Tips to get your small business off the ground

score Question:
I feel I have the necessary credentials to operate my own business, but I don't know which kind would be a good business for me. Any suggestions?

How long have you been thinking about starting a small business? Have you attended any of the workshops or seminars given locally by SCORE, SBDC or a number of private companies?

If not, that's a good place to start. Each represents the various details associated with starting and operating a business, inclduing a self-evaluation questionaire to determine your attributes for running a business.

If you've done the above, Entrpreneur magazine may save you some time and effort. Its recent issue notes some of the businesses that promise to be hot in 1999 and beyond.

Here are some you might find attractive:

  • Concierge services - Oh sure, you thought concierges were only in the hotels. However, when you think of this individual as a personal assistant, the idea makes a lot of sense.

    Who couldn't profit from the assistance of a person whose main job is to help you get things done? Especially when you consider that a growing number of people are spending more time at work each week [around 44 hours, compared with 40.6 hours in 1997], leaving them less time to do other things. Add to that, 63 percent of modern marriages have both spouses working - it's no wonder that there's a growing demand for concierge services.

    What does a concierge do for a client? Among other things: buying theatre tickets, shopping, making dinner or airline reservations, even sending gifts to your family, customers and friends.

    Simply put, the concierge helps clients accomplish more things by taking care of matters that the customer can't get around to doing or finds distasteful and prefers to delegate to someone else.

  • Personal chefs - More working couples and busy families are hiring these individuals to coem to their home and prepare dinner. Best of all, the food isn't eaten immediately; the chef prepares it for freezing, so it can be consumed later.

    All the client has to do is approve the menu, then it's up to the chef to purchase the food, come over, cook and package the food, and clean up the kitchen. The U.S. Personal Chef Association predicts that by 2000, personal chefs revenues will hit $100 million.

  • Virtual human-resources management consultants - These individuals help small firms with a host of problems, from hiring to developing its benefits program.

    Quite often, companies with fewer than 200 employees don't know much about many of these human-resource functions. They need outside help from people who are skilled in the area.

    Industry experts say the virtual human-resources business generates around $50 million annually, and it's growing 25 to 30 percent a year, so there is untapped potential here for small-business owners.

Do any of these ideas sound good to you? If so, you might want to go online to the Small Business Administration and get as much free literature on each as you can.

Bill Bryan is a counselor with the Service Corps of Retired Executives. SCORE offers counseling, workshops and seminars on small business operations. You can reach Bryan through SCORE, 515 N Court St. 815-962-0122, for information and appointments.

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