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Which small business best fits you?

Q: What are the best businesses to start today?

Author and entrepreneur Mike Collins is president of The Perfect Workday Company, an information company based in Raleigh. He gives seminars based on this same question at North Carolina’s small business centers, which are a part of the community college system.

Through Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, he’ll talk on this topic Aug. 8 at the North Carolina Research Campus in Kannapolis. Register at www.rccc.edu/sbc.

Usually, Collins said, audience members for his “best businesses” talk expect quick answers: “ ‘Give me a list of what’s going to be hot.’ ”

“The problem with that is if you’re in Charlotte, the list is going to look one way,” Collins says. “If you’re somewhere 30 miles away from an interstate highway, that list looks different.”

Rather than presenting a catalog of choices, Collins helps participants figure out their own right fit. Here’s his advice:

Make ‘parachute’ lists: In an exercise inspired by Richard Bolles’s job-hunting book, “What Color is Your Parachute?,” Collins advises making four lists. One list shows every job held since high school; the others list skills learned, job likes and job dislikes.

Looking at the four lists together can provide guidance.

“ ‘What can I get into using as many of these skills as possible?’ … It gives people a guideline. I call it a small business pattern.”

Research options: Collins points people to Small Business Opportunities Magazine, www.sbomag.com, for ideas on how their skills match certain fields.

Once people develop a better idea of what businesses might click, Collins advises joining the trade association. “They’ll get you in touch with people who are already doing the business. That is crucial.”

Pay attention to trends: Collins focuses on the necessities – such as food and clothing – for hints of which small businesses can thrive around these basics.

For example, new food trends led to a rise in food trucks, and eateries focused on cupcakes, hamburgers and tapas. Sales at second-hand clothing stores and consignment shops have jumped in recent years because of the struggling economy, Collins said.

As the economy now recovers, Collins said, look for an increasing demand in personal services industries such as residential cleaners or child care services.

Also look for changes in health care – from ways to provide home care to the elderly, to jobs that may emerge around the new federal Affordable Care Act.

“There are tons of opportunities out there,” Collins said, “But you’ve got to keep your eyes open.”

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