So, you have a business idea? Congratulations! Is it a good one? Will it change the world, or your country, or your city at least? Is it going to transform education, end homelessness, or convert bitcoin into company shares? Maybe you haven’t figured out everything about it but it is very exciting. That’s a great first step, but certainly it is not enough because you’re now wondering what to do in order to bring it to life.
First things first, sleep over it – for a day or two. Let the business idea build up in your mind. There’s a good chance that there are other micro-ideas lurking on the edges of your mind, and they might begin to crystallize into something bigger. You may find connections that you should tap into, articles that you might read for other insights, or other business idea that you once had but ignored. Next, you need to begin to visualize it in practice – what name are you going to give your venture? Will it operate online, offline or as a hybrid? Is it going to be a for-profit venture, a social enterprise or non-profit? Where will your clients come from?
Let all of these questions form in your mind and see if you’re getting excited with each passing day. If not, it’s okay to let the business idea go. Not every idea is meant to be implemented, and some business ideas take years to come to fruition. If you remain excited about the idea however, why don’t you try to pitch it to an imaginary client, or funder, or business partner, or team member?
You need a Theory of Change
When you’re convinced that your business idea is brilliant and the world needs to see it, it’s time to develop your first Theory of Change. What’s that? A Theory of Change is a framework that enables a venture to articulate what it does and why, what it hopes to achieve and what strategies will enable those outcomes. Start by thinking about the long-term impact that you hope to have through your work, and then think about some of the outcomes – in essence, how will you know that you are on course to achieve that impact? Say you hope to ensure that children living with Cerebral Palsy live healthy and fulfilling lives, some outcomes might include guaranteeing access to education for children with Cerebral Palsy, ensuring that they have good healthcare, and providing access to regular physical exercise for them.
When you have the outcomes laid out, you are ready to outline some measurable outputs. These are the tangible results from the activities which you will carry out, including number of participants/beneficiaries of your work. And then you can map out the activities that you will do, while accounting for the relevant inputs. If it sounds like a daunting process, that’s because it could be. A Theory of Change forces you to be very thoughtful about the idea in your mind. You need to operate with more than enthusiasm – you need a plan.
Don’t let feedback ruin your confidence
With a Theory of Change fully mapped out, you are ready to surround yourself with an advisory team. It could be a good idea to share your business idea with 2-3 people to get some feedback. Getting a contrarian perspective is almost always a good thing to do, but you need to be prepared for that gut-wrenching opinion that might make you doubt yourself. Don’t be discouraged though, if you get uncomfortable feedback. Use the feedback as motivation to push ahead if you are convinced about your approach. The allure of proving someone wrong might be all the motivation that you need. However, if you need to make adjustments based on the feedback you’ve received, then you should implement the feedback. All said and done, you need to trust your own instincts above all else. After all, it’s YOUR idea, right?
Steps to implementing your business idea
Armed with your Theory of Change and the support of your advisory team, you are ready to start implementation. Here are five quick thoughts to guide you on this journey:
- Start with what you have – your grand picture of impact is amazing and you surely cannot wait to see all your dreams come to life, but it will likely require some time, practice and the ups and downs of entrepreneurship. Don’t force it, especially at the early stages. Do what you can with what you have, and then grow from there.
- Give yourself time – you need to commit to patience on this journey. Progress does not happen in a straight line; there will be peaks and troughs, and you will be tempted to quit. Give yourself time, be patient and try to make it to another day.
- Bring a few friends on board – you may even need to enlist the support of your siblings. None of us can do everything all by ourselves, so you will need a team. Luckily for you, you do not need to hire a paid team on Day 1. You can/should ask a few of your friends if they will be willing to help out with one small task and another until you have a full team. And when the time is right, you will be very excited to have your first paid employee.
- Measure impact as you go – it is absolutely important to look out for those small milestones and celebrate them. Celebrate your first project, your first client, your first payout and all the many firsts that you expect to record. Then make sure you document them properly so that you can accurately map the journey at some point.
- Enjoy the journey – embrace it for what it is: a rollercoaster. Research shows that more than 50% of new ventures fail within the first two years, so if you make it past the first year, you are well on your way to survival. Hang in there when it gets tough, but remember to breathe and look after yourself. This is a marathon, not a sprint, and you’ve certainly got what it takes.
By the way, if you’re unsure that you are capable of developing a Theory of Change all by yourself, writing a strategic plan or building an advisory group, get in touch today. We look forward to working with you to actualize your dream.