A Business Idea

Previous: What is an Entrepreneur?

Like most ideas in general, most business ideas aren’t worth acting on.

  • The marketing environment might not be ready for the product.
  • You may require much more money than you can gather.
  • Other people or groups may have a decisive competitive advantage against you.
  • The idea itself may be targeting the wrong culture.

Find a Vision

Since it will take time to build, take extra time to incubate your business idea.

  • Look toward smaller projects you can potentially scale, not grand ambitions.
  • If you enjoy entertaining the idea, even when you remove the possibility of becoming wealthy from it, you’ve likely found something you’re passionate about.

Don’t worry too much about making money.

  • If you’re willing to learn how, the right marketing angle can monetize most things.

Focus on where other people find value.

  • Direct attention to what brings value to others much more than simply what you love.
  • Examine how easy you can start into that market.

Your best entrepreneurial ideas will come from obsession over an unfulfilled need:

  1. Find something in society that everyone needs, but nobody is resolving sufficiently.
    • Things people don’t like or simply hate doing.
    • What people can’t do because they need specific information.
    • Things people don’t have the time or energy to do.
  2. Think of creative ways it can be resolved.
  3. Of all those solutions, consider what people would pay to fix their problem, or how much people would want to donate toward the cause.
  4. If you can find something people will pay for, make a business. If you’ve found something people will donate to a cause over, make a not-for-profit organization.

Get Feedback

Ask your friends and family what they think of the idea.

  • You need feedback as soon as possible to see if it’s a viable option.

Expect feedback from people you know to be biased:

  • Some people believe in you or want to stay your friend, meaning they’ll give more praise than criticism.
  • Others will be jealous or have their own agenda, meaning they’ll give criticism that isn’t helpful.
  • The best feedback comes from people who tell you what’s wrong, and why it’s wrong, and the theoretical way to get around it.

Finding a mentor can prevent the most common (and the most extreme) mistakes.

  • The most important wisdom from mentors is what not to do.
  • They’re typically the most qualified people to criticize what you’re doing, though they can sometimes be wrong.
  • Many of them know how other people in the industry think, though their own successes may have been so long ago that it was a different culture at the time.
  • If you desperately want that mentor, and they’re hesitant, offer them a minority share of the company.

Regularly network with others.

  • Try to find a wide variety of mentors, investors, consultants, vendors, entrepreneurs, and various professionals.
  • Most of the time, their specializations can round out your understanding of a concept or arrange for a new business arrangement.

Within the first 5 years, 90% of startups fail for the same predictable reasons:

  1. Not enough money to fund the business idea.
    • Typically, business ideas cost much more money to start than the entrepreneur originally expected.
    • The company might have a completely unprofitable model.
    • The company may grow too fast and implode on itself.
    • The not-for-profit organization isn’t able to raise enough funds to meet minimum objectives.
  2. Inadequate necessary skills to start or maintain the business.
    • People simply don’t need or want the product (42% of failures).
  3. The owner doesn’t have enough vision to see where the business is going.
    • The business owner may not have a sufficient social network to meet the business’ needs.
    • Most of the time, they won’t detect or act on trends within the industry that may disrupt their organization.

Keep learning and researching as much as possible.

  • As early as possible, develop habits toward constantly learning.
  • Look for free online courses, since they’re ubiquitous and broadly cover everything you’d need to know.
  • Find trade-specific whitepapers, since they usually give technical information that precisely describes what you’re looking for.
  • If a paid class clearly gives the answer to a specific entrepreneurial question, the class is often worth the money saved on what you didn’t spend on that mistake.
    • However, most broad entrepreneur advice is describing the precise luck that particular person had, and many of them share their stories for free.

Be careful with partnerships.

  • The primary benefit of a business partner is that they can help carry the load and share in the experience.
  • Everyone involved will work at differing levels, and on different things.
    • Unless the boundaries are clearly established in a contract, it’s very easy for a harder-working partner to grow resentful.
  • The partnership is for the purpose of making money, or for a shared cause, but is not permanent.
    • Everyone should have the freedom to back out of the arrangement anytime they want.
  • Choose partners carefully.
    • That person is gaining an intimate knowledge of how you work, and when they leave they’ll understand most of your organization’s design.
    • Establish yourself first and keep as much control of it, then seek out a partner when you want to start something later.

Distill the Idea

You must have an extremely precise vision of what you want.

  • You’re guaranteed to have the most passion about your business, and you’ll have to influence others to adopt that passion.
  • Until others start seeing results (which happens a long time after their input was necessary) they typically will be hard to convince.

If the idea is a bit hazy, change employment to an industry more related to your idea.

  • You’re essentially getting paid to get hands-on market research.
  • Look for roles that will give you plenty of free time and energy (typically from managerial incompetence).
  • Since the roles won’t expect much from you, expect a low-paying role.
  • If you can’t find a role in that industry, get one that gives time to think (e.g., truck driving) or lots of idle time, preferably in front of an internet-accessible computer (e.g., security guard).

Your vision must be driven by passion, but tethered to reality.

  • You’re trying to find what others need that everyone else has been overlooking.
  • Your primary competitive creative advantage is your prior experience.

Unless it’s an urgent business idea that’s relatively low-risk, either start freelancing or take more time to plan.

  • More planning means less work and misery later, especially if you find new risks.
  • Mind any time constraints, such as new technology that would change your business model.
  • However, you can never plan for everything, so don’t overthink it.

Sometimes, your idea will be a dud.

  • An ineffective plan is simply part of the creative process.
  • It may be a worthwhile business idea later, or could adapt to becoming a different idea altogether.

If the idea is something some people love, it’ll go much farther than something that many people will simply like.

Prepare to Act

You should be able to sacrifice almost everything for that vision.

  • For a long time, you will not have vacations or extra spending money.
  • At least at first, your friends and family will likely not support that vision.
  • You’ll have less time with family, friends, or recreation.
  • There will always be something you need to do: networking, busywork, or time-sensitive tasks.
  • If you’re aiming for a grandiose idea, you will need to sacrifice your entire life for that purpose.

Create an “us versus them” attitude about your new idea.

  • Competitors are antagonists you will have to (preferably) avoid, convert or subdue.
  • Your affiliates and business partners are (generally) on your side.

Expose your idea as soon as possible to public criticism.

  • Your idea is not special, and at least 40 people have had that idea (even if they didn’t act on it).
  • Exposing the idea to public criticism has a lead time before you see how people respond.
    • The faster you show the idea in action, the faster you’ll get feedback.

Once you’re ready, either start small by freelancing or craft a business plan.

Next: A Business Plan