You have a great business idea and eagerly develop yourself as a first-time business owner. You have heard it all before – the need for a business plan, a license, a name, a creative design, working capital and the list continues. Perhaps it is what you have not heard that could make all the difference, says Debbie Nicol, Principal Consultant and owner of business en motion.
What is it that is important whilst you are transitioning from business idea to business entity? Look at the latest idea you dreamt, you designed, you implemented and now you wonder why it may not have reaped the benefits you expected. One word remains dominant in that thought – you!
There quite often is an emotional attachment to an idea, unlikely and unwilling to become detached easily. Your eyes have considered it from every conceivable angle; your ears have heard it over and over again. It makes such great sense to you and possibly you alone.
Business can rarely work in isolation. The inclusion of others’ feedback is essential for future business success and could save you years of heartache. So how can you gain this feedback and apply it in the best possible way?
1. Surround yourself with trusted confidantes
Confidantes by definition will be trustworthy and interested parties, acting in a confidential manner, respecting the privacy of your idea, yet providing realistic feedback. The number is really up to you, generally being between one to three.
Select your confidantes from a broad cross-section of experience. They may differ in length of time in business, size of business, products and services or even the amount of local market knowledge they have to offer.
Screen carefully and choose those who are able and willing to be transparent and factual with you – if your business plan does not make sense, or has missed out crucial information, will they be willing to share this with you? If your business card’s design is not functional, will they open your mind to alternatives?
If your forecasts appear flawed, do they have the ability to pick up that detail? Have they made mistakes in business and been able to turn them into opportunities? Are they able to relate to your circumstances? Will they have time, or make time, for in-depth conversations, and will you feel comfortable with their scrutiny?
2. Describe the concept verbally
This is the stage where you’ll discover if your plan is clear and tangible. Are you able to describe clearly, confidently and ‘on-demand’ your elevator pitch? Would someone walk away feeling informed and keen to re-connect after hearing it? Who is your target market? Why do they need you? Why would they buy from you rather than the competitor?
Describe the concept verbally, keeping your mind open to the feedback it attracts. It may not necessarily be what you want to hear, but may be what you need to hear.
3. Share your business’s representation
Share the name you are planning to apply to your business entity and watch the reaction it receives. This may be harder than you think!
Ask for their honest opinion; how does that name feel to you; what do you envision when you hear those words; what might it remind you of; what could it be confused with; how does it fit with the concept; is there any hook in it that will excite the clientele; where have you seen anything like it before and what colours and experience does it make you think of?
If a logo design or plan exists then expose it too. What message do they receive from your intended representation? Is it the one you desired?
Considering your business’s identity from another person’s perspective will encourage you to open to alternatives. Look for trends in the feedback. Always keep in mind that your opinion really doesn’t count in the pursuit of a name; it’s really up to the customer!
4. Invite questions from your confidante
Wouldn’t you rather know that something is forgotten before it is too late? Keep a log of the subject areas you could not answer. Use that log to revisit time and time again. Use it as a checklist to ensure that your business collateral leaves nothing unanswered. Construct a list of these questions with answers you would use should that question be asked again by a potential customer.
A first-time SME can easily become over-excited and fall into the trap of “it’s all about me,” possibly displaying a blinkered expert mentality. How many times have we seen technologies built by budding engineers, only to find truth in the statement, “just because we build it, doesn’t mean they’ll come!” Seeking feedback is a proactive approach to ensuring your business will hit the target first time around!
- Who are your confidantes? How do they both complement and conflict with each other to provide you with an all-round perspective?
- What is it that you may not have yet gained feedback on that could potentially hinder your business?
- What else could be helpful to you whilst transitioning from business idea to business entity?
Case in point
A business card is proudly shared with a potential customer by a first-time SME business owner at a networking event. The business owner is proud of its shape, its colours and its unique design. The potential customer engages with the card for the first time, looks at it, turns it, considers it from all angles and then delivers a nail in the business’s coffin! “So what is it specifically that you do?”
The business owner is dismayed and asks “Why do you ask”. From there, each word from the customer simply drives the nail deeper into the business’s coffin. “Well, there’s no description on the card, or indication of services. I’m not sure what the picture is and I can’t feel what the business offers.”
Let’s rewrite this case in point!
The draft of the business card is released from the design company. The business owner is so proud of its shapes, colours and unique design.
The trusted confidantes are given the card and feedback is sought. The same question prevailed; what is it that you specifically do? The first-time SME realises that they need to rethink their business before launch.
Debbie Nicol, aka “the enablist”, principal consultant and owner of business en motion assists organisations and leaders to move ahead through change. She works with organisational development, change management, corporate cultures and learning strategies. For more information visit www.businessenmotion.com