You know you want to start your own business and be your own boss – great news. However, you don’t yet have the perfect business idea – panic not. Here is a method that I use with a variety of clients that helps them create a number of basic business ideas that can be polished and worked into a fantastic business proposition that is their very own.
The method has three basic steps:
1. Idea Generation
2. Confirm & Learn
3. Start Small, Grow Fast
Step 1: Idea Generation – This is about coming up with lots of ideas, writing them down and finding a common thread around which you can start to build an idea. Just remember your business idea doesn’t need to be unique, only the way you deliver it.
I’m a big believer is doing things you enjoy – that way you will put in the long hours and effort required to build your dream business and minimise the agony. Starting your own business really gives you the opportunity to do something you are passionate about.
So here some questions to ask yourself and scribble the answers down:
· What are you good at?
· What do you enjoy doing?
· What are you experienced at?
· What’s your passion in life?
· What have you always wanted to do?
· What are you hopeless at / really dislike doing?
Once you’ve done that you need to start looking for common threads and how existing skills and knowledge can compliment your potential business.
You may find that you are good at organising, love travel and are passionate about wine. Maybe in the back of your mind you’ve always wanted to be a travel agent. Your job so far has been in administration, but your really hate numbers and finance. So looking at this list a possible business idea might be around organising wine tasting tours for high-net-worth individuals. To address the issue with numbers and finance you might have to think about getting someone else involved either as a business partner or advisor.
Step 2: Confirm & Learn – Here we take the raw business idea and start to research its potential. As you start to learn more about the market of the business idea you can start to shape and develop the idea further as well as confirming if it is something that will appeal to you as a long term business.
- Look to see if there is a good market for this type of business – Google Trends and Google Traffic Estimator are excellent free tools for this research.
- Examine the competition and see how you could be better, different or cheaper. Also look to see how they differentiate themselves.
- Do some training or maybe get a basic qualification. This will expose you to the environment of the new market and you can quickly see if you enjoy it before investing further.
- Talk the idea over with some people you trust. However, you must bear in mind that, certainly in my experience, most people will be negative about taking the ‘risk’ of working for yourself.
- Get some experience doing some part-time or volunteer work in that sector
- Go on a highly informative and fun seminar / workshop to kick the idea around!
Step 3: Start Small, Grow Fast – This is about not being bankrupt within a year! You have found an appealing and desirable business idea. You now understand the market better and have gained knowledge and possibly some experience. So how do you put that into action?
I firmly believe you need to test the market for real in a small and part-time way. If this proves successful you can start to build the business and invest more time, effort and money as the business progresses. If your first attempt is not as successful as you wished a) you have learnt some useful lessons, b) adjust the formula and try again.
I would also suggest putting together a very brief ‘twitter’ business plan that lets you shape you business further. This consists of 6 simple headings – each no more than 140 words:
1. Describe your business
2. Describe the market potential and competitive landscape
3. Describe your ideal customer and why they would buy from you
4. Describe how you are going to market and attract your ideal customer
5. Projected earnings and costs for the next 12, 24 & 36 months
6. Goals for the next 12 months with associated actions
If you can sit down and write the above plan in an hour or so, you probably have a fairly well thought out business idea. If you struggle to do this I would suggest you need more time researching and shaping the idea.
Developing a business idea that is suited to you could be the best investment of time you will ever make. It is unlikely that your original idea will be the one that you are operating in two or three years time, but the original idea that gets you started will be worth more than your weight in gold.
Andy Davies is a highly experienced consultant who advises business on starting and growing their own businesses. He runs a series of seminars in the UK for small business owners helping them to start, develop and grow their own business.