For anyone with designs on being their own boss, starting a business of your own is no small undertaking. To get a few pointers on how to get ahead and avoid the pitfalls, we asked two experts from the business education field, who have a grounding in both theory and the workings of the real business world. Della Wong, acting director at the Executive Programmes & External Development, School of Business and Management, the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, is an advocate of learning through experience. 'They should expect to learn on-the-job to manage people and a company - as well as calculating the profit and loss [in advance], of course,' she said. According to Ms Wong, the absolute essentials in planning any new business launch include having a business plan; market research; working with the right people; and on-the-job executive education. 'First of all, make a business plan that includes details about your products or services; how to market your products and services; revenue expectation; costs associated in operation; personal finances, start-up costs and a detailed financial plan,' she explained. 'Market research should include a SWOT [strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats] analysis, which will look at whether your product or service is already in the market. Also ask, 'What is its positioning?' and 'Are there local or regional competitors?'' Ms Wong advised facing the challenges of Hong Kong's dynamic business environment by honing skills in different areas: managerial decision making and leadership; financial management; accounting; innovation and creativity; marketing, management strategy; people management; risk management; change management; and negotiation strategies, among others. 'Executive programmes bring companies skills that are crucial for the growth and success of the company, often with cutting-edge insights from experts,' she said. 'Long-term plans can be drafted for staying competitive and successful; motivation and self-development for staff can be discussed and there are plenty of networking opportunities with others.' Ms Wong's key tips to maintaining a tight grip on managing a successful new business and making a profit, revolve around sensitively working with 'the right people'. 'Use highly qualified managers who can make high quality decisions to achieve company growth and success,' she said. 'Management should ensure continued motivation to staff by investing in 'people development'. This helps to improve work performance and teamwork. 'Keep talented people in the business, in order to have a strong stable team that supports one another and plays to each other's strengths. This helps ensure customer satisfaction, product sales, satisfied colleagues, effective succession planning and deeply imbedded organisational knowledge and learning.' At the Princeton Review Hong Kong tutorial centre, associate director Carolyn Ling said that, according to its relevant course programmes, 'strategic planning with clear purposes is the No1 element in a new business'. 'Usually, revenue comes from the product or service provided; a brand name management plan is key to expanding and retaining customers and therefore profit. For maximum business return, opportunity costing is also to be taken into consideration. 'While a performance management plan is in place for maintaining day-to-day business growth, both personal and business contingency plans are also necessary for any unexpected or uncontrollable situations.' Before anything else, though, it was important to fully understand what core competence one had in a business, Ms Ling stressed. 'Always be aware of strategic innovations, which further grow the core competence,' she said. Throughout the first stage in a business, people who take 100 per cent responsibility for their assignments spend valuable time exploring options and opportunities, Ms Ling explained, adding, 'The strength you will feel in controlling your own destiny should make up for the extra effort, patience and diligence that full responsibility requires. 'It would be wise to make use of every resource around. The magazine tycoon Malcolm Forbes once said, 'There are no unimportant people'. He respected the value and contributions of each individual within the organisation.'