Every business begins with a single idea. The hard work, perseverance, and risk needed to transform an idea into a successful business can feel intimidating, even for seasoned professionals and entrepreneurs. Transforming an idea into a tangible money-maker is certainly not for the faint of heart. Most potential entrepreneurs give up on ideas before vetting them in the simplest ways, according to a survey of 30,000 Americans done by researchers at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business.
The study found that one-third of respondents reported having a business idea in the past five years, but less than half of them even got to the point of pitching the idea to friends or conducting research of similar businesses. All findings combined, the survey is indicative of a need for a tangible process to help entrepreneurs–specifically in the early vetting stages of the business idea process–foster more success.
“We need to put together a more structured process and help people understand the steps so they’re not lost in the ambiguity of what to do next,” Professor Victor Bennett, one of the survey researchers at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, said in a recent article.
Do you have a new and exciting idea you’d like to initiate and make a reality? The following six steps can help jumpstart your next business idea.
1. Clarify what you want to accomplish
An idea can feel larger than life when it solely exists in your head. It’s also difficult to think it all the way through and make it into a reality if it’s not fully explored. Take pen to paper and flush it out, have an open dialogue with someone you trust and talk it through, or check out a Design Thinking Workshop to explore every angle of your objective. The clearer and more precise you can be about what you want to do and why, the better you will be able to address the “how” to make it happen. Clarifying what you want to accomplish in fine detail from the start will set a solid foundation for a smooth and prosperous idea evolution.
2. Identify your market
Defining the “who” is an essential component to successfully forming and carrying out your idea. It is imperative to thoroughly understand your target market. Once its identified, ask yourself, “How can my idea solve a problem that my target market has? How do I serve or cater to them? Where and how will they use my product or service?” Ultimately, in exploring your potential niche, you will identify if your idea is worthwhile for your target market–do enough people need or desire your idea to make it worthwhile?
3. Test before you invest
Whether your idea is an app, website, product, or service, create and test a prototype before you dive into production. Doing so can give you valuable information about the direction and longevity of your idea. Testing before fully investing can also save you a substantial amount of money if the product or service doesn’t end up going well, or as originally planned. This stage is a prime low-risk opportunity to receive people’s feedback and make necessary changes to then put the polished product on the market.
4. Create a plan for networking or help needed
Will you need outside funding to bring your idea to fruition? Make a list of potential people who could help you. Research business events where you could pitch your idea. Will you need partners? What qualities does a potential partner need to have to support your strengths, your idea, and your success? Make another list of these desired qualities. Identify any gaps that may exist in your plan— holes or obstacles that stand in the way of achieving your idea. What business peers can you bounce ideas off of to help pin-point what all you need? Find an answer to all unanswered questions you may still have.
5. Build and execute milestone dates and metrics
Having a structured plan to gauge your progress will hold you accountable to work out and progress your idea and build momentum. First, identify a reasonable date to launch your business. Then, work backward from that date with incremental tasks and milestones to achieve them by; think: smaller steps and more milestones. This also ensures that all of your boxes are checked before launch day. For example, intricacies such as: a company name and logo, social media presence and website, intellectual property, appointed key executives, prototypes made, etc. Creating and sticking to a thorough plan will help guide you to achievement.
6. Stay focused only on essential tasks
Starting a successful business requires too much energy and attention to allow for any dilution and distraction. Time is precious and sensitive, especially at the beginning of a business launch. It is crucial to make an early impact on the market while simultaneously attracting more customers and opposing competition. There is little room left, then, for losing focus. Continuous forward momentum at this stage is imperative to success and durability. What tasks, small or large, can you achieve every single day to get you to your goals? Keep moving!
Douglas Ferguson is an entrepreneur and human-centered technologist with over 20 years of experience. He is president of Voltage Control, an Austin-based workshop agency that specializes in Design Sprints and innovation workshops.