Am I researching the right industry (NAICS Code)?
One of the key milestones in researching a business plan involves identifying the correct industry – or industries, as there may me many – to do some digging. This is important to understand your business idea, its business model and its industry. Here is a video I prepared about this:
A key success measure of this step involves identifying specific industry codes, such as the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) Codes. These codes will speed up searching through value added databases licensed by your Library (such as these from Concordia University). Remember: you probably should identify the following industry (NAICS) codes, five (5) digit codes are optimal:
- The industry code in which your business “fits”
- Industry codes for businesses who pose substantial parallel competition (for example, 51511 Radio Broadcasting vs. 518210 – Data processing, hosting, and related services for music streaming)
- Industry codes for suppliers or buyers (if you are in a business-to-business setting) if they are substantially larger than you (which notes business risk based on market power). Looking up and down the supply chain is up to you.
- Any other industry code meaningful for your business, particularly those that may disrupt your business environment.
Now to the point: how do you know if you have the right industry codes? Well, this depends entirely on how much effort you are willing to put into researching your business project (arguably, the more codes you have, the more reading you will have to do) as well as, well, the fear of missing out (leaving an industry code “out” of the scope of your research means you run the risk of not getting your hands on key insight for your project). This is entirely up to you and I really can’t weigh in about this. Caveats aside, here are some simple advice to assist you in making your own mind as to which industry codes to pick and how many you need:
- Read the definitions of these codes from the Statistic Canada NAICS Codes page. This site sometimes include example activities and excluded activities (arguably, for some older versions of the codes, so the latest edition of the classification schedule may not have example or excluded activities).
- Read the IBIS World report for the Canadian industry (NAICS) code and look at the “About this industry — Supply Chain” section. When you access any specific report on IBIS, this is the section shown on the landing page of the Web interface (with the red dot & arrows). On te PDF report, it is located on page 2 – “similar industries” and their NAICS Codes are listed there.
- Use a business directory (e.g.: phone book) of small businesses, such as Mergent Intellect (formerly D&B Million Dollar Database) to look for specific companies, such as direct competitors. Industry codes are listed on the information page for a company in these systems. Remember – these directories may be
wrongimprecise as companies may be misfiled by the analysts (or algorithms) filing companies in directories… but this is an interesting way to get feedback about the codes you’ve selected for your project.
- Search for articles for that specific industry (NAICS) Code – NOT GOOGLE. For example, you can use ProQuest Business Databases and type: NAICS 45391. You usually get articles and market reports on or about this code (sometimes you get a but of noise, but you can easily ignore this). Reading up on news for an industry codes is a great way to determine if this code is interesting or relevant for your project.
At the end of the day, it is up to you to determine if you have the correct industry (NAICS) code(s) and if you have enough of them.