Maybe it happens for you when you’re in the shower. Or out for a walk. Or perusing the aisles of the grocery store. BAM – it hits you. The business idea that’s going to change the world and make you a millionaire! Or famous! Or both!

Oh my God, this is it.

You’re beyond excited as you begin to fantasize about the first thing you will buy with your first million dollars (a yacht! A plane! A small island!) “Let’s do this!” you find yourself thinking…..

Ok ok, so maybe this is a slight dramatization of how exactly a business idea may develop for you. But if you’re anything like me, the best ideas will come to you when you’re not looking for them. And when an idea hits, typically one of two things will happen next.

Either A) you’ll throw up a website, flip over the (proverbial, digital, or literally) “open” sign, and take off running, or

B) be so overwhelmed by analysis paralysis that you stop dead in your tracks. You may not know what to do next, and you fear sinking time and money into a fruitless idea.

So How Do You Mobilize A Great Business Idea?

I don’t know that I’d call myself a serial entrepreneur, but I’m definitely a serial idea-getter, so I know both of these extremes well.

When I launched my event planning business, I pretty much jumped straight from an idea to designing a website to being open for business. Obviously, there were so many other steps that I should have taken before opening my doors, but I didn’t know what those steps were.

Rest easy, dear friend, because this post is going to teach you how to move your business idea from “wouldn’t it be nice” to “this is actually happening!” When you have a million dollar business idea that won’t leave you alone, here are the exact steps you must take to successfully start your business.

The first three steps will be easy to remember because they involve research, research, and research some more!

Step 1: Research the Industry

Even if this is an industry in which you are already familiar or you already have some experience, you will still want to do a deep industry analysis before you take the plunge and open your doors to your new business.

The goal is to have a big picture overview of the space. You want to be able to answer questions like: How big is your industry? What does the future look like (is it growing, shrinking, or staying stagnant?) What innovations are being done to keep it fresh and relevant?

I recommend turning to Trade Associations websites or to find some of these answers.

Step 2: Research the Competitors

I know your product or service is special, awesome, and unique. But while you may be tempted to think that you don’t have competitors, from a consumer’s perspective that’s simply not true.

So dive deep into your competition. How crowded is the marketplace? Is there anyone out there doing what you want to do the way you want to do it?

Visit their websites. Call or email as a prospective buyer. Read their online reviews. What do people like about them? Or really really dislike?

When you think about your product or service, try to incorporate those learnings into your business model to set yourself apart from slower-to-change, already established organizations.

Step 3: Research The Target Market

The last piece of research you’re going to want to do in the beginning is on your target market. This step is crucial because it will help you figure out what makes you different and also help you test for validity and if you’re solving a problem.

I recognize it may be difficult to know much about your target market before you actually start your business. However, even if you can’t get down to demographics (age, gender, household income, etc) information on your target, understanding your target’s psychographics and why your customer may do what s/he does can take you a very long way.

Why are they reaching out to you in the first place? Do they value their time or their money? What gives them joy as it relates to your industry? Are there any pain points within your industry that you could relieve?

If you don’t know the answers to these questions, then find a proxy customer (or 3 or 4!) to ask.

Remember: the ease with which you can find potential targets to survey ahead of starting your business is a telltale sign of how easily you might be able to find potential customers.

Step 4: Buy The Domain Name

Ok, so this is where I may start to diverge a bit from conventional wisdom. Some serial entrepreneurs may say it’s too early in the game to purchase your domain name. But if the domain you want is available (especially if the .com is still available) you should snatch it up right away.

Domain names are like wedding photographers: Only one of them exists, and once they’re gone, they’re gone. If you wait to buy your domain name and someone else buys it first that person may end up charging you thousands of dollars to buy it back from them, as opposed to the $12-$15 it may cost to purchase it in the first place.

I think you do this even before you incorporate your business, especially if you’re not bringing in revenue at this point. It’s a small but worthwhile investment in your business.

This would also be a good time to check and see if the social media handles you’re thinking of using are available as well, though this is not as critical.

Step 5: Create a Minimum Viable Product

Ok, don’t let the startup/techy jargon scare you off here. All this means is to use as few personnel and financial resources as possible to create the simplest client-facing version of your product or service.

The goal here is to start small and lean, creating grander and grander iterations of your product as you are able to secure more and more revenue and/or funding.

