For many, starting a business is a mysterious process. You have a genius idea but don’t know if it will actually work in practice, and even if it did, how do you take just a thought and turn it into a successful business? Surely it’s easier to just kick back and enjoy the fruits of other peoples’ labour?

However, often the best business concepts aren’t all that genius at all. Many are born from the obvious – a lack of something necessary, or an existing good idea done badly. Often a successful business is much more about the execution of an idea than the idea itself – without proper development, an idea is just an idea.

So… where do ideas come from?

Identify your problem

Speaking at the Wired Next Generation event, Emily Brooke, founder of Blaze, who made the first laser bike light, said:

“The key is to find your problem, understand your problem and only build something valuable if you’re solving a problem you know better than anyone else.”

Brooke spent time speaking to bus drivers, the council and experts in road safety in order to discover that the biggest threat to cyclists was drivers not seeing them.

“I knew exactly what problem I wanted to solve.”

Brooke first launched her idea on Kickstarter – its target of raising £25,000 was surpassed in five days, with the final amount reaching £55,000. The business has continued to thrive and was shortlisted for the Guardian’s gaming and tech award in 2013.

Once you have identified the issue, the solution becomes your end goal. This can help provide structure to your planning process.

Want vs need

This is what entrepreneur Rahul Varshneya, co-founder of mobile app design company Arkenea LLC, refers to as creating a “must-have” rather than a “nice-to-have”. The best ideas are the ones that address a real need in the market and fill it or, as it often the case, make people believe that they need it. Social media is a great example of a product that has become so heavily ingrained in everyday life it has become a necessity and has carved out a place for itself in business, as well as personal, lives.

Getting to know your market will help you to differentiate between what customers want and what they need, and will enable you to develop your idea accordingly. Make sure you get out there and actually talk to people – making second guesses could end up being your shortfall.

Do your research

Lack of research is one of the biggest mistakes people make when launching a business. Learn everything you can about your target market and your industry, including customer buying habits, motivations and concerns, market trends, competitor behaviour and, perhaps most importantly, customer reactions to your product.

There are few better ways to establish whether your idea has staying power than to get out there and ask your potential customers for their feedback. Remember though, in order to get balanced feedback, you will need to ask a wide range of people and analyse their responses.

Test run

So, you’ve developed your idea and know your target audience inside out – but you’re not done yet.

Before you can launch the next big thing, you need to make sure it will actually work. Producing a prototype of your product or service and testing it in controlled groups will give you an idea of how well it will work, before you go one step further.

For example, I started a content strategy business but before launching properly, I took on clients at a much reduced rate to ensure my services were up-to-scratch. There was a clear gap in the market, demonstrated by the amount of potential clients who approached me with SEO and content strategy queries, but, being new to self-employment, I wanted to be sure I was meeting all their needs before launching my business. I discovered that I wasn’t quite ready to go all guns blazing into self-employment and instead took time to develop my skills, while still maintaining clients on a freelance basis.

Action

Once you have evaluated your idea as thoroughly as you can, the only thing left to do is jump.

Richard Reed, co-founder of Innocent smoothies, which made its first million in turnover in its second year, said:
“If you’re 70% sure about an idea then go for it. Because if you wait till you’re 100% confident in business… you’ll never make a decision, you’ll never get anywhere.

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