Most entrepreneurs are big-thinking creative types, able to see the possibility of something that doesn’t exist yet. They are also quite enterprising, able to initiate action and put something new in motion. For them, ideas are exciting and quickly acted upon. And it can be excruciating for an entrepreneur to put a concept on hold, or worse, discard it all together.
If you’ve ever indulged those “wouldn’t it be cool if I…” business-ownership fantasies, you can probably relate. Yet, if entrepreneurs acted on every idea they had, they’d surely get nowhere fast. Starting and running a company is serious work that requires a laser focus—not to mention a huge amount of time, energy, and money. So while ideas are wonderful, it’s important that you invest your resources in the right one.
How do you know the right idea when you see it? Sure, it needs to solve a problem and compel someone to pay for the value they receive. But beyond these basic requirements, a viable business idea needs a little something more. Here’s how to know if yours is a keeper:
You know that feeling when you’re so excited that you can’t sit still? When you’re so jittery that you feel physically itchy? While running my business, there have been nights that I wished it could just be the next day already, so I could keep working without having to power down to sleep and rest. That’s how your business idea should make you feel—not all the time, granted, but at least in the early honeymoon stages.
Many people believe that there are no new ideas. While that might be a bit extreme, it is fair to say that no business is 100% different than everything else out there. But what matters is that your idea is different enough that people find it interesting and worth sharing.
Many entrepreneurs, for a variety of reasons, try with all their might to put down their great idea. Some even try to get others to act on it so they won’t have to. Often, they’re worried about the risk or investment, or think it’s not the best time to start a business. But what brings them back and compels them to move forward? The pain it causes them to think of the idea notcoming to fruition. So ask yourself, are you so love in with your idea that you have to make sure it happens, no matter what?
All businesses require some level of sacrifice. Whether it’s fewer social events, a tightened-up budget, or the loss of corporate perks, something’s got to give to make room for the enormous commitment that businesses take. So it’s important to consider what you would give up to bring your idea to life. If the list is relatively short, then you may want to move on. But if your idea starts to feel more valuable than other things you spend your time and money on, you may have a winner.
Not everyone has to love it, but your idea should at least be conversation-worthy. When you talk about your idea, do people understand what you are explaining? Do they seem interested and excited? Do they ask good questions and give relevant suggestions? Great business ideas are those that can be built upon and that garner intrigue (and investment!) from others. So consider it a good thing if people are responding to your idea with statements like “maybe you should,” “what if you,” or “have you ever thought of doing this?”
How does your idea stack up? If it’s a keeper, then get going! If not, don’t despair: It’s better to recognize that sooner rather than later. Put it aside so you can make room for the next stroke of genius to strike.
Think becoming a successful entrepreneur goes hand-in-hand with being a slave to your business? Adelaide Lancaster says no. Her column, running every other Tuesday, will help you think about whether starting a business might be right for you, and how to do it in a way that meets your needs.