Skip to main content
MyOwnBusiness Institute

Choosing the Right Business: Starting Your Business


The first and most important decision for new entrepreneurs is choosing the right business. The goals of this session are to share a step-by-step approach to selecting the best business for you, identify common mistakes that new entrepreneurs often make, and provide you with the tools you need to maximize your chances of success.

Photo of many sticky notes with a lightbulb drawn on each one
  • The Entrepreneurial Mindset
  • What is the Right Business?
  • A Step-by-Step Approach to Choosing the Right Business
    • Decide if You Really Want to Own a Business
    • Make a List of Business Options
    • Focus on the Best Options
    • Evaluate the Best Options
    • Made a Decision
  • Case Study: Lilliana Chooses the Right Business
  • When to Start
  • Top 10 Do's and Don'ts
  • Business Resources

Many people dream of owning a business. The benefits are significant. Owners of small businesses make their own decisions, pick their own team, and profit from their own hard work. There are shortcomings as well. Owning a small business takes a lot of time, effort, and dedication, and failure is always a possibility. Being an entrepreneur is challenging and difficult, but by carefully preparing yourself for the journey, you can greatly increase your chances of success.

Starting with the Right Mindset

Your chance of success will increase even more if you start with the right mindset. A mindset is a set of attitudes or inclinations. Here are some attributes that will contribute to your success:

  • Courage: Starting a business can be an intimidating challenge, especially if it is your first new business. Courage will help you continue pursuing your goals even when difficulties arise.

  • Creativity: As a business owner, you will face new challenges every day. Being a creative problem solver will ensure that you and your business are ahead of the competition and ready for the future.

  • Resilience: Every business owner faces setbacks. An ability to recover and adjust quickly will help your business survive misfortune when it occurs.

  • Adaptability: When conditions change you will need to change too. You might need to change your product or your service, or you might need to change how you run your business. Adaptability is an advantage.

  • Curiosity: Being interested in the world around you, especially your customers and their needs, is a tremendous advantage. Asking questions and staying involved with your community will provide valuable insights. Don’t stop learning.

  • Humility: Just because you own the business does not mean you know everything. It will be important to be open-minded about other ideas and to share the credit with your partners and employees.

Taken together, these characteristics are often called the “entrepreneurial mindset.” An entrepreneurial mindset will help you continue moving forward, overcome challenges, be ready for change, and build a successful business team.

If you are ready, then it is time to find the right business.

The right business is a business that you enjoy, meets your personal goals, and has a high probability of success.

One of the first questions to ask yourself is what kind of business do you enjoy and what kind of work do you want to do. Everyone is different, and you may enjoy working outside or working in an office. You might like to build relationships with your customers rather than selling online to people you don’t know. You might prefer to work regular hours and have weekends available for family.

There is no wrong answer to the question of what kind of work you enjoy. However, it is important that you think carefully about your preferences so that you can make a good decision and select the right business for you. It is an especially good idea to write down your preferences and your goals on paper. Many researchers and experienced professionals believe that recording your goals in writing will increase the chances that you achieve them.

In this session we will go through a process of identifying options for your new business, focusing on the best options, and using your preferences and the business’s potential for success to choose one of the options. We’ll also talk about two challenges to good decision-making: overconfidence and impatience.

Here is a five-step approach to choosing the right business for you. More detail about each step is provided further below.

Step 1: Decide if you really want to own a business.

When you start a new business, you will be putting your own money at risk, working long hours to make sure your business is successful, and spending less time with your family and your friends. You can also expect to experience higher stress as a business owner because you will be responsible for customers and employees as well as vendors and suppliers. The first step is to decide if you are willing to accept the challenges and opportunities of starting a new business.

Step 2: Make a list of business options.

You have many options for the type of new business you will create. The second step is to make a list of your options. You should describe each business in writing. The written description should include a short description of the products or services you will sell to your customers and an estimate of the price or prices you will charge. Remember that this is just a short description and you will add more details later.

Step 3: Focus on the best options.

What are the best options on your list? It will be important to narrow down your options to those that have the greatest potential for success. If you have the money to start a business, the skills and knowledge that you need, and you can compete effectively for customers, then the business is one of the better options. Below, we present six different questions to ask to identify the best options for you.

Step 4: Evaluate the best options.

