With the multitude of information available on the internet, determining which data sources are valid, useful, and trustworthy can be a daunting task. Here are three tips to keep in mind when you start conducting research for your business plan.
Use recent data.
Finding free-to-access and relevant information can sometimes be a challenge, and it is tempting to cite an older study or article that supports the argument you are trying to make. However, you should be wary of using old data in your research. The business environment in Canada and around the globe in general has changed dramatically since the 2008-2009 recession. Using pre-recession data will not be useful to you and worse, it might guide you toward making costly bad decisions! Wherever possible, use more recent data to support your business case.
Check for bias.
Ask yourself whether the source have found could have a biased view of the topic of interest. Is the author an employee of a company that has a large financial stake in this area? Is the author being funded by a company that does? Does the author ascribe to any particular political ideology or frequently takes a partisan view? A yes to any of these questions could indicate that your source of information may be biased. You should balance potentially biased views with information gathered from other sources. If you’re not able to, ask yourself what the potential consequences of using incorrect or biased information might be, and whether you would be willing to take that risk.
Don’t hide the unfavourable.
Sometimes during the research process you might discover that the data is not favourable to your business case. If this happens, don’t simply neglect to mention it in your business plan. Investors and bankers will be able to spot a plan that makes the business environment look too rosy. Instead, discuss how you will overcome these challenges or mitigate these risks. Your banker or investor will appreciate that you’ve thoroughly considered and addressed all potential complications.