Ask any entrepreneur and they will tell you—building a business around the right idea is easily the toughest part of getting started. Will this idea sink or swim? Is it worth spending all of my precious time and resources? How will I know when I have the right idea? Am I leading my team into a plan that’s doomed to fail?
These are among the many questions that plague a founder’s mind when he or she considers taking the entrepreneurial plunge. So how will you know when you’ve caught your white whale and you are ready to move forward?
The truth is, only you can answer this question. But there are several ways to approach the idea to ensure you have a solid foundation:
1.) Change Your Perspective: See Problems as Opportunities
Too many businesses today flood the market with goods and services that customers simply don’t want to buy. If you plan to launch a successful business, be sure to avoid this trap. Yes, your idea may seem really cool and practical, but is there actually a sustainable market for this product?
People won’t buy something that doesn’t give them value in return. Your idea should somehow improve the lives of your target customers. The best way to do this is to find a common problem, or inconvenience, and try to solve it.
Never forget: there is always an opportunity hidden within a problem.
To see these diamonds in the rough, you must change your outlook on life. Don’t be a problem solver; instead, learn to become a solution creator. What’s the difference between these two? It’s essentially the way in which you view the world around you. Entrepreneurs approach life in a constructive, positive way. Don’t let little obstacles block your path to success.
2.) Scan Current Trends/Indicators and Imagine Beyond
We undoubtedly live in the fastest-paced society of all time. Disruptive companies were once few and far between. Now, great entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs are sprouting up all over the planet with truly exciting ideas. This tremendous growth is causing technology to change at a very rapid rate. If you’re going to compete in today’s arena, you’ll need to do your homework first.
Know the business landscape in and out—foresight is crucial to a startup’s success. Look to social, political, economic, and technological forces of change. You need to grasp a good understanding of where the market is heading in both the near term and the distant future. If you have narrowed down an industry that you might like to explore, be sure to track all of its competitors.
Keep on top of blogs, newspaper articles, websites, tradeshows, press releases, and any other information you can get your hands on. With the Internet’s infinite wisdom at your fingertips, you have no excuse to be uninformed. Nobody wants his or her idea to be swallowed up by a competitor from the get-go.
You can also find inspiration in today’s trends. For example, we can pretty much guarantee that big data is the next frontier; businesses will surely shift into a data-driven revolution during the upcoming years. You need to make sure your idea has some traction with a growing trend or you might face obsolescence.
3.) Don’t Reinvent the Wheel
High growth entrepreneurs find ways to bring real value to the world. They don’t dance around their product’s offerings or rebrand something that already exists. They do, however, take existing ideas or technologies and find innovative ways to use them.
Sometimes this can be so simple and obvious that it’s only a matter of time before somebody puts two and two together. Other times the idea might contain complexities that require the expertise of highly trained engineers.
Tip #1 still applies: start to think about the possibilities of using or combining things in a new, inventive way. If you shoot for the moon and aim to launch the next Amazon or Apple, make sure your idea is unique… And then figure out if anyone else in the world has beaten you to it.
4.) Follow Your Interests
Happiness is the greatest form of capital. If you are about to commit a huge chunk of your life to a project shrouded in uncertainty, choose to work on something that you actually enjoy!
You can count on the blood, sweat, and tears to be built-in components of the startup process—at least spare yourself any extra struggle by doing something that you genuinely want to do.
You have probably heard the old Confucius saying, “If you choose a job you love, you will never work a day in your life.” As an entrepreneur, you have the unique ability to actually choose that job you love. Through your hard work, you are in control of your own destiny. If you are passionate about your idea and personally invested in your mission, the rest will fall into place.
5.) Share Your Ideas with Others
This is perhaps the most important of these five tips, so take it to heart: when you think you have the right idea, it’s totally understandable that you will want to guard it. And you should! But you need to realize that you will never develop the idea to its fullest potential if you force NDA’s on everyone you meet.
Find trustworthy friends, family members, teachers, mentors, or fellow entrepreneurs who would be willing to sit down and listen. This dialogue helps you practice your pitch and also spot weaknesses in your original idea. Often times when you actually verbalize your brilliant idea, the business will seem less amazing than you once thought.
Encourage your listeners to poke holes in your plan and ask you tough questions. Ask for their opinion on whether or not it’s a product they would ever buy. These in depth conversations can lead to a very critical brainstorm. Who knows, maybe your idea will pivot to a whole new business. You won’t know until you share it.
Don’t forget that more opportunities always spawn from success. When you feel like you might be on to something, continue developing that idea.
Mike Darche is a 21-year-old business student at the University of Notre Dame whose mission to inspire other like-minded young entrepreneurs.
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