I’ve got a business idea — what do I do now?

Wouldn’t it be tragic if some of the answers to the world’s problems were sitting in people’s minds waiting to grow, but never do purely because the knowhow isn’t there to release them?

Not knowing how to do something is a relatively poor excuse in this day and age. After all, pretty much anyone can learn how to do pretty much anything on the internet.

Genuinely, pretty much anything!

But that doesn’t stop dedicating a large portion of your life to starting your own business from being an incredibly daunting prospect.

Luckily, we live in a world where it’s easy to find people willing to help — the barriers of location and time removed by the ease of remote working and online meetings. The real challenge is that with so many business ideas blossoming in minds across the world, how do you prove that you and your idea are worth your salt? You might not see yourself as an entrepreneur and need a mentor to set you on the right path, but how do you get that mentor when at the moment your idea is nothing but a twinkle in your eye?

Starting to feel nervous? Don’t — it’s not as difficult as it sounds. There are five things (yes, just five) that you should do before you try and convince anyone to invest, mentally or financially, in your business.

  1. Think carefully. Does it fulfil a need?

There are a several reasons your product could click with an audience.

It makes people’s lives:

  • easier
  • cheaper
  • less boring
  • more ethical
  • healthier
  • happier.

What would yours do? Focusing on the ‘why’ before anything else and getting this totally clear in your head will already give you the start of your business pitch. This also give you something to remind yourself of when things get tough — just doing it to make money won’t give you the motivation to keep going, but pushing on because you truly believe it could make a difference, that’s fighting talk!

2. Do some research. Is anyone else already doing what you’re planning?

Competitor analysis is a vital step to understand what you’re trying to achieve. Before you start asking people for feedback or getting to know your customer, search online using the keywords associated with your product or service. For example, if you’re launching a type of teething toy for babies, search those keywords and see what’s already on the market. Don’t immediately be put off by what your competitors are doing — there may be flaws or gaps in the competitor’s product that you know you could fill. We’ve been using mattresses for donkey’s years but that didn’t stop Casper entering the market place and ruffling some fine duck feathers.

When you tell people about your product they’re likely to say ‘Oh, that sounds like *blah blah*’, so you need to make sure you’re in a position to reply, ‘Similar, but better because of X, Y and Z’.

A competitor analysis doesn’t involve specialist skills, just time, dedication and perhaps a colour-coded spreadsheet.

3. Find your audience

You know the problem you think you can solve, but who exactly are you solving it for? This might be easy depending on your product — using our teething toy example again, the audience here is likely to be parents around a certain age. Who do you know who fits this persona? Go and have a chat, maybe ask them to share a survey with their friends about your product or post it to relevant online communities. You could create a one page website asking people to give you their email address to test if they’re interested in the product or set up Google alerts to know who is talking about this topic. The internet is chock-a-block with ideas on how to identify and reach your audience, so read up and get experimenting.

This might sound like a lot of work, but when you find someone you want to work with, ‘who is your target market?’ is one of the first questions they’ll ask. You may find that when you start putting out feelers about your product the people who respond and are keen to adopt aren’t the people you expected at all! Your customer directs not only your marketing but also your product development, so getting this research done early is a must if you want to be taken seriously.

4. Own your vision

At the beginning, your passion is going to be the biggest driving factor for your business. If you’ve done your research and you truly believe your business could work then you need to keep that final vision in sight. There will always be changes and pivots, so it might not end up totally identical to what you imagined, but being clear on your end goal is actually vital to your survival. It’s one of the most useful but irritating habits of the human race that when you tell someone about your idea they’ll tell you what you should do about it. If all your data is pointing you in a different direction to what you expected then sit up and pay attention, but if it’s just one customer or one nosy neighbour, remember that you won’t please everyone and that’s okay. Some customers or users won’t be right for your business but others will totally get your vision, and they’re worth holding out for.

5. Commit

Rome wasn’t built in a day and certainly not by one person but once they started building, boy did they build. If you want to be taken seriously, as a Roman or as an entrepreneur, you need to take it very seriously yourself.

Of course, not everyone can quit their jobs and put their own funds into a business, but if you want mentors and future collaborators to invest their time and money in you they’ll need to know that this is more than just a hobby. The phrase ‘blood, sweat and toil’ comes to mind but actually, and I can speak from experience here, when you really care about what you’re doing it genuinely doesn’t feel like work. You’re putting in the hours researching and planning because you’re positive that if the business grows and makes just one person’s life better, it will all be worth it.

Once you get to this stage, you’re then in a great place to think about the culture you want to encourage in your business. To know why we think sharing ownership is a great human motivator, have a read of Sharing ownership: when new ideas and old thinking collide.