Business Plan Research Start Guide
Here are some recommended resources for starting your research, organized around the types of analyses involved in creating a business plan.
If you have any questions about navigating any of the resources below, or other related questions, just send it via email.
Opportunity Identification, Environmental Scan
Scholarly Publications and Business News
- Finding Articles: New products and business ideas can come from cutting-edge research. This kind of research is reported in scholarly periodicals such as journals and conference proceedings. New products or services on the market may be discussed in business news publications or trade magazines. To find articles that appear in these kinds of publications, you can use several of the databases available through the library and Google Scholar. Depending on the publication, articles may be free, for purchase, or available through the library electronically, or in print. You can start your search for articles from the library homepage.
Patents & Intellectual Property
- Patentability Search: Commercializing innovative inventions from cutting-edge research may call for the protection of that intellectual property through patents. Patents and trademarks protected in the U.S. can be searched through the U.S. Patents and Trademarks Office (USPTO) website. This link takes you to more information about what is involved in conducting a patentability search.
- Google Patents has made it easier to search for and view patents in the USPTO patent database, and that may be an easier place to start than the USPTO site.
- Derwent Innovations Index: You can search across several world patents by using this proprietary patent database licensed by the library. It provides easier keyword searching and links to full text PDFs.
- Industry Profiles: Narrative overviews of industries provide essential background for understanding how they are structured, key players, how they have developed over time and the latest advances. Although the coverage is more general than individual products, this information can help frame, inform, or contextualize the more specific data you go on to gather at later stages of your research. Industries can be described in all sorts of ways and at various levels of specificity. Industry codes can help categorize sectors in meaningful ways and provide useful keywords for searching in business information sources. The NAICS Code is one system developed for government publications and is used by many other sources.
- Industry Statistics: Governments and non-governmental organizations around the world are important producers of statistics and data that no other entity might have the authority or ability to collect. Much of the current government information is available online, though it is not always easy to find exactly what you are looking for. It helps to think about what government agencies are most likely to produce information related to your product category in terms of research or regulation. The Statistical Abstract of the United States is a good starting point because it aggregates information from various agencies and sometimes outside organizations, into one place.
- Company Information: Specialized directories are an important aspect of company research, whether to identify competitors or markets. In addition to basic contact information, specialized business directories can offer some company financials, executive profiles, histories and corporate hierarchies. Online directories have the advantage of generating company lists using select criteria like business size, industry codes, etc.
- Identify Companies
- Company Financials
- Market Share
Target Market Analysis
- Consumer Markets & Geo-Demographics: Researching consumer preferences, motivations, and buying patterns is an important aspect of new business ideas or product development. Consumer market researchers report data collected through surveys, focus groups and polls. General demographic information as well as how different segments of the population spend their time and money can be found in many of the statistics and data collected by the government’s bureau of census and labor.
- Advertising & Media: Some directories specialize in providing information on print and broadcast media. These directories can help you identify the potential venues for reaching your consumer audience. For example, the Directory of Publications and Broadcast Media (via the Gale Directory Library), offers some basic information about niche magazines such as how long they have been around, how frequently they publish new issues, and rates for advertising. Click on the link above to view other recommended directories.
- Labor: For many businesses, wages and salaries make up a significant portion of operational costs. Click on the link for recommended sources of figures and reports on labor costs in the U.S. and beyond.
- Suppliers, Transportation & Logistics: Identifying suppliers is basically the same process as finding company information, except that you are focusing on a specific kind of company. Some directories like ThomasNet, specialize in providing supplier information and offers search and display features that makes it easier to compare companies and their offerings. The trade and movement of goods is also a highly regulated process so you will need to understand the various regulatory requirements for any given type of business. A good starting place for identifying these requirements is the Business.gov portal that offers this information by Business by Type and Industries.
Financial Analysis & Projections
- Financial ratios: can help you compare the actual or projected performance of your business with other businesses in your industry. Sources of financial ratios available at the library present figures organized by business size and industry.
- Alternatively you can obtain company financials and calculate ratios depending on your specific plans.
For a more in-depth consideration of your financial statements, you may want to consult some library books focusing on the financial aspects of small business or technology start-ups:
Identifying Sources of Capital
Directory of venture capital & private equity firms, domestic & international
DH Hill Library, Learning Commons, HG4751 .F58
Small Business Portals
NC Department of Commerce: Business Services
Look under Start Your Business for useful resources, for example:
- Business licenses & Permits searchable index
- Find data with EDIS (demographic and economic statistics and data for NC)
- Sources of Capital
Small Business and Technology Development Center (North Carolina)
U.S. Small Business Administration
Business Owner's Tool Kit
An Entrepreneurial Life - Tim Huntley: http://anentrepreneuriallife.com/
Tools and Blogs for Entrepreneurs – Steve Blank: http://steveblank.com/tools-and-blogs-for-entrepreneurs/
The Council For Entrepreneurial Development: http://www.cednc.org/
MBA Monday’s Series – Fred Wilson: http://mba-mondays.pandamian.com/tableofcontents/
Librarian Contact Information
- Jennifer Garrett, Research Librarian for Management, Education and Social Sciences