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 wrong imprecise 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.
When launching a new business, information about industries, markets or competitors can be invaluable. In this session, we will cover resources from the Internet as well as licensed market and industry intelligence databases available from Concordia University Library. This is a workshop adapted from the “Entrepreneurship” course at the John Molson School of Business.
Locate industry and market reports from the Internet and the Library
Understand how to use datasets from Statistics Canada (Census & Cansim) and other national agencies
Develop a healthy information diet
Proposed Course Outline
1. Where does information come from?
It is imperative to use both licensed (library) and free web sources to have a complete picture.
Here is a draft outline I just created for a professor teaching an entrepreneurship class for Fine Arts students. Caveat being that these students are not business majors, so we have to spend more time explaining why each resource is useful and how to incorporate these sources in their assignments. Also, the bit about copyright is because they are Fine Arts students and the professor wanted me to cover this as well.
–> Please make sure students bring their devices or borrow laptops from the circulation desk to LB-322 <–
->Total duration: 150 minutes, which leaves room for a 15 minute break <-
1. Basic business & industry information
– Browse NAICS codes related to Fine Arts, enable students to discover their codes by engaging them to state their line of business
– Show the IBIS World system and present a sample report (uses NAICS codes)
– Show the SME Benchmarking system and a sample report (uses NAICS codes)
ACTIVITY: have students retrieve the IBIS World & SME Benchmarking reports. Troubleshoot NAICS codes & interface issues.
2. Basic market information
– Passport GMID
ACTIVITY: Can you identify one trend or statistic that can impact your project from either source?
3. Stats Can
– Census: know your neighbours!
– CANSIM: Household spending & more
– Mention SimplyMap but do not show it
ACTIVITY: What is the average household spending for your product? How do you define your market (geography, demographics, etc.)?
4. Articles (trends, major players…)
– Business Source Complete
ACTIVITY: Locate one article (news, trade or academic) which relates to your project.
– What does copyright mean for you?
– Using copyrighted content as part of your work
I like how the company process splits into private company and public company – which has a huge impact on the amount of information available. Remember that anything a company tells you is either to their benefit, either required my law (like disclosing financial statements when their equity is traded on public markets of capital like stock exchanges).
I’ve been meaning to adapt my similar research protocol for business students to distinguish between researching a business idea (entrepreneurship) that targets consumers versus other companies. This also has great bearing on how one researches the information for a business plan… more on that later…