7 Steps to Taking Your Idea from Legal Pad to Launch
I think a lot of people are fearful of taking an idea and turning it into a reality. Not in the, "I'm scared to walk down that dark alley" sort of way. But simply because they're not sure where to start or how to figure out if their idea is worth pursuing. And while the topic of how to start will differ from idea to idea, whether or not it's worth pursuing is consistent across the board.
Here are a few quick exercises that you can take to help you refine and process your idea:
Narrow the Focus
Most people's ideas are like spiders — they have a million legs and when you come across one, it freaks you out. When an idea is multi-faceted, it often leads to confusion which generally equals immediate death. Successful ideas aren't confusing; they're crystal clear. If you can take your idea and boil it down to a single, one-liner that anyone can grasp immediately, you have an idea that can be shared.
Measure the Potential Impact
Ultimately, what makes a restaurant successful? It's not the amazing food or the prime location — it's hungry people. If you don't have hungry people, your restaurant will not survive. The basis of any business is having an audience who needs what you can offer. Figure out your potential impact by determining to what extent people need what you're offering either by a simple Google search or, if necessary, by more research-driven approaches.
Do Your Homework
No idea comes out of the gate fully formed and ready to launch — you need to do some research. This could range from legal hoops to jump through to potential competitors to location. When someone asks you about your idea you should be the expert on it. No one should be able to tell more about the context, the impact, the need or the community in which you're bringing this idea to life than you.
Write It Down
You know that homework you just finished? You're not going to remember it all. Whether it's Evernote or a Moleskin, find a home for all of this information and being building a strategy based on what you discover. Map out your game plan for prototyping, iterating, launching, marketing, selling and every other little piece of the puzzle because it changes constantly.
Build Your Team
Very rarely will your idea be sufficiently executed alone. Most of the time, you'll need people around you supporting you, pitching in and bringing their expertise to the table. Even if it's just a group of close friends to act as advisors who will tell you like it is, it's a good idea to make sure you're not going at it alone.
Set S.M.A.R.T. Goals
Good goal setting isn't as simple as writing down something you desire. It means constructing your goal in a way that pushes you to actually achieve what you desire. If you set a vague goal like "lose weight," does it count if you gained 20lbs. but then lost 5lbs.? Technically you lost weight but I doubt that you truly met your goal. Here's the quick formula (you can read the expanded version here):
S.pecific — your goal should be a specific step that gives you the ability to act on it. "Get better at volleyball" isn't a specific goal. "100 good serves in a row" is.
M.easurable — if your goal isn't measurable, who's to say you achieved it? Make sure there is a standard you can meet.
A.ctionable — if you position it in such a way that you cannot take action then you've done yourself no favors.
R.ealistic — don't give yourself an impossible goal or you'll get burnt out after a short time because they is no reward.
T.ime Bound — give yourself a deadline or you'll find yourself dragging it out for longer than you expected.
Like I said earlier, starting looks different for each project. The key here is to begin taking steps even when you might be a bit unsure. Starting is the hard part — you can always pivot or adjust later which is far easier.