The final evaluation of your options depends on your preferences and the business’s potential for success. This step is challenging for two reasons. First, you will need to think about your personal goals and preferences for working in the business. This step requires careful reflection about what you want as well as your capabilities for this business. Second, the business’s potential for success can be very difficult to predict. Making an informed prediction is better than an uninformed prediction, so you will need to collect some information and do some research about the business, the market, and the customers to assess the business’s potential.

Step 5: Make a Decision.

Finally, you will choose the right business for you based on your preferences and the potential. As mentioned earlier, we also identify two things to watch out for when you are making the final decision: impatience and overconfidence.

Step 1: Decide if You Really Want to Own a Business

An important consideration when deciding if you want to own a business is that being a business owner is a different job than working in a business. This may sound simple and obvious, however, imagine you are a very skilled baker. You have worked in many restaurants and bakeries and are now starting your own bakery business. While your previous jobs involved baking and perhaps even managing inventory, equipment, and people, owning a bakery includes many additional responsibilities. Your main job as an entrepreneur is running the business and making sure that the business is successful by carefully managing money, sales, partners, and people while complying with all the laws about licenses and permits. You may find that you actually do very little baking, depending on the size and type of your business. It’s important to consider that entrepreneurship is its own type of job, more than the job of producing the product or service that the business sells.

Step 2: Make a List of Business Options

As described above, once you have decided that you want to start a business, the next step in choosing the right business is to make a list of options. There are several ways to generate the business options for your list. One way is to define a business by what you love to do or for which you have specialized experience. Another way is to define a business by customer needs that are unsatisfied in the market, or that are poorly satisfied by other businesses. Below are several questions that will help you make a list of candidate businesses.

What activities do you enjoy that are a part of a business? For example, do you like to bake or cook for others? Do you enjoy working with your hands? Do you enjoy working with numbers, creating content, or graphic designs? Are you good at managing projects or people? Do you like to build long-term relationships with clients? Do you enjoy working in an office environment or being outside most of the time? There may be businesses where you can do the things that you enjoy.

Are customers getting what they want from businesses in the market? For example, is there an opportunity for a food truck park in your community, or perhaps a neighborhood daycare could provide a convenient service for working parents. Would an errand service be beneficial, or would a fruit stand give shoppers more options? Research the market for your business ideas and try to understand whether current available services are overpriced, difficult to access, or unreliable. Is the quality of some products or services less than the customers would like? By studying the market, you might be able to create a new business that meets customers’ needs better than other businesses.

Do you have special skills that can be turned into a business? Do you know how to play a musical instrument or use special computer programs? Have you been trained as a bookkeeper, electrician, landscaper, caregiver, or medical assistant? Do you have a talent for organizing, shopping, or cosmetics? Are there emerging industries that would allow you to pivot your career into a new business? For example, career musicians may decide to pivot to teach music lessons or design music for podcasts. There is almost no limit to the types of skills that can become new business ideas!

By asking yourself each of these questions, you can create a list of potential new businesses. You may even find potential businesses that fit into all categories. For example, perhaps you like to bake, you are very good at baking, and the community needs a new bakery. That is a business with tremendous potential and should be included in the next step: focusing on the best options.

Information to Gather

Choosing the wrong business instead of the right business is a mistake. One way to avoid this mistake is to collect as much information as you can about potential businesses. Before proceeding to the next step, you will need to collect information about yourself and the business options on your list. Here is a list of topics and questions that will help you gather the information that you need.

  • Money. How much money do you have to start a new business? Some businesses require a significant amount of money just to get started and some require very little initial investment (here is a list).

  • Skills and Knowledge. What special skills and knowledge do you have? Some businesses require significant training, experience, or skills. If you don’t have them yet, perhaps you should wait until you can develop the knowledge and skills that you need.

  • Customer Needs. Is the business focused on a defined set of customer needs? Focusing your products and services on the needs of a segment of customers is a more successful strategy than trying to meet all the needs of all the consumers in the market. What customer needs will your business satisfy? Also, if you have a great idea but there is no customer need, the business is unlikely to be successful.

  • Market Size. Is the market large enough for your new business? Are there other companies meeting the needs of the customers in the market? What will make customers come to you instead of the competition? You might need to guess at the size of the market.

  • Competition. Will your new business be competing on price, quality, or service? A commodity business is a business in which customers go to the seller with the lowest price. It can be difficult to compete only on price because you run the risk of reducing profits if you have to continually adjust your price to be the lowest. In other more specialized markets, you can attract customers who are looking for something unique or higher quality or for products combined with customized services.

