Q: I have a business idea that I’d like to get off the ground but I have no previous experience in business, where should I start? 

- Greg Harris
Saint Louis, Missouri

A: As an entrepreneur, you are always learning. Few of us really have deep expertise in the idea or business opportunity we’re pursuing, so you’re not alone. At some point, you’ll just have to dive right in and learn as you go.

In the meantime, here are five quick tips for helping you get to that point:

1. Validate your idea with facts. Research your intended industry. Examine potential competitors and substitutes or other market trends that would indicate a real business opportunity for your idea. This will not only help you get a sense of how open the opportunity truly is, but it will also help you refine your concept and differentiate it from what’s already out there.

Related: 4 Tips for Balancing Friendship and Business

2. Validate your idea with feedback. Don’t be afraid to talk about your idea with others. Many first-time entrepreneurs are overly secretive about their plans, because they’re afraid someone will steal their idea. As the old adage goes, an idea is only as good as its execution. What are the odds that someone else will steal your idea and build a successful business out of it? Probably pretty low, so don’t fret.

Instead, seek feedback from friends, peers and potential advisors. Pay close attention to the gut reactions, criticisms and enthusiasm. Of course, most people will think you’re crazy, but you’ll still get a lot of useful feedback.

3. Reach out. Identity people who can help -- potential advisors, business partners, and co-founders -- and reach out to them. Even if you don’t have any direct connection, drop them a respectful email, succinctly explain your idea and how they can help. Not everyone will respond, and not everyone who does will be useful. Eventually, though, you’ll build a network of trusted contacts that will be invaluable as your business grows.

4. Follow trends. Find out where news and important information on trends in your industry can be found, and follow it daily. Stay aware of the big players and movements in your space.

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5. Dig deep. Do you really believe in this idea, in your heart of hearts? It’s best to dig deep now and ask yourself how passionate you are about this particular opportunity, because the road will be long and hard. In the toughest times, the only thing that will keep you going will be your own belief.

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