From the December 2001 issue of Startups

The other day, I was talking to someone who is planning on starting a business in the next several months. He was very fired up about his idea and wanted some advice-two very good indications that he's on the right track in starting his business. Having a great idea that you're excited about and seeking counsel are probably the most important elements of starting successfully, so I have no doubt things will go well for this entrepreneur-to-be.

At the same time, I want to stress that your first "great idea" isn't always your greatest. It's so important to be excited about starting a business-that excitement is what will carry you through those dark days, the days of cash-flow blues and empty coffers. But it's equally important to do adequate research to ensure your idea really is worthy of becoming a business. There's nothing worse than putting a lot of time and money into something that ends up being, well, a waste of time.

Talk to everyone you can before starting your business. The would-be entrepreneur I spoke to took a positive step by seeking advice, but I encouraged him to get advice from multiple sources-books, Web sites, trade associations, a local Small Business Development Center and SBA office, legal and financial professionals, people well-versed in putting together business and marketing plans. One of the best ways to get started in this research process is simply by plugging a few search terms into the major search engines (Google.com is my personal favorite) to see what pops up. You might find Web sites devoted to everything related to your idea-if nothing else, you'll have several starting points from which to begin your research. You should also search for information on Entrepreneur.com; we have loads of information made just for you.

The important thing is not to jump in headfirst without determining whether you'll be able to swim in those rocky start-up waters. Good research and planning will tell you whether your idea will fly, or whether you need to rethink things and come up with a new strategy. In the end, what matters most is whether you're doing what you love while pleasing your customers and clients.

 
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