In in earlier blog I wrote about looking at opportunities and how the idea associated with an opportunity can become a business. In this post, we are going to dive a little deeper.
I introduced the Japanese concept of Ikigai, that intersection of what you are good at, what you love, what the world needs and what you can be paid for. The first step of starting a business is to test your idea(s).
My great-great grandfather David A. Flanigan was an inventor. This past summer I was able to spend some time looking over his scrapbook of sorts. There were newspaper articles, correspondence, several of his original patents, wax seal and all, and some of his own writings and journaling. I learned a lot about him as I slowly turned the pages in that book. David had ideas. He designed a better water wheel to bring irrigation to his farm. He designed a twin turbine wind mill that generated more power to pump water or generate electricity. He even took that twin turbine idea and altered it to become a flying machine (think of it as an early helicopter).
Perhaps his most famous invention was the cable works in Zion National Park for which Cable Mountain is named. At the age of 15, he had an idea that if he could create a cable system to carry logs and lumber down from the top of the mesa, where trees were more plentiful, into the canyon he could save days (3-10 days) of hauling logs and lumber by wagon team. It was interesting to read about his idea and the many trials he had learning about how wire stretches, geometry and physics and the importance of creating a brake to control the descent as the first cargo was bashed to pieces. Having proved it was an idea that would work, he set out looking for investors to start a sawmill and run the lumber down the cable. The cable system lowered lumber over 2,000 feet into the canyon in about two minutes. The cable works ran for about 26 years and moved hundreds of thousands of board feet of lumber during the time it was in operation. There are still remains of the cable works on top of the mesa today.
David was a good inventor and loved to create. He saw something that the world at the time needed and he could be paid for. He found Ikigai for this project.
Now it is your turn…take your business idea and ask yourself – Do I love this idea? Am I good at or can I be good at making or doing this product or service? Does the world need this? Will the world pay for it (does the world want it)? Now that you have your answers, you should be clearer about whether to proceed. The next step is to ask others what they think.
Families love you and want to support you. Many of us with close families will take our ideas to them first. Because they love us, they will either be encouraging of you whether or not they think the idea is a good one or they will be discouraging to protect you, not wanting to see you fail if it doesn’t go right. Keep this in mind as you discuss your idea with immediate or extended family. I would suggest that your spouse should always be consulted as a business impacts their life and your life together.
Look for a potential customer to test your idea. Invite them to lunch and say, “I have been thinking about this idea and wanted to get your thoughts.” Explain your idea. If their eyes light up, you have a great idea. If their eyes don’t light up, ask questions to get their thoughts. Try this on a few people and you will have a good idea as to whether or not your idea is needed and wanted in the world. You are only testing ideas – you don’t have to have an established product or service for these conversations.
Last year, I started a different business with a friend. We felt we should go into business with each other and we brainstormed our ideas. She is a visionary and is great at creating ideas and big pictures. I am an integrator and am great at filling in the details and systems to make big pictures a reality. We agreed upon an idea and designed it. We then took it to a potential customer who had access to other potential customers. We explained it and they liked it as it benefitted them and their students. We then presented in front of a group of their students, also potential customers, and were met with blank stares. There was little to no interest. They liked the idea but it was a distraction from what their current goals were. In other words, they didn’t want it at the time and wouldn’t pay for it. Through this process of testing an idea, we learned we had a good idea but not a good business idea – we would be good at it, the world needs it, we would love or enjoy doing it but it wasn’t something we could be paid for. We put it in the great idea folder for later should the world change and be willing to pay for it and moved to the next idea to test.
Testing your idea should be the first step of starting your business. Let me know how your testing goes.
Image Source: National Parks Service
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