The best businesses on your list will be the ones for which:

  • You have enough money to launch.

  • You have the skills, experience, and knowledge you need to operate the business.

  • The market is large enough for your business to enter and compete for customers.

  • Your product or service is focused on satisfying a defined set of customer needs.

  • You are competing on more than just price.

Where to Get the Information You Need

To make a good decision about the right business, you will need to collect information about customers, the market, the competition, as well as your own goals, skills, and resources. There are many sources of information about different business options. Here are some key resources:

Step 3: Focus on the Best Options

After you have made a list of options, and collected the information described above, it is time to narrow down your list by focusing on the best options. You can focus on the best options by asking several questions about each business alternative. These questions are arranged in the MOBI Focusing on the Right Business Worksheet (PDF) that can help you assess each option and compare it to others.

In the worksheet, you are asked to answer yes or no to six questions for each new business option you identified. If all the answers are yes for an option, then the business is an excellent candidate. If some of the answers are no, then you need to decide if you can take action to change those answers. For example, if you answer no to the question: “Do you have the skills and knowledge that you need?” then you need to decide if you can acquire the skills and knowledge that you need through school, specialized training or through experience (and change the answer to a yes).

If you cannot change a no to a yes, then you should consider excluding that business from the set of options.

Here are some suggestions of how you might change a no to a yes in the evaluation for six of the questions:


How to change a no to a yes

Do you have enough money to start this business?

Save more money.

Find investors.

Borrow money.

Do you have the skills and knowledge that you need?

Learn the skills from a mentor or experienced professional.

Get a similar job to gain experience.

Do you understand the customers’ needs?

Talk to potential customers.

Interview other business owners.

Will your product or service satisfy the customers’ needs?

Change your product’s design.

Change how you deliver your service.

Is the market large enough for your new business to get customers?

Expand your business territory.

Broaden the customer definition.

After you have narrowed down your list to the best options it is time for the final step: evaluating your list to find the right business.

Step 4: Evaluate the Best Options

Now that you have made a list of businesses and focused on the best options, it is time to evaluate the options and make a decision. There are a number of ways to evaluate the options. One way is to rank the alternatives based on two criteria: preference and potential. This MOBI Preferences and Potential of a Business Worksheet  will help you.

By preference, we mean the level to which the work fits into your preferred lifestyle and satisfies your personal goals. Personal goals and lifestyle include things like how much you want to work, where you want to work, and will you have enough time for family. Some of the questions to ask yourself about each business option:

  • Will I be working outside, in an office, or in a co-working space?

  • Will I be working regular hours with weekends off?

  • Will I have time for family and holidays?

  • Will I be working with people (customers) that I like?

  • Will I be at one location or on the road every day?

These are just some of the questions you might ask yourself as you consider each option. You may have other preferences that you want to include, and it’s a good idea to brainstorm these preferences.

By potential, we mean the potential for success of the new business. Success depends on many internal and external factors. External factors are things that you cannot control, like natural disasters, economic recessions, and pandemics. Internal factors are related to how well you run your business. Internal factors include how well you are meeting the needs of your customers and managing your business’s operations and finances. Some questions to ask yourself about each of the business options:

  • Will I be able to fulfill my promises to my customers?

  • Will I be able to adapt to changes in the needs of my customers and the market?

  • Will I be able to compete against other businesses?

  • Will the business make enough money to pay me, my employees, and my suppliers?

Evaluating preference and potential is not easy because you might not have enough information to answer every question. You might have to guess and make a prediction. With the information you collected earlier about the customers and the market, you can make an informed prediction about the business’s potential.

Avoid Impatience and Overconfidence

While you are analyzing your options, you should watch out for mistakes that can reduce the chance of success. The most common errors in selecting a business are the result of impatience and of overconfidence. Impatience can lead you to make decisions before you're ready, and overconfidence can lead you to overlook important information, especially information about potential obstacles or problems with your business idea. Here are some ideas to help you avoid impatience and overconfidence:

  • Consider more than one business. Impatience may lead you to consider only one business. There are many different new business opportunities everyday. Take the time to consider all your options.

  • Perform a thorough analysis. The step-by-step approach described above takes time to do well. Impatience may lead you to skip steps and start before you are ready. Take the time you need to perform a thorough analysis.

