Great idea. Now what?

A new idea can be exciting because it holds so much potential and possibilities. It’s fun to dream, but when the concept moves toward reality, it can create more questions than answers. Where and how to plant that idea that will give it the most opportunity to grow, take root and turn into a mature tree.

Maybe the idea developed within an existing company as a solution to a problem the business was facing, like Basecamp for 37 Signals. Perhaps it is a new idea or a startup. No matter how and where it was conceived, some questions need to be answered before the concept makes its way to the launchpad. Is there a need in the market? Who is the audience? How will it get the financing to get developed? How or can you protect it with a patent? Most of these questions entrepreneurs may know they need to be answered. One question they may not have thought of is, “How will it end?” It may sound weird to think of how it will end at the beginning of a new endeavor, but it can provide clarity.

If you own a company already and the idea was internally conceived to solve a problem, your question would be; Should a new endeavor be a part of your existing company? If this is the case, these questions would need to be answered:

1. Could it be used by an entirely different audience, industry or business type?

2. Does it add value to your brand?

3. Does it help your customer?

4. Does it support the purpose of the company?

5. Could it become a separate division or sub-brand of the parent company?

6. Could it be sold off later to another company?

Think about it; you never plant a tree right up against a house. The tree will hopefully have extensive roots. You wouldn’t want to plant it close to a foundation or another tree. When an idea has that kind of potential, you plant it far enough away for it to have room to grow and become a mature tree without hindrances from surrounding obstacles. Ideally, it would be far enough away that you could dig around it to transplant it to another yard if you wanted or needed it. The same is with ideas that spring up from within a company that may become its own mature business someday.

If you are a startup or entrepreneur, these questions need to be answered:

1. Do you have experience in this industry?

2. Is your personality a fire-starter — will you be happy, or are you best suited to manage or run the same company over an extended period?

3. Will it need to be sold to a company that has the resources and distribution chain that could make it thrive?

4. Could this idea be marketed to different audiences and different industries?

In the case of entrepreneurs, you will only be happy being an entrepreneur. The fun is seeing it come to life, getting it started, and developing the idea into a viable business. You might get tired of the day-to-day. You might not be the best person to manage the business. Look at Steve Jobs. Until he had Tim Cook to manage the day-to-day, the company was reasonably chaotic. Same with Tesla. There’s a lot of talk about Tesla needing a CEO other than Elon Musk. He’s excellent at solving problems and getting the idea to become a reality but may not be the best guy to manage people or the company long-term.

Admitting that your idea would flourish in the hands of a well-established company after you’ve proved its viability takes wisdom and maturity. Same with realizing you might not be the best person for running the business long-term. You first must understand that this will not be your only idea, your only business. You will have more ideas and other companies you may want to start in a few years.

Whether you are an entrepreneur with a startup or a well-established company with a possible breakaway product or service, clarifying your purpose (what is the best option for your role in the process) and the purposes of the new product or service is your next (and should be the first) step. Knowing your purpose and its purpose is the only way to decide what is the right direction to take the idea — how and where to plant the idea for it to have its best opportunity to flourish.
Clarifying purpose sounds easy but takes time and quite a bit of focus. Check out my Brand Workbook or my Online Branding Course I developed to help facilitate the process.