The Best Research Tools for Entrepreneurs

Visit the library or hop online, and the information you need is right under your nose.

By Rieva Lesonsky

So many of you could answer many of the questions I get daily if only you knew where to look. So instead of answering a specific question this month, I want to share with you some of the reference books we use at Entrepreneur. Hopefully this will help you help yourselves.Your local library (and librarian obviously) can be a tremendous asset to you in your search. Most good-sized libraries have online catalogs that can make your quest easier. But before you schlep to the library, I’d suggest you look for an online source-it saves time. On the other hand, if you’re a novice at researching, a helpful librarian can save you lots of time (and when it comes to business, time of course, is money).

Wherever your search takes you, be sure to check out the following websites and books in your library reference section:

  • The Small Business Sourcebookcontains thousands of sources, including books, magazine articles, stats and industry data. Articles, trade shows and conventions are sorted by industry.
  • The Encyclopedia of Associationslists thousands of trade associations, offering contact information and vital stats. This is crucial to all entrepreneurs seeking information about a particular industry.
  • The D&B Million Dollar Databaseoffers access to online information on more than 1.6 million private and public U.S. and Canadian companies, their sales, their number of employees and other important information. This is helpful when checking out potential partners, seeking clients or customers, or “spying” on your competition. Visit the site for subscription information.
  • Hooversoffers a similar service with some free sample information.
  • Demographic information (crucial to learning about your target market) can be found in Editor and Publisher Market Guideand The Sourcebook ZIP Code Demographics.
  • For advertising costs in any of the nation’s magazines and newspapers, check out the reference books from Standard Rate and Data Service.
  • If you’re looking for information on government contracting opportunities, visit FedBizOpps(formerly Commerce Business Daily).
  • The Encyclopedia of Business Information Sourceshas thousands of citations on more than 1,000 topics, listing directories, encyclopedias, yearbooks and trade groups.
  • Other important reference books include Bacon’s Newspaper/Magazine Directory, Bacon’s Radio/TV/Cable Directory, Bacon’s Internet Media Directoryand theBusiness Periodicals Index.
  • One of my favorite resources (and the most useful) is the Thomas Register of American Manufacturers. It lists thousands of manufacturers of virtually every product produced in the United States. You can search it online here.
  • The SBAis also an amazing resource and provides and huge amount of information for entrepreneurs.
  • And on an altogether subjective note, if you want to read about starting or growing a business, learn about raising money, or learn some marketing tips, don’t forget the site you’re on. We’ve got a comprehensive Small Business Encyclopediaand an extensive set of How-To Guides. You can also check out our books at SmallBizBooks.comand EntrepreneurPress.com.

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