For your first version or two, you’ll need to have the basic features and functionality in place so it looks close enough to the real thing to get your feedback from paying customers.

This is not the stage where you want to spend a fortune on a designer website, no matter how sure you are that your idea is a million dollar one. Think small here.

Step 6: Find your first customers and pay close attention to their feedback

It might feel weird to talk to friends and family about your business (What if they think my idea is crazy? What if they think I’m always trying to “sell” them?). But there’s a very good chance your first customer or two will come from a friend, family member, or someone who is otherwise in your network, like a friend of a friend. This is because people buy products and support people they know, like, and trust. And in the beginning, the people who are going to know you best are already acquainted with you somehow. Don’t worry, this is good. Offer your first few customers your product or service at a discounted rate in exchange for their honest opinion and feedback. Take that feedback and iterate until you have a product that’s fit for the masses.

Step 7: Set Up A Separate Bank Account

It’s best to set up a separate account even before you start generating revenue, particularly if you can find a bank that is offering free business checking. You absolutely DO NOT want to mix your business and personal monies together, so go ahead and open that account! You also want to make sure you have a way to receive those funds, such as a PayPal account or a business Venmo. You want to be ready to receive the money before the money actually comes.

Step 8: Get incorporated and register your business

PLEASE NOTE: I am not a small business attorney, tax attorney, or an accountant, so the following advice is strictly based on my experiences. If you have detailed questions about this step, you should talk to an attorney!

Personally, I think it’s really important to go through steps 1-7 before you decide to incorporate for a variety of reasons. 1) You’ll have a better idea if your business idea has legs or not. 2) You’ll have information about your business that you’ll need to determine which type of legal structure would be best for you. Are you going to be an LLC? A C Corp? An S Corp? A sole proprietorship? Consider your business goals and talk to a tax attorney or an accountant about the implications of each as you are deciding. After you choose your legal entity, you will also want to consider getting an Employer Identification Number (EIN), unless you choose sole proprietorship. An EIN is similar to a social security number for businesses. This is the ID code you’ll use to open up business bank accounts and credit cards, and submit your taxes when the time comes.

Step 9: Create a small, fluid business plan

Unless you are looking for venture capitalist support, there’s no need to generate a massive 15- or 20-page business plan at this stage in the game. A small 2-6 page plan will do. Your business plan should outline a few basic things: a description of your product or service and the problem it solves, who your target customer is, and the cost structure of your services (which should include how you will collect payment). Additionally, you should dedicate a paragraph or two to your competitors and your competitive advantage.

Step 10: Promote, promote, promote

If you’ve made it this far, then congratulations are in order! You’ve officially laid the foundation for a successful business! Now here comes, perhaps, the most intimidating part of the process… telling other people about it. This can be especially challenging if you don’t feel like a “born salesperson.” Don’t fall victim to those limiting beliefs. People need what you have to offer, and letting them know about your product or service is just you doing your part to make this world a better place.

If you have ideas, you have the main asset you need, and there isn’t any limit to what you can do with your business and your life. Ideas are any man’s greatest asset – Harvey S. Firestone.

I’ll have an upcoming post about how to pick which ideas to move forward if you have a bunch swirling around in your head. In the meantime, however, my hope for you is that this post can help you avoid analysis paralysis and start to mobilize your million dollar business idea the right way. Because the last thing you want is to kick yourself when you see that someone else has brought an idea that you thought of first to fruition!

Because the last thing you want is to kick yourself when you see that someone else has brought an idea that you thought of first to fruition!Click To Tweet

Here are those steps again:

Step 1: Research the Industry
Step 2: Research Your Competitors
Step 3: Research Your Target Market
Step 4: Buy The Domain Name
Step 5: Create a Minimum Viable Product
Step 6: Find Your First Customers And Gather Feedback
Step 7: Set Up A Separate Bank Account
Step 8: Register Your Business
Step 9: Create a Short Business Plan
Step 10: Tell Others About It

I’d love to hear from you. Do you get paralyzed after you get a business idea, and if so where? What other questions do you have about how to move your idea forward? For those of you who may already have launched your businesses, is there anything else you would add in here?

And as always, if you know of someone for whom this is relevant or who could use a message like this, I would love it if you shared it with them! Sharing is caring!

Until next time!

Cheers To The Journey,