As driven as you might be to launch the next Google, Apple or Facebook, the process of identifying a great idea can be intimidating. Many would-be entrepreneurs become so concerned with creating “The Next Big Thing” that they become paralyzed and can’t progress.
That’s obviously not a good predicament. Here are five steps for seeing past your thirst for greatness, and instead simply building a great product and company:
1. Recognize your skills. The avenues to internet success inspire many young entrepreneurs. Few of these individuals are focused on the “big idea,” however. They’re interested in how they can use their knowledge and skills to build a viable business.
Are you a programmer with creativity to spare? A skilled marketer? Identify your strengths and aptitude level for diving into the necessary marketing -- and possible fundraising -- needed to launch. Once you assess your skills, you can begin to think about what your “big idea” is and work toward it.
2. Identify an opportunity. While some businesses may launch with an idea that’s revolutionary, many globally-recognized entrepreneurs achieved success by simply identifying a solution to a problem. It might not sound as glamorous as the lightning rod of inspiration, but a viable solution to a common obstacle is the basis for targeting an audience. How can your insight or technology skills improve others’ lives or make tasks more efficient?
3. Analyze the market. Your road to success might be built on improving upon something that already exists. Examine your market and any similar ventures you can learn from to help shape your business. Just consider the example of Facebook. The social network was created after MySpace, and, before that, Friendster already existed. We all know how the story ends, but it’s worth mentioning that Facebook’s contributions, though seemingly small by comparison, served as a spring board for the company’s ascent.
4. Build on the past. With thorough research of past attempts and successful marketing campaigns that have elevated startups in your market, you’ll be prepared to address your audience. Remember that even if your idea is practical, your ambition should be substantial. If you don’t act on your idea and work to build an audience, you risk blending in with the competition. Plan effectively and rise above the past.
5. Use your resources. Take advantage of programs that help define and prompt creative thinking, or help build your skills as a founder and leader. In many communities, classes are offered through a local college or small business development center. Additionally, seek out information on local entrepreneurial gatherings. These provide great opportunities to meet others with shared interests and gain constructive feedback.
Further, professional local or regional conferences or startup weekends provide valuable data on establishing a small business, and they allow you to build a contact base with potential mentors. Your local chamber of commerce or economic development organization can be an invaluable source of information and connections, too.
By effectively recognizing your strengths and capitalizing on opportunities that let those strengths shine, you’ll gain momentum for your startup. Pursuing some “big idea” can be daunting, but it becomes far more tangible when you realize that you’re aiming at the best idea for you.
Mike Brooks is president of REDI (Regional Economic Development, Inc.) in Columbia, Mo. REDI promotes positive economic expansion and provides increased economic opportunities in the Columbia area, assisting entrepreneurs, developing businesses and companies relocating. As president, Mike led REDI in creating a supportive ecosystem for entrepreneurship and business growth in Columbia.