The Entrepreneur Insiders network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in America’s startup scene contribute answers to timely questions about entrepreneurship and careers. Today’s answer to the question “How do you come up with a new startup idea?” is written by Bruce Paul, CEO and founder of Swivelfly.
Coming up with an idea isn’t the hard part. It’s knowing how to recognize the signs and triggers of a viable business. But the first thing to realize is that not every great idea is a great startup idea.
Coming up with the right idea isn’t always as fun as many think. It’s within the trenches of work—researching, planning, and vetting—that you develop a business concept where creativity and collaboration can thrive.
Words like “disruptor” are often thrown around when referring to new startup ideas, but the process of developing them is really nothing new. The key to starting a successful business is and always has been about fulfilling a need in the marketplace. The modern entrepreneur must be especially thoughtful about how to improve an industry as a whole and how a business would be successful globally.
Spark those initial ideas by asking questions incessantly. When creating a new business model, I am constantly asking, “Wouldn’t it be great if…?” or, “How do I make this process better?” or, “How can I make this do that?” Answering those questions is just the beginning of an idea. And while the answers may spark new concepts or solutions, not all of those ideas are right for starting a business. Creative ideas can be in any industry, but coming up with one that could be a successful venture is the hard part.
Having started three businesses on my own, I’ve been through the idea process many times. The first step is realizing the focal point that every startup idea should have: viability. This is where some MBA skills come in handy. It takes an extensive amount of time and research to look at a market and figure out where the need is and how your idea solves specific pains.
Testing the viability of an idea takes a culmination of talking to respected industry peers and mentors as well as research before committing to the idea as a business. Here are some key ways to assess a startup idea before launching it into creation:
Research the market
If the business is in technology, for example, look not only at direct competitors, but also figure out their partners, the technologies they use, and anyone with a business that might go into that sector. This should all be extensively mapped out for a better understanding of where there is room for your idea and the challenges you’ll need to assess before getting started. The strengths and weaknesses of the market will also spark ideas and reveal holes that currently exist.
Surround yourself with the right people
My network of industry peers and mentors is an invaluable tool for testing business ideas. But your network shouldn’t be friends or fellow entrepreneurs. The best people for testing ideas aren’t those who congratulate you, but who instead try to poke holes in the plan. Find people who have worked in the industry for 30-plus years, have dealt with many different industries and/or product issues, and understand the core of what has worked and what has not. Experienced leaders like these will serve as good sounding boards of how easy it will (or won’t) be to get people to understand or adopt certain principles of your business model.
Organize the business processes
Understand how all components of the business will work even before a concrete idea is formed—operations, marketing, product, etc. Have all of the moves mapped out and different ways of organizing the plan. Visualizing many different business plans for the same business model is critical to developing any idea and flushing out potential issues. Of course, there are no guarantees or fail-safes to making a startup successful every time, but conducting proper research, creating a strong business plan, and determining the right timing will make a concrete foundation. From there, the rest comes with fierce tenacity and a bit of luck.