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Mary Ellen Bates
Bates Information Services, Inc.
8494 Boulder Hills Dr.
Niwot, Colorado 80503 USA
Tel: 303.772.7095
[email protected]
Skype: Mary.Ellen.Bates
by Mary Ellen Bates
Bates Information Services
MEB's Four-Step Process to Discovering Your Insanely Fun Business

1. Start with what you love to do.

Think back to the last few times you were so engrossed in something that you lost track of the time. What were you doing? Were you writing? Mashing numbers? Creating mashups and apps? Leading a group of people? Researching alone at your desk? Managing a project?

Now, think of what you were doing, out of its current context. Right now, you may be working for a large organization, doing what you love (or at least what you are paid to do). What would that thing-you-love-to-do look like if you weren't within that organization? Back when I was an employee, I realized that I loved to do research and I hated to manage people. So I asked myself how else can I do what I love? I looked at various ways that I could be doing research but outside the traditional employment structure - everything from working for a consultant to teaching to being a freelance librarian to seeing myself as a business.

2. Imagine 10 situations in which you are doing what you love to do for people who love you.

Start with a kernel of something you love to do. Now think of when you could be doing that in such a way that your client is going to really value you. Describe what that situation would look like.

For example, say that what you love to do is talking with and learning from other people. You could create a business around competitive intelligence, or as a primary researcher, a focus group moderator or event reporter. A situation you might describe is:

I work with an executive in the airline industry who wants to understand the true level of loyalty the airline's corporate clients have to the airline. I conduct strategic focus groups around the country, identifying an unexpected and unmet need of the airline's key customers.

OK, go ahead. Write up your 10 scenarios, remembering to include at least one for each of the things you love to do. Be sure the role that you play in each scenario is one that the client will highly value and pay well for (which will be verified by the MEB-style informational interviews).

Don't do this all at one sitting, unless you're really inspired. Let these percolate in the back of your head for a few days and write them when they occur to you.

3. What do these client needs have in common?

Now, look at all those scenarios and identify the common threads. Do several involve the same type of outcome? Are they in related industries? Are they for a certain professional role within an organization? Do they involve the same kind of work? What trends to you see in what you imagine yourself doing?

4. OK, you've done it!

You have just identified how you can build a business doing what you love for clients who are paying you a lot of money for. What next?

Next step

Now that you have an idea of what your business will be doing, it's time to test your hypothesis. You will now be conducting primary research to determine whether what you think is valuable is in fact valuable to your anticipated client base.

Head over to for what is involved in conducting research through interviews with people you think are representative of your client base. Remember, you are still in information-gathering mode, to determine if your business hypothesis is based on reality.

Congratulations - you are on your way to creating a business you love!

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