It can happen anywhere. Lightning strikes while riding on an escalator, at a pub with friends, or while rock fishing. A great business idea can strike anytime, anywhere. The idea nags you more than a song stuck in your head, and a quick analysis of the idea says that it checks out—it’d make a fortune and you’re not sure if anyone’s ever come up with such a compelling solution as you have. That’s right, you’ve got a business idea! Now what?
The proposition may seem daunting, but in actuality, there’s a number of steps that newbie entrepreneurs can take to put their ideas into action. In this article, we’ll be discussing how to evaluate your business idea, your level of commitment and goals, and what you must do to take an idea and make it into a business. Ready? Read on.
Are You Ready To Pursue The Idea?
The first consideration you must take is assessing whether you’re ready to invest your time into pursuing a business idea. New ideas are exciting, but we must think rationally about any new business endeavor. Depending on how ambitious your idea may be, getting it a running start may take more effort than you’ve originally planned. Take inventory of your current workload and free time. Honestly ask yourself whether you’d be willing to commit to an idea for a length of time—would three months of your time be adequate? A year? Would the workload be enough to sink your spirits? Would you be comfortable with success?
If you think you’re ready, let’s take a look at some considerations to make to put our ideas into action.
As a side note, as much as running a business is hard work, but don’t rule out selling your business to other entrepreneurs if you wish to move on after a set period. Websites like Flippa (https://flippa.com/websites) specialize in selling up-and-running web domains to the public. If you know that you have a solid idea and only want to take it partially to fruition, then this goal might be adequate for your time-investment.
Determine What Problem You’re Solving
Look at your idea from an objective standpoint and determine what problems would be solved for consumers. What makes your idea novel to a consumer that would make them prefer your idea to others?
Taking a look at the competition, don’t be discouraged to find out that your solution isn’t 100% unique. You don’t necessarily need to reinvent the wheel. What makes a business unique is the way in which it offers solutions. If you notice a global service that ignores your local community, then you have a starting point. Conversely, if you notice a local competitor that hasn’t branched out beyond their local market, you have another starting point. Seize the opportunities that lie in the details—what can you provide that others don’t. Use an analysis of the competition, including pricing, product, clientele, etc., to your advantage and integrate those observations into your idea.
When you’ve thoroughly-researched the competition, try to convey to potential customers what your product or service will in a simple, clear sentence. For example:
- “Your one-stop resource for pub crawls in Melbourne”
- “Search and find the best bed-and-breakfasts on a budget”
Both ideas are unadorned and don’t bog the consumer down in details. By breaking down what your company’s intentions will be in the smallest components, your intent is now focused and your customers won’t be confused. Keep this in mind as the essence of which you’ll base your business around. Refer to it often as you refine your business idea, which leads us to…
Getting the Details Sorted Out
Ideas seldom arrive in a fully conceived package. Brainstorm your one-sentence idea from the last section and write down your findings. Explore every tangent possible—this process is invaluable down the road when you look to expand your idea beyond your initial idea. After you feel creatively “spent”, make a concise summary of your business concept. It doesn’t need to be organised like a full-fledged business plan; however, make it a single-paged document that would convey to the reader, unfamiliar with your business, the who, the what, the why, the when, and the how of your business idea. In reference to one of our previous examples, here’s a hypothetical start to our one-page document:
- What: I am starting an online resource for pub crawls to attract tourists and local groups, using the website as an opportunity for advertising. Eventually, I wish to link charge pub crawl groups a fee for a streamlined method of contacting participating local businesses, available as a business-to-business app for smartphones/tablets/etc.
- Why: After a quick analysis of the market, I’ve realised the competition online is non-existent. During conversations of several business owners, they all expressed a strong desire to attract tourists while bemoaning a lack of a streamlined method online.
- Who: Myself, including outsourced employees on Upwork.com and part-time labour from local university students.
- When: In three months time, I hope to have a website up and running, as well as get local businesses in Melbourne on board. This timeline is adjustable based on user feedback and popularity.
- How: By investing $300 in labour, marketing, and bootstrapping the rest for approximately 15 hours a week, I plan to begin testing the feasibility of this idea.
Of course, there’s online resources that make this task easy by providing templates and input fields to organise your idea. Plan Cruncher (http://www.plancruncher.com/cruncher/1) and Business Model Fiddle (www.bmfiddle.com) are among the multitudes available on the internet that can refine your idea into a presentable state.
Getting It Off the Ground
Once your ideas are organized into a document that you can refer to, it’s time to trim your business down to its most core features. Save the “additional” ideas for the future, and bring immediate momentum to your idea by determining what your “minimum viable product,” or the most basic and early version of the product will be. If you’re interested in the finer points of minimum viable product, click here, but simply put, you’re making a basic version of your product or service and seeing whether it generates consumer interest. The advantage to this approach versus setting up a full-fledged business with all the bells and whistles is that you’re able to save time, effort, and money, seeing the results of your idea in action. If your minimum viable product doesn’t gain traction amongst the marketplace after a trial period, then you can either go back and refine your idea, or you can abandon it. If your product or service is successful, then you can add more features that add value to your winning idea.
It’s the 21st Century—Get a Website
In this modern age, if you don’t have a website, your business may as well not exist. An attractive but simple website with some basic marketing can be very simple to construct. With resources like WordPress and Tumblr, among many others, you don’t have to write a single line of code to have a professional-looking website. Using online templates, you can simply add the details of your business and voila, your business has thrown its hat into the marketplace. If you’re interested in the finer aspects of building a website for your website, click here for our article.
Once your website is up and running, let’s take a look at ways that we can attract customers via marketing.
Market Your Idea
Once you have your website, congratulate yourself. Your business is officially established. Now, the next phase is that we must garner the attention of the marketplace. As scary as the word may be, “marketing” is nothing to be feared. Quite simply, marketing can be defined as methods you use to bring customers to your business. What makes it intimidating for any business owner is the multitudes of ways in which you can market your business idea.
One way that is not only free but also easy-to-use is to implement social media to create an organic online presence to enhance your business. Websites like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and the like aren’t just for staying social and making friends; they can be supplemental to your marketing strategy to drive traffic to your website, and thus towards your business. While defining the exact methods is out of the scope of this article, if you’re interested in learning more, be sure to check out our articles:
- Using Instagram for Entrepreneurs
- Defining Your Target Market
- Why Every Business Needs Inbound Marketing
The Sky is the Limit
From this point on, you’ll see that the path your business is on is open-ended. Your business can run as long as you wish, but you should make some clearly defined goals to keep in mind:
- Set a time frame for the trial run of your minimum viable product. There are no hard and fast rules of this, as some businesses take time to develop while others will never gain traction. Timing is crucial, as a Christmas-oriented business won’t flourish in the summer months, nor would a hiking business during monsoon season be feasible.
- While it may be hard to initially defined goals from the outset, make a list of realistic milestones: how many visitors would you like to visit your site? How much money would be an acceptable rate versus hours invested? Keep track of how many hours you’re working—is it better than working for an employer? If you’ve managed to reach an acceptable number, you know you are on the right track.
Running a business is a never-finished endeavor. Sometimes, entrepreneurs must adjust their course slightly and steer their ship in a different direction. Don’t be too self-critical—most business owners don’t get it right the first time. Be flexible, and remember, taking the first step to bringing your business to fruition is better than never exploring the potential of your ideas.