It's one thing to come up with a great business idea.
Turning it into a thriving business is another matter entirely. There are several important stages you need to work through before you can start thinking about quitting your job and setting up on your own.
First, ask yourself: "what problem does your business idea solve"?
Almost every successful company exists to solve a problem. It's why so many businesses talk about offering solutions.
Apple was set up because, at the time, people had to make their own personal computers.
Not everyone had the time or the expertise. Solving that simple problem spawned the world's largest company. Amazon started life making it easier for people anywhere in the world to find the books they wanted to read. Today it dominates online commerce and has more customers than any other retailer.
Sometimes the problem solved can be as simple as "what do we eat tonight?" or "how can I get from A to B in a hurry?" Or it can be as complicated as helping people build better web sites or sift through piles of data to find important information.
Solving a problem is important, getting your product or service in front of customers so they can see its worth is the next step. This means finding your market. You might have a service that has to be delivered on the spot or you could have something that you can sell anywhere.
Picture a typical customer and figure out how you can show them you have the answer to their problem.
Are you fishing where the fishes swim?
It may be that your idea solves problems for a particular group of people such as horse owners or iPhone users. Are you in a position to reach these people?
Thanks to the internet and online commerce this part of starting a business can often be much easier than it was in the past. The web is a great way to reach customers, but it isn't the only market.
Sometimes your market is in a physical location. If you plan to open a store, make sure it is in the right town and on the right street. Matching your idea with a market is often one of the hardest parts of starting a new business. You have to be prepared to move outside your comfort zone. This can mean relocating. Are you prepared for that?
If you are uncertain about potential markets for your business, be prepared to put effort into researching the subject. It's better to do this before you commit to the business.
Few successful start-up businesses are the work of just one person. Sure, it can happen, but two heads are better than one and more heads are better still. Decide now if you need a business partner. Even if you don't want to share your business you should look for some help. In some cases, this can be professional help from people like lawyers or accountants.
Having other people on your team gives you someone to bounce ideas off. It also shows you and the rest of the world your original business idea was good enough to convince at least one person. Find other likeminded entrepreneurs to work with either in your business or as suppliers. Most will be happy to share their knowledge.
Make a plan. It doesn't have to be complicated. By this stage you should have enough information to create a financial model that looks at the costs you'll face making, marketing and selling your products and services. This will give you a clue about what you need to charge. Allow enough profit to make a decent living and a little extra to cover unexpected costs, there are always some. Then add in information about the likely size of your market and how much you need to sell in order to make a decent return.
All this will give you more insight into how your business will work and what needs to be done to get there.
The next stage is to work this into a basic business plan. Write down your objectives and milestones you need to pass. List your keys to success, your target market and your competitive advantage, that is what you can do better than any rival. Use this information to plot strategies. This plan will be your blueprint to keep you on track as thing get moving. It doesn't have to be fixed; in fact, you need to keep some flexibility, there will be surprises along the way.
By the time you've done all this, you'll know whether your idea is viable, and you'll be ready to set out on the path to owning a viable, sustainable business of your own.