Starting a Business? The Power of Knowledge


If you are considering starting, or are in the process of starting, a business then the single biggest thing you can do to stack the odds of success in your favour is to increase your knowledge base on everything that might have an impact on it. What follows are several dozen things you should know before launching your business. Why?

• Because increased knowledge:
• Gives you more confidence
• Improves communications
• Encourages closer relationships
• Makes you an expert, not a bluffer
• Gives you an objective point of view
• Allows you to become the eyes and ears of your buyers
• Means you are in touch with your customers, industry and marketplace.

Knowing Your Industry

You cannot operate in isolation, you are part of an industry and it is vital you understand how that industry operates, what your place within it is, and where the industry is heading. If you can’t answer the following questions authoritatively, then you don’t

know the industry you plan to operate in well enough.

• Who are the industry leaders (both in terms of corporations and CEOs)?
• What is the media saying about your industry?
• Who are the industry players currently in the news?
• What are they doing and why?
• Who are the pundits (people reporting on the industry, and being interviewed) and what are they commenting on?
• Technologically speaking, what’s new and what’s coming?
• How are the major players in your industry doing in the stock market?
• Do you know the trade magazines representing your industry?
• Do you read them?

Knowing Your Market

It doesn’t matter whether you define your market geographically, or demographically, you need to know it intimately. The greater knowledge you possess, the more likely you are to become a major player within your market. Read the following statements, and if you can’t honestly agree with each of them, you might want to start doing some homework. If your market is not local, but perhaps in another part of the country, or even overseas, then interpret “local” in the questions below as whatever is “local” to your business.

• I know the strengths and weaknesses of my competition.
• I know exactly which companies and/or individuals are most likely to buy what I sell.
• I understand the needs and wants of the companies/individuals on my prospect list.
• I know how people in my industry operate locally.
• I am a member of local industry associations, and those allied to it.
• I follow what’s happening in the local, provincial and national economy.
• I read the local press and am especially aware of what’s happening in the business community.
• I regularly attend business mixers, and am well known in the local business community.

John Nesbitt in Megatrends said that 100 people run each town no matter the size – how many of the 100 in your town do you know? The same can be said of any market, any industry, or any community.

Knowing Your Customer (Personally)

When it comes to our customers, the more we know about them the better we will be able to serve them. Here is a list of some of the things you should know about your customers and prospects.

How much do you know?

• What do they think of you, and your company?
• What excites them – their hobbies and interests for example?
• Do they have a family, are they married, single?
• What are their needs in relation to what you sell?
• What are their passions?
• How honest and truthful are they?
• What is their political persuasion?
• Are they fans of your industry, or do they see you as a necessary evil?
• Have they had issues with any of your competitors in the past?
• Do you know what social style they are (i.e. Analytical, Driver, Expressive, Amiable)?
• Do you know their birthday?

This list is not exhaustive, but is meant to give you an idea of the things that might help you make a sale to people. The more you know about out someone the better you will interact with them, and the better relationship you will build. People buy from people they like and trust and that is based on mutual understanding.

Knowing the Customer (The Company)

Knowing the personality and characteristics of your prospects is only half the story, you need to have an equal understanding and knowledge of their businesses too. Here are the basic things you should know about the companies you plan to do business with. Not all the information is readily available, but most can be sought out, or even asked of the companies themselves.

• Its management structure.
• Its last year’s revenues
• Whether it is budgeting for an increase in sales revenues last year
• What profit it made last year, or at least whether it is in a profitable situation.
• The names of the owners and directors, and what other companies they own.
• What competitors of yours they are currently buying from
• How much they are paying for the same or similar products/services

Knowing Your Product or Service

This sounds strange at first sight; of course you know all about what you sell, but can you answer the following questions? If you can, you’re all set. If not, then it would be wise to seek out the answers before going forth into the marketplace.

• How does your product/service help your customer?
• What needs/problems do they have that your product/service answers?
• How does it solve their problem(s)?
• What are the strengths of your product over your competitors?
• What are the weaknesses of your product in comparison to your competitors?
• Do you know the complete technical specifications of your product?
• How competitive is your pricing?
• In what way is your product or service unique?