Ask the Experts

Ask the experts: Which small business best fits you?

cesmith@charlotteobserver.comJuly 15, 2013 

Author and entrepreneur Mike Collins is president of The Perfect Workday Company, an information company based in Raleigh.

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Before starting a company, entrepreneurs often ask, “What’s the best business to start today?”

Mike Collins, author, entrepreneur and president of The Perfect Workday Company, a Raleigh information company, gives seminars based on this topic at North Carolina’s small business centers, which are a part of the community college system.

Collins also presents a seminar called “7 Skills of Successful Small Business Owners,” which he’ll give Sept. 3 at Wake Tech’s Western Campus.

Usually, Collins said, audience members for his “best businesses” talk expect quick answers: “ ‘Give me a list of what’s going to be hot.’ ”

“The problem with that is if you’re in Charlotte, the list is going to look one way,” Collins says. “If you’re somewhere 30 miles away from an interstate highway, that list looks different.”

Rather than presenting a catalog of choices, Collins helps participants figure out their own right fit. Here’s his advice:

Make ‘parachute’ lists: In an exercise inspired by Richard Bolles’s job-hunting book, “What Color is Your Parachute?,” Collins advises making four lists. One shows every job held since high school; the others outline skills learned, job likes and job dislikes.

“ ‘What can I get into using as many of these skills as possible?’ ... It gives people a guideline.”

Research options: Collins points people to Small Business Opportunities magazine for ideas on how their skills match certain fields.

Once people develop a better idea of what businesses might click, Collins advises joining the trade association. “They’ll get you in touch with people who are already doing the business. That is crucial.”

Pay attention to trends: Collins focuses on the necessities – such as food and clothing – for hints of which small businesses can thrive around these basics.

Sales at second-hand clothing stores and consignment shops have jumped in recent years because of the struggling economy, Collins said. As the economy recovers, Collins said, look for an increasing demand in personal services industries.

“There are tons of opportunities out there,” Collins said, “But you’ve got to keep your eyes open.”

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