How to Turn Your Idea into a Successful Business in 2020 (+ Case Studies & Checklist)
You have a brilliant business idea. You are itching to implement the idea before someone else does. You uncontrollably sell your supersecret idea to your partners and family, telling them about your business disruptor of the century. You believe you have found the holy grail to turn an idea into a successful business.
Your adrenaline is pumping hard. You are so excited that you could hardly sleep at night. You spend an indecent amount of effort to draft and redraft your action plan.
I hate to tell you this: unless you have successfully executed a business based on that idea before, you are likely to have missed several vital steps to turn your idea into a successful business.
From my 30+ years of corporate and business experiences, I fully understand the excitement of those A-ha moments. I know the seductive temptation of wanting to be everything to everyone. But let’s temper that excitement with a reality check that statistically 90% of the startups failed.
Yes, 90%. It’ not a joke.
Here’s an easy test to tell if you are a natural entrepreneur: did the thought of you being in the 10% of successful startups cross your mind? If so, congratulations!
A successful entrepreneur I respect and follow on social media quoted in his Forbes business article:
Cold statistics like these are not intended to discourage entrepreneurs, but to encourage them to work smarter and harder. Neil Patel
The key to success nowadays is to work smart and hard. There are no short-cuts. You need to work hard. You need to be smart. You need guidance from experienced people who have left their footprints on that path.
The guidance shared here will be a mixture of my 30+ years of business experience and the research I have done on successful businesses (and spectacular failures).
Let’s take a look at some authoritative tips on how to turn your idea into a successful business.
What Makes a Business Idea Wildly Successful
We start with the most important success factor: You.
Your business idea needs to encompass your purpose and reason for living. They require the following 4 empowering components:
Spending time on the Passion that you are good at will give you the desired satisfaction and momentum. If you have incorporated a Mission to help the world with what you love to do, you will find excitement and a sense of fulfillment.
Let’s be honest with ourselves, a business cannot last long without revenue and profits. Successful long-lasting businesses are highly profitable and usually well funded by die-hard investors. The top billionaires in the world have legendary icons to their names: Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, Apple, Alibaba to name a few.
A Profession pays you to do what you are good at. A Vocation pays you to do what is needed. But without passion or mission, most people will not find what they are doing meaningful. Job dissatisfaction is widespread in companies that fail to address human psychological needs.
Your business idea is turbocharged to succeed when you are being paid to do what you enjoy doing that happens to be what the world needs. This happens when your Passion, Mission, Profession, and Vocation overlap.
Finding the sweet spot takes effort. Research, soul-searching, and some planning are required.
Let’s say you love to sing and you excel in singing. You have a passion and a natural gift to replicate any song you hear once. You can entertain your family and friends with your heavenly melodies, but more is needed for business success.
To turn your singing into a successful venture, you need to have an audience that desires to hear you sing and will gladly pay for high-priced tickets to be entertained by you at a sold-out concert.
Forage through your mind and soul to find that sweet spot of success: the intersection of your Passion, Mission, Profession, and Vocation.
How Can I Turn My Idea Into Reality (No B.S.)
The insider answer is: Build Your Tribe.
You need to know exactly who you are serving and how you can be of value to them. You need your tribe of adoring fans as the foundation of your successful business.
Assuming again you are a talented singer, you can decide to be a music teacher, a mentor to budding singers, or an awe-inspiring Diva capable of packing a stadium with idolizing fans. Your tribe will be students desiring an appreciation of music, singers with dreams of becoming a Star, or music lovers looking for Stars to idolize.
You have to choose a tribe and focus on providing value and benefits to your tribe. Trying to be everything to everybody is a common mistake many entrepreneurs make, including myself. The clearer you can articulate the benefits and value you offer your tribe, the more likely you are to establish a loyal tribe.
You move your idea closer to reality if you can complete the 2 statements below in crystal-clear terms:
My tribe consists of people who need help in/desire ….
I use my passion for …….
For the talented singer, an example would be:
My tribe consists of people who desire a good time listening to mesmerizing songs.
I use my passion for singing to awe my tribe with uplifting and inspiring songs.
You found your sweet spot in life and you have discovered your tribe. You are raring to charge into the business. Don’t. Control yourself. You need one more step.
How do You Validate Your Business Idea
Launching a business without validating your business idea is like driving a car in a foreign place new to you without GPS. The chances of getting lost are very high. Validating your business idea involves a trial with a sample tribe, allowing you to obtain invaluable feedback and experience to optimize your business model.
Here are the 8 surefire steps to validate your business idea:
- Populate Your Tribe
You should start building your tribe as soon as you have identified who they are. You can join social media platforms and networking events to look out for people who can be recruited into your Tribe. Collect at least their first names and emails.
2. Crystallize Your Tribe’s Needs
Interact with your tribe and understand first hand their needs. Categorize those needs into the following 4 areas:
For the talented singer who wants to be a star, the tribe can be music lovers who enjoy live concerts. They desire a good time listening to unforgettable, uplifting songs. They hate getting bored with disastrous events and cringeworthy singing.
3. Lock-in One Key Benefit You Are Giving Them
You need to be absolutely clear of at least one key benefit that your tribe craves for at all cost. The talented singer can either arrange a solo concert or team up with world-class singers to host an event for the die-hard tribe. The key benefit is to ensure that the songs are awe-inspiring and breathtaking.
5. Plan a Trial
Taking the same example, the talented singer should plan an exclusive concert for her tribe and test out the success of that event. A trial will generate the feedback you need to improve your business strategy and planning. From the exclusive concert, the talented singer will know the price range of the tickets the tribe is willing to pay, the genre of songs they like, the concert environment, acoustics, ideal length between break periods, and likely a host of invaluable trade secrets competitors will kill for.
