As an entrepreneur or a business owner, being well-informed about your business, your industry and your target market is very important. However, you may be tempted to overlook doing your own research in favour of asking for professional help. Though this route may seem easier, doing your own research beforehand could save you time and money. Your research may also allow you to ask specific questions, rather than vague ones.

Online research

The Internet offers you easy (and often free) access to countless online sources, from training resources such as templates and webinars or videos on topics such as bookkeeping, web development, commercial leases, and much more.

In-person research

Do you have friends and family members who are entrepreneurs? You may want to consult with them, as well as industry professionals — they might be suppliers, acquaintances from networking events or peers from trade associations. These people are well-informed about various aspects of small business, so you may be able to glean valuable business information from them for free, and their opinions might help clear things up for you.

When and how to consult with professionals

Here are some tips to consider prior to and upon meeting with professionals like IT specialists, bankers, accountants and lawyers:

  • Learn key words, acronyms, phrases and basic concepts. By researching and becoming familiar with important words and phrases, you will be more prepared for meetings. This can save time and money and enrich the experience. However, during your meeting, if you hear something that you don't understand, be sure to ask for clarification.
  • Be critical. You are paying for professional services, so a bit of background will be a good investment. If you aren't pleased with the suggestions you receive, or feel you don't require certain products or services, listen to your instincts. Your research will help you respect the balance between outside expertise and doing what's best for your business.
  • Prioritize. Clearly define your areas of concern and organize them by level of urgency. For example, if you're looking for ways to cut back your expenses and you're having issues with your computer, meeting with an IT specialist before meeting with an accountant may be a wise choice.

Visit our Market research and statistics section for more information on how to research your business, your industry and your target market. Learn more about the value of advisory boards and entrepreneurial advice.