Brightest Idea

Your perfect business could be just a work sheet away.

Starting a business isn't rocket science. Of course, it's not easy to begin a business, but it's not as complicated nor as scary as many people think. It's a step-by-step common-sense procedure. So take it one step at a time.

First step: Figure out what you want to do. You may have several ideas you'd like to pursue, but assuming you only have the time and money to start one, it's decision time. Too hard to choose just one? Start whittling down your ideas with the work sheet below. Most important, make sure you're pursuing a business that's in line with how you live your life and what you want out of it. If things work out well, you could be in this business for a long time. So choose carefully.

Once you have your final idea, talk to people to find out what they think. Ask, "Would you buy (or use) this? How much would you pay?"

Understand that many around you will not encourage you to become an entrepreneur. Some will envy your courage; others will resent you for having the guts to actually do something. To succeed, you can't allow these naysayers to dissuade you, to stop your journey before it even begins.

One of the most common warnings you'll hear is about risk. Sure, starting a business is risky, but keep in mind, there's a difference between foolish risks and calculated ones. If you carefully consider what you're doing, get help when you need it and never stop asking questions, you can mitigate your risk.

You cannot allow the specter of risk to prevent you from going forward. Ask yourself, "What am I really risking?" Then assess the dangers. What are you giving up? What will you lose if things don't work out? Don't risk what you can't afford. Don't risk your home, your family or your health. Ask yourself, "If this doesn't work, will I be worse off than I am now?" If all you have to lose is some time, energy and money, then the risk is probably worth it.

Determining what you want to do is only the first step. You've still got a lot of homework to do, a lot of research in front of you. Most important: Do something. Don't sit back year after year and say, "This is the year I'm going to start my business." Make this the year you really start it.

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This article was originally published in the May 2001 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Brightest Idea.

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