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Emerging Entrepreneurs
Defining your business concept

by Paula Jubinville
AQUEOUS Advisory Group

After considerable soul-searching, you have decided to exercise your right to choose your own destiny � you've answered yes to the question: Do I want to own and run my own business? Now, as an emerging entrepreneur, your next and equally challenging question is: What business do I want to own and run? Selecting the business you want to start, a business that is viable and aligned with your personal interests, values and natural behaviours, is no small task . So now what? Where on earth do you start? Back to soul searching.

Some emerging entrepreneurs charge ahead, scouring the "good business idea" market, trying to spot the next breathtakingly brilliant, however as yet undiscovered, product or service. With no systematic way to evaluate potential enterprises, the new entrepreneur may be quickly overwhelmed by the possibilities and either abandon their quest or, worse, launch the most convenient venture (often a franchise) without a comprehensive evaluation of its appropriateness and viability. Some emerging entrepreneurs take the "resume approach" � with "Consultant" or "& Associates" firmly affixed to the end of their name, they launch a business based on exactly what they did for their previous employer, only better, they believe, and at a lower cost to their potential clients or customers.

Starting any project is the most exciting, most onerous, most terrifying, most difficult part of any undertaking. But how do you come up with a viable, interesting, fulfilling business idea in the first place? There isn't a book, a web site, or a list of terrific business ideas anywhere that guarantees success if you just add your time, money and efforts.

So, what are the ingredients you need to gather together to start to develop your own business concept? First, starting with yourself, take stock of your skills, experience, expertise and the areas in which your interests and values lie. Choosing to do something you love, and are well qualified to do, will provide a firm foundation for the personal commitment you will need later on to make your business successful.

During this exercise, you may think of more than one business concept. If you do, you will need to make a choice about which one to pursue. Many would suggest choosing the most viable business concept that has the greatest opportunity for success � but, how do you define success?

I believe that there is only one benchmark against which to measure the potential success for your business - your own personal and financial objectives. Why? Because each individual's definition of success is different, based on their own private beliefs about money and lifestyle, the importance of family and accomplishment. Do you want to run a national organization? Do you want to earn $80,000 per year? Do you want to spend every Tuesday and Thursday with your children? Do you want to work closer to home or your vacation property?

Arriving at a personal definition of success involves more soul-searching, and is as important as the research and assessment you perform on the market you intend your business to serve. By comparing your personal and financial objectives with the results of a thorough assessment of the market's size, trends, competitors and distribution, you can determine whether the business will be, in reality, viable for you.

As well, your goals and the market characteristics are not static, and will continue to evolve over time. Therefore, an ongoing comparison of the two is best repeated systematically throughout your life and the life of the business.

After defining your personal and financial objectives, you will need to assess the market you intend your business to serve. First ask yourself: Who are my clients/customers? The usual answer is "anyone, really." Yet most business owners that believe anyone is their customer are more than likely bound for failure.

Myth #1: Placing limits on defining who your customer is will limit your success.
A successful business person knows they need to garner more business from their best and most profitable clients. And if one looks closely, these clients are likely to have a great deal in common: their age and length of time in business; their occupation and industry; their income, size and/or location. Creating a detailed profile of your "best" client will help you know where to spend your resources (time and money) for the greatest possible return.

The next question to ask is: Why would your best clients pay you, if at all, rather than someone else for your product or service? The usual answer is: "Because they really need my product or service, or what I sell is better and less expensive than the competitors'."

Myth #2 - A successful business is based on an unmet need in the marketplace.
While it is relatively unlikely (but not impossible) that a customer has simply gone unnoticed in the marketplace, there may be reasons why a particular need has gone unmet to date. So, when you ask your friends, family and colleagues whether they believe your product or service is needed, remember to ask not only what they think of the idea, but whether they would pay you for your product or service an amount that will cover costs (including a fair salary for yourself and your co-workers) and produce enough profit to meet your personal and financial objectives. Many emerging entrepreneurs look at the new business's revenue potential and assume that the more sales they make, the more successful the business will be. Yet considering all of the expenses, salaries and free services potentially provided in the start-up phase, in actual fact the concept may not be, or ever become, profitable enough to meet your definition of success.

Myth #3 - To be competitive, your product or service must be cheaper or better than similar offerings in the marketplace.
While it may be the case that your target /best customer is looking for a less expensive or a better quality product or service than is currently available, be careful not to assume they are. Many businesses find niches that differentiate themselves on the basis of convenience, speed, availability, selection, suitability-to-task or novelty. All assumptions regarding your target/best customer's purchasing and usage behaviours are best confirmed and ranked in order of relative importance.

Getting to know your best customer in this manner is what I refer to as the honeymoon stage of starting a business. Because this is a time of many "firsts", this stage is one of the most exciting in the life of an entrepreneur. If you've answered yes to the Do I want to own and run my own business? question, create as many business concepts as you can based on your skills, experience, interests and values and try not to marry yourself to any particular one before completing the exercise. Then, systematically hold each concept up to the stark light of the marketplace and ask the difficult but necessary question: Will this business allow me to achieve my personal and financial objectives? If the answer is yes, you will have laid the first block of a successful business foundation.

As seen in Woman Newsmagazine � Autumn 1997

AQUEOUS Advisory Group provides real-life, real-time business advice & support for Canadian entrepreneurs starting, running & growing their businesses. AQUEOUS has pioneered providing comprehensive business advice to entrepreneurs and is acknowledged for its unique and special focus on women business owners. So whether you are ...
  • thinking about becoming an entrepreneur
  • just starting up or now wanting to take your business to the next level or,
  • are responsible for helping your organization or association provide proven programs that offer advice and support tot this dynamic and fast growing market segment
AQUEOUS will provide its unique combination of business expertise, advisory experience and entrepreneurial perspective through a suite of business advisory services that have been designed to be most relevant to you and your business.

Business advisor Paula Jubinville and best-selling author Joanne Thomas Yaccato have written "Raising Your Business: A Canadian woman's guide to entrepreneurship" - the ultimate how-to guide for women entrepreneurs based on their own real-life experiences.

You may purchase this book at a SPECIAL RATE of $19.95 (Regular $24.95) plus PST & $5 shipping by visiting our website at or by calling 416-366-9669 ext. 26 to place an order.

If you are contemplating starting your own business and would like information on the Emerging Entrepreneurs Program� or the Small Business TeleAdvisor Program� sent to you and/or your current employer, please contact

AQUEOUS Advisory Group Inc.
478 Queen Street East, Suite 300
Toronto, ON, M5A 1T7.
Tel: (416) 366-9669 ext. 26,
Toll free: 1-888-228-5518
Fax: (416) 366-9663

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