One of the things I do before I start a new business is run it through my viable business filter. If it doesn’t measure up to what I’ve defined for myself as a viable business, I don’t do it. Of course, sometimes an idea makes it through the filter and it still doesn’t work, but that’s another story!
This is an updated excerpt from my book, The Web Startup Roadmap: Navigate Your Way to a Successful Online Business, and it’s specifically for all you wantrepreneurs who are on the verge of starting your business.
Your viable business filter is your litmus test, and its goal is to make sure you’re starting a business that’s right for you. It should contain things that are important to you and things that you feel will give you the best chance of success. Here’s my filter to give you an idea of what I mean:
- Simple as possible to start
- Low start-up costs (I’m very frugal)
- In my area of expertise
- The market isn’t saturated with competition
- Scalable (meaning it can be automated)
- Independent of the economy (as much as possible)
- It fills a real need AND demand that people or businesses have, and are willing to pay for
- It provides real value to its customers
- It’s a win/win for all involved
If an idea doesn’t pass enough or all of my rules, I don’t do it. I’ve had many business ideas (a notebook full of them) that don’t measure up to these requirements and they won’t ever come to fruition.
Please feel free to use my list and modify it to reflect the things that are important to you. Be picky and don’t jump on the first idea you have, unless it makes it through your viable business filter mostly unscathed.
When used correctly, this filter can help prevent you from wasting a lot of your time and money on a business idea that’s not very likely to work for you.
Remember, you have to be passionate about it if you’re going to stick with it through the lean times. If you don’t have any experience doing it, how will you know if you’re truly passionate about it?
Several years ago, I met a woman who wanted to start a bakery business. Most of the baker’s job occurs in the wee hours of the morning, before the rest of us get out of bed.
After discussing this idea with the woman for a while, it came out that she’s not a morning person. For her entire life, she’s struggled getting out of bed before 8am. That prompted me to ask if she’s ever worked in a bakery before. She had not.
What are the odds that this woman will be successful in this business given that she’s never worked in a professional bakery before? I wouldn’t bet a dime on it!
That’s why “In my area of expertise” is number three on my viable business filter list. If you’ve never worked in a similar business to the one you’re going to start, how will you know if you’re going to enjoy the day-in and day-out of doing it? You may absolutely hate it!
PromoteWare, my first semi-successful company, was an extension of my years in software consulting. QuoteCatcher was an extension of my lead generation experience with PromoteWare. My current business of helping people start and grow their own businesses is an extension of my experience as a SCORE mentor and my experience with QuoteCatcher.
Before you spend a penny or much of your time developing your new business idea, spend at least a few minutes writing down the things that are most important to you, specifically related to owning a business. Then run your business idea through this filter to sanity check it.