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Take general business classes. You don’t have to have an M.B.A. to launch a successful startup, but consider acquiring some knowledge of basic business concepts. “Any business owner needs to understand how to read an income statement, the difference between operating income and net income, and what a cash flow statement looks like,” says Erica McGeachy Crenshaw, president of Execute Now!, a business consulting firm in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania.
Consider joining a startup. Not only is experience in your industry valuable, but business owners with any type of previous startup experience are more likely to succeed, says Scott A. Shane, professor of economics at Case Western Reserve University, author of The Illusions of Entrepreneurship (Yale University Press; $26). If you know entrepreneurship is in your future and a startup opportunity comes along, consider it a test-run in the art of launching a business.
Find an entrepreneurial mentor. Draw upon the experience of others. Contact business owners in your industry who are not direct competitors to see whether any would be willing to take you under their wing. Don’t just look for business owners who are successful, says McGeachy Crenshaw. “A lot of business owners can easily list all the mistakes that they made. There’s a lot you can learn from them.”