How Do You Decide What Kind of Business to Start?

I participate in several online discussion forums targeting small business owners. Very often, new members want guidance about what kind of business to start. Of course, the more experienced among us usually advise them to think about their interests, talents and experiences, and build a business based on those.

That’s because building a new business takes time, money and effort, and it’s going to be a lot easier to invest the amounts of each you need to when you’re working on something you really enjoy.

Occasionally, though, someone comes along who doesn’t want to hear that answer. They claim they have no interests. No talents. No skills. Yep, nothing they feel passionate about. They simply want a business that will make them lots of money, preferably quickly and with minimal effort.

Of course, if we knew the answer to making lots of money fast with little to no effort, we’d all be doing it. And we probably wouldn’t be too quick to share the secret with every random stranger who showed up.

One day, such a person showed up at the High Rankings Forum. He wanted us to give him an idea for a website that would make him rich. When we asked what his interests were, he said the only thing he was interested in was in being rich. So here’s an expansion on what I posted in response:

Everybody has interests and skills. Really. The trick is to find them, and believe in them.

So, let’s say you did find a way to make tons of money. What would you do with the money, once you made it? If you had enough money to do or buy anything you wanted, what would you do? Where would you go? What would you buy? That’s a good way to determine your interests.

Oaky, so now you know your real interests, come up with a way to turn that interest into a business. Brainstorm:

  • What do other people who are interested in those kinds of things do?
  • What do they need?
  • If you were in the position to indulge your passion, what sorts of products would you be looking to buy?
  • What kinds of services would you want to have available?

Those are the kinds of things that you’ll want to incorporate into your business plan. Doesn’t have to be fancy, but you must have a plan. As the old saying goes: if you don’t know where you’re going, how can you tell when you get there?

So what if you come up with more than one interest? Some people become paralyzed in fear of making the “wrong” choice. Maybe it’s easier to claim you don’t have any interests at all than risk making a choice you might come later to regret.

Don’t be afraid of choosing. It’s tough, I know. But until you make choices and start taking action, nothing will happen.

Back when I was young, while waiting for the Earth’s crust to finish cooling, I used to fret about making decisions. I was laboring under the delusion that the choices I made then would inevitably lock me in to a path, and I was afraid of choosing the wrong path.

Turns out, while the choices I made back then definitely influenced the direction of my life, very few of them were irrevocable. The job I do now didn’t even exist when I graduated from college. (Heck, personal computers didn’t exist when I graduated from college. Yes, I am ancient.)

So far, I’ve run through a whole bunch of “careers” in a whole bunch of industries, and I’m not through yet. Maybe one of these days I’ll find something to settle down with. Then again, maybe not. Maybe I’ll just spend the rest of my life reinventing myself every few years.

So, you put in a lot of hard work on something and it turns out you’re not as interested in the topic as you thought you were, or it turns out to be less lucrative than you’d hoped. Well, then, you’ve learned something and you’ve had some practice at starting a business and you’ve honed your marketing skills, so at least the time wasn’t wasted. Maybe the next thing you try will be “the one.”

Or maybe you’ll get lucky and hit a bullseye on the first try.

Or maybe you’ll have to try several more times. Could even be nothing will ever be the one end-all-be-all “business of your dreams,” and you’ll spend your whole life starting businesses, building them up and then selling them and starting all over.

Maybe it turns out you have tons of interests. Well, there’s nothing stopping you from pursuing all of them, you know!

Just don’t try to start them all at once, or you’ll lose focus.

Pick one to start, and once you’ve got it ticking along, pick another. Then another. And another. Even if none of them individually make you a ton of money, in the aggregate they could be quite lucrative. And since you’re interested in them all, it will never be a chore to work on any of them.

However it turns out to be — acknowledge and move on. As long as you’re moving, you’re still in the game. You don’t lose until you give up.

Unfortunately, life doesn’t come with a money-back guarantee. You just have to take your best shot with whatever you’ve got. Don’t sell yourself short — we almost all have more going for us than what we think we do.

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Copyright © Diane M. Aull, an online consultant for small and mid-sized businesses. For more information about her services, visit NineYards.com or BootstrapSEO. For resources and tools for home based workers, visit Torka's Home for Wayward Girls.

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