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Monday, October 26, 2015

4 Sources of business intelligence often overlooked by entrepreneurs

Spend more time engaging sources than trying to extract every last penny!

Business planning requires a knowledge of the commercial landscape and potential competition.  Entrepreneurs spend countless hours researching technologies and business directions so they can develop a successful plan for their businesses.  Internet and libraries provide fantastic information that fits many needs, but the more experienced individuals also tap into data available via the US Patent office, Security Exchange Commission, and scientific literature to identify other information critical to their businesses.   

Networking is a critical function entrepreneurs must embrace to move from the drawing board to a commercial entity.  Networking is a special skill that allows entrepreneurs a unique opportunity to meet a wide range of individuals.  When done well, entrepreneurs will eventually meet investors and potential business partners.  What is not always so obvious is that the people one meets may also be great resources of information that will help refine a business.  The new people added to a network do not need to work on behalf of the business for you to learn from a discussion.  The key is asking the right questions and listening!

Information obtained from each of the following groups when matched with what you have learned helps you formulate better directions.  Learning and strategy development is part of growing a business.  It is not necessary that all information come from your hard work or on the job training.  You may be able to piggyback from knowledge of others.  Give the some thought to possible questions you may ask when interacting with a member of one of these professional groups.

1.      Networking:  Networking to meet a wide range of individuals places you in front of professionals in different fields.  Legal, financial, technical, business and other backgrounds are part of the skills of each person you meet.  Each person has a different background and most often is willing to answer questions during discussions.  Discussions should have some give and take; they learn something and you learn as well.  Learning from the experience of others is a great way to ensure you are heading in the correct direction and avoid traps.  You may be surprised by the number of times information on competitors or market directions advice are supplied by potential investors!

2.      Investors: Investors usually have an interest in your technology because of their understanding or experiences in the field.  The more sophisticated the fund and investor the more likely they are meeting with other technology companies in the same technology area. They sometimes share non-confidential information or ask questions of you that are informational.   Professional and Angel investors may have direct hands on experience in your business area as well.  Sometimes the prospective investors will provide information without questions, but asking questions ensures you at least explore whether they are willing to help.  In fact, you may receive an introduce you to other investor even if the one you are meeting with declines to invest!

3.      Contractors and personnel:  Interviewing contractors and personnel is important.  One way you can learn about them and your business is exploring how they would approach an area or problem.  You may learn something and can better assess the candidates to find the best fit for your company. Asking the right questions may even help you alter the positioning of your business to a greater advantage!

4.      Business partners:  Partnerships focus on general needs of the parties.  Each brings something special to the table or you would not be talking with them.  Asking the right questions can help you better understand their business and evaluate their ability to work with you.  Partners are almost always interested in your wellbeing because it may improve their business as well!