From Good Idea to Good Business

0618_GoodIdeaYou never know when inspiration will strike. In fact, you may have already been inspired with a revolutionary idea for an innovative new product or service. But as most entrepreneurs know, coming up with an idea is the easy part; it's a whole lot more challenging to turn that idea into an actual business opportunity.

Here are some initial steps you can take to turn your idea into a reality:

• Identify opportunity. Write down your business idea and evaluate it. Ask yourself: What want or need does your idea fulfill?
• Refine your idea. Once you have your idea, think about ways you can expand on it or improve it.
• Determine your target audience. Who would purchase your product or service? Write down specifics about your target audience. For example, how old they are, where they live, their income and education level, and marital status.
• Do some research. Are there other products or services similar to yours? If so, who is your competition? How does your product or service compare?
• Create an advisory team. Do you know experts in other business disciplines — such as sales, marketing, or retail operations? Consider building an advisory team of experts who can help guide you.
• Develop a prototype. If you have a physical product, can you create a prototype to show what it would look like? If that's not possible or if you have a service business, can you create a presentation that depicts your idea?
• Test your idea. Great ideas don't move forward if others don't see the value in them. That's why it's important to test market your product or service, not with friends or family members, but with retailers, distributors, and others who would sell your product or recommend your service. You may want to consider hosting a focus group with those who match your target audience.
• Formalize your idea in a business plan. Writing a business plan will help you think about all aspects of your business — your business objectives, strategies, and markets, as well as start-up costs. A business plan will also be required from a bank if you need to secure a loan at some point.

The most important thing you'll need to have is patience. Great ideas — and businesses — take time to develop.