  • Start small and grow. If possible, start with a small version of the business and grow over time. Impatience may drive you to try to start big and grow too fast.

  • Understand the basis for competition in your market. Do you really understand what customers want in your market? Overconfidence may lead you to make a decision without a complete understanding of this important aspect of your business.

  • Control your financial risk. Don’t invest all of your assets in the new business. Limit your investment to a predetermined amount that you are willing to lose. Overconfidence may lead you to think that you can risk more than you can afford.

  • Discuss your decision with experienced business owners and friends. Learn as much as you can from the experience of others. By sharing your business idea with others you may discover new resources, information, or tips for success. In general, business owners are kind and willing to share their experiences with you. Don’t repeat their mistakes!

Step 5: Make a Decision

It is time to make a decision. You have made a list of options and focused on the best options. Finally, you considered each option in the context of your preferences and the business’s potential. Now is the time to choose the “right” business. The right business is one that is consistent with your preferences (makes you happy) and that has the greatest potential for success.

When she was in high school, Lilliana worked for her uncle every summer. Her uncle had a landscaping business and Lilliana helped out by picking up supplies at the hardware store, nursery, and landscape supply company. She also helped select healthy trees and shrubs, kept them healthy until her uncle was ready for them, and assisted with transplanting them.

When Lilliana finished school she wanted to start her own business. She liked the landscaping business, but did not like all the driving, being outside all the time, and the lack of interaction with the customers. Typically, her uncle only spoke with the clients at the beginning and end of a job. Her favorite part of the job was visiting the nursery, selecting healthy plants, and talking to the nursery employees about the best plants for specific purposes. In her community, drought was a frequent occurrence, so she was also interested in drought-tolerant landscaping options.

Lilliana saved some money from her jobs and felt she was ready to make the commitment to starting a business. She had completed her MOBI certificate so she had the basic information she needed. Her parents would let her live at home, so her expenses would be low, and she could devote her time to making her business a success.

But what business was right for her? She knew that it would be related to the landscaping and nursery business but wasn’t sure how she could compete. To figure it out, she made a list of things she liked to do, places where she thought the market was not meeting the needs of the customers, and the skills that she had.

Enjoyable activities: working with healthy plants, building relationships with people, making landscaping beautiful and environmentally friendly, working in one location.

Unmet customer needs: limited choice of drought-tolerant varieties, inconvenient for landscapers to go to the nursery every few days for supplies.

Skills and knowledge: how to care for, transport, and transplant trees and shrubs, how to select environmentally friendly varieties.

Based on this list, Lilliana thought of four possibilities: a landscaping business like her uncle’s, a traditional nursery, a specialized nursery that focused on drought-tolerant varieties, and a business that delivered healthy plants to landscapers at the job site.

To identify the best options, Lilliana collected some information about the different business types. She talked to her uncle, other landscapers, and the owner of the nursery where she bought plants, and she read about the nursery and landscaping businesses on the National Association of Landscape Professionals website and the Arizona Nursery Association website. As a part of her information collection, she realized that her customers were different depending on the business. In a traditional nursery, her customers would include both landscapers and homeowners. If she started a landscaping business like her uncle, her customers would be homeowners only.

Lilliana made the following table to summarize her findings:



Traditional Nursery

Specialized Nursery

Nursery +  Delivery

Enough money?





Skills and knowledge?





Understand customers?





Meet customer needs?





Market large enough? Enough demand?





Based on this table, Lilliana decided that the Specialized Nursery and the Traditional Nursery could be excluded from consideration. The Specialized Nursery just didn’t have a large enough market, and Lilliana wasn’t sure she understood the customers’ needs very well. She felt better about the Traditional Nursery, but there was a lot of competition in the market and she wasn’t sure she would be able to compete without bringing something unique to the marketplace.

Lilliana decided to complete the “preferences and potential” worksheet for a Landscaping business and for the Nursery+Delivery business. Here is what she found:

Business Option:





Will I be working in a place I enjoy?



Will I be working regular hours with weekends off?



Will I have enough time for family and holidays?

I don’t know

I don’t know

Will I be working with people I like?



Will I be traveling every day?





Will I be able to keep my promises to my customers?



Will I be able to adapt to the changing needs of my customers?



Will I be able to compete against other businesses?



Will the business make enough money to pay me, my employees, and my suppliers?

