It seems like everyone wants to be an entrepreneur these days. As a business mentor, I sometimes feel besieged by people begging for my view and support, of their latest idea. I like most ideas, but I have to tell them that the challenge is taking the inspiration from a dream to a business. All the evidence says that over 99% fail to make that leap.
A better question to ask, is about the quality of your plan to cash in on the idea. There are many resources available for that question. It is really a multistep process, with the first step getting you from an idea to a viable product, and the remaining steps creating a sustainable business.
As an example of a good resource, the book, “Idea To Invention,” by Patricia Nolan-Brown. Here is my interpretation of her realistic process for deciding and then actually taking your inspiration from an invention idea to a sustainable business:
- It all starts in your head (think it). Start with what you know. As you think, explore, and imagine the possibilities for new products, remember that it should have a broad opportunity. It should appeal to people who have money to buy, and needs grab people’s attention.
- Now get real (cook it). It is time to do some research. Find out, if something very similar is already selling, and who your competition would be if you continue. Ask some potential customers to see if there is real interest. Start thinking about price versus cost. Look hard at the technology for feasibility and risk.
- Keep thieves away (protect it). Limit your disclosures to people you trust. Learn the use of non-disclosure agreements (NDA). File at least a provisional patent and one or more trademarks. Be wary of scams.
- Make ‘em want it bad (pitch it). “Pitching” is the insider term, for presenting your product idea to people, who could conceivably buy it or fund your efforts. Start by developing an “elevator pitch” that you can deliver in 30 seconds to hook a potential investor. Attend trade shows and network to find the right players and pitch your product.
- Factor in the garage (make it). This is the point where you work on the specifics of being able to deliver your product or service. Relevant questions include the type of business entity (LLC or C-Corp), licensing or manufacturing, sales and marketing, and staffing. It’s also time to build prototypes to make the product come alive.
- Continuous improvement (replace it). Once you have a real product, and it begins to sell, rather quickly, you may think you can just sit back, relax, and collect your earnings. Remember that complacency kills. You always need to be thinking of the next product iteration, new territories, and new competitors.
Framing your idea is the first of at least six steps in making it a business. No one should judge business success potential, by the idea alone. I have heard the pitch for many million-dollar ideas, but I have not seen anyone pay that for one yet.
The common element in all these steps is, “You.” Investors learned this a long time ago. Most of them will tell you that they invest in people, not ideas. They safely assume that an entrepreneur with the right attributes will start with a great idea. They will spend their time honing and presenting a great plan to deliver, leading to a successful business.
You do not need the intelligence of a genius to cash in on your dream. You do not have to be born with special genes to be an entrepreneur. However, you do have to be passionate, positive, determined, and a problem solver to get it done. Talkers and dreaming without follow-through will fail. Are you ready to cash in on your inspiration, or are you comfortable in the other 99 percent?
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