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Developing a Business Idea

Conventional wisdom says that your big idea for a small business will gradually develop into the exact replica of what you imagined when you came up with the idea. The reality for many business owners is that the first idea only serves as the kernel for the one that will eventually fly.

Chances are by the time you actually launch the business, your idea will be molded by market research, customer input, cost of development, and other information you learn in the research process. For this reason, it is important in the set–up stage not to become discouraged if you have to abandon part of your business idea, or even your entire idea. You will need flexibility and perseverance to keep your business afloat once you start, so applying it during the startup phase is good practice.

Unfortunately, some potential business owners abandon their ideas too easily believing that if an idea has flaws, the concept is unsalvageable. To help you avoid this trap, use the five instances of idea–roadblock listed here to determine how you can keep going if your idea isn't perfect.

You're hardly the first

Problem: Lots of people are already running businesses doing what you planned on doing.

Solution: Examine the field and see if there is still room for you. Often, lots of businesses cater to the same customer, but leave some small niche underserved. For example, if you planned on starting a dance studio and you find that there are already too many in town, there may be a market for someone who goes to private parties and teaches large groups of people who don't have time to go to a dance studio. To find an underserved niche, look at the current offerings of your future competitors and think about what narrow markets you may be able to serve that they are overlooking.

Too late?

Problem: You are too late to market

Solution: Just because other companies beat you to market doesn't mean you won't be successful. In fact, the first company to market has to spend a lot of money educating buyers about why this new product or service is worth purchasing. You can also learn from the mistakes of your predecessors. For example, look at how Microsoft came into the spreadsheet market and took over with Excel after Lotus had been dominant with its 1–2–3 product.

Flat industry

Problem: Your research tells you the industry is flat.

Solution: See if you can look at the business a totally new way. For example, a recent article in the Harvard Business Review talked about a movie theater owner in Europe who recently entered a market that was saturated and suffering from a lack of customers. However, by starting a movie theater with huge comfortable seats, lots of parking, and other amenities that transformed the movie–going experience, he was able to pack his theater night after night.

Prohibitive costs

Problem: Set–up costs are too high.

Solution: Start out as a contractor to a business that you want to create. For example, if you really want to own a bakery, but you cannot afford rent, start out by baking a few goods and supplying them to existing bakeries. Over time you can save enough money to have your own store.

Lack of information

Problem: You can't find information about the industry to determine if your idea is viable.

Solution: The best way to learn about an industry is to talk to small business owners who are in it. Many entrepreneurs will be willing to share a few hours with you to explain how they got started, how the business works, and industry pros and cons. As long as you are not potentially direct competitors, you will find many entrepreneurs helpful. You may need to call 50 people to find five who will help.

The previous content is provided by OPEN: The Small Business NetworkSM from American Express.


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