Passion and execution
Have you ever had a killer idea for a product or service and then thought, “Now what?” Maybe you have a great business concept, but you don’t know where to start. Bringing an idea to life isn’t easy. It requires passion, patience, and, most importantly, the ability to execute. The key thing is to get started, so you can move from the idea stage to creating a profitable business. Here are some fundamental steps to help you transform that ingenious business idea into reality.
Solve a problem
One of the first questions to ask yourself is whether your business idea solves a problem (for you or someone else). Some of the most successful businesses originate this way. Take Netflix, for example. Hastings needed to solve the problem of convenience of entertainment. He transformed his business from DVD renting to streaming to content production all with the motive of providing affordable entertainment at the comfort of your hands.
Another example is Lindsay Cook, founder of FitOn, an app that is redefining digital fitness. While working as a busy vice president, she had an epiphany, “As a busy working mom, I realized that making it to my favorite studio classes had become seemingly impossible. When I searched online for more accessible and practical workouts, I was disappointed in the quality and lack of motivation that existed. Hence the inspiration behind FitOn.”
Research the market
Your product or service won’t get off the ground if there isn’t a viable market for it. Does your product cater to a broad enough audience? You will need enough of a customer base to make it worthwhile. Also, review the competition. How is your product different and better? How are they marketing themselves? What channels are they using to sell their products? These are all insights that can help you craft a more robust business plan as time goes on.
Define your target audience
To build a solid foundation for your business, you need to understand who your target audience is. The reason for this is fairly obvious. You can’t (and shouldn’t) try to sell your product or service to everyone under the sun. Different groups of people have different challenges and pain points. You’ll want to identify an audience that is the sweet spot for your product. When defining your ideal customer, consider things like demographics and psychographics. This approach allows you to focus your marketing spend on a specific market that is more likely to buy from you than others. Once you know who you are targeting, it will be much easier to determine which channels you should use to reach them and what marketing messages will resonate with them. The critical thing to keep in mind is that “everybody” is not a demographic. You can start broad but become increasingly granular as you progress.
Validate your idea
Avoid going from a brilliant business idea straight to a full-fledged product. By taking a few extra steps, you could potentially save yourself thousands of dollars (or much more) in the long run. Entrepreneurs—especially those seeking investors—can give themselves an edge by creating a product prototype. Whether you’re considering developing a skincare cream or baked goods, a prototype is a functional version of your product that you can present to potential customers. An excellent way to introduce a prototype to your target audience is by conducting focus groups. Focus groups allow you to validate your idea and receive input before going full steam. By asking the right questions, you’ll be able to use that valuable feedback to make adjustments and ultimately build a superior product. While perfection isn’t the goal, this process will get you closer to a product or service that can stand the test of time.
Craft a realistic, futuristic and flexible business plan.
Whether you’re starting a new business or exploring ways to expand an existing one, a business plan is an important tool to help guide your decisions. Think of it as a roadmap to success, providing greater clarity on all aspects of your business, from marketing and finance to operations and product/service details.
While some owners may be tempted to jump directly into startup mode, writing a business plan is a crucial first step for budding entrepreneurs to check the viability of a business before investing too much time or money. The purpose of a business plan is to help articulate a strategy for starting your business. It also provides insight on steps to be taken, resources required for achieving your business goals and a timeline of anticipated results.
For existing businesses, a business plan should be updated annually as a way to guide growth and navigate the expansion into new markets. Your plan should include explicit objectives for hiring new employees, market analysis, financial projections, and potential investors. The objectives should indicate how they’ll help your business prosper and grow.
While many people have great business ideas, a small percentage of those actually follow through on them. Don’t let perfectionism or fear get in the way. By being methodical and taking small steps, you’ll be able to maintain momentum and set yourself up for success. Celebrate critical milestones along the way. Be flexible and nimble. Focus on continuously improving your product or service. And most importantly, believe in yourself. Vusi Thembekwayo, a global business speaker and investor offers this advice: “You have to have a senseless belief in your idea and yourself—almost to the point of being delusional. Remember that everyone has advice, but no one knows what you have to go through to start, grow and scale a business until they live it. Talk is cheap, but action speaks volumes.”
ELIUD M. LUUTSA,
FINANCIAL ANALYSIS AND RESEARCH ASSOCIATE,
CENTAFRIQUE CONSULTING LTD.