Without practical business experience, going to conferences and reading books on starting and running a tech business can give people the wrong impression. Starting a new venture appears to be really easy. Have an idea, go through a tough grind, come out the other end prosperous and successful. Best case scenario, you start a new idea get bought by Google or Facebook and don’t even need to go through the grind. Listening to the self-promoters, I mean teachers, can leave someone with this impression. I mean they got me.
Reading lots of books or going to conferences about business is really useful. You get to hear some inspiring stories, get insights into how other businesses are run, and sometimes you even hear practical strategies to apply to your business. But the real learning happens when you are running your business. I think there are 2 reasons for this. First, every business is unique and it takes ground floor experience to get to know your business. Second, the majority of people teaching about business are doing it for themselves. They will teach you about the industry, they may tell you a couple entertaining stories about their experience, but very rarely do they share anything they’ve learned that made their business successful. You get the theory but not the practice.
Let’s leave something of real value here, something practical you can apply, if you are thinking of starting a new venture and you have a great idea.
Step 1: Make pre-sales
Before you start anything, before you make a business plan or calculate your expected revenue go make pre-sales. You will know quickly if your idea is as good as you hoped. If more than 1 person is willing to pay for it now, or tell their friends about it now, before it is actually built you are on to something. If you can’t get any sales, it’s not because you haven’t built it yet, it’s because it’s not valuable to people.
Step 2: Talk to your customers
If you get traction (people are either sharing it or pre-ordering it) move to step 3. Otherwise, you stop and ask people what they actually want. Your idea might need to be tweaked a bit, maybe it’s only a small change like a 20% shift. Ask them the following questions. What do you wish was easier for your life? What would you pay someone to solve? What do you see is valuable about this idea? What you discover might surprise you. If you get to an idea that a lot of people seem to be liking go back to step 1.
Step 3: Build trust
Your idea has traction, now you need to build it. Trust is really difficult to build in business. It takes time, keeping commitments and delivering on promises. Your focus now is making sure that you can give your new client base a realistic timeframe. Exaggerate the time it will take to get the product ready. You won’t lose anybody and you will only make them more excited if you surprise them and get it completed earlier than expected. Take too long and you will lose customers, and worse you will lose trust.
It’s up to you how you want to finance it, but doing those three steps will give you a good head start on getting a new idea off the ground. Let me leave you with this final thought, nobody should build things out of desire to be an “entrepreneur”. You should build things because they need to exist. What do you think?