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Business Idea Evaluation

By Michelle Yozzo Drake

Among the usual piles of bills and junk I find in my mailbox, every once in a while I'll come across one of those household gadget catalogs like Miles Kimball or Harriet Carter. Inside, there is every crazy - yet oddly useful - thingamajig and whoseywhatsit that you can imagine. When I thumb through the pages and deliberate whether or not I really need a "Folding Food Slicer", a "Pasta Express (TM)" pasta cooker, or a flask shaped like a cell phone (seriously? What good could come of that?), I think about the people behind the products.

How did they come up with these ideas? How did they decide that the world needs a "Haircutting Umbrella" or a "Rotato (R) Express"? And what pushed them from simply dreaming about their product into creating a business around it?

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As an entrepreneur and an expert coach to other entrepreneurs, taking an exciting idea for a product or service and turning it into a viable and successful business is one of my favorite topics, and today I want to share my best tips for the first step: figuring out if a "brilliant" idea is really brilliant...and worthy of an entrepreneurial undertaking.

1. Don't ask your friends - ask an expert. The opinions of our friends mean a lot to us because we depend on them to steer us in the right direction. However, for something of this magnitude, a life-changing decision, our friends are usually NOT the best people to discuss a business idea with. Half of them won't understand why you want to give up the stability of your job to venture out on your own, and the other half will tell you it's a fabulous idea! (Just like they told you getting a perm was "fabulous" in the '80s!) Instead, bring your idea to an expert such as another entrepreneur or an entrepreneurial coach like me. We've gone through the entire process, so we're familiar with every facet of starting a business. Who better to get the inside scoop from than someone who's been there? We can discuss the pros and cons of your idea objectively and clue you into the kind of work you'll need to do to get it off the ground.

2. Ask yourself: am I passionate about this idea? To be a successful entrepreneur, you have to have a real passion for the product or service you're creating because it's going to take up 99.9% of your life! Being an entrepreneur isn't a 9 to 5 job with great benefits and a steady paycheck. It's a twenty-four hour a day, seven day a week commitment with no guaranteed salary. When you're not working at building your business, you're thinking about building your business and worrying about the millions of things that need to be done. Sacrifices of time, money and even a little sanity will most likely have to be made for years before your business runs like a well-oiled, profit-generating machine...so you better love your idea.

3. Talk to potential customers. One of the biggest questions that needs to be answered about your product or service idea is: will anyone actually want to buy it? You could have the most amazing idea in the world, but if no one agrees and is willing to fork over the cash to pay for it, it's worthless. Quiz potential customers and dig down deep into how much they really want or need your idea and how much they'd be willing to pay for it.

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4. Examine the product or service. What are the unique features of your product or service? How are you going to design and manufacture the product; how are you going to deliver the service? Who and how many people will you need to handle creating, distributing and marketing this product/service? Who is your competition? All these questions and more should be asked about your idea to help determine if it's going to sink or swim in the world.

5. Create a business plan. Business plans are a huge amount of work, and I consider them to be a real acid test of your commitment to your idea. If you're not willing to devote the time and energy to researching and writing a business plan, then don't even think about trying to start a business because you won't make it past the first week. The key to a great business plan is research: know your market, your competition, your product, your financial forecast, your...everything! Carefully develop each section of your plan and remember: business plans are dynamic and change with every new piece of information that comes to light. Flesh out your idea completely in the plan and by the last page, you'll know whether or not it's a direction you want to go in.

For every great business idea, there are thousands that just won't work - but you'll never know if your idea is brilliant or a bomb unless you invest a little of your time, money and talent into the steps above.

Now go out there and develop the next "Table-Mate (R) II" or "Hot Dog Toaster" today!


For more FREE tips on advancing your career and navigating the workplace, sign up for my FREE e-zine "Lipstick Leadership" at LipstickLeadership.com today! And check out the products I've developed to guide you toward the success you deserve!




I am still determined to be cheerful and happy, in whatever situation I may be; for I have also learned from experience that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends upon our dispositions and not upon our circumstances. Martha Washington