IInnovation commonly conjures up images of breakthroughs in technology or logistics. However, for an entrepreneur, every idea that can grow into a business is an undisputed opportunity. Most new business ideas will be disruptive, while a smaller company with fewer resources will successfully challenge and penetrate an existing market. Disruption is real innovation.
The most common approaches to disruption:
- More appropriate functionality. Gain a foothold with a more appropriate solution – often at a lower price. Established incumbents tend not to respond vigorously.
- Enough products. Offer low-end customers a good enough product while established companies focus on high-end customers who demand the latest features.
- Gain a foothold in new markets. Find a way to turn non-consumers into consumers.
Once you get your footing, you’ll be lifted.
The next step after the first idea is a well-developed business plan. The standard requirements for success are adequate funding, a unique business model and a well-coordinated team. This advice misses the reality that if, despite all these strengths, you do badly at any one of the myriad things, it can ruin your business. The hidden secret of success is avoiding failure!
However, many assumptions in your plan will fail, so it is a must to pressure test and justify the idea and underlying assumptions before launching the venture. You don’t want to address these issues when the meter is running. Failing Forward is a powerful concept that highlights weak links that need improvement and reveals items that need to be added or started. When a problem seems unsolvable, you can abandon the idea and look for a better solution.
Such an in-depth analysis requires a level of preparation, collective experience and wisdom that often goes beyond the entrepreneur and the team. To strengthen your idea before launch, you have a variety of training or immersive preparation options available:
- A degree in entrepreneurship. Immersive preparation is the raison d’être of such a program. However, be very selective when choosing a credible program. Many universities have legacy faculty with no entrepreneurial experience and have simply rebranded their regular business program as an Entrepreneurship course.
- Entrepreneurship minor. Add a minor in entrepreneurship to your major or professional degree. Use your classes to incorporate your idea into elements of the business plan. Most teachers let you develop these segments instead of working on an esoteric problem. You can also involve your classmates in the process; A critique from your instructors will help improve the plan.
- A part-time job in a company close to your dream while continuing your studies. Learn more about the details and feasibility of your idea in a real environment.
- Non-Academic Sources. Incubators and accelerators are intense, practical, fast, cheap and relevant. These usually require proof of business performance before accepting you into their program.
- Business Plan Contests. Programs like MN Cup and others provide mentors who can help critique your idea and assumptions.
- training camp. A short-term immersive experience allows for criticism and suggestions from experienced professionals.
- peer group roundtable. Fellow entrepreneurs with whom you do not compete in business can help share ideas and resources.
- A credible mentor. You must learn from mistakes – but must they all be your own? Mentors can provide excellent institutional knowledge based on experiences and insights from scenarios they have encountered and overcome.
- Do it yourself. Many credible methods are available. A free process that I helped develop is at Ideagist.com.
- Get a full-time job. Take a job at a company that is closest to your passion, interest, and skills, regardless of whether it’s the highest-paying job. Learn the ropes. Don’t think of the job as a distraction from your desire to become an entrepreneur. Save significant parts of your salary as resources for your future startup. Over time, you have the option to stay or leave whenever you feel you’ve learned what you need.
Pre-launch training improves the likelihood of success and provides a key advantage for entrepreneurs looking to break the status quo and build their own business. Immersive preparation lays the foundation for a more solid startup.
Rajiv Tandon is Executive Director of the Institute for Innovators and Entrepreneurs and an advocate for the future of entrepreneurship in Minnesota. Reach him at [email protected]