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Research and planning are necessary steps to starting a business. Here are a few things to keep in mind.

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Q: I want to have a cafe with a nightclub in the back. I'm only 16. My friend and I have already talked about it and agreed that he and I would make good partners. Any suggestions on what to do next to get myself prepared when the time comes?

A: I would recommend spending some time learning the basics of bookkeeping and to run the end of things. A nightclub type business is tricky to run and makes a good profit. Being able to know where your money comes from (bar? door? special events?) and where your expenses are incurred is very important.

A few things to consider:

  • The nightclub business is very affected by fashion, so you'll need a good sense for how to make your club "the" place to be.
  • There's a lot of sleaze that happens in the nightclub world. Think in advance about how you'll make sure the people you hire don't steal from you, that they treat customers right and so on.

I think the key to a great nightclub is understanding why people come and giving it to them. Are they coming to meet people? Are they coming to look cool? Are they coming to dance? Depending on which market you go after, you'll get a different crowd, and a different mood.

As an entrepreneur, technologist, advisor and coach, Stever Robbins seeks out and identifies high-potential start-ups to help them develop the skills, attitudes and capabilities they need to succeed. He has been involved with start-up companies since 1978 and is currently an investor or advisor to several technology and Internet companies including ZEFER Corp., University Access Inc., RenalTech, Crimson Soutions and PrimeSource. He has been using the Internet since 1977, was a co-founder of FTP Software in 1986, and worked on the design team of Harvard Business School's "Foundations" program. Stever holds an MBA from Harvard Business School and a computer science degree from MIT. His Web site is a

The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author, not of All answers are intended to be general in nature, without regard to specific geographical areas or circumstances, and should only be relied upon after consulting an appropriate expert, such as an attorney or accountant.

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