Perhaps the first resource you need to acquire is street smarts about the category in which you’re going to start a business.

Lots of people ignore this required resource. And I will guess that most of these people fail. Here’s why: Profitably operating any business requires skill. The owner needs to make smart decisions. The owner needs to minimize risks. The owner needs to spot both opportunities and threats–and then grasp at opportunities while sidestepping threats.

I think people often way, way overstate or exaggerate the risks of business failure. In truth, in some business categories, businesses rarely fail. But when people do fail, often, they deserve to fail because they’ve been trying to operate in an environment where they really didn’t have any business taking responsibility.

Fortunately, there are two or three great ways to get the street smarts you need: you can work in a business like the one you want to run (ideally with mentoring from the owner), you can buy a franchise (and then carefully learn their approach), and you can buy an existing business (and hope the seller teaches you the tricks of the trade.)

If you have the opportunity, I think working in an existing business for an owner who’s willing to mentor and coach you is the best deal. Obviously, you need to be careful that you don’t take advantage of the mentor. You also need to somehow make the relationship worth their while. But buying a franchise or an existing business are often so expensive that business owner moves out of reach. (I will also caution that buying an existing business often ends up a disaster for the buyer.