How many successful businesses were founded by asking the question, “Wouldn’t it be great if…?”
Then again, how many businesses have failed because the idea was pretty cool, but the market wasn’t ready for it?
Or, the business plan wasn’t accurate?
There’s a big gap between your cool idea and making enough money to grow a real business out of it.
Your business might be red hot in the cultural zeitgeist but ice cold on delivery, and not in a good way.
(Oncoming craft beer bubble, anyone?)
Here’s how you can bridge that gap.
Does your idea address something missing and urgent?
Blogger Andrew Taggart observes, “A good startup idea answers the question: ‘What’s missing and urgently needed?’
It could be that there is nothing important missing in this quarter, so that idea would be no good.
Or–and this is crucial–something could be missing–pseudo-missing, as it were–but not be urgently needed.”
A business idea may in fact address an urgent need. It may also offer something that the local market is missing.
However, neither need nor offering will automatically ensure business success. Numerous other factors influence that outcome.
However, you’re on the right path if your business concept addresses one or both. Look at your competition and determine how your offering will be sufficiently different.
Is it something you know?
Your business is at a tremendous advantage if you are also its ideal customer.
That’s because your intuition will help you serve your customers and clients in a way that is most beneficial to them.
A great example is Todd Greene, an entrepreneur who developed the HeadBlade shaver for men with balding hairlines.
Build something you would actually use or enjoy and you automatically have two built-in advantages.
First, you know why it works and the experience it offers or the problem it solves. Secondly, you’ll be able to passionately, and genuinely, sell it.
This doesn’t mean you should be willing to venture into new territory.
It just means that by starting a business in a field you know you’ll be at an advantage over those who are entering from other backgrounds.
Think big, start small.
You’ve got this big idea, but how do you translate that into a product or service that realizes your ambition? Start small and test the waters.
This may mean building a prototype with a smaller test audience in mind, or, it may mean executing just one part of your larger idea.
Start-up investor and co-founder of business incubator Y Combinator Paul Graham suggests this example.
If you want to dominate microcomputer software first write a Basic interpreter for a machine with a few thousand users.
He says that you should start small for your own sake because the risks are lower and you can build on what you learn. This is applicable in any industry.
Put a Team Together.
Marc Nager, co-author of “Startup Weekend: How to Take a Company From Concept to Creation in 54 Hours” talks about how to make a concept a reality.
He says, “The first steps are finding a team and validating your idea. Without these two things, you just have dreamers…”.
He goes on to say that once you’ve assembled the best team you can start the longer road of building your business.
The right team can make or break a business project. Building and rebuilding your business team may take longer than 54 hours — but it is absolutely necessary.
Finding the right people is time well spent.
“The team involved can make the difference between a cool business idea that works and one that doesn’t,” says Brian Wiedemann, owner of George Bowers Grocery, a neighborhood café/beer garden.
It’s not a big secret.
Ideas are a dime a dozen. What matters is that you execute them, which is why you shouldn’t worry about keeping your idea a secret.
If you think you are onto “the next big thing,” it’s understandable that you might be overly protective of it, unwilling to share details, afraid that someone will steal your idea.
Don’t be. The more advice you can get, the better. And you’ll be surprised how many people will want to help, even for free.
“There are lots of benefits to talking to people,” start-up investor Chris Dixon points out. “You’ll get suggestions for improvements. You’ll discover flaws and hopefully correct them.
You’ll learn a lot more about the sector/industry. You’ll learn about competitive products that exist or are being built.”
There are many additional benefits. First, you’ll be able to gauge people’s excitement level for the product or service.
Is there excitement, or have you just saved yourself a lot of time and money by asking around first? Sharing your idea also gives you time to refine your sales pitch as you describe the concept.
Recently someone I knew wanted to get my opinion on a new business. But, he refused to email me about it. This was completely unproductive — and a bit silly.
Even if your idea is amazing there are genuinely just a handful of people around the planet who will take the time and effort to execute it.
Get over your fear of being “copied” — for inspiration, check out the site Betterific, which shares business ideas freely.
How can I be sure my great idea is going to work?
You can’t. But you’ll never know if you don’t try. Few, if any, business ideas actually survive market debut without changes and adjustments.
“If it’s a bad idea, you’ll know early enough and save yourself time and money,” says entrepreneur and startup advisor Amir Khella.
“You can then return to your daily job regretting nothing, and waiting for the next idea to hit you.”
You can at least increase your chances of survival and success if you seek out mentors and solicit feedback on your business plan.
Both of these strategies will get you out of your own head and can give you a broader perspective. Find a mentor for free online using MicroMentor.
Look for local business development agencies in your area, or seek feedback from entrepreneurial members of SCORE to get started.
You can never have too many smart minds mulling over your idea.
In summary, the only way to see if your cool business idea is “realistic” and will “work” is to get started.
Write your business plan, take the first small steps, and start pulling together the right people to move your vision forward.
Your business doesn’t need to be revolutionary to make a big difference for you and your community.
License: Creative Commons
Katie McCaskey is a small business owner and freelance writer for Vistaprint, offering customized products like branded business checks and
business cards to help small businesses extend their brand and connect with customers. Katie has covered marketing and entrepreneurial topics for over 10 years.
Her work has been featured in business and lifestyle publications, including Salon.