7 Questions to answer before turning your idea into a business

Do you wonder what it will really take to turn your great idea into a great business? At ClimateLaunchpad, we train early stage entrepreneurs to turn their idea into a successful and environmentally sustainable  business. Our team has broad and deep experience working with startups and established businesses. Along the way we’ve learned a lot about how to turn an idea into a business. Answering these seven questions will save you time and heartache along the way.

 

1. Are you happy with your business team?

The most important predictor of business success is the team.

It’s not the idea. It’s the team. Is your team strong enough to go the distance? And importantly, do you all know what you want from the business? Team conflict is one of the key factors in the failure of startups. Much of that conflict can be avoided by having clear agreements up front.

One of our trainees put it this way:

“A good team agreement is like a good pre-nup. It’s not that you want the relationship to end when you enter it. It’s that you want to be prepared and upfront about what you plan to get from it and what an exit looks like.”

2. Do you know what you’re doing?

Everything is (not) undercontrol

Everything is (not) under control

One sign that a business is struggling is that people keep assuring you that “everything is under control.” Trust us, if everything were under control you wouldn’t need to be reassured. If you find yourself saying that one too many times or you’re hearing it from others, it’s time to investigate and find out just what isn’t under control.

3. Can you describe what you do to others?

It’s great that you know the details of the science and engineering behind your project. We love that your knowledge is deep. Investors love that too. But if you cannot tell us what you do quickly and clearly, we’ll never understand the details. We can’t be experts in every technology and every idea. Finding the heart of your business venture is important for getting others as excited as you are.

4. What are you selling?

Please don’t say you’re selling a solution. The days when that was enough of a description are over. We doubt you’re selling a simple product either.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • What happens as a result of your business?
  • What is the desired outcome?
  • How does it work?
  • Who is buying it?

 

5. Who is your customer?

If you said, Everyone, you don’t have a customer. So many people think that having a product for everyone is a guarantee of success. In reality, the more specific you are about your customer, the more successful your business will be.

Jeans are good business. Photo by Blake Burkhart - Flickr, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=44401478

By Blake Burkhart – Flickr, CC BY 2.0

A concrete example of this dates back to the 1870s and the invention of blue jeans. Levi Strauss had set up shop in California during the Gold Rush. People searching for gold were returning with their pants torn up. Blue jeans were designed for prospectors so that they would have durable work pants. Everyone was not the customer for denim jeans, but nearly everyone we know and you know has owned a pair of jeans at one time or another.

Understanding your customer better also gives you insight to their pain.

6. What is your customer’s pain?

If your customer doesn’t have pain, then it’s unlikely they are interested in painkillers. Conversely, your customer may have been living with pain so long that they don’t know it exists. Innovators are successful when they know the pain better than the customer does and can address it with a product or service that makes a measurable difference.

7. What’s your first beachhead market?

How do you determine which market to tackle first? Here are some criteria when you’re looking for a market you can conquer:

  • Look for one that you can manage geographically and that does not demand a lot of expensive and time-consuming travel to find customers
  • Your early customers should be part of a larger network so that they can say good things about you to colleagues and friends
  • Look for risk takers and people or businesses who adopt practices and products earlier than others

Do you want to know more?

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