Surround Yourself with Entrepreneurs and Liked-Minded People
This is a massive topic, so for now I’m going to focus on just the initial part: Deciding on an idea and sticking with it.
There are so many aspects to starting a viable business, and I would argue that one of the most helpful things you can do even before brainstorming ideas, is to surround yourself with entrepreneurs and friends who will help and challenge you to become better.
It is like the saying, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man (or woman) sharpens another”. Having other like-minded people that you can trust can really help you hone in on viable ideas that are worth pursuing.
A great resource for networking can be found at cofounderslab.com. You should also try to connect with like-minded individuals at work, or look for a space that fosters entrepreneurship. Try searching online for an innovation center or department at your work or university. Finding an innovation center really helped me connect with some awesome people and get involved.
Choosing an Idea and Getting in the Right Mindset
Innovation doesn’t have to come by luck or random chance. In fact you can compete against luck and actively work to find an idea that can provide the start of a business.
In Clay Christensen’s book “Competing Against Luck”, he discusses his “Jobs-to-be-done” theory that really helps frame your mindset to find an idea that can lead to a viable business. The theory is based off of discovering what the true value is that people desire, or to say it another way: What is the job that they want accomplished? Here’s an article from the Harvard Business Review that talks more about Clay’s Jobs-to-be-done theory.
He uses the simple milkshake as an example, and he goes into the true value that customers receive from the milkshake that might not be immediately obvious on first glance. The milkshake can also fulfill different “jobs” for different people and at different times of the day.
For example, people were buying milkshakes in the morning because they had a long boring drive to work and they needed something to keep them from getting hungry and to help them stay awake while driving.
Knowing the unique job that the milkshake is fulfilling you can know how to improve on the milkshake in a way that will actually make a positive difference for the customer. Such as moving the milkshake to be easily accessed in the store with a prepaid card to make the process of getting the shake as fast as possible as to not delay the commute. Also, making the shake thicker so it takes longer to suck up through a straw, keeping the consumer awake longer during their commute.
Design with the customer’s job in mind. It is this type of mindset that can help you identify new developments and innovations that solve people’s jobs-to-be-done in ways they didn’t even know they needed.
You Have to Like Your Idea Enough to Stick With It Through the Ups and Downs.
Depending on who you are it is easy to get carried away by a number of ideas (which is a good thing). I really like to use the app, Google Keep.
Throughout my work day I am always trying to think of how to solve problems and make things more efficient. If I think of an idea I type it in a note on the app as soon as I can because I don’t want any ideas to slip away!
To narrow your ideas down it is important to picture how others might use the idea or product, if it would be profitable, if it fulfills a future customer’s job-to-be-done…etc. One of the most vital parts to consider is if you can picture yourself being able to stick with the idea through the ups and downs.
It is like a professional musician writing a new song. They have to make sure they really love the song because they may be performing it over and over again, sometimes for the rest of their lives. You may not always be stuck with one idea for the rest of your life, but you should make sure that your idea will interest you even when the going gets hard. It is also much easier to sell an idea/product to investors or buyers when you genuinely care about it!
Deciding On the Next Steps and Problem Solving
The beautiful and also difficult thing about being an entrepreneur is that there is no exact, spelled-out road to success. Being in a startup company is like continually making educated guesses that could either destroy your company or help it live on until the next set of questions arise.
It is all about having the right mindset, believing in what you’re doing, and doing your best to identify what needs to be done and problem solving as you go.