If you haven’t visited the library since you were in college, you have no idea what you’re missing. Here are some things I’ve done at the library in the past six months:
- downloaded data from ReferenceUSA with contact information for 500+ potential qualified clients for one of my clients (criteria: plumbing companies with revenue >$5MM, “A” credit rating, sorted by metro area).
- copied sample business plans and checked key business ratios for a retail client who wanted to set reasonable targets for sales per employee, advertising expenditures, etc.
- searched several hundred online business journals for background information to fuel a proposal.
All free, of course.
Which libraries to visit? Public universities with business schools have the best libraries. In most states, these libraries (and their business reference librarians) are supposed to help the public, not only their university constituents. Public libraries in major cities are also great resources, with free access to many of the same databases that you can’t get to without a subscription. (Note that many of these databases are at least partially-accessible from your own office after the library gives you remote access privileges.) They often have decent business reference librarians, as well. Public libraries in smaller metro areas often have less, but you might be surprised at how much good stuff they do tie into over the internet.
When you need data — don’t guess. Get thee to a library.