How long from start-up to sales? Not very long. A survey shows most new companies position themselves for immediate returns.

1-3 months 87%

4-6 months 6%

7-12 months 3%

No answer 4%

Source: National Federation of Independent Business, Washington, D.C., which surveyed 2,994 new businesses

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Which companies get to market first? One researcher has found that those not using consultants are faster than those that do. Mary Spann at the University of Alabama Huntsville followed 32 technology-based companies spun out from Tennessee's Oak Ridge National Laboratory; some had outside technical and marketing consultants, while others depended on in-house personnel. Those that outsourced, says Spann, didn't seem to have as good an understanding of their markets.

That same study found a number of entrepreneurs had run "bridge businesses" between leaving secure jobs and starting their real companies. The intermediary ventures required little financing and were used as cash cows; they were phased out once the next business began. -- Leslie Brokaw

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