1. Develop a sound business plan Successful entrepreneurs do a lot of background research before they sell their products and services. A business plan pulls it all together. Your plan should include: The type of business you are creating The goals of your business – both short- and long-term How you intend to accomplish those goals An understanding of the marketplace, the competition, and your potential customers How you intend to finance your business 2. Invest in your own education Self-education could be as specific as learning how the latest piece of software can help your business. Or it could be mastering the different skills you’ll need to run your business, such as marketing, finance, and customer service. The more you can learn about the overall operations of your business, the better your decisions will be - particularly if you run a smaller company that requires you to take more than one role. 3. Get your finances in order Save as much money as you can before you start your business; you may need to draw on your savings in the early stages. You should also establish and maintain a good credit history, which will help you when you need to borrow money for your business. 4. Keep your overhead low There are many stories of entrepreneurs starting out in their garages until they have built up their business. Starting small and keeping your costs low lets you make mistakes on a much smaller scale and gives you the time to learn from them. Email and the Internet make it easy to start your business from your home. 5. Learn from the experts Take advantage of the expertise of an accountant and business banker. An accountant can help you with the books, find ways to keep your costs low, and do your tax return. Your business banker will be able to guide you on cash flow, the use of credit, investments, and borrowing, among other things. He or she can also share best business practices. Astute observation and sound judgement are a great start to understanding your customers and market. Here are a few easy ways for you to get to know your customers and your market.