17th June, 2019
Having a solid business idea is a far cry from having a successful business. In this article, Benjamin Kluwgant discusses the best ways to approach turning your concept into a reality.
Have you ever been working your day job and all of a sudden experienced a light bulb moment with a genius business idea?
Well, if you have, you’re certainly not alone. These days, anyone with even the slightest drop of entrepreneurial spirit in their blood tends to come up with an idea every now and again that they consider taking on.
Unfortunately, these ideas don’t often come to fruition due to obstacles such as limited access to funding, lack of know-how or readiness to leave a full-time and secure job. Other times, a simple lack of follow through can be the culprit. The idea then goes begging and joins millions of others in an ocean of missed opportunities.
In the small percentage of instances that such an idea is taken seriously though, moving from the idea phase into the creation of an actual business is nothing short of an uphill battle with an endless amount of challenges.
But, if the right strategies are used and if the idea is approached with a disciplined attitude, these unavoidable challenges can play a huge part in setting up a long-lasting business with strong foundations.
In order to get some insight from an experienced, early-stage business mentor, I reached out to Alan Tsen, Melbourne general manager of Stone and Chalk and chair of Fintech Australia, asking for his take on how to approach this delicate transition from idea to business.
According to Tsen, before even beginning the journey from idea to full-fledged business, it is important to align your expectations with the reality of the situation, which is: starting a business is far closer to tip-toeing through a minefield than it is to a stroll in the park.
“Building a company is hard,” Tsen told The Pulse. “In fact, in many ways it’s an impossible task that requires super human levels of focus and determination. It’s a grinding process that takes years of relentless work with many pitfalls and landmines.”
Assuming you can come to terms with the ‘mission-impossible’ type of venture that lies ahead, there are a number of important strategies that Tsen outlined that can help make the transition more manageable.
The first strategy is simple: avoid distraction at all costs.
Based on Tsen’s experience in watching early-stage business founders undergo this transition, he said that it’s “easy to get distracted” by the next “shiny thing” that looks like it’ll make your business more successful.
While ‘shiny objects’ are often tempting, they can be very dangerous. In the competitive world of startups and innovation that we live in today, it is of paramount importance to stay focused on building the solution to the problem you originally identified.
According to Tsen, in order to play in the league of “great startups”, the focus needs to be in creating one solution that is “a magnitude of order better” than any other pre-existing solution.
“Being maniacally focused on what your customers need and solving their problem is the key early on.”
It doesn’t matter how good your business idea might be – when you start out, there are always going to be fundamental questions that need to be answered.
Tsen encouraged those starting out with their business ideas to “test the hard ones early” and not to be afraid to face those challenges head on.
“For example,” explained Tsen, “will a customer actually pay you money for the product? Is this product really 10 times better? If it isn’t (which is fine early on), what is your proposed pathway to get there?”
Don’t shrug off the fundamentals or assume you ‘just know’ whether or not something will work. If you launch your business without answering those questions first, you’ll end up scrambling for answers when it’s too late.
Another strategy Tsen implored people to implement at the early stages of proving a business concept is to effectively balance your mission statement with the input you receive from potential customers.
When you’re in the validation phase, you have no choice but to consider the feedback offered by those within your target market. Often that feedback can lead to distractions which compromise your vision for the business’ direction.
“Have a view and vision for the company and then augment that with what your customers tell you,” said Tsen.
“If you can do that well, you’ll end up in the sweet spot of being both valuable and unique.”
At the early stage of a business venture, risk of failure is extremely high. Entering the unknown, testing and tweaking your offering and keeping up with industry trends are all things that invite enough challenge to cause even the most ambitious of people to fail harshly.
As we saw from SpaceIL’s failed attempt to land on the moon earlier this year, successful stories are all filled with plenty of turbulent times and failures.
If you can maintain focus, find the courage to answer the hard questions, balance your vision with customer input and be ready to accept failure, there isn’t much that can stop you from building a high-quality business.