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Taking Care of Small Business: 5 Things You Must Do Before You Start a Business

Maybe you have always dreamed of being your own boss? Here are five things to do before you take the leap.

This Dec. 28, 2013 photo, waitresses Martha, center, gets an order ready for Andrea and Nat, at the Asados Paisa Colombian food truck, in Kendall, Fla. Miami-Dade County Commissioner Javier Souto, who represents part of Kendall, said that the area, home to about 300,000 people, has become an attractive spot for food trucks because of the high concentration of Hispanics looking for the typical tastes of their native countries at modest prices. (AP Photo/El Nuevo Herald, Pedro Portal)

Maybe you have always dreamed of being your own boss? Or perhaps you are motivated by being unemployed, underemployed or unhappily employed?

Given the state of our economy, starting your own business might be sounding more appealing than ever. However, the failure rates of businesses are as frightening — if not more so — than our current unemployment rates.

I like to say that if you fail to prepare, be prepared to fail. In fact, I wrote an entire "New York Times" bestselling book, "The Entrepreneur Equation," about how to prepare for business success. One of those methods of preparation to help stack the odds of success in your favor is by gaining some industry experience.

Here are five different ways to gain that experience (and in some cases, make a few extra dollars) before you invest you full time and effort - as well as your money - into a new business venture.

Work a part-time job in your desired industry: If you want to open a restaurant franchise and you have never worked in foodservice before, consider taking on a part-time restaurant job, such as a nights and weekends position, before leaving your current job or your job search behind. This will help you to assess whether you like the industry, whether it’s as good of an opportunity as you thought and also, whether it’s a good fit for your skills and personality. These are all important things to know before you invest your money in a new business and can be done easily.

This Dec. 28, 2013 photo, waitresses Martha, center, gets an order ready for Andrea and Nat, at the Asados Paisa Colombian food truck, in Kendall, Fla. Miami-Dade County Commissioner Javier Souto, who represents part of Kendall, said that the area, home to about 300,000 people, has become an attractive spot for food trucks because of the high concentration of Hispanics looking for the typical tastes of their native countries at modest prices. (AP Photo/El Nuevo Herald, Pedro Portal)

Learn from someone else’s mistakes. What do you think is most people’s favorite thing to talk about? The answer, of course, is “themselves." Business owners are no different. Ask business owners who have been in the trenches for years if they could make some time for an informational interview so that you can learn the pitfalls of the industry. Or even better, see if you can shadow them for a day or two or take on an unpaid internship to learn the ins-and-outs from someone (or a couple of “someones”) who have been successful. If you can find and interview those who haven’t been successful as well, that will provide even deeper learning. If you don’t know anyone who fits the bill, ask your personal, professional and social networks to help put you in touch with these business owners.

Interview your future customers: Customers are your business’s biggest asset, yet getting good market research is tough. Find out your future customers’ wants and needs (as well as how big of a responsibility it is to deal with them) by taking on a customer service job in your target industry. By working in customer service, you will be able to gain first-hand knowledge of how your customers think, act and spend!

Start a jobbie: A jobbie is my name for a hobby that makes money (otherwise known as a side business). Having a jobbie is a great way to test out the viability of a business with a defined budget before you fully commit to it. If your industry involves a product instead of a service, develop, build, and test prototypes to try out the product’s appeal and function in tandem with your day job or your current job search. Both of these approaches will allow you to gain industry insights and if you stick to a budget, it won’t cost you your life’s saving.

Try out a different career path: Instead of part-time efforts, consider taking on a full-time job in your target industry. See if you can work your way up the ladder in a business similar to the one you want to start, even if this means taking a few steps back in your career. Not only will you learn the business from the ground up, but it’s a good test to see if you can get promoted. If you can’t move upwards in someone else’s business that looks a lot like the one that you want to start, think twice before starting your own.

Carol Roth is a contributor for CNBC, bestselling author of The Entrepreneur Equation, recovering investment banker and a small business advocate. She also has an action figure made in her likeness. Twitter: @CarolJSRoth

TheBlaze contributor channel supports an open discourse on a range of views. The opinions expressed in this channel are solely those of each individual author.

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