Nov15

Entrepreneurial Endeavors

Beth Snider November 15, 2012 Categories // Fall 2012

Moving from idea to implementation

In a month, 3by400 receives at least three of four calls from people who have the "best idea for a new web site". About 1% of them really do have a great idea for a site. The rest, unfortunately, failed to Google their thought before running headlong to web site design. That 1% is worth the others...so how do you decide if your concept is truly a great new entrepreneurial idea?

Put Pen to Passion
Like any good idea, the first thing you should do is write it down. You don't have to come up with a clever name right now, nor do you need to worry about details. Just write down your ideas, then set your summary aside and look at it again next week, or at least tomorrow. Did you sleep last night? Does it still excite you? If so, you probably have an idea about which you can be passionate. If it becomes an actionable plan and grows to a business, you will need that passion to get you through the trying times.

newideas

Hobby or Business?
Some people are extremely passionate about their hobbies. I sing in a barbershop quartet, and although we do perform paid gigs sometimes, it is still a hobby...and I am very passionate about it. Just because you can earn some revenue doesn't necessarily make your idea business-worthy. A business will provide goods or services that can be purchased by a distributor, reseller, or consumer. Is there a market for your idea? Can you identify revenue streams and expenses? What would you have to do to generate enough revenue to provide support for you or make it a sustainable concern?

Unique or Better?
Your idea doesn't really have to be new and unique to be successful, but if someone else is already  executing your idea, they may have a competitive advantage due to an established market, proven processes, and a brand. If you can do it better, faster, or cheaper, though, you can still find success.

We have seen many successful ventures spawn from "re-application"--that is taking an idea from one market to a different one or focusing on a very niche market. For example, job boards have been available online for decades, but many companies have found success by focusing only on specific careers, such as healthcare as an audience, or veterans as a workforce pool.

This last example brings another potentially better approach--rather than focusing on the demand end of the economic equation, focus on the supply end, or vice versa. 

Google It
Now that you have had some time to carefully evaluate and qualify your idea, spend some significant time using Google to look for businesses that may offer your planned service or product. To facilitate this activity, make a list of words that describe your idea in several different ways, so that your searches can be complete. For example, if you have an idea to invent a "tomato slicer", you would want to search for "vegetable cutter" also...and you might want to add "Ronco®" to that list, too.

The other advantage of googling your idea is that you can glean new ideas and terminology along the way by viewing the sites from your search results. Even if you find that your original idea is not quite as original as you thought, this research may birth new angles that you haven't yet considered. Consider it part of your education.

Time consuming? Yes. Tedious? Maybe. Worth it? Absolutely!

unique idea

Pay the Piper
Unless you are a renaissance person, you will probably need help in some area of your idea to convert it to a working business. Make a list of all of the tasks and responsibilities required, both for daily operations and more long-term or strategic items. It helps to break these up into categories like daily, monthly, quarterly, annually, and as-needed.

Next, highlight the items that fall within your skills and talents--honest assessment is key. You may wish to make these selections yourself, then have someone who knows you well, such as a spouse, parent, or very good friend, give you an assessment of your ability in these areas, just to keep things real. They may also be able to uncover some items that you haven't highlighted that are still in your wheelhouse.

Take your list of "can do" items and place an "x" next to the items for which you may have the skills and talents, but may steal your joy in life. Finally, analyze the volume of activities by the timing category. If you would have to spend exhaustive hours on purely operational items, you should probably add more "x's" to your list!

Now that you have a list of responsibilities, as flawed as it may be due to unknowns such as the volume of business you may be handling, you have a place to start for finding the right kind of help. Many times, you may be able to perform all required tasks until the business yields sufficient activity to demand assistance, but only you can decide what price you are willing to pay to get that help.

Make Your Plan
Now that you have moved from the "Ive got a great idea" stage, develop a plan. You can use your original "ideas" document and your Google research as a starting point. Don't get so focused on details within your plan that you can never finish it. Here is a good outline of what you might want to include in your plan.

Even if you can't round out all of the outlined areas, you will need some documentation--frequently referred to as a business plan--to gain traction with others and, frankly, to remind yourself of your goals. Don't get caught up on that "business plan" name, though, unless you are expecting to approach investors. The goal is communicate what you intend to do and how you intend to do it.

Part of your plan should include timing. Having a timeline will motivate most people into action and helps you organize the priority of events associated with launching your plan, thus finding dependencies like drafting your requirements for a web site before you go about receiving quotes.

Protect Yourself
If you are going to discuss your idea with others, you should probably have a non-disclosure agreement handy. When signed beforehand, this instrument creates penalty for anyone who discusses your plan with others or tries to nab it for themselves. It also keeps things on a professional level and lets potential collaborators know you are serious about your idea.

If your idea includes something that you can patent, register for trademark, or copyright, and you are willing to make the investment, do so. Just know that you could be investing in something with no return at this juncture.

The Right Resouces
The advantage of bringing others into the mix early is that you will have the opportunity to collaborate. An attorney will likely uncover areas of risk that may not be evident to you; an excellent web developer will know how to automate tasks that can help you be more profitable; and a human resource professional can probably help you ensure that potential candidates are a good fit. The minute you begin to think that your idea can't be improved upon is probably the minute that you are setting yourself up for failure. Stick to what you know and surround yourself with others you can trust (and who have signed your non-disclosure agreement) who do the same.

We Want In!
If you find that you really DO have an idea that has legs, contact us! We have significant expertise in providing technology visioning and helping define requirements that can result in an efficient plan for moving your idea into reality. We live by the spirit of partnership with our clients.

Here's to your success!

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