If you fancy yourself as the next Mark Zuckerberg or Richard Branson, here’s how to start building your empire.
For an aspiring entrepreneur with a world-beating concept, the first step is to become hard-nosed about your idea. Successful businesses do not emerge fully formed from the minds of their creators. Instead, effective creators use their initial ideas as foundations to build on.
With your great idea as a starting point, you can begin asking questions such as:
- Who is your target market?
- What problem will your product or service solve?
- What do competitors in the sector offer?
Answering these questions will help you understand how your business idea might translate into reality, but it will also help to refine your concept, or even lead you to a different idea that you think will provide a stronger basis for a successful business. No business is ever a finished work – yes, even MySpace might make a comeback – so exercising your ability to take a step back and be dispassionate about your ideas can strengthen skills that will be important throughout the life of your enterprise.
Get down to the practicalities
Thinking about the business you intend to build and why it will succeed is the stuff dreams are made of, but the next step causes many of us to stumble – that is, business planning and all the practical decisions needed to set up a viable operation.
Yep, reality bites. By forcing you to put all aspects of your proposed enterprise down on paper, a business plan helps you understand how each part of the business links to the whole and also provides a more objective view of how others will view your proposal. After you have produced a first draft of your plan, put it aside for a week and then re-read it – is it persuasive? Would you invest in the proposal as it is presented in the plan? Get an independent third party person to read over it too, and ask them the same questions. That way you’ll know you’re not just enamoured with your own work.
There are also less obvious practicalities to consider such as work/life balance. Or, as many entrepreneurs call it, ‘imbalance’. Knowing that you will have to make sacrifices is important, but you should be realistic. Building a business is about creating something that gives you pride and satisfaction. If you do not factor in the impact on you and your family of starting the business, you risk becoming disenchanted when you’re in the trenches 24/7.
The only way to find out is to try
Taking the time to plan and test your idea before leaping into the unknown of a new business is important, but there is no checklist, template or research that can tell if your business will succeed. As is the Aussie way, there is no substitute for hard work – put your business concept into practice and put in the effort to make it work.
This does not mean that you have to start with a full-scale version of your concept. You could take a basic version of your product or service to market first, or try starting your business as a sideline to get a better idea of the response your concept generates. Childhood friends Bill Gates and Paul Allen founded their first company, Traf-O-Data, in 1972, with a rudimentary computer that tracked and analysed automobile traffic data. That evolved to the billion dollar company we now know as Microsoft. We’ve all got to start somewhere.
Creating a profitable business from the ground up is without doubt a difficult, high risk venture. The positive aspect of undertaking such a daunting mission is that the skills acquired throughout the process are important to the success of a business throughout its life. The need to continually renew and reinvent your business to survive and grow will be familiar tasks for the brave few who have turned an idea into a cash-generating business, and those skills are likely to prove invaluable throughout your career as an entrepreneur.
Got a brilliant innovation or business idea?
Then why not pitch it into Optus’s Shark Tank-inspired Your Shark Tank? You’ll be pitching to Optus Sharks, Janine Allis, Russell Howcroft, Alfred Lo and Rohan Ganeson. Do you have what it takes?