5 Steps for Choosing Your Small Business Idea

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The decision to go into business for yourself is an exciting, liberating one that often sparks an endless stream of creative, imaginative business ideas. If you’re an aspiring entrepreneur, the brainstorming process is a fun and important step in making your dream of independent business ownership a reality. In the end, though, you’ll have to settle on one—at least to start with! Because entrepreneurs tend to be high-energy, inventive people, it can be a challenge to settle on one idea, and to make sure the one you’ve chosen is the right one. By following these five steps, you’ll be well on your way to paving your path as a business mogul.

1. Trust Your Gut
Doing a gut check is an important first step when choosing a business idea to put into action. The gut has been called the “second brain” because of the network of neurons found in it that inform you of stress and emotional states that the brain in your head may not be aware of. This is probably why the term “trusting your gut” is synonymous with following your intuition. When considering ideas for your business, imagine each one independently and notice your gut response. Do you feel tense, nervous, and sweaty when you think about an idea? Do you get a sense of peace and calm, and a surge of positive energy when you imagine your business idea in action? This is not a step to be rushed; take your time and do the gut check exercise more than once, allowing your subconscious mind to integrate all of the information it receives from your gut. You may find that an idea that initially gives you chills of excitement feels lukewarm after a few weeks, and vice versa.

2. Do You Believe in It?
If you don’t believe in the vision, profitability, or possibility for operational success of your business then no one else will either. Most importantly, you won’t be able to get behind your work so you won’t be able to see it through. As an entrepreneur it’s likely that you’ll seek outside help along the way, but for the most part you’ll be on during the process of launching and managing your business. There will be times when you’ll have no one to turn to but yourself for motivation and encouragement, and if you don’t believe in yourself or the business, you won’t find the juice you need to keep going. Believing in what you’re doing is a must.

3. Can You Sell It?
Your business will, of course, sell a product or service and you certainly want to make sure you can reach the correct target market to ensure success, but the first step in the sales process is selling your idea. First, when your idea is explained to others, it should sell itself to some degree because ideally you’ve chosen an idea that will meet the demands of a niche market or fill an un-filled or under-filled need. Second, while we’ve noted that you shouldn’t have to recite your entire business manifesto to a prospective stakeholder in order for them to bite, you will need to have a short pitch (sometimes called an elevator pitch) up your sleeve and be able to recite it clearly and confidently. To summarize, you’ll need to ask yourself both parts of this question: 1. Is the idea good enough to sell itself? And 2. Can I pitch my idea?

4. Can You Do It?
Once you have a short list of ideas, it’s time to take a hard look at which ones are logistically possible. While enough inspiration and passion can carry you through the long haul, it can’t get you—for example—a law degree overnight. Be realistic about your capabilities by taking an inventory of your skills and resources and comparing those to the needs of the potential business, thinking through the process from planning to launch to operation. If there are a lot of huge gaps where you’d need outside help, determine whether you have the necessary resources—financial, social, etc—to fill them in. If you don’t, your idea may take some extra planning and work. If you do and you also feel confident in your ability to commit to learning, growth, challenge, and a positive outlook for the long haul—because businesses rarely take off overnight—then go for it!

5. Ask for Help
Once you’ve chosen your idea and are ready to run with it, set yourself up for success by utilizing as many resources as possible, whether you have investors to turn to, consultants or other professionals in your network, those who have been there, and experts in some of the areas of your business you’re unfamiliar with. We offer consulting in several areas of small business and a wide variety of virtual services including project management and organization, email and social media marketing, content creation and management, administration, and client relations—to name a few! While purse strings are usually tight when starting a new business, hiring a virtual assistant can actually save you time and money. Good luck with all of your ideas and congratulations on making the decision to turn your dream into a reality.

Are you an entrepreneur who’s been there? What other advice can you give aspiring and emerging small business owners?

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