Many people want to start a business, but do not know exactly where to start, or what might be a good business to do. This article is meant to help guide you to think through starting a business in an organized and structured step-by-step way.
Keep in mind, some business ideas may work for some founding teams, or at a certain points in time, but may not work for other people or at other times. Success or failure depends highly on the skills, strengths, ambitions and abilities of the entrepreneur, in conjunction with overall timing and market conditions, and a number of other factors.
It is a good idea to first think about your personal and professional strengths. Are you an engineer who can build high quality technical products? Are you good at sales? Are you well-connected? Are you patient? Are you less patient than others? Are you a leader, or do you want to be one? Do you have a high moral and ethical I.Q? Whatever your strengths are, whenever you think about what kind of businesses are right for you, try to align your strengths so that you can give your venture the most competitive edge.
Conversely, try to minimize your weaknesses. For example, if you are not technical, do not rush into businesses that require a lot of technical aptitude and skills. That does not mean you should be discouraged. It just means you should think through it a bit more thoroughly. Additionally, many businesses require substantial upfront capital. If you are not wealthy, and are not able to raise high amounts of capital, those businesses may not be best for you.
The great news is that everyone has strengths, so everyone can find a niche where they can give their business a competitive advantage. If you play to your strengths, you can give yourself a much higher chance to ultimately succeed. We are cheering for you!
If you will be successful, you may end up doing this business for two, five, ten or maybe even more years. Think about what you want to do, and what would make you happy. Conversely, try not to get into business areas just for the money. If you do business in an industry where you do not want to be or have no interest in, you may not find yourself being fulfilled, nor find the strength to make it through the difficult stages throughout the life of the business.
This section is very important. Having considered what you want to do, and what your strengths are, your business is ultimately not completely for you. It is more for your clients and customers. Perhaps your business is much more for your customers than it is for you. Always think about your clients because without them no business can exist for long. Every business needs customers and your job is to find something you can do to make someone's life better. If you do, that person can become your customer. You can solve someone's problem, entertain them, teach them something, etc. You have to ultimately provide a great enough benefit to your customers so that they would be willing to pay you for your offering and/or come back to use it again.
Once you have thought through a product or service that plays to your strengths, and can benefit someone or something in the world, what is the next step?
The next step is to see if your idea can become a viable product or service, and then a company. After all, up to now, no matter how good of an idea it may be, it is still a concept and the next step is to gauge how to make it a reality.
There are varying schools of thought on this issue. Some people like to remain secretive about their ideas while others like to ask as many people as possible so that they can get more feedback.
The pros and cons are obvious. If you keep the idea a secret, you will get less feedback. Your only option to validate the product will be to put it out in the market (a relatively expensive step in terms of time and money). But you do gain the benefit of less people being able to steal your idea.
On the other hand, if you tell more people, you can get a broader range of opinions from which to learn, and refine how you think about your idea. Of course, someone whom you trust may like your idea so much that they may disregard ethics and go ahead and try to claim your ideas as theirs. The good news is that if you are eventually successful, there will be hundreds of people who will be stealing your ideas and competing directly against you because all your ideas and products will be available to the public, so competition is just natural and inescapable.
Once you have a good idea, and you talk to enough people about it, try to gain a sense of your complete business and product strategy. That means taking a bigger picture view. For example, you may have a good idea for a product, but it might be difficult to market that particular product as you might have conceptualized it. That is a big risk. On the other hand, it might be a good product that is easy to market, but there may not ultimately be much money in it. If there is plenty of money in it, there may very naturally be too much competition, and in case you are relatively new to entrepreneurship, being in a fiercely competitive business environment is not playing to your strength. The list goes on. You can also be missing by a few years by being too early or too late. The number of potential blind spots or pitfalls is very large. No one can predict every detail, but the greater and more detailed you mold your world view as it relates to your product, the more potential pitfalls you will be able to avoid. Your goal now should be to come up with a really winning and complete strategy.
Ultimately, there is only one way to win in business. You have to execute your idea as best as you possibly can. I sincerely wish you the best, and I hope this article helped to give you some guidelines for coming up with business ideas that are right for you. I'd love to eventually hear success stories so hurry up, go out, and become very successful so you can tell us about it!
There is always quite a bit of discussion and debate over the topic of protecting business ideas. Some people argue that you should keep it a secret while others insist that you should be free and open about it. The correct approach is likely somewhere in between the two extremes. If you are curious about this topic, take a look at our article about protecting business ideas.
One common issue many people face is having more than one idea and not knowing which of them to go after. Even worse, that indecision sometimes leads to one of the more common business idea mistakes, which is going after more than one idea at a time. Wanting to go after more than one project at a time is such a common issue that we have a whole article about it. To read more about it, please take a look at out article about multiple business ideas.
If you are not sure about your business idea, or are struggling with non-business issues, it might be worthwhile to consider some of the non-business issues that entrepreneurs often face. We have a full article about business psychology that addresses some common psychological issues faced by business owners.
One other aspect of business ideas to consider is how they evolve. If they just sit there without being worked on, they don't do anyone any good. But as soon as someone starts working on them, they begin to grow and evolve. For a fuller discussion on this subject, please take a look at our business idea evolution article.
There are many different possible business ideas. To add some structure for thinking about them, we suggest to first break them down into what can be referred to as innovative vs. commoditized ideas. For more on this topic, please take a look at our article about types of business ideas.
If you are trying to tell whether your idea is good and are trying to do market testing for your ideas, and are concerned about someone copying your ideas, we have a full article dedicated to the topic of protecting business ideas. Most of the time it is good practice to be more open with what you are planning to do for your business because it allows you to engage people in dialog. But, of course, how open you are about sharing your business ideas is entirely up to you and should be considered on a case by case basis. Here is another article with a checklist of items to help you determine if your business idea is good or not.
Article by Alex Genadinik