Editor's note: Since 1964, business-management counselors at nonprofit organization Score have given free advice to small-business clients spanning every industry. They currently serve nearly 400,000 entrepreneurs nationwide each year -- check in every week for their prudent advice.
Last week, Score counselor Charles Sobel told us how a strong business plan, not begging, will help you get that first loan . Now let's take a look at the key component of that strong business plan: good old-fashioned research. The trouble is, many entrepreneurs have no idea where to begin or what resources are out there. Too many rely on the Internet, while the really valuable information comes for a hefty fee or is still available only in print form in often obscure industry journals. Enter the time-tested resource that's been hailed ever since the ancient Egyptians and Greeks: the library.
All Under One Roof
The New York Public Library's Science, Industry and Business Library (SIBL) isn't a magical oracle that bestows immediate business success, although its director Kristin McDonough feels the facility is still an undiscovered treasure for too many aspiring entrepreneurs. While commuting from New Jersey to New York for work, Emily McHugh called SIBL her home away from home. When she turned her Columbia MBA thesis into laptop-case vendor Casauri , she used the Thomas Register at SIBL to find her first manufacturer. "There was no other place to go," she says. After his premium cigar business failed, Sean Sabol registered for almost every one of SIBL's classes and seminars. Sabol is now president and CEO of Detail Devils , a successful manufacturer of motorcycle detailing kits, as well as an unpaid SIBL promoter 24/7. "They never just answered my initial questions, but kept trying to find out more about what I was trying to do at every stage of my search," says Pamela Grace, owner of BioSoftmosis, Inc., of the librarians at SIBL who taught her the key differences between industry and market research, and then exposed her to the incredible print and online resources available there.