When choosing the type of company you want to operate, selecting from an area where you have previously worked or studied can be extremely advantageous. This can save you considerable time and will obviously hold more of your interest. Yet, if such an area does not offer the highest long-term financial gain, it may be best to choose another path early on.

From a business perspective, training to work in a field that you are passionate about would be your initial “Best Bet” as opposed to investing your time in something where you have no personal affinity.

Peter Lynch of Fidelity Magellan Fund put forth the mantra, “Invest in what you know or what is near to you.” Ostensibly, to invest in something you do not understand would be folly. Warren Buffet invests in the same way, as you can tell from his investments in See’s Candies, Coca-Cola, and Dairy Queen, and even his local Omaha jewelry distributor, Borsheim’s.

Spending your life training for one particular type of business would probably not be easy or always fun and this may not be the right path for you. Nevertheless, if you were to do so, there is usually a significant financial benefit. Then again, if you did train for much of your life in one area, there is no assurance you wouldn’t eventually decide to abandon that field and concept for any number of valid reasons. Fortunately, there are additional great career options.

So if you haven’t trained your life for one business (i.e., your Best Bet), your Second Best Bet would be to go into a line of business that you are personally attracted to even if you are not currently experienced in that area. For example, if you have a natural affinity for motorcycles, and identified an under-served market, then starting a motorcycle dealership could be a good choice for you. Choosing an area of personal interest is likely to be a fulfilling option. As a result, you may learn more, work harder, and stay with the industry longer, thereby making more money faster than you would in a boring job.

Finally, a Third Bet, which fits most new business candidates (if you are not applying your First or Second Best Bet), would be to choose a relatively random line of business after exhaustively studying research and financial models on emerging industries, even if you have no personal interest or history in that particular line of business.

Be creative. Pick an industry that is not fully developed but has a lot of potential. Think about less sophisticated or glamorous business niches since they are more likely to be overlooked by potential competitors.

Another option would be to consider niches of big industries. For example, instead of trying to be the leader of the “widget” industry, strive to be the leading analyst of the industry or the leading supplier of specialty marketing services. You should be spending huge amounts of time considering every creative element that might suit your future interests, and then you can bet on the most realistic of those options. Fantasize about your future, and then come down to earth and carry on with business.

We also recommend that you read profusely so you can better understand your opportunities: namely broad business periodicals, your own trade journals, and local business press. Some national names to consider are The Economist, Fortune, Forbes, Wall Street Journal, Business Week, Washington Post and The New York Times; the local business sections of other newspapers, and even fluff magazines like Entrepreneur and Inc, which still hint at hot opportunities despite some shallow self-serving “reporting”.

Financial television and radio shows like Bloomberg, CNBC, and Fox Business also uncover many emerging business concepts, and their proponents, that are often worthy of review. They regularly interview the world’s richest and smartest businesspeople who have a lot of value to share. Record the shows, watch them intently, and learn from them.

Nowadays FaceBook, Twitter, blogs, newsgroups, email lists, social networks, and other Web 2.0 communications media are the most up-to-date areas to learn about business and share information.

Most importantly, you should study the industry publications that are dealing with the specific business areas you are considering. Over a long period, you should keep your eyes and ears open for all types of ideas. This informal research will lead to areas worthy of intensive research.

It is also important to create and execute market surveys prior to entering any particular business area. Find as many of your potential marketing targets as possible and give them an incentive to complete a well-thought out survey. When you analyze the results, you should have valuable information to guide your decisions. The larger the pool of people surveyed, the greater insight you are likely to gain about your future market. You can easily outsource this function.

If you do ample research and discuss your plans with a variety of lay and professional people, you will be guided towards your best courses of action. If you conduct surveys in the manner described, your risk will diminish, and a preponderance of your financial bets will be based on educated decision-making rather than random risk.

There are a few classic sales books and tapes that you might want to review during your business planning phase: Jeffrey Gitomer’s Sales Bible; Mark McCormick’s What They Didn’t Teach You at Harvard Business School; Harvey MacKay’s Swim with the Sharks; and Donald Trump’s The Art of the Deal. And, of course, this very book. Although some of the content in these books are pure ego (other than this one), you will also find a lot of usable information throughout.

Another book, which is treated as a bible in some business circles and is a favorite of ours, is In Search of Excellence, by Tom Peters. The essential message of Peter’s book is to focus on people, customers, and action with “constant incremental improvement” as a primary theme, much like kaizen, the popular Japanese management concept discussed more in Chapter 3.

Among other powerful ideas, Peters stresses that your entire proactive business team adds little bits of value into your business continuously and doesn’t ever rest on its laurels.

In his book, the former McKinsey & Company partner also describes the firm’s 7-S model for business: structure, strategy, systems, style of management, skills (corporate strengths), staff, and shared values.

Other business classics to consider have truly helped form the foundation of the American economy:

See http://businesslibrary.uflib.ufl.edu/businessclassics for some excellent resources.

Besides tried and true business authors, we recommend you review the media and participate with emerging business minds, whose writings can often be found online in blogs or linked to various forums and sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Technorati and LinkedIn.

To further your progress you could take speed-reading courses, which may help triple the speed you consume valuable information.

Next Section >