I have a great business idea, what do I do next?

Young couple drinking coffee and using digital tablet in kitchen

If only entrepreneurship relied simply on conjuring a great business idea. Sadly, not. In a competitive business climate, ‘great ideas’ don’t always translate into scalability, profit and enterprise success.

It’s what you do after the ‘eureka moment’ that separates the successes from the ‘what might have beens’.

How to turn a great idea into a business

Once you’ve had your brilliant business idea, it’s worth considering at least some of the following ideas, which include mentoring and advice, market research, prototyping, raising funds and, now more than ever, leveraging tech to ultimately reach the masses.

Step 1: Discuss and get feedback

It sounds obvious but the old cliché of ‘two minds are better than one’ stands true when it comes to start-up development. No matter how convinced you are that your big idea is a certified hit, it’s always important to get a second pair of eyes to give it a look over to unearth an unthought-of aspect.

Seeking out entrepreneurs in the same space, already established companies, or sector experts to pinpoint errors and areas for improvement will only help in the long run.

Step 2: Is there a market?

With the rise of digitisation, there’s seemingly a gap in the market for everything and it’s much more possible to squeeze into a niche with a slightly nuanced variation of an existing theme. But is there a market in its own right ready and waiting for your particular idea?

Conducting market research is a natural follow-on from the feedback obtained in step 1 and will hopefully allow your proposition to hit the ground running and scale-up more rapidly upon inception.

Step 3: Plan and prototype

The proof is in the pudding, as they say. An idea is all well and good, but a tangible example is likely to hold stronger sway with potential investors and business partners.

More than that though, it gives you a starting point from which to develop and refine before taking said product through fundraising rounds, or even to market.

Step 4: Raise funds

Multi-award winning strategic and fundraising consultant for non-profits and socially driven companies, Sally Anne Hunter provides some excellent tips in her recent article in Elite Business.

Alongside the importance of having clarity of mission and vision, when it comes to accessing funding and scaling, Sally pinpoints the following as some of the key factors for success:

STAGE: Whether you are a start up or scale up will influence how funders and investors view the risk they will be taking in giving, lending or investing their money in your organisation. We have all heard of the start-up funding of Friends, Fools and Families but don’t forget the Free money (grants) especially if you intend to deliver a social return.

STRUCTURE: The choice of legal entity has a profound impact on the ability to access funding. Of course, all businesses, unless restricted by their governing documents, can secure funding through trading, grants and loans. An incorporated organisation ‘limited by shares’ has shareholders and can therefore generate equity-based finance via external investors for example from angel investors, VCs and through equity-based crowd funding platforms. On the other hand, it does make it harder to source philanthropic investment. This is more readily available to organisations ‘limited by guarantee’, which have an asset lock, cannot access equity-based finance and usually operate in the ‘non-profit sector’.

SOCIAL: It is increasingly the case that socially conscious businesses outperform their competitors. There is a simple reason for this – people are increasingly looking into the social and ethical profile of an organisation before deciding whether they want to work with and/or buy from them.

In this new socially aware environment, an organisation’s ability to articulate, deliver and report on its social credentials can have a significant impact on its attractiveness to customers, employees, investors and philanthropic funders.

SEX: More women are starting and scaling successful businesses than ever before. Yet this message is not getting through to the investment community – female entrepreneurs receive less funding than those headed by men at every stage of their business’s development according to the recent Rose Review of Female Entrepreneurs. The conscious and unconscious bias on the part of the potential investor is a major factor, and was recently highlighted in research from London Business School’s Dr. Dana Kanze and means they could be missing out on some awesome investment opportunities. We need more female angel and VC investors, more investors to check their bias at the door and more people to challenge stereotypes. If women entrepreneurs are not given the opportunity to reach their full potential, then we all suffer.

Step 5: Leverage technology

Speed is of the essence in the early stages of business development. Fortunately, in the era of digitisation, there are a host of technologies on hand to ensure you’re working smart as well as hard.

Our DocuSign Agreement Cloud offers a wide range of digital tools that can improve the speed, accuracy, security and visibility of your important business communications, especially once your big idea has passed the funding stage.

DocuSign Agreement Cloud

Summary: Next steps for business ideas

Having a big idea is the easy part, it’s presenting it to the world that can prove hard. taking the above ideas on board will help contribute to a sustainable, yet fast-moving and hard-hitting business strategy. But remember, every great idea needs a sounding board and outside opinions, so try not to think of external outputs as a sign of interference or idea-dilution - it isn’t. Intellectual support is every bit as important as financial support, and in striking a balance between the two, you’ll be on your way to turning your business idea into a market-driven, market-ready, market-attractive success.

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