By Deborah Arron
Q: Where does one go to learn the basics of starting a new Internet venture? Ive heard about business plans, but have no idea what one actually looks like. Would you recommend that I go to business school, or at least try to take some MBA classes, before leaving my secure (but boring) law firm job to try to start my own company?
A: Dont make a move until youve fully educated yourself about the business environment you want to enter and have researched the potential market for your product or service. As one former practicing lawyer who started two successful business ventures advises, Research, research, and research some more.
He also suggests building your business little by little. You dont have to shut down your practice and devote all your time to the new. You can see what happens with a smaller effort, then make some hard decisions.
For low cost, easily accessible business advice, Id start with the Small Business Administration, www.sba.gov, and its Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE), www.score.org. You probably wont find much information specific to Internet ventures, but youll receive sound personal advice just the same. Both resources offer sample business plans and input about how to satisfy government regulations and licensing requirements. Volunteers with SCORE will even coach you through the business development process in a series of face-to-face meetings.
I would also read magazines like Inc., Fast Company and Business 2.0 for well-written, in-depth articles about the dot.com environment, and announcements of online and live educational seminars.
Do this kind of informal research rather than looking into MBA programs. Youre already well credentialed. Earning another degree wont get you any closer to being a successful entrepreneur. Only well-thought-out action will.