Experience Finally, no education would be complete without some practical, hands-on experience. This can take two forms. First, say you want to open an antiques store. You would be wise to start by working at someone else's. If you already have that sort of hands-on experience in your chosen industry, then skip the rest of this paragraph. But if you have never actually worked in a business like the one you want to start, you are strongly advised to do just that. Your entrepreneurial dream can wait six months while you gain the sort of experience that will make or break your new business. Working in a business like the one you want to create will teach you things that no book could impart. It is a critical step. Second, you need to talk to some business owners in your desired field. But remember, if you seek out entrepreneurs in your potential industry in your own town, the going may be tough—they will likely view you as a potential competitor (rightly so) and thus be reluctant to share their insights with you. Therefore, it would be much smarter to go to a nearby town, finda few businesses similar to the one you want to start, take the owners out to lunch, and pick their brains. People love to talk about themselves. Find out everything you can about their businesses: What do they like most about their business? What do they like least? What was the start-up cost? How much can you expect to make? Where do they advertise? If they were starting over, what would they do differently? No one knows this business (whatever it is) like the owners do. You would be hard-pressed to find better, more pertinent information than the insights you can get from these small business owners, who are already doing what it is you dream of doing. This informal “MBA” can reap tremendous benefits. By the time you are ready to start your business, you will have a thorough understanding of the risks and rewards of the area you are getting into. Doing this initial research will take time, for sure, but if you follow this plan, you can be assured that when you finally open your doors, you will have reduced your risk as much as possible, and thus your chances of success will be much greater.