It is late at night.
You are under the covers about to close your eyes—when it strikes you.
You got a business idea.
The muse of creative entrepreneurship knows no time zone and respects no alarm clock.
In a mad fever, your rush to your computer and start to write down an idea. At first a few words and then a flood of clarity! 10 minutes, 20 minutes, an hour pass before the brilliance is quelled, the muse satisfied and your heart content.
You are destined to become a millionaire.
The next morning you wake up and stumble to your computer to see if that dazed memory was actually a dream.
Alas no…you have a business idea.
(or maybe you were just walking and saw something can improve, or have been thinking about this one idea for a while or something far less dramatic…whatever…the point is, you have a business idea and should not let that sit by the wayside. It came to you, so see where it takes you.)
Well, the first goal is to try to kill the idea.
And give yourself one hour to do it.
Yes, that’s right.
Your first hour of entrepreneurship should be spent trying to make it your last.
If you make it past that, then maybe you’re onto something.
I’m no expert on how to raise a million dollars for a startup, or how to sell a business or how to get featured in a national tech magazine—after all, experts can duplicate.
But one thing I do know, and something I have done hundreds of times over, is figuring out what to do with a brand new business idea.
I get the question, “Now What?!” so many times, I thought I’d finally put the six steps I tell people into a simple blog post.
The Six Steps of your First Hour as an Entrepreneur:
STEP 1: Think of every way a potential customer could find you online.
Write down a bunch of different phrases. Maybe 10, hopefully at least 20.
Not just for your product, but for the problem. So not just phrases like “a gift idea engine,” but things like, “how do I find gifts?” “best gift websites.”
STEP 2: Google all of the phrases.
Use exact match with double quotes and broad match with no quotes.
See what comes up.
This is your potential competition.
There are going to be companies trying to solve the same problem, or maybe even doing exactly what you are doing. Don’t worry yet. This is just the lay of the land.
STEP 3: “But Zack, what do I do if I didn’t find any competition?”
If there is no competition…you’re doing something wrong.
It might not be the EXACT thing you are looking to do, but who else is solving the problem and how are they solving it?
Life hacks? Substitutes? Work arounds?
If you still can’t find anything—go back to the drawing board because you clearly do not understand the problem.
Look, there wasn’t an iPhone before an iPhone, but there were phones and shoot, even BlackBerries (rest in peace). There weren’t iPods before iPods, but there were MP3 players.
Problems are being solved, but maybe just not the best way.
And that is where your idea can come in!
STEP 4: Kill or King?
This is the turning point for your idea. Are you going to keep going or not? Are you going to kill the idea, or make it your king?
Just because there is competition, doesn’t mean your idea is dead.
Ask yourself a few questions:
Are there thousands or a couple of other companies?
How similar are their products to yours?
Why are have you not heard of them already?
Can you do something better to give you an advantage?
If you have honestly, rationally and unemotionally answered these questions and are still ready to rock, stop— and take step 5 very seriously.
STEP 5: Realize what Entrepreneurship is NOT
If your idea passed through step 4 and you find yourself wanting to start a business just so you don’t have a boss, then my friend, call me, give me your great business idea, take a few percentage points and walk away.
I said that the idea will be your king for a reason.
You will never have more bosses than when you are an entrepreneur. Your investors, your employees, your family—everyone is your boss.
Not to mention you will be your own boss.
There aren’t too many professions where you vacation with your boss, sleep with your boss, shower with your boss. Your boss is ALWAYS there and if he/she is not driving you crazy to work harder, your business is likely never to see the light of day.
So if your business idea has made the cut, then you need to think if you want to.
Keep in mind, there’s no shame in being an advisor to your own idea. Coming up with an idea doesn’t qualify someone to be CEO. Confidence will help you in business, pride blinds you. I flanked myself with 50 years of business with my first idea because I knew how little I knew. Now that I know more about entrepreneurship and have an MBA, I’d probably find even more experience to help me.
But if you are still pumped and revving to go—THEN LET’S GET TO IT!
STEP 6: Simply Socialize
Put together a 3-slide PowerPoint.
– Slide 1: Write down clearly what the problem is you are solving and who your customer(s) is/are (very important to realize that you may have more than one customer. A coupon company, for example, is selling both to the companies and to the end user.).
– Slide 2: Write out the solution. Make it 12 words max. You can have a more detailed description below including how you plan to make money, but the solution sentence should be 12 words or less.
– Slide 3: Write/Draw/etc. a simple diagram of how it will work. Do NOT start looking for app developers or investors.
This deck is just as much for you as it is for the people with whom you will share it.
Call up a few friends and family and talk to them about the idea. Ask them if they know anyone who can help give advice. Then go to LinkedIn and search for your network to see if there is anyone who can give you really good insight. And please, never ask someone to sign an NDA at this stage. The only people who will are the people who you shouldn’t trust.
Now this last step will take you beyond the first hour, but then you are at least going in the right direction.
After your first hour is over, your life will never be the same. The passion that awaits you, the excitement of any small success, the joy of bringing something into this world from your mind that never was before—it is a thrill.
So buckle up and and start running—it’s gunna be a wild race!
And really though, if you do want to ever talk through your ideas—shoot me an email with your three slides. Always happy to chat with a thoughtful entrepreneur!