Launch Your Dream Business
Alexandra Levit | Water Cooler Wisdom
August 12, 2010
Know you want to work for yourself but aren’t sure where to start?
This is the first post in a two part series on concrete steps you can take to make your entrepreneurial dreams a reality.
Sitting down with a pen and paper – either by yourself or with a creative group of friends or colleagues – is a terrific way to generate a working list of potential new business ideas.
Steven Gold, author of Entrepreneur’s Notebook, advocates the following five-step brainstorming process:
• Develop a set of initial criteria by listing specific resources, expertise, limitations, and goals.
• Pick a starting point – an industry, interest, or problem you want to solve. Create a list of ideas associated with that starting point, and then evaluate it according to your criteria, eliminating some ideas and focusing on others.
• Using your short list, write down as many problems associated with each item as you can think of. Rate the problems and create a new, prioritized list.
• Generate a list of solutions.
• Based on these solutions to the problems, come up with a list of potential business opportunities.
Note that good ideas will be ones that you are passionate about and motivated by, but not necessarily 100 percent original. In fact, some of the most successful new businesses take an already-established concept and make improvements to it, or simply target a new audience.
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Write Yourself a Reality Check
Many of us have fun business ideas that we enjoy sharing with friends over cocktails, but before you start pouring money and resources into yours, take the time to consider if the idea is truly viable. You will no doubt have eliminated some unrealistic propositions as part of the brainstorming process, but you should also perform a more in-depth cash-flow analysis to determine the exact resources that will be required. If, for instance, you find that your idea will cost millions of dollars, will involve something illegal, or will require a level of expertise that you can’t easily obtain, then you probably want to go back to the brainstorming phase.
Test Your Concept
The next step is to tap the market to see if customers will buy what you’re selling. Speak informally to key decision makers, read industry reports and publications, run focus groups, and sweep the Internet for news about potential competitors. The bottom line, says Gold, is to confirm with some degree of certainty that your proposed new venture can deliver the goods, effectively compete for new customers, and make a profit. You will need to design your product or service in a way that sets your business apart from the competition while also keeping costs under control.