You ever had that feeling that you had the next big business idea floating around in your head? Or perhaps an idea you think would be lucrative if only someone would execute it? Well someone is you! I’m here to help you look at 5 steps to bring your business idea to life. While businesses and ideas vary in many ways this list is made to fit all business ideas as it looks at the general actions.
Write it down
I’ve spoken to a lot of people who have great business ideas and want help working on them. Asking for a written plan is where we separate the wheat from the chaff. Many make up excuses for not writing it down. You get the “it’s all in my head” comments. That’s all well and good but if you can’t commit to writing it, how can you commit to execution?
Primarily you are writing this for yourself so do not feel the need to create a 270 page document from the start. You need to think in iterative terms. Write down what you have now then as you go through the rest of the list you will learn new information or correct misconceptions you had and make appropriate changes to this.
Primarily your initial document should answer two important questions. The answers to these questions will be the most important information your business possesses.
• What problem do you solve?
• Are people willing to pay for it?
As I mentioned earlier going through the other steps will give you new information and insights into your product and market. This step is where the real work begins but certainly not where it ends as you will see later. Research on suppliers, partners, customers, trends and product knowledge. The purpose of this research phase is to ultimately find your early customer and be ready for them.
In this process the output can be split into answers to two questions. The questions in step 1 will give you the most important information to your business. The two questions you will ask herein will give you the most important information to your customers.
• What have your customers been doing to solve the problem?
• How do you make things better for them?
Find customer number one
The customer is the business. I could stop right there and be done with this step. I’ve heard and been part of many stories where a business idea was launched but when it arrived to market the market had other ideas. There’s a story of a man who migrated to America in the days of the gold rush. He had a very strong material and he proposed to sell aprons made of the material to gold planners there. The idea was great and sure fire winner. Until he moved from gold planner to gold planner getting rejected at each one. Determined the man soldiered on until he came across one prospector who said if he could make trousers out of the material he would interested in those. Legend has it the man selling the aprons was Levi Strauss and that was the birth of denim jeans.
The goal here is to understand how you will approach your early adopters. What is the best part of your business? What is the best application of your product? Are there other uses you hadn’t thought of? Perhaps there are complimentary products that are used in conjunction with your product? All these insights will give you an upper hand when approaching the greater market out there.
Learn from early adopters
You learned well from customer number one and now you have a group of early adopters as you go into the mass market. In many cases the first customer comes from within your circle. Moving into the mass market means reaching out to people who don’t know you.
Your early adopters are therefore vital to your business understanding the market. Why would they buy the product? Why would they buy from you? On that, businesses have started with people being encouraged by people they had provided a service to for free as a favour. You may have noticed I didn’t say find paying customer number one. Chances are you already have customer number one or perhaps a group of early adopters, you just need to ask them a few questions and understand. What you’re looking for here is an understanding of the considerations they must make in the decision process. I mentioned iteration before and it’s still with us.
With step one to four down you are ready to put the pedal to metal. It’s time to scale your business. This is not always easy or possible to be frank but this is where investment comes in.
The primary investment here is your time. Earlier ok I spoke about the things you need to research in step two. A business is more than creating a product or selling it. Depending on the nature of your products you may need to connect with suppliers, delivery partners (whether goods or services), industry associations, consumer groups, stakeholders and so much more. The success of your business depends on your relationships with these key groups and relationships. Some might be thinking this is a preserve of big, unique product businesses but stop and think for a second; if you simply bought a product for resale that’s not unique the customer still has reason to buy from you that may not be product related.
The next thing you will need to invest is money. A business is more than an idea; infrastructure helps make it a success. By infrastructure I mean something as simple as a WhatsApp business line or a social media point of presence. While these platforms are free accessing them is not. There’s many other things that come into play here branding (where applicable) is another. Creating a business that works requires good infrastructure. Good infrastructure requires investment.
The five can be but have not always been followed in order and there’s no reason you absolutely should. You can’t ask a paying customer to come back when you are ready. Always bear in mind the importance of iteration, you will gain knowledge through experience and gradually improve your idea. It’s rare if not impossible to have the best version of your idea the first time out. Continuous learning means continuous improvement.