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When starting a business, consider your own strengths

IN BOX

May 05, 2009|Karen E. Klein

Dear Karen: I'm researching business opportunities with hopes of finding something I can do from home full-time. What do you suggest?

Answer: Take your time and don't jump into a business that's not a good fit for your background and abilities. "Operating the wrong business is the most frequent mistake that start-up entrepreneurs make," said Phil Holland, founder of MyOwnBusiness.org.

For instance, do you have an entrepreneurial temperament? Small-business owners must excel at sales and work long hours. Learn more from the U.S. Small Business Administration: http://www.sba.gov /smallbusinessplanner/plan /index.html

Go with something you know, rather than trying to learn a whole new industry. Look for a specialty business that operates in a narrow niche and "try to identify a business that has long-term economic potential," Holland said. "Operate a business that will grow in today's and tomorrow's markets."

Holland said he relied on the advice of Warren Buffett, chairman of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., who "looks for businesses that focus on a consumer monopoly with pricing power and long-term predictable growth prospects."

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Can't launch an airport on a whim

Dear Karen: I would like to open a small, regional air terminal for ultra-light aircraft and expand into light planes. How do I get permits?

Answer: Opening a new airport in Southern California would be monumentally costly and difficult because of population density and crowded airspace, said Robert Trimborn, manager of Santa Monica Airport. "The environmental impact analysis alone would be stunning," he said.

If you've chosen a site in an unpopulated area, you must stimulate demand for travel to and from that area. "You can't plop an airport down and expect it to attract business and commerce," Trimborn said.

When it comes to airport regulations, "FAA.gov is the opening page of the bible," said Victor Gill, spokesman for Burbank's Bob Hope Airport.

Airports are also regulated by state, regional and local authorities. Additional information is available from the Southwest chapter of the American Assn. of Airport Executives ( www.swaaae.org) and the Airports Council International, North America ( www.aci-na.org).

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Take a class prior to setting up shop

Dear Karen: I'm opening a shop, but don't know anything about running a business. Are there educational programs?

Answer: Absolutely. Unless you have a background in finance, you should take a basic accounting course. With a retail shop, you should also learn about sales and marketing, tax law and inventory control.

Entrepreneurship courses are offered through universities, community colleges and nonprofits devoted to small business. There are also master's degree programs that emphasize entrepreneurship.

"When you earn your MBA, you learn a number of logistical facets such as financial reports, financial analysis, checks and balances and auditing," said Peter P. Smith, senior vice president at Kaplan University. Many schools offer MBA course work that can be completed online and part-time.

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Got a question about running or starting a small enterprise? E-mail it to inbox.business @latimes.com or mail it to In Box, Los Angeles Times, 202 W. 1st St., Los Angeles, CA 90012.

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