So you have a brilliant business idea that will be very successful. Now what?
Bad news: You don’t actually own that idea. You you can’t sell it. It has no value as just an idea.
Good news: You can build a business with it. If there’s really nothing like it out there, then you might still be the first. All it takes is work, time, and – probably – money.
Here’s how to stop patting yourself on the back and get to work.
1. Gather a team
First ask yourself whether you can just do it, by yourself, without needing anything but your own time, effort, and money. That happens a lot. It doesn’t get as much free press as the big entrepreneurial successes, but it happens every time a consultant, bookkeeper, graphic designer, or freelance writer gets started on his or her own. If you can do that yourself, without help, then I applaud you. Go for it. Forget investors; just do it. You don’t need them.
If you can’t do it alone, then you need a team. Your next step in that case is to gather some people to join you. Look for people different from you, with skills and experience you need, but don’t have. If you can’t do that, for whatever reason, then give up your idea. It’s not going to happen under your watch. Other people have solved that problem, millions of times.
If you can’t afford to pay people to join you, you’re not alone. That’s another common problem that millions of others have solved. You and your idea have to convince other people to join you, work with you, risking their time to participate in the building of something they believe in. You and they do the work for free to invest in your shared future.
And if you can’t pay people and can’t get them to work for free, but you still need people, then get a clue. Your idea has a fatal flaw. Brilliant or not, you can’t execute. Focus it down to something you can actually do, or give up. You’re in good company. Most ideas seem brilliant until they hit execution.
2. Research the Market
After you have developed your core business idea, some market research is in order. What other players occupy the space you want to pursue? How will your offering be similar or different? And where will your customers come from?
In the research process, be sure to focus on more than the success stories. Is there a similar business you can look to that didn’t find success? Ask yourself what you will do differently.
Further, try and identify potential partners during this process. If you are launching a pet foods product, for instance, what sort of retail locations will you want to align yourself with? The same is true for service businesses. Is there a company out there that might value your service as an add-on? Partnerships will be valuable as you try and grow your business.
During this process, you may learn things that will cause you to reshape or reconsider your original idea, which is important during the planning phase. Is there a niche market you can target? Is the market crowded with players with little differentiation? What competitive advantage can you develop?
3. Do a Test Run
Before you fully commit to whatever your idea is, you’ll want to put together a prototype to make sure the concept is viable. This is true whether your idea is a new app or a bakery. If it’s tech, be sure you’re able to build the item or write the code to make it work. If it’s cookies, be sure you have a recipe you can mass produce.
The prototype does not have to be perfect (in fact, it’s often called an MVP or minimum viable product for this reason), but it does have to be close enough to the real thing that it can demonstrate to you and to those you share it with for input that your great idea is one that can realistically be the seed used to grow a bigger business.
4. Protect your Idea
“Protecting the sophistication of your business is key, especially when you may want to raise investment at a later date,” said Pirie – and a good place to start is the Intellectual Property Office.
Lovegrove recommended registering all trademarks and information such as internet domain names, as soon as possible. Applying for patents is a bigger task and should be looked at carefully, he said. “A good IP lawyer should be able to give you a quick appraisal and advice on what is best for you without a large outlay of cash and time.”
However, a word of caution came from Duffy: “I’ve seen many entrepreneurs who stop dead in their tracks and don’t even get to the valuation stage because they are just too busy filling out patent forms and the like.” Make sure you have a business first and something that’s valuable – don’t spend any money if you don’t have a business yet, he added.