Defining your business concept
by Paula Jubinville
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.
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.
Myth #3 - To be competitive, your product or service must be cheaper or better than similar offerings in the marketplace.
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 ...
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.
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