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This story appears in the June 2010 issue of Start Up.

Starting Smart: 12 Things You Should Do

By Gwen Moran

Come up with great idea. Check. Choose a name and location. Check. Hang a shingle and open the doors. Check and check. Now what?

Starting off on the right start-up foot is key to ensuring the long-term vitality of your business, says Bern Lefson, a spokesperson for the Small Business Administration's Service Corps of Retired Executives, (SCORE), a free consulting organization staffed by volunteer veteran business owners. Beyond your passion, which is essential to success, most experts agree there also are some universal best practices - many often overlooked - that small businesses should heed. Here are the most important:

Get smart. Information is everywhere, so there is no excuse for being uninformed about your industry or about business in general, Lefson advises. Each state has SCORE chapters and Small Business Administration Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs), which offer a variety of resources and free or low-cost access to knowledgeable business advisors. It's old-school, but also drop by your local library and make friends with the reference librarian. Libraries often have on-site resources, directories and reference materials, or have access to business directories and databases that often require expensive subscriptions, he says. These can give you valuable data about market size, demographic and industry trends. Use your favorite search engine to look up your industry associations, as well as the web sites of other businesses doing what you want to do. That can give you insight into what your competition is doing.

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