What does every start-up need? A feasible business plan for a product or service that people want and sufficient funding to launch it.
But how do you develop such a business plan? Where do you find advice on starting your business? There are many resources, including the Small Business Administration and local business incubators.
There is also Reddit, where a discussion board on start-ups offers you access to others facing the same issues.
Reddit: Crowd-Sourcing Your Questions
Of course, everyone offers advice on the Internet, whether you want it or not. Reddit is no exception. Here, for example, is a food start-up asking whether “dinner of the day” text messages are effective. Another business requests thoughts about opening a health food store in a small town. Yet another wants to know how to pre-authorize credit and debit cards on a point-of-sale system.
While admittedly a small sample, the posted advice appears:
- Informed, from people who have done this before;
- Effectively filtered (comments rated as “best” eliminate irrelevant and less-than-helpful comments, though you can opt to view all responses); and
- Effective as starting point to get ideas and links for further consideration.
A touted feature of Reddit is the ability for posters to share each other’s personal “friend list.” This provides you with access to an expanded network of business contacts and additional relevant discussion that may prove helpful.
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More Crowd-Sourced Advice
Other potentially useful sources of free advice, though more generalized, include:
- Bothsid.es, a blog by Mark Suster, a former entrepreneur who is now a partner in a venture capital firm;
- Venture Hacks, which, while it hasn’t been updated in quite some time, has some general content and links of interest;
- The Muse, which in addition to general business articles has a section devoted specifically to entrepreneurship;
- Linkedin’s On Start-Ups community, which is a good place to connect with those who share your issues and concerns;
- SCORE, a nonprofit organization with local chapters that offer a variety of educational and mentorship programs to small businesses; and
- The Small Business Administration (SBA), which provides links to relevant numerous blogs, videos and related articles.
And, if you’ll pardon the shameless self-promotion, Business.com offers a series of blogs aimed specifically for entrepreneurs and start-ups. Sort of like what you’ve just read.
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Advice: Get What You Pay For?
Our advice: we can’t say for sure what you may or may not find useful for your business. We can say it’s always good to get a feel for what others think and what experiences they’ve had. But you’ve got to apply your own experiences and thoughts to whether any of this advice is any good. Think Steve Jobs ever asked for a lot of advice? Probably not. Think most of us are like Steve Jobs? Probably not, which is why we often ask for advice.
How should you evaluate advice? Three questions to ask yourself:
- Is it from someone who’s been there and done that? The best advice is from people who’ve been in the trenches. But if they’re not the trenches you intend to fight in, perhaps it’s not the way to win your particular business battle.
- Is it from someone you trust? It’s not easy to trust a lot of content on the Internet. Just ask anyone who has actually met someone in person who doesn’t exactly look like the dating profile. But you can check the credentials of people who give you advice online and assess if they truly know what they are talking about.
- Does the advice align with your values and vision for company? People look at things from different perspectives. Only you can determine if other perspectives are compatible with yours.
The very worst thing that can happen is you take the wrong advice. Then, at least, you can advise others of what went wrong. And take your own hard-won advice not to make the same mistake yourself next time.