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Seven things you need to know before starting your business

"If I knew then what I know now, I would have done things differently."

Sound familiar? Many small business owners say this over and over again. Take a look at this list of things to think about before you get started.

1. Sell what your customers want.
Don't focus only on what you want. If you don't think about your customers, chances are they won't buy your product. Make sure you research your market to find out if your service or product makes sense and has a potential customer base.

2. Write a business plan.
This is the best way to attract investors and lenders for your business. A good business plan also helps you keep detailed records of your vision and goals. Write your business plan.

3. Know your strengths.
Focus on what you do well and leave the rest. You don't have to know all the answers and you don't have to cover all the bases. Be realistic about what you can and can't do. Remember, it's better to ask for help when you don't know something.

4. Do your research.
Use classes, seminars, books, and tapes to learn all you can before you start. If you don't know anything about running a business, there are plenty of free and low-cost classes, books, and tapes. Try your local library or bookstore, and ask around. Find out all you can about your market, your competition, possible locations, and what people want.

5. Live within your means.
You need to keep a close eye on your budget or you'll end up in serious debt or out of business very quickly. If you can't get everything you think you need right away, stop and rethink your plan.

6. Create a marketing plan.
This is your key to attracting new customers. Map out how you want to get new customers to use your product or service and how you'll keep them coming back. You have to sell yourself to get people to come to you.

7. You can't do it all by yourself.
The more people you have helping you with the "little things," the more time you can spend growing your business. Don't be afraid to ask for help and advice from friends and family.

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