So you want to start a business, but don’t know what kind? That reminds me of one day when a confirmed bachelor friend suddenly told me he’d decided to get married. “Who’s the bride?” I asked. He said he didn’t know, “but I’ve decided to step up the search.”

Searching for a business to start, like searching for a person to marry, is probably doing things backward, like deciding first that you want to marry and then going searching for a willing victim. Have the relationship first, then consider marriage. Similarly, don’t decide you want to start a business and then go searching for what type. Have the relationship first.

Most people who build their own business have a relationship with it first, then start it. They’ve worked in the industry. They know the field. That doesn’t mean only chefs start restaurants or only programmers start software companies. But it does mean people start by knowing, then see what’s going on, how that business works. Next they look for what people need that they aren’t getting, what can be done differently, and then start the business.

This goes back to my post from yesterday, relating to which business to start by looking in the mirror and figuring out who you are.

I believe in startups; I’ve done them, they’ve worked for me and my life. But it’s a lot of work. Find something you can stand doing a whole lot of. If you have no idea and are not excited, maybe you should keep your day job.

Tim BerryTim Berry

Tim Berry is the founder and chairman of Palo Alto Software and Follow him on Twitter @Timberry.