People often ask me how I figured out what type of business I wanted to start. Unfortunately, I have to tell them that I didn't figure anything out. All of my previous endeavors have just sort of happened. However, that's not to say I didn't enable them in some ways.
The Next Best Thing
The first thing I recommend to people looking to start their first business is to stop hunting for that million-dollar idea. Instead, give yourself time for an idea to actually come to you. If you're volunteering, working out four times a week or pumping your time into a hobby along with a full time job, you may want to scale your schedule back a little bit. If you want to think of a business, your brain is going to need a little down time. There's nothing wrong with taking a long walk or relaxing on the couch with a glass of wine. Set aside some time to meditate and figure out what you think about when not under stress. You could have a great idea floating around.
Or even better: just live your life. If your routine has prevented you from taking a vacation, sporadic trips to the corner store or even going out for drinks with your friends, you have eliminated a great source of inspiration: day-to-day problems.
After being out in public for a few days, you will have a ton of business ideas you think are brilliant, and there's a good chance some of them are. There's also an even better chance they aren't. Ask yourself these questions about your brain child:
- Does my idea solve a problem someone else may have?
- Is my solution replicable? Could my answer be someone else's answer? Is there a specific market I am going to ultimately appeal to?
- How much do I actually know about the field I might be entering (you're going to want to know a lot)?
- Can I see myself spending the majority of my time selling this idea to everyone I meet?
If you can make it through those questions without needing a huge explanation, you could be onto something.
Finding Your Harshest Critic
The final step when testing your new product is to reach out to your pickiest friend. Think about the friend who always special orders items from Starbucks with absolutely no shame. Think about the friend who steals your stories, and who is always tells you what you should have done better without being asked.
Pitch your idea to this person and really work through it. Keep pushing the subject and get ready to be criticized. There's a really good chance you might not be friends after this process because he or she is going to point out everything that's wrong with your new fake company.
If you make it through that conversation and don't hate your friend too much, you might have a legitimate idea. Be prepared to go through that process several hundred times during the infancy of your new concept. You may get worn down, but if you are able to reason through all the problems you're made aware of, you'll be closer to having a viable business concept. And, if you abandon your idea or can't get through the constant criticisms, just try again. Eventually you will either have a great concept or you will have reasoned through the project enough so that you can execute it in the best way possible.