You have an idea and you're quite sure it'll be successful. It might revolutionize the way people shop, eat, exercise, sleep, watch tv, you name it. What's next? Before you embark on writing that business plan or applying to business school, take some time to talk. To whom? Everyone.
Talk to your family: Your family, for better or worse, knows your flaws, strengths, weakness, and desires. For the most part, they also have carte blanche to be perfectly honest. Entrepreneurship isn't for everyone but the freedom, self-expression, and potential rewards are quite attractive. As you walk your family through your idea though, they will, and should, undoubtedly be more worried about your sanity than your concept's clarity. How will you make money, who will pay your bills, why would you quit your current job? These are all super relevant issues that you need to have a handle on or at least be able to wrestle with. Proving or pitching to your family that this is the right move is usually a good, safe environment in which to work on your convincing and salesmanship skills. Ultimately, familial support of your entrepreneurial endeavor will come around.
Talk to your friends: Similar to your family, your friends know what makes you tick. Even more so, most people, friends included, will have a skeptical view of your concept. It's human nature. Your friends will likely tell you all of the reasons why it's a bad idea, what's wrong with it, and why it won't work. Don't shy from this. Once you're past the family threshold, it's your job now to convince your circle of friends of the validity. Some won't get it (frankly, due to latent jealousy of your entrepreneurial gusto). Others will, but they will put you through the ringer. All in all, you're not out to convince all of your friends but the honest feedback , suggestions and reminders are valuable and most of all free.
Talk to your potential customers: Far and away, this remains the ultimate challenge. More often than not, budding entrepreneurs spend an inordinate amount of time writing business plans, research industry trends, obsessing over real and imagined competitors and basically avoiding the obvious. While there is a natural fear towards pitching your idea too early, the best and most obvious form of information will be your potential audience. Talk to them about their business. What are their struggles, concerns, needs, and demands? If you're lucky, you will hear your solution embedded in the conversation but ultimately you will learn more from these conversations than you will from anything else.
It's important to properly prepare your business by doing research, understanding your timeline and roadmap, and focusing on your product's flaws and strengths. However, as you're doing so, take some time to talk to your family, friends and customers. These are the best conversations you're likely to have.
Follow Patrick FitzGerald on Twitter: www.twitter.com/PatrickKFitz