One of the biggest struggles I had in starting my business was actually coming up with the idea. I wanted something that was scalable as well as needed in our society. I combed through hundreds of ideas before settling on my current venture. Through this discovery period, I uncovered what I believe are the five most important concepts in determining what makes the perfect business idea.
So, what is a perfect idea? Each individual entrepreneur has their concept of the perfect business. While Google is a great business for the founders of that company - it may not be a great business for others that are non-tech savvy or who do not want to run such a large organization.
Therefore, each perfect business is defined by the business owners. Keeping this in mind, let's start on my five concepts of finding the perfect business:
Number One - Understanding your customer
This might seem strange to start here as how do you know your customers before you have a business idea in place. The answer is simple - your customers make the business, therefore without customers there is no business. If you have a business idea don't try to develop the idea around what YOU think potential customers will like or need, but find out what your customers actually desire. Too often business owners get an idea in their head and jump right in with both feet. However, they soon find out that their target market does not want what they are offering. Spending both time and money on a project just to see it languish is not the perfect business idea.
Moreover, let's say you don't already have an idea - getting out and understand consumers (those who will eventually become your customers) may lead you to the perfect idea. Knowing what potential consumers need and building products to meets those needs will get customers beating a path to your door - that is a perfect business idea.
Number Two - Passion
Passion here does not mean being fanatical about your product or service. But, it does mean having some interest in what you do. More times than not, you will be spending 15 to 18 hours a day working on your business in the beginning - usually for the first 12 to 18 months (more like 2 years in this economy). You have to constantly be thinking about ways to improve and grow your business as well as be out talking about it to everyone, everywhere. If you end up starting a venture that you don't have passion for, something that does not make you jump out of bed each morning, it will be very hard to put in the hours and energy to make it successful - thus not a perfect business idea.
Number Three - Understand Your Competition
Every business has competition - either direct or indirect. Think about movie theaters. They have direct competition from video rental stores or at home television. They also have indirect competition from any other activity that consumers spend their disposable income on like bowling, paint ball, golf, etc. Anything that people do in their spare time.
Further, some competitors are ruthless. Meaning that if you promote and offer a product that is similar to theirs but at a lower price, these competitors will just lower their price to match or beat you. If they are already established businesses - they may be able to undercut your price enough to drive you out of business.
If you don't know your competition - what they are willing to do to keep you out of their market - you may be spending more of your time in a pricing war then growing your business - not the perfect business idea.
Number Four - Cash Flow
Lots of entrepreneurs enter the business world with great ideas but very poor understanding of the capital it will take to get their venture off the ground. Most will prototype their product or service and understand what it takes to make the product or provide the service but they don't understand the capital it takes to manage the rest of the organization - including marketing (very expensive but extremely necessary), employees (more than just salaries or wages), insurance or supplies and all the little miscellaneous expenses that add up very quickly like phone, internet, computer services, etc. Knowing your total cash flow will help ensure that all of your costs (variable and fixed) can be covered by the business - the perfect business idea. I have seen way too many businesses with great products fail because they could not cover simple expenses like rent or utilities.
Number Five - You
Know who you are. Know your strengths and weaknesses. Know that you are ready, willing and able to do what it takes to make your venture a success. I have worked with many business owners in the past that think all they have to do is hang out their shingle and they have it made. Thus, when it comes down to actually running the business day-to-day - they are unwilling to invest the time, energy or money necessary for success. Thus, know how hard you are willing to work.
Moreover, know your personal financial situation and what you need the business to generate to cover your lifestyle. If you think your business will pay you a great salary from day one - it will not. And, if you need it to, it is not the perfect business idea for you. Take away outside distractions like your personal financial situation - get those in order - thus, when your business concept does materialize - you will be able to solely focus on its conception and growth. In the end providing you the financial security you are seeking - it will be the perfect business idea.
Regardless of the level of your desire for your business - a lifestyle mom and pop operation or a multi-national conglomerate - if you develop a business idea with these five concepts in mind - your idea will be the perfect business idea for you.
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