6. Implement Key Metrics
You can’t manage what you can’t measure. Think of the key success metrics for your business and the realistic targets you should achieve over a reasonable timeline.
For the talented singer, the key success metrics could be:
- a standing ovation at the concert for at least one song
- at least 80% of the tickets sold
- a net profit of at least 20% for the event
Clearly defined metrics facilitate a post-mortem of each event leading to improvements to your management of the business.
7. Improve and Refine Your Solution
Gather as much feedback as possible from your tribe during the validation stage. The gems of insights gleaned will steer your business into the high seas of success after launch.
8. Gather Testimonials
You cannot be shy about this important exercise. Ask for testimonials from your adoring tribe, as many as possible. Such testimonials endorse you as a trustworthy expert who can deliver on your promises. They are invaluable for your marketing campaigns.
Sneak-Peak at Startup Successes and Failures
You have discovered your dreamed niche. You have identified your adoring tribe to ka-ching you to success. You have validated your business idea and you are raring for action.
Let’s cement your success with lessons from spectacular failures and inspirations from great come-backs.
Lessons From Spectacular Startup Failures
The business graveyard is littered with the tombstones of startup failures. The epitaphs of 339 startup failures are just a fraction of the sad stories of 90% of startups that failed.
From a recent list of 11 of the most spectacular startup failures, let’s zoom in one of the famous cases to gain a deeper insight.
WeWork’s startup failure was quite spectacular given the earlier IPO plans with a $47 billion valuation at one stage. Many commented that WeWork’s business model was flawed right from the start. They argued that rental of co-working space could never make money as clearly demonstrated by WeWork’s failure to generate profits since the start.
I dug deeper into coworking space as a business and uncovered a profitable and much larger competitor of WeWork, spread over 3,340 locations across 1,200 cities in 120 countries. WeWork assets don’t even come close by comparison with operations in just 140 cities. This company is the Switzerland-based International Workplace Group (IWG).
From hindsight, we know that WeWork’s mistake was the mindless pursuit of growth at any cost whereas IWG was way ahead of the game by growing at a steady pace with a laser-focus on profitability. Clearly WeWork did not validate their business idea with a successful model before running wild with investors funds.
Let’s cut to the chase. From analyzing the epitaphs of 339 startup tombstones mentioned earlier, here are the top 5 reasons startups failed:
- Failure to determine the market needs
- Ran out of cash
- Not having the right team
- Over-run by competitors
- Failure to manage pricing/cost issues
From my 30+ years of corporate and business experience, my professional views are that:
Leadership makes or breaks an organization and determines if the team will join the circle of winners or the graveyard of losers. I have shared the time-tested secrets of 7 successful people on a published blog post earlier this year. Assimilate the gems of wisdom provided for your success.
Inspiration From Jaw-Dropping Come-Backs
Let me be upfront with you: Being an entrepreneur driving a startup idea is not going to be a walk in the park. You will encounter countless problems that will drive a normal human crazy. However, the sweet taste of success is heavenly as you clear each major milestone. I know, because I’ve been through the pits of hell countless times. But the few experiences traveling on the cloud 9 of success more than made up for it.
Knowing that others have succeeded against all odds can inspire you when you most needed it. Let me share 2 meaningful real-life stories here.
Case Study 1: Our Talented Singer
Let’s finish first with our talented singer (yes, she is a real person).
Asley Marina is a young gifted lady who is just 12 years old. Her inspiring story holds a few lessons for us. Her family and friends have been urging her to make a name for herself. She thinks that she has the X-factor for success.
She obviously understands that her passion and gift for singing can make her rich and famous. She is fortunate to have found her sweet spot and has a tribe of loving family and friends. She decided recently to validate her idea in front of a live audience through America Got Talent.
However, she made a mistake that most of us are likely to make in a startup. I won’t be a spoiler here to the video I have included below. Suffice to say that her example will inspire you to dig deeper to serve your tribe and always think of how to give them more value. That is the essence of success that cannot be taught but can be inspired.
Case Study 2: An Unlikely Billionaire
I want to leave no doubt in your mind that startup success is hard but achievable. If you have understood the essence of success in the last video, the next mind ingredient is even more crucial for your startup success. You need to assimilate that essence into your being.
The unlikely billionaire is not the person I am showing you in the video. I am referring to YOU. As you watch the video, compare your background and situation with him and ask yourself why he succeeded so spectacularly, and how you can do likewise.
Open your mind to the next inspiration.
The Long Road Ahead
Startup success is a journey. The roadmap has been given to you together with some travel advisory.
Here are some insider tips that can help you on your journey:
- Cultivate a learning habit
- Don’t assume, always research and check
- Be uncompromising on the quality and character of your core management team
- Always ask or find out what you don’t know
- Service above Self for Success
- Learn from failures, enjoy your success
Launch Your Startup Idea & Ka-ching
You are the proud owner of a startup. Your die-hard clients-turn-friends are growing daily. Your business is fast becoming a household name.
Your local community regards you as a business genius. You have frequent invitations for talks and interviews. You feel good being able to help people.
That is not fantasy but a reality in the future. You have all the tools and ingredients to turn a startup idea into a successful business. Follow the steps above and stay on the well-trodden path at the beginning. Venture into new paths when you have set up your base-camp.
Decide on your sweet spot, switch on your engine, and blaze the tarmac!
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NOTE for Free Checklist: For the Checklist, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject “Idea to Successful Business Checklist”. If you have any questions, please drop me a note as well. God Bless!