When you first think about being an entrepreneur, you’re filled with excitement at the possibilities. You can bring your own idea to market, you can be your own boss, you can set your own schedule and more. Often, in that excitement, you can get caught up and mistake a great idea for a business opportunity. In the course, “Entrepreneurship: Finding and Testing Your Business Idea,” LinkedIn Learning Instructor Dave Crenshaw teaches you how to tell the difference between an idea and a business opportunity.
The first step is to find an idea. Think about your gifts, what you love to do, and your skills. Look at where all three things come together and focus your business idea on that. Then think about your potential customers and what they want – their needs or their pains. What’s missing in your day or others’ days that you don’t like to live without? What’s something people consistently ask for your advice about?
Next, develop your new business idea list. Narrow the list to your best ideas by looking at which ideas are exciting and interesting, but also make sense and the numbers line up. Eliminate the ideas that don’t fit both of those criteria. Separate the ideas from the opportunities by looking at factors such as demand, expertise, resources, profitability, distribution and proprietary advantage. Note that you don’t have to have proprietary advantage, but it will add more value to your product or service.
Finalize your best business idea—the one that satisfies all of the opportunity factors. Pretend to commit to that idea for one week and see if you still feel committed to it after that week. If you’re still excited and committed to that idea after that one week, create a business validation micro plan and test run your business for a short time. Consider that failure is an option and remember that this is about results and not passion. If you get discouraging numbers, be honest with yourself and reconsider your plan.
Determine the amount of time you want to run the business test and how much you’re willing to spend on the test. Develop a profile of your most likely customer and number of potential customers. Then, craft a one-sentence summary about why someone may be interested in your product or service. Tell people clearly what you’re offering them and what the benefit is—why they should care about your offer. Determine the best channel for you to reach out to potential customers, such as interviews and surveys, online ads, and pay-per-click services. Whichever channel you use, conclude by evaluating your results.
Take a look at the targets you set in the beginning and your criteria for success. Did you reach those criteria? What feedback did you get from customers? If your results were positive, re-run the test and focus on price. If not, switch it up and try this method with a different opportunity.
Business ideas are exciting at first and empowering to entrepreneurs. Ideas don’t always become opportunities, though. Being able to test and understand the difference between a business idea and a business opportunity is the most essential part of being an entrepreneur.