4 Ways To Test Your Idea For a New Business

by Paul Simister on June 30, 2011

Do you think you have a great idea for a new business?

Exciting isn’t it to have thought of something that feels new and different and it’s even more exciting if you think this could be the idea that you act upon.

That last sentence makes an important point which may have passed you by.

Plenty of people have ideas.They see a problem or opportunity and a solution pops into their head.

But few people have an idea and then act on it.

Richard Brock, the author of Jonathan Livingston Seagull has said “An idea can be profound but it is useless unless used.”

I think I heard business guru Brian Tracy say something along the lines that “on average we have four ideas that could make us a millionaire each year.”

But most aren’t acted upon.

And if we have four good ideas, who knows how many bad ideas we have for a new business.

If we are going to act, then we need to find a way to sort the good from the bad before we waste our time, energy and money.

Here are four ways you can use to vet your idea – and don’t get too concerned about secrecy. If we each have four good ideas and don’t act, then the chance that someone is going to act on yours and steal the opportunity from you is quite low. Sure it can happen but you’ll be unlucky.

  1. Ask family and friends – the people you know well are the easiest to ask and if they are in business themselves or could be a potential customer for the business, then they may have useful insights about your idea and the particular need you’re trying to satisfy.
  2. Ask your bank manager or a business expert – prepare a short business plan to get your thinking straight (something like the One Page Business Plan) and then get professional feedback. Imagine you’re going in front of the Dragons in Dragons’ Den. If you watch the show, you’ll have seen some ideas which you thought sounded good only for a major law to be revealed and other ideas that had a fundamental flaw which should have been obvious to the ambitious entrepreneur. For UK businesses it’s something I’m happy to do as part of relationship building.
  3. Ask potential customers – instead of a business plan, you want a prototype or design brief to get feedback from the trade. You’ve probably seen on TV shows like The Apprentice, the teams get very excited about an idea and fall flat on their faces when they get in front of professional buyers, either because the concept is crazy or the price point is daft.
  4. Ask people already in the trade – it may seem strange to go to your competitors and say “what do you think of this idea?” but you can be more subtle. I have people contact me because they are thinking about starting a business coaching firm or buying into a franchise. It’s not a top priority for me but I’m usually happy to chat to a newbie and you can find out what working in the business is really like. Instead of taking your solution, you can make enquiries about the problem you’re trying to solve and find out whether it is significant and what people have tried in the past. There are few really original ideas and you may find that your brilliant business concept flopped a couple of years ago. It’s useful knowledge if you can get it.

Insight is invaluable and one of the good things about writing a business plan is the research needed to understand the market.

Paul Simister is a business  coach who helps small business owners to profit from differentiating their businesses, by being distinctive in the eyes of their customers and standing out in a crowded marketplace…. in other words, by building a business to be proud of.

You too can move past your profit tipping point (free report) by answering the seven big questions of business success (mp3)

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Andi Roberts July 8, 2011 at 12:54 pm

I would also add playing with Business Model Generation canvas – It is a simple and free tool to map out a business proposition.


Paul Simister July 8, 2011 at 2:01 pm

Thanks Andi. I bought the book Business Model Generation a couple of months ago but I haven’t read it. I think I need to move it up the pile.
For others who are not familiar with the Business Model generation Canvas, it is another of the one page planning sheets

For an alternative one page business plan, see


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