread keeping your own books and should build a bookkeeping service into your business budget.
Spend some time with this exercise and look for a theme in your lists. If you identify
a business that interests you, but it doesn't meet your lifestyle requirements, then expand
on the idea and see if there is a different type of business in that field that would suit you better.
Imagine You Have Just Won the Lottery
So you've just won a lottery for $500,000. It's not enough to retire on, but it's enough
to make some decisions about your future. Consider what you would do if you won a large chunk
of money. Of course it's fun to imagine paying off your debts and sharing your good fortune
with the people you love, but what do you do with the rest of the money? What does your ideal
work life look like? What kind of business would you start if you had endless resources?
Could Your Talent or Hobby Net You Some Profits?
Whether you are a musician, an artist, a writer, a crafter, an athlete, an entertainer
or a chef, you may be able to find a business that takes advantage of these talents. Think
outside the box. Use the internet to search for ideas. For example, if you are a sports fanatic,
you could search for "sports business" or "sports industry" and see what kinds of topics are
returned. Perhaps you could become a sports writer, sporting goods store owner, coach, trainer,
statistician, or memorabilia sales.
Ask Your Family and Friends
By asking the people closest to you for input, you may gain some surprising insight.
Perhaps your best friend will remind you of your culinary talents or your grandmother will
admire your decorating skills. Maybe your brother will tell you that he always thought you
would end up working with animals because you rescued all the neighborhood strays. If for nothing
else, asking those closest to you will breed discussion about your future and may lead to the
spark of inspiration you are seeking.
Start Looking at the Business World Through a New Set of Eyes
Every business you see started somewhere by someone. The dry cleaner you visit weekly,
the grocery store where you shop, the quaint coffee shop on the corner and your favorite take-out
restaurant all were born from somebody's dream. Pay attention to every business you encounter.
Is the owner present? If so, does he or she look happy? Tired? Frantic? What are the pros and
cons of running each kind of business? A retail business is typically a 6 or 7 day per week
effort. Restaurants require long hours, food spoilage management, health department inspections
and a lot of staff. Service businesses are often started by an owner providing the service.
Talk to business owners that you encounter. Ask them about the pros and cons of what they
do. Who better to advise you on your future than those who are actually living some version of it?