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Most of us fantasize at one time or another about starting our own business, but few of us have the courage to make it happen. The prospect of going into business for ourselves, while appealing, is a risk few of us are willing to take.

But times have changed. More people than ever before are leaving their 6-figure salary jobs and starting their own businesses. In fact, experts estimate that some 1.500 new businesses are launched every day and that by 2000 70 percent of all businesses will be entrepreneurial.

Choosing the business that's right for you isprobably the most important business decision you'll ever make. Maybe you already have a great idea for a product or service. Or perhaps you're still exploring some ideas. In either case, before you launch your business you'll need to assess your strengths and weaknesses, your likes and dislikes.

It may help to make a list of what you like and dislike. You'll also want to consider your non-tangible attributes, such as stamina, determination and resourcefulness. These qualities alone may be the determining factor of whetheryour business succeeds or fails.

Experts agree that two of the most important qualitiesan entrepreneur should possess are tenacity and perseverance. Getting a business off the ground can be extremely frustrating, and if you're the type who gives up easily, chances are you won't make it as an entrepreneur.

As a business owner you also must have the stamina and self-discipline to work long hours, the willingness to take risks and the confidence to make decisions. These traits will go a long way in helping your business thrive and flourish.

Don't worry if it takes you a while to determine what kind of business you want. It's much better to take your time and thoroughly investigate your options than rush into something. Some of the most successful entrepreneurs have spent time researching the market before finding their niche.

Special training or education is not required to start a business. Only one-fifth of new business owners have college degrees and more than one-third have never taken a business course.

Much of the knowledge you'll need to run a business can be learned through books, seminars and workshops. You may also want to consider taking a few business or marking courses through your local university or community college.

One of the best ways to learn about business is by talking to as many entrepreneurs as you can. Join a professional organisation in your area that is geared to your particular industry.

In addition, there are several organisations that can provide assistance. Contact your local Small Business Administration office or the Service Corps of Retired Executives. Both groups can provide professional advice and counselling and help you get your business off the ground. You may also want to consider hiring a business consultantto help you build a solid business plan.

One of the most important factors you'll need to consider before starting a business is your financial resources. If you are the sole provider for your family and have little savings stashed away, this may not be the time to give up a steady source of income.

Studies show that more businesses failbecause of under financing and poor management than for any other reason. That's why experts say you should have enough saving put aside to support you for at least a year before you have to dip into your new business for income.

If you're having trouble raising the capital needed to launch your business, try the Small Business Association. The organisation often makes small-business loans to start-up companies or at least will refer you to the institutions that will. You may also want to consider obtaining independent investors or taking out a home equity loan.

Starting a new business not only demands a lot of hard work, but also requires financial and emotional sacrifice. Be prepared to give up vacations, weekends and evenings and to spend less time with friends and family. Entrepreneurship is not without drawbacks, and many people discover (often too late) that they are not cut out to run a business.

Harvey Mackay, the best selling author of "Sharkproof: Get The Job You Want. Keep The Job You Love In Today's Frenzied Market " (Harper Collins), offers these suggestions for anyone considering a business venture.

· Think small. Keep your overheads low by starting your business from home. Purchase only the essentials. Hold on to your day job as long as possible or at least until your business has started to take off.

· Get advice. Talk to other entrepreneurs. Find out how they got started, how much money it took and what they would do differently. Put together an advisory team that you can turn to for help.

· Adapt to change. In business, anything can happen. Be prepared for the unexpected.

· Draft a business plan. Analyze your market and study your competition. Determinewho your potential clients will be and make sure there is sufficient demand for your product or service. Set goals for your company and review them periodically to see if you're meeting your expectations.

· Depend on yourself. Whether your business succeeds or fails depends on you alone. Make sure you have the temperament to work harder than you've ever worked in your life.

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