I don’t know

I don’t know

Lilliana felt she knew a lot about the Landscaping business after working with her uncle and she knew that she didn’t like working outside all the time or moving around to different job sites every week. She also knew that there was a lot of competition in the landscaping business, and she didn’t want to compete against her own uncle!

She decided that the right business for her would be the Nursery+Delivery business. She could use her skills to select, raise and care for healthy plants, use her uncle’s network to find landscapers and others who would be her customers, and she would enjoy working at the nursery and delivering healthy plants to job sites. She was worried about having enough money to start, but she would talk to her uncle to see if he was interested in investing in the business. She knew this was the right decision and couldn’t wait to get started!

As shown from the example above, the process for choosing the right business can and should take time, careful thought, research and preparation. Impatience and overconfidence can make it tempting to start a business before you are truly ready. Make sure you understand what you will need to get started. One of the best ways to make sure you have what you need to launch your new business is to create a business pan using the MOBI Business Plan Template. You’ll learn all about the business plan in The Business Plan session.

As you continue in this course you will learn how to prepare a business plan, how to obtain the proper licenses and permits, how to finance your business, how to market your business, how to do your own bookkeeping and accounting, and much more. We recommend that you complete this course before starting your business.

In addition, as we’ve discussed, it can be a good idea to start small and grow. If you plan to quit your job and pursue your dream of opening a bakery, you might begin by selling specialty cakes to family and friends. This would allow you to keep your day job, so you can continue saving money, while you test the market with flavors, designs, costs, and pricing. Pursuing a new business on the side like this is known as a “side hustle.” Having a job or business outside of a regular job is also sometimes called “moonlighting.”


  1. Live frugally and begin saving up money for starting your business.
  2. Make sure you have an entrepreneurial mindset.
  3. Make a list of the activities that you enjoy that are a part of a business.
  4. Consider several options for a new business.
  5. Honestly evaluate your skills, experience, and special knowledge as well as the business’s potential for success.
  6. Talk to lots of people for advice.
  7. Think carefully about customer needs and how your business will meet those needs.
  8. Careful consider the competition in the market and the size of the market.
  9. Complete the preferences and potential worksheet for each business option.
  10. Finish your business plan before launching your new business.


  1. Quit your job before you have completed your business plan and are ready to launch.
  2. Consider operating a business in a field you do not enjoy.
  3. Risk all the family assets. Limit your liabilities to a predetermined amount.
  4. Compete with your employer in a moonlight business.
  5. Be in a hurry to select a business. Do the research first.
  6. Select a business that has limited potential for success.
  7. Operate a business in which you must have the lowest price to succeed.
  8. Neglect to consider the negative aspects of a potential business.
  9. Permit overconfidence to outweigh careful analysis.
  10. Forget that building a successful business will take time.

If you are writing your business plan while reviewing this material, take a moment now to include any information about your business related to this session. MOBI’s free Business Plan Template and other worksheets, checklists, and templates are available for you to download. Just visit the list of MOBI Resource Documents on the Resources & Tools page of our website.

Here are some key terms and definitions used in this session or related to this session:

Term Definition
Commodity Business A business for which you must have the lowest cost to survive.
Downsizing A reduction in the workforce.
Entrepreneur One who organizes, operates, and assumes the risk in a business.
External Factors Things that you cannot control, like the economy, market trends and demand, technological advances, political and government factors, social and cultural factors, and more.
Hollow Corporation A business in which important elements, like production and manufacturing, are outsourced to subcontractors.
Industry Trade Groups Organizations that are formed by businesses or individuals within a specific industry to promote the interests of that industry. Also known as trade associations or industry associations.
Internal Factors Things related to your business that you can control, like your business idea, your goals and objectives, your business model, your team, your strategies, and more.
Market A group of people who might want to buy a certain product or use a service. This group can also be described as a target market.
Moonlighting Having a job or business outside of a regular job
SBA U.S. Small Business Administration, a government agency that offers support, training, and information to small business owners across the country.
Side Hustle Having a business on the side.
Specialized Market A smaller, focused area within the larger market where people are interested in a specific type of product or service.
Navigate here to Enroll Now
Navigate here to View Sessions by Course
Navigate here to View Sessions by Topic

Featured Video: Top 3 Founder Misconceptions  

Featured Video: Importance of Business Experience and Training  

Featured Video: Turning Your Idea Into a Business originally appeared on BusinessTown