Join Trade Groups
Join and become active in a professional or trade association for your industry. A few minutes with a search engine such as Google should help you to identify the right groups for your business. These groups often have useful websites, offer informational and education seminars, and may provide member benefits such as discounts on purchases for your business or group health insurance. Most importantly, these associations keep you connected with others in your industry, including prospects, strategic partners, customers, industry mentors, potential employees and sources of financing. You should join national groups, as well as be active in their local chapters. If the trade group for your business has no chapter in your area, maybe you should be the one to start one.
Participate in Conferences
Attend conferences for your industry as well as conferences for entrepreneurs in general. You’ll find out about these through the aforementioned trade associations, most of whom have national and regional conferences and events. In addition to industry-specific events, you should also be attending programs devoted to entrepreneurship across all industries.
For example, the annual Black Enterprise Entrepreneurs Conference is the largest gathering of black business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs in the country each year. This is a must attend for aspiring entrepreneurs who are serious about business, not just playing at it. More than 1,000 business owners, ranging from the CEOs of the Black Enterprise 100s–the nation’s largest black-owned companies–to many of America’s most successful small business owners, will share information on financing, launching, and growing your company. They are joined by hundreds of representatives from America’s largest corporations, all looking for businesses prepared to provide products and services to their companies. (Go to Black Enterprise Events to register or for more information.)
Now, to do all of these things will take time, money, and effort. In fact, it feels a lot like work. The question is, are you serious about starting a business, or are you just talking about it–or worse, playing at it? If you don’t want to study the industry, read about the industry, spend time around other people in the industry, work in the industry, why in the world are you trying to go into business in that industry?
Too many businesses fail almost before they start because entrepreneurs want to first do, then learn. It works better, with less risk and less expense, if you do it the other way around: Learn the industry, then launch the business. And this is not only for the start-up stage, but for every stage of your enterprise—the learning must continue even after your business is established, or it will never reach its full potential for growth and profitability. There’s nothing I can tell you in a phone call or e-mail that will change that.
Alfred Edmond Jr. is the editor-in-chief of BlackEnterprise.com