by Greg DeLine, president and CEO of DeLine Holdings
If you’re serious about becoming an entrepreneur, chances are good that you already have a killer idea in mind. You’ve probably gone further than just a basic concept — whether that means getting product details down or making plans for when you eventually make it a reality. You know your idea is more than just a pipe dream, and you’re ready to put it into action.
The problem is, no matter how much you’ve brainstormed or how many strategies you’ve drawn up, taking something from theory into reality is a whole different ball game.
It can be easy at this point to let fear and doubt take over, to turn your sure thing into something you’re not sure about at all. You may think the time isn’t right or the audience isn’t there. And you may be right. Or it may be that there’s no such thing as bad timing if the idea is right. If you’re ready to truly begin your life as an entrepreneur, the question shouldn’t be when or if — but how.
3 Things You Can Do to Get Your Idea Off the Starting Blocks.
Regardless of where you come from or what your situation is, when you’re trying to figure out how to start a business, two things will always be true: Hard work is a thing that everybody can do, and commitment is a choice anyone can make. A word that’s thrown around a lot is passion, but action is more important. You just need to know how to start.
1. Find a mentor.
If you were to climb a mountain for the first time, you’d hopefully bring along an experienced guide. Likewise, the best advice for new entrepreneurs I can give is to find someone to help guide you on the rocky path of starting a business.
An experienced mentor can act as an anchor, a sounding board, or even just emotional support. Mentors can offer advice based not just on their successes, but on their failures as well. A mentor offers something you can’t manufacture: experience.
If you’re unconvinced by any of that, don’t forget that a successful businessperson also tends to come with a network of valuable connections, which can also drastically improve your chances.
2. Figure out your niche.
You might have an amazing idea you’re passionate about, but if there’s no market for it, your excitement won’t be enough to turn it into a successful product. It’s crucial to do your research beforehand in order to find out what niche in society you can fill. Ask yourself what sort of demand you’ll create. Can you fill a void in the market or disrupt what’s already there?
To understand where your idea fits, you need to examine a variety of factors. This includes everything from the economy to the politics of the time to whatever legal requirements you may need to fulfill.
If you’re able, you should also test out your idea on your target demographic. This can be done in a variety of ways. You can set up a temporary landing page advertised to a small group of people, or you can go with a focus group or survey to determine consumer interest.
It’s important to remember this isn’t just about validation; it’s a chance for improvement. The more questions and criticisms you’re willing to entertain at the beginning of the process, the more bulletproof your idea will be when you actually roll it out.
3. Know your limitations.
One of the biggest challenges for many people with high ambitions is being honest with themselves. But the only way you can succeed is to truly understand your assets and liabilities. To borrow a phrase from “Dirty Harry,” a startup has got to know its limitations.
Of course, that can be easier said than done — which is why the SWOT analysis exists. An acronym for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, this exercise is designed to identify external and internal advantages and obstacles that your business has to contend with. This offers a true reckoning of what you do well and what you need to work on, which you can then use to create a business plan that actually works for you.
When I was in third grade, our class built a kiln to fire pottery in art class, and my teacher gave me the position of foreman. I went home to my dad, who has always been my hero, and asked him what being a foreman was. He told me, “That’s the head honcho — the man in charge. You’re made for that.”
That little sentence was a blessing because he gave me something to reach for. And it’s why I can say this to you: Don’t let fear and doubt prevent you from becoming the successful entrepreneur you want to be. After all, you’re made for it.
The president and CEO of DeLine Holdings, Greg DeLine is an entrepreneur and philanthropist. Greg has started and owned more than a dozen successful companies. He has a passion for relationships and helping others reach their full potential. In addition to leading various companies, Greg is the president of the board for Phoenix Programs, past president and current board member of Love INC, and a Leadership Circle level sponsor of the Heart of Missouri United Way.