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The world can always use more great ideas that foster changes and improve lives. But, what would be even better is if those ideas were turned into profitable businesses that provided a product or service for the benefit of others while helping the founder realize his or her dream.
To do so requires knowing the steps to take from the idea to the business launch. Here are seven steps that have been used by many successful entrepreneurs to do just that:
Identify demand and assess business viability
You can have the greatest business idea in the world, but if it doesn’t resonate with a sustainable customer base, then it’s not going to be profitable. It’s critical to start with determining the impact that a business idea can have on a market in terms of creating demand and disrupting what is already offered.
This step includes research related to environmental factors like the economy, legal requirements, social acceptance and mindset, political mood, and the competitive landscape. You can choose to conduct your own, refer to existing data, and/or consult with a mentor who can guide your study of the marketplace opportunities and challenges.
Talk to your audience and get their input
Use a small amount of money to test the business idea with who you see as your target audience. You can do this many ways. For example, you could buy a domain name, set up a landing page and conduct a small online ad campaign to see what type of interest it generates.
Additionally, you could approach certain audience segments and ask them to participate in an online survey or focus group. In both cases, audience feedback can further shape your business idea into a certain product or service based on the features and needs they share.
One caveat, however, is to not use this step as a validation of what you have; instead, ask them what should change about your idea, as well as what doesn’t work and why. Often, entrepreneurs misinterpret this step by thinking it’s where their egos are padded when, in reality, it should be the phase where everything is questioned until there are no questions that the business idea is viable. By doing so, the critique you receive from target audience members may evolve your original concept into something that is even better.
This is also a step that you may return to throughout the business development process. Look at it as a recurring testing phase that can be the touchstone for any signs that changes are necessary along the way. Fixing as many of those aspects before the business launch improves the likelihood that profitability will occur sooner.
Map the journey from idea to business
Once you have decided on what your business idea looks like as a product or service, the next step is critical because it provides the roadmap you’ll use to develop and launch a viable company.
This map includes a strategic roadmap that defines the structure, business model, timeline and tasks for everyone involved. There is also a formal business plan document that is essential for the next few steps in the business development process. During this journey, you’ll need to plan for registering your business, selecting a tax structure and obtaining any necessary licenses and permits.
In mapping and planning for the journey, it helps to create short-term and long-term goals within a timeline structure to keep you on schedule. This is where technology is sure to help, such as a calendar app that helps you effectively manage your time on a daily, weekly and monthly basis.
Compile funding and spend thoughtfully
Money is a must when it comes to creating and launching a business. While the adage is “you have to spend money to make money” does hold true in certain instances, it doesn’t mean you have to spend a lot of it to achieve success.
Instead, the better approach is to figure out how to fund the business with the least amount of money possible. If you can bootstrap with your own savings or other income streams, even better. That way, you won’t start out with debt to repay or be surrounded by investors who are pressuring you for their return.
By maintaining a lean budget through trading supplies, sharing equipment and offering in-kind payment for services, you won’t feel like rushing the launch before you are truly ready merely to start making money. Also, keeping more money in the bank helps address setbacks or the unexpected that might otherwise hit your fledgling business to the point of shutdown.
Instead, you can take more time to ensure everything is right, which most likely will increase your audience interest, sales volume and profitability potential. Plus, you’ll have a sustainable cash flow that carries the business through the ups and downs of development.
Build a talented team
It takes a village to transform an idea on paper into a live, fully-functional business. While the initial few months of developing the company may be possible to do solo, as more work is necessary to build-out the business, you’ll need talented individuals to handle certain tasks.
Look for talent that may still be in college or those working as freelancers. The temporary assistance is ideal for the limited amount of money and projects you have available. However, if the business continues to develop, this talent may become your first employees if you both agree it’s a good fit.
Prepare for launch
This is where you take what’s in the business plan and strategic roadmap and make it happen. That means selling what you said you’ll sell based on the production processes you’ve developed, the relationships you’ve formed, and the channels you’ve communicated through. It’s go-time, which means seeing the results of all the time, effort and money you’ve spent on the idea and turning it into a viable business.
Part of preparing for your business launch is crafting your brand image that will accompany all internal and external communication tied to your product or service. This includes a visual image like a logo. Launching the brand helps to connect what that brand means with what your product or service offers to prospects and customers.
While you’ve tried to prepare for everything, there still may be some surprises along the way, so be flexible and willing to adjust as necessary. Take the time to celebrate the launch with all team members who helped you make this dream a reality.
Adapt and improve
No profitable business ever stays the same. Instead, those leading successful companies are always seeking ways to adapt to the ever-changing external environment and fickle audience segments. In addition to remaining relevant, these profitable businesses know that constant improvement is necessary for efficiency, productivity and customer expectations.
Like with everything in life, there will be plateaus that appear. How you handle these determines how your business will fare. Ignore them and your business will stagnate. Embrace them, however, and make the small or large pivots necessary, and your business will continue to thrive.
Although each action here is listed as a step, the reality is that you will continue repeating these steps over time if you want to retain and increase that initial profitability. And, in the process of creating a business, you may even learn more about yourself and take satisfaction in the ability to build something from the ground up.