It’s a blessing and a curse. Out of nowhere, you’re slapped in the face with a brilliant business idea. It might have come from your observations, your creativity, or maybe just sheer dumb luck. Either way, you’ve managed to culminate a concept birthed within the absolute pinnacle of your cognitive abilities; a true strike of genius.
Well, that’s all dandy, but what are you supposed to do now? The idea of diving into a business venture can seem kind of like taking that first leap into an unknown pool. You really can’t prepare for what to expect. It might be cold, it could be uncomfortable at first, but you’ll either learn to swim or sink trying.
Thankfully, many people have jumped in before you.
1. Always get everything in writing
You’ve probably had someone close to you give you this very advice. Get everything in writing! Likely, this person learned this lesson the hard way after not doing so themselves. So heed their wise advice, and don’t screw yourself.
Many entrepreneurs can attest to this; once ideas start flowing, they usually come in tidal waves. This makes it easy to let your brilliant ideas details slip through the cracks. Do yourself a favour, and keep notes on your phone, laptop or some of that primitive paper stuff. Develop a system to make sure you don’t let your golden ideas become the victim of forgetfulness.
Once you’ve compiled all your rough ideas, you need to narrow these down to a core, bare-bones business concept. Try to keep this as simple as possible.
Take a couple of pages to answer these basic questions:
- In a sentence, what is my idea?
- Why is it a business?
- Who is my market?
- What pain points am I solving?
- How is it going to make money?
*Having the answers to these questions will come in handy, especially when it comes time to put together a business plan.
2. See what’s already out there
Your idea will probably go through stages of evolution. During your research, your idea may morph based on your findings. You’re going to want to be observant of the current ecosystem of your niche. So, get on Google and start doing some digging.
Keep these questions in the back of your mind while researching:
- Is there really a market for my idea?
- Would I buy my idea?
- Does my idea already exist? If so, how can I do it differently?
- What are my options to move forward? (funding, accelerators, incubators)
Once you’ve convinced yourself the idea is valid, bounce it off some other people.
3. Ask people you trust for advice
Sometimes you need to lose the ego and just ask. This doesn’t mean you should tell everyone you’ve ever met about it, but ask the opinions of people you trust. Family, friends, and fellow entrepreneurs are all good resources for honest opinions.
They’re not necessarily going to be experts, but they’re still potential customers who’ll need to be convinced to spend their money on your product. So, take notes and consider the feedback you receive.
“Don’t solicit feedback on your product, idea or your business just for validation purposes. You want to tell the people who can help move your idea forward, but if you’re just looking to your friend, co-worker, husband or wife for validation, be careful. It can stop a lot of multimillion-dollar ideas in their tracks in the beginning. “
-Sara Blakely, Founder of Spanx
However, be careful to idea validation from people who will be honest about it. Avoid asking “yes men (or women)”, who are just going to tell you what you want to hear. If you just want someone to pat you on the back, then your business isn’t likely going to be around very long. Listen to the people who are going to tell you what you need to hear and follow your gut when it trumps advice.
4. Don’t quit your day job just yet
Consider sleeping on the idea. Is this something you are truly passionate about? It’s easy to become blinded by the glamourous idea of working on a startup. In reality, this project is about to become something that takes up a lot of your time. It’s like having a baby. It needs to be nurtured, but when it’s something you love, you can take pride in the hard work it takes.
It’s also no secret that most startups fail. Tech startups carry about a 90% failure rate to be exact. This usually happens because the work vs. reward just isn’t worth it.
“Without passion, any rational person would give up” -Steve Jobs
There is also a huge misconception that early founders must drop everything and pursue their venture. You still have bills to pay, and unless your idea is so ground-breaking you won’t have investor options until you have a viable product. Take the advice of Kyle Racki, Founder of Proposify and just “stoke the fires on the side. ” Consider just working on your project during evenings and weekends until you have something close to an MVP (Minimum Viable Product.)
5. Start Planning!
So, you’ve weighed the pros and cons, the strengths and weaknesses and even the opportunities and obstacles… and you’ve decided to go for it. Congratulations!
What do you now? Well, it’s time to break out the phone, laptop or paper again. Now, the real grind begins. Your concept has taken a bit more shape, and you need a roadmap to guide you. Stay tuned for the next installment of The Founder Playbook for the next steps!
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Also published on Medium.