Category Archives: Risk and Reward

How to Know Your Business Idea isn’t Ready for Prime Time

The odds are against any given idea for a product or service actually succeeding. There are a lot of things that can go wrong, and common business mistakes sink new businesses even before they really get rolling. Assuming you have your wits about you, and you’ve learned from experience what mistakes not to make, how do you know your idea is a good one?

Since there’s no guarantee that even very well-thought-out business concepts will work, there’s no set formula for guaranteeing your success. There are some questions you can ask yourself to help give you a good idea whether your idea is ready for the big time, whether you need to go back to the drawing board or if you should scrap it altogether.

Take a Good, Deep Look at Your Competition

Your competitors are a good indicator of the barrier to entry for your idea to break into a tight marketplace. Are you doing it (your product/service) better than the current big players in the industry? Are you doing it cheaper? If you are, is it possible for you to get noticed, either through targeted marketing or through word of mouth?

All of these questions could send you back to tweak your idea or work on it a bit more until you’re sure it’s fully baked. If you feel like you’re ahead of the curve, however, it may be time to move ahead with your business idea and start disrupting the current status quo, as all good business models do.

Time is also a factor when it comes to competitors. Many ideas have a shelf-life, and you’re often competing against other entrepreneurs who are rushing to get the same thing, or an alternative, to market. Can you get there before they do?

Do You Have the Resources to Get it off the Ground?

Your idea might be phenomenal, but if you don’t have the capital or —perhaps more importantly— the startup talents to get it off the ground, it might as well be a dud of a concept. Acquiring financing is a pre-requisite, and having the manpower to make your idea happen is the key. Even more important is having the right people in place who have a similar passion and vision as you do for the idea.

Also, don’t ignore time as a resource. If your startup’s time and talent is already distributed to too many other projects or ventures, is this new business idea going to be starved of the attention it needs to succeed?

Find a Skeptic to Rip it to Shreds

Sometimes you need someone who doesn’t buy what you’re selling to show you where your weaknesses are. If your idea can survive the gauntlet of someone who doesn’t like the concept picking it apart, it’s less likely that you’re ignoring glaring flaws that could spell its doom.

This is where having a trusted mentor can come in; someone whose expertise and experience you trust, but who’s not so emotionally involved in you that they’ll be afraid to tell you where your concept goes wrong. Emotion doesn’t belong in business decisions, so having an uninterested, objective third-party vet the idea is a key step to determining whether you really have something.

Remember and keep in mind

After Everything, Trust Your Gut

No number of assessments or second opinions can make the decision for you; you’re the one who has to pull the trigger. That means you need to take stock of your feelings, your confidence and your willingness to move forward. Often your gut will tell you things your brain can’t quite articulate.

Don’t make emotional business decisions unsupported by good evidence; you can fool yourself into believing what you want to be true. However at a certain point you have to take what you know from research and experience and just make the decision to either go forward with it or dump your idea and go back to the drawing board.

The gut check is really a way to test your own enthusiasm for an idea; your passion for it. Are you willing to spend your time, energy and money on this project? Hard work isn’t the only ingredient in a startup’s success, but it’s a definite prerequisite. If you find you’re not excited enough to dive in head first, maybe this isn’t the idea you want to be spending your time on.

If you’re idea survives all this scrutiny, it’s likely that it—and you—really are ready to go after it. If that’s the case, best of luck to you!

Mike Mann is a serial entrepreneur and author seeking to drive real-world change using profits from his many profitable business ventures. To learn how to make your own business a success, and to hear more about Mike’s charitable vision, read or download his book.

How Your Startup is Like a Relationship

As you begin putting so much time and effort into your startup, the amount of time and energy you’re putting in can start to feel a little overwhelming and confusing, but you may have more insight into the process than you think. Trying to get a new business off the ground has some uncanny similarities to being in a long-term committed relationship. Here are a few dating business tips to make your start-up successful.

Investment of Time and Energy

If a relationship is going to work you have to be fully invested, putting in enough time and energy to help the budding romance thrive. It has to be a top priority, and you have to be dedicated to its success. The same goes with your start-up. If you are going to start a business you need to be willing to devote the resources needed to get the job done, because nobody else will. You need to be committed to this business, and only this business. Don’t let your eye stray to other opportunities. Focus on always making improvements and you’ll both grow together.

Choose Your Co-founder Carefully

If you are looking for a business partner or co-founder, choose wisely. You may initially be searching for the person with the right college degree, the most experience, or the best sales skills you’ve ever seen. You may want to think again.

Obviously you want a co-founder with skills, but if you look at your start-up like a long-term relationship, you’ll realize that you are going to be spending a lot of time with this person. You need to find someone you get along with and has personality traits that match or complement yours. It should be someone who can work through emotional difficulties, sort out financial problems, and be someone who you aren’t going to get sick of seeing day in and day out.

Like your relationship, neglecting the needs of your startup could mean the end.

Like your relationship, neglecting the needs of your startup could mean the end.

Ups and Downs

Every relationship has ups and downs, and so does every startup. One minute you are positive this business is taking flight and going to make you the millions you always dreamed of. The next minute, everything comes crashing down and you wonder if you are going to be able to keep your head above water.

The best advice I can give regarding the ups and downs of a start-up is to know they are coming. A couple should not end their relationship because they had one argument. Likewise, when you hit a bump in the road or a few problems with your startup, hold on. They pass—usually. You can overcome the hardships and the company will be all-the-better for it.

The Small Stuff Matters

In a relationship, the small stuff matters. It matters if your partner saves you the last piece of chocolate cake. It matters if they offer to rub your feet after a long day at work. And, alas, you realize that the whole reason the relationship is working is because of all the small stuff that added up to mutual attentiveness and caring.

A start-up is the exact same way. You begin with a big picture and a huge goal, but you find that the daily grind is what takes over. You have so many small tasks to cover to make sure things get rolling and keep running smoothly. They may seem tedious and often uninteresting, but they are what will keep your business moving, growing and succeeding.

Sometimes You have to Play Games

Without compromising honesty, sometimes you have to play games. If you want someone to be interested in you, you may have to play a little hard to get. You may have to flirt a little then, seem a little uninterested at your next encounter.

Startup founders sometimes have to play similar games to find success and drum up interest. Whether you’re trying to attract new customers or court investors, a little (ethical) game playing may be required. Remember that your presentation is just as important as your product. Your attitude, staging and performance are often big selling points. Flirty sometimes and backing off at others can make a big difference in how you’re perceived.

Cut Your Losses

Not every relationship ends with a marriage proposal. Even if both people are great, sometimes things just don’t work out, and it’s better if they just go their separate ways. The same goes for your new company. Sometimes things just don’t work out, despite all your best efforts. This doesn’t mean things won’t ever work out for you in busines, or that you will never have a successful idea take off. It just means that you need to know when to cut your losses and move on to the next project.

Relationships require a lot of work, and if you’re not committed to seeing it succeed in the long run, you’ll end up facing problem after problem. If you’re ready to jump into a new business, be prepared for all the ups and downs, stay focused, and be ready to compromise when the situation calls for it. And above all, cut your losses before things become dysfunctional.

Mike Mann, social activist and serial entrepreneur, is the author of MakeMillions.Com, a business book focused on making money in small business in order to better serve society. Read or download the book today for insight on his philosophy on wedding entrepreneurship and charitable goals