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Business Idea Expert Russell Roberts

Find out what it takes to start a new business.


If you're like many would-be entrepreneurs, you have the desire and determination to start your own business. You're just at a loss as to which business to start.

101 Best Businesses to Start That's where 101 Best Businesses to Start by Russell Roberts and The Philip Leif Group comes in-with advice, inspirational stories and resources on top business ideas. We've asked Roberts to share his advice to help you make 2001 the first year of your entrepreneurial journey. What traits are inherent in a successful entrepreneur?

Russell Roberts: The main trait is you really have to be motivated to change your lifestyle. Many of the people who started their own business [that I interviewed for the book] were involved in another type of career or profession and were very unhappy with it. It was either taking too much of their time or they weren't happy with the advancement potential so they sought another way to make their mark in the business world. You have to be extremely motivated because starting a new business takes a lot of time, energy and commitment on your part.

"You have to be extremely motivated because starting a new business takes a lot of time, energy and commitment on your part." Many people who want to start their own business are unsure of what field they should go into. What advice do you have for them?

Roberts: First, you shouldn't get involved in a business you might hate just because it happens to be profitable. For example, if you don't like to clean your house or apartment, don't start a cleaning service business even if you think it's going to be profitable. You have to try to do something you've been interested in or that you think you could have an interest in that could also have the potential to make money.

Another thing [you have to do is] really look at the overall market, find a niche and try to service that niche. Obviously, if there are 5,000 pet-sitter businesses in a particular area, you don't want to start another one. To be successful, you have to think of a new angle on something you're interested in. How can someone determine how much potential a business idea or industry has?

Roberts: You really have to research it. The one constant I found in talking to a wide variety of entrepreneurs is they did a lot of research [before starting] and were very careful before they made the commitment. They didn't just go off one day and say, "I'm going to do this." They did a lot of research. They analyzed markets. They analyzed their abilities. They analyzed their start-up costs, the possible downsides, and how much [financial resources] they would need to have in reserve. You have to really analyze these things very, very thoroughly because once you make the commitment, you can't go back. What are hot areas for business ideas?

Roberts: Mainly the businesses that deal with personal assistance, like personal chefs, personal coaches, personal assistant or pet sitting, where you're providing a one-on-one service for [busy] people. You wouldn't really think about being a personal chef because you always think people make their own food. But a lot of people don't have time to do that. They get home at 8 o'clock at night, they don't know what to eat, and they're eating fast food. The United States Personal Chef Association has grown enormously [during the past] few years because people just don't have time to cook.

Personal assistants is another popular business. A working couple doesn't have time to run around to pick up laundry, take a watch to get a battery put in it, and [take care of all those other mundane errands.] They have a personal assistant do that. If you had one piece of advice for someone looking to start a business, what would it be?

Roberts: Be prepared to work a lot harder than you ever worked before, even though you might not be able to imagine that's possible depending on the stress and strain of your [current or] previous job. It's not uncommon for an [entrepreneur to work] 100 or 120 hours in a week because when you start your own business, it's there all the time and you can't get away from it. Be prepared to work really hard and don't get discouraged easily. You really have to stick with it. A lot of successful entrepreneurs might have given up the ghost if they'd been easily discouraged when they started out. But they hung in there and, through determination and perseverance, made the business work.

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