On a Mission

Information Quest

Once you've adjusted your armor and saddled up your charger, your next step is to hunt down information on available investment programs. Gallop to the nearest library and read about starting a business. Then find a business opportunity trade show that's coming to your area and make plans to attend. Leave your buying impulses and your wallet at home; on this outing, you're after information only.

The first thing you'll notice at a business opportunity show is that you're not alone in your longing for the perfect business. The aisles will be crowded with other questers. You can easily spot them: They have a furrowed brow and that intense look of concentration combined with eagerness for a deal and sometimes just a hint of desperation.

You'll also encounter an extraordinary selection of business opportunity programs on display at the trade show. A number of companies will offer to sell you a string of vending machines, hawking everything from headache pills or cigarette lighters to alcohol breath analysis. Others will urge you to join a network of homebased businesses (travel agencies or computer services, for example); and still others will offer the chance to buy a distribution route for anything from ice cream bars or TV directories to snack foods. You'll find prices ranging from a few hundred dollars to as much as $40,000.

Most trade shows also mix in a sprinkling of franchise offerings, such as quick copy operations, commercial cleaning programs, sub shops, shredding businesses and party theme stores. If you haven't given some thought to the direction of your quest, expect to be quickly overwhelmed by the array of choices.

Adding to your stress, the level of sales hype is high. Sales representatives grab your attention with fast talk and large earnings numbers. You want reliable information about the investment; they're feeding you enthusiastic claims about the extraordinary earnings potential.

Gather all the promotional material you're handed. Take notes as you go along. Collect business cards for future reference. Ask questions: Do you deliver a disclosure document that spells out the details about the investment? Can I have a copy of any contracts I'd have to sign? Do you provide current financial statements on your company?

Obtain a list of buyers who have purchased the program you're reviewing. Call and ask whether it's working for them. Are they making the money they wanted to make? Did the seller do everything it said it would do? What advice do they have for someone considering the program? Would they buy the package again knowing what they know now?

If the seller doesn't provide this key information, the risk of the investment skyrockets. Shoulder your lance and move on.

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