REAL SIMPLE. REAL expert Farnoosh Torabi helped Petal San Gabriel get her new venture on track. Before you take the plunge into business ownership, Farnoosh suggests asking yourself these questions.

By Real Simple
Updated January 05, 2009
Ann Summa

1. What’s my expertise?

Your best shot at succeeding is playing to your strong suits, so consider these questions: Why am I the best person to run this business, and how will it thrive on my expertise? What’s my experience, and why will people prefer to come to me instead of to my competitors?

2. What’s my niche?

In a competitive market, it is crucial to carve out a specialty. What will set you apart from the pack as a business owner is your ability to provide a service or product that is so specific that it makes your competition shrink. If you play your cards right, you will become the one and only place where your customers' needs can be met.

3. What’s my competition?

There’s a lot you can learn from your business rivals. Study the market and take notes on the companies that have already established themselves in your sector. What are their strengths and weaknesses? How can you be better?

4. What are my start-up costs?

Research the realistic cost of starting a business or franchise in your preferred location. Is it feasible? Is this something that you could start out of your home initially?

5. What are my goals―financially and personally?

Running a successful business means making enough money, but it also means having enough time for yourself and your family. How much sweat equity are you willing to put in? Chances are, the reason you chose to work for yourself in the first place was to take ownership of your career. Can you do that and still be fulfilled in other arenas? If you do decide to take the leap, ask yourself every six months if you’re where you want to be―and if getting to the next step is worth it. If you’re going to be your own boss, be a merciful one.