If you are starting a business, keep in mind that just about every industry has it’s own share of rules and regulations, best practices and pitfalls that you just aren’t fully aware of. Even professionals who have worked in an industry for decades, if they are wise, are still learning something new every day. There is a wealth of information out there in the form of individual expertise that entrepreneurs should look to tap into. For starters and at the very least, hopeful business owners should consult the following professionals:
- A Lawyer
- An Accountant
- A Small Business Coach
- A Banker
- A Personal Mentor
Many business owners are wise enough to seek out all five professionals. It’s fairly well known that starting a business without consulting, at the absolute minimum, a Lawyer and an Accountant may doom a business before it even starts. Most entrepreneurs are aware that small business coaches are made available to them, often free at charge, by organizations like the Small Business Administration. Bankers and Personal Mentors are often neglected but the most important experts that entrepreneurs fail to learn from are industry experts. Here are four industry experts that offer vital, yet often overlooked, information and resources for new and established businesses alike:
- The Competitor
- The Subject Matter Expert
- The Franchisor
Sounds crazy doesn’t it? That’s what keeps many entrepreneurs from thinking to look here. Seek out a professional who is already operating in the industry you want to enter. It doesn’t actually have to be a direct competitor. Today, you can go online and find an internet forum dedicated to just about any career choice. Find one dedicated to the industry and focused on business owners within that industry. Ask a lot of questions and be prepared to heed advice from those who, ‘have been there and done that.’
There are professionals out there who make your industry their business. Consultants who specialize in a certain industry study the ins and outs of best practices and know how you can optimize your business model for success. Granted, their goal will be for you to pay them for this advice, but you don’t have to shell out large sums of money upfront. Many consultants offer free or low cost information in the form of Videos, Webinars, Seminars, Blogs, EBooks and Printed Books. Take advantage of their lead generation devices to get some low cost information. If the advice pans out and helps you get started you can always get in contact with them again to see if their full services are worth the cost.
Franchises, Aggregators, Licensors and Distributorships are all great sources of industry information. Although they may be very different entities and function very differently they all have a few things in common:
They deal with the industry on a large(r) scale
They understand the big picture in a way that would be beneficial for you to learn from.
They share a common goal with you
Their interest in you is as part of their distribution network and therefore they have a vested interest in seeing you succeed. Depending on their business model, they’ll offer varying degrees of assistance but it’s likely that you’ll find some with decent training programs.
Whether it be purchasing power or the ability to negotiate more favorable contracts, bigger is sometimes just better. Being a part of a larger group can allow you to take advantage of the benefits of size and economies of scale without the negatives.
Access to suppliers
In many industries you just can’t get access to suppliers unless you have size or time on your side. As a new business you’ll have neither. Having inferior products puts you at a distinct disadvantage in the marketplace. It may be wise to join a larger group that offers you access to better market offerings for your customers.
Similarly, these groups often offer access to their established marketing engines. They’ve been busy building trust and brand recognition with your target audience and can offer a great jump-start.
There are many of you
The beauty of what the benefit these groups offer lies in the fact that you’re not their first rodeo. Chances are they’ve started and helped grow dozens if not hundreds of businesses like yours. There is a lot of value in that kind of experience.
Trade associations and industry analysts are chock-full of invaluable market insights. Some trade associations offer their members free access to market reports. Others sell the for (usually) nominal prices. Industry analyst benchmark reports tend to be much more expensive than those offered by trade associations but they also tend to have much more specific data. Depending on what industry you are looking to enter there may not be an industry specific organization offering benchmark reports. There are many organizations such as MarketingSherpa that offer such reports for a wide range of industries
If you are looking for insurance benchmark data here are two great reports offered by the Risk Management Society and the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America, respectively:
A Shameless Plug
Before you spend close to $1,000 on a benchmark report, know that here at Connect Insurance we seek to aggregate that kind of information and make it available to you. We read these reports and on this blog, we’ll be posting digestible highlights of the most important information you need to know. Subscribe or check back with us often as we produce new posts at least bi-weekly. If you have a specific topic you would like to read about, let us know and we’ll put it up here.