Clarifying that Idea

'Magnifying glass' taken by Chris Beckett A couple weeks ago, I wrote "Capturing that Idea" and covered what it takes to capture that idea.  It was pretty basic, just a glorified way of saying "write it down!"  But then I realized I left out the next step…

How do I clarify my idea?

In the past 3-4 years, I rarely go a week without getting pitched on a "great new idea".  The person is passionate, has talked to a bunch of their friends, and is ready to launch a company.  Without being completely rude to the friends, family, and random people* who I've spoken with… no, no, and NO. Most likely you are not ready.

I would also disagree that you need a full business plan yet.  Before you go any further or pitch anyone else on your idea or even buy a domain name, try this:

  1. Sit down and write a paragraph on your idea.  It doesn't need to be publishing quality or necessarily for sharing with anyone but you need to express your idea clearly.
  2. Look up 2-3 competitors and evaluate them.  See if you can find a few companies, products, or sites that do what you describe.  They don't need to be an exact match, it may be better if they're not.  Now spend a few minutes to write down 2-3 sentences on why you're different and/or better.
  3. Review and repeat.

If you can't do the above, don't waste my time.

If you're not different/better than your competitors, why should your customers go with you instead?

If you don't have any competitors, ask yourself "why not"?

As you do this, your idea will often change from what you initially envisioned.  There's nothing wrong with that.  Confusing parts will need more explanation.  There's nothing wrong with that.  Some pieces will appear to be so complex that your brain melts and children cry when they see your pain-striken face… ok, that's bad.

Regardless, each time you go through this process – and it may be many, many times – the idea will become more solid, it will help you express it to others, and before you know it, you'll have the major components of a business plan.

All of those things make it that much easier to recruit someone to help you.

*  No, seriously.  A few months ago, I had one guy pitch me in a Starbucks when he saw my sticker-adorned laptop.