When I start working with kids and adults on entrepreneurship one of the first things I work on is choosing a business idea that they will develop. They usually attend a class or a camp because they want to start a business and so it’s important to keep their excitement level high and help them to move forward. Some students know what they want to do but are not sure if it is the right idea and some students don’t even have an idea – they may have always wanted to start a business. The beauty of being an entrepreneur is that you can get to choose what you do and how you do it. To help figure this out we start with 3 questions: 1) Do you have passion for your business idea 2) Do you have competence (knowledge & expertise) for your business idea? and 3) Does it make meaning and solve a problem that people will pay for? Let’s break down the 3 questions.
1) Do you have a passion for your business idea? If it is something you are passionate about; you will want to spend time on it and it won’t seem like work. Ask yourself, is it something you like to do in your spare time or is it something you daydream about? Running a business is not easy and requires a lot of focus and hard work to make it successful so the more passionate you are about the idea, the more you will stay with it. Finding your passion is just part of it – you will want to go further and ask yourself if your natural ability compliments your passion. Think about a time when you were so immersed in an activity that time flew by and you didn’t even know it. Athletes sometimes refer to this as being “In the Zone”, Mihaly Czikszenthmihalyi refers to as Flow (recently this has been associated with video game players) and Sir Ken Robinson refers to as “The Element” (highly recommended reading for anyone involved in teaching). This YouTube video is an excellent explanation of what The Element is: http://youtu.be/mqOL20t0NF4. If you are having trouble coming up with a business idea, you might want to reflect on what your passions are and when you have been in your “element”.
2) Do you have competence (knowledge or expertise) for your business idea? People trust others who are have expertise, competency and knowledge. They need to feel like they can trust you and without these things they are probably not going to do business with you. This doesn’t mean that this may not be a good business idea for you; it just means that you may need more training or experience to become competent. If that is your passion and you have innate ability or talent for it – then you will have the motivation to increase your knowledge or competency in that area. I recently attended a seminar where Stephen M.R. Covey, the author of the “The Speed of Trust” spoke. He talked about how trust starts with trusting yourself and that entrepreneurs are usually good at it. He then goes on to explain that both character and competency are important. Here is a short YouTube video with a good explanation of trust from his leadership perspective: http://youtu.be/XGycgrs1FxY.
3) Does your business idea make meaning/ solve a problem? Guy Kawasaki, Author of the “Art of the Start”, states that most companies that set out to make meaning will make money but if they start out to make money, they will usually fail. Here is a short video in which Guy Kawasaki talks (to students at Stanford University) about making meaning in business http://youtu.be/lQs6IpJQWXc. Recently I read “all in startup” by Diana Kander (which I highly recommend for anyone thinking about starting a business). In the book she talks about solving problems. She talks about a minor headache problem vs. a migraine sized problem. Migraine sized problems are the ones people are willing to pay money for. If people won’t pay money for your solution – then it isn’t a big enough problem and most likely not a viable business.
The answers to these 3 questions should help give you a start on finding a business idea that you are passionate about, uses your natural abilities and helps you make meaning in the world. Once your idea is chosen then it is time to get to work and become a business creator! (more on that in a future blog post).
Here’s a quote from Ken Robinson that I think really describes what Element is:
“When people are in their Element, they connect with something fundamental to their sense of identity, purpose and well-being. Being there provides a sense of self-revelation, of defining who they really are and what they´re meant to be doing with their lives.
– Ken Robinson
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