It is a well known fact that people are consistently more successful in their business endeavors when they enjoy what they do. This enjoyment can come from many aspects of the business. Perhaps the business owner likes working with the products he sells. Maybe he enjoys having the freedom to make quick decisions. Often times simply the business environment or atmosphere plays a key role in positively driving business enjoyment. Regardless of the reasons, the first and most important step in finding a business to start is figuring out what it truly is that you want to get out of your business.
To start, set aside an hour or two of time where you can do some serious, uninterrupted thinking. The goal and outcome of this mental jam session are to define a list of desired criteria for your business. In other words, how do you want to define the nature of your business? Note that your business criteria are not the same thing as your business! Rather, your business criteria will help you filter business ideas to determine the best one for you to start.
To help walk through the process, assume that Samantha is thinking of starting her own small business. Samantha is in her mid-20’s and has always dreamed of starting her own company. She struggles, however, with finding a business idea that really excites her. Using the process outlined in this article, Samantha first sets aside some personal time where she will define the criteria for her ideal business. While your criteria should include 15-20 items, we will narrow Samantha’s list to five. Here is her criteria list:
“I want my business to be involved with children”
“In my business, I want to work outdoors.”
“I want to start my business with less than $5,000.”
“I want to run my business out of my apartment”
“I want my business to be service-oriented”
Once you have established your own set of criteria, the next step is to prioritize each item. Priority values should be high, medium and low. These priorities correspond to how relatively important each criteria is to you. Your initial inclination may likely be to rank all of the items with a “high” priority. Unfortunately this approach will not help you when it comes time to narrow down business ideas. Your goal should be to have approximately 30% high priority items, 50% medium priority items and 20% low priority items. We will now revisit Samantha and her example. After thinking carefully about her priorities and interests, Samantha segmented her business criteria into the following brackets:
“I want to start my business with less than $5,000”
“I want to run my business out of my apartment.”
“I want my business to be service-oriented.”
“I want my business to be involved with children.”
“In my business, I want to work outdoors.”
Priorities are crucial for this process since they are used to score and rank potential business ideas. While you can certainly apply your own scoring values to the priorities, the following values are good guidelines:
High Priority = 10 points
Medium Priority = 5 points
Low Priority = 1 point
The final step in the process is to list out and rank all business ideas that interest you. The priorities you just defined are used to score and rank the business ideas. Going back to Samantha’s example, she has identified the following business ideas that pique her interest:
Samantha applies her criteria to each business idea and then scores accordingly. She uses the priorities and scoring values she defined above. A zero value indicates that the business idea does not meet a certain criteria.
Day care operations (0 + 0 + 5 + 0 + 0) = 5 points
Swim lessons (10 + 10 + 5 + 5 + 1) = 31 points
Limousine service (0 + 10 + 5 + 0 + 1) = 16 points
Graphic artist (10 + 10 + 5 + 0 + 0) = 25 points
Public relations (10 + 10 + 5 + 0 + 0) = 25 points
To help clarify the scoring, take the Graphic Artist business idea as an example.
Can I start this business with less than $5,000? Yes, +10 points
Can I run this business out of my apartment? Yes, +10 points
Is this business service oriented? Yes, +5 points
Is this business involved with children? No, +0 points
Do I work outdoors in this business? No, +0 points
As you can see from the scoring above, Samantha’s best business bet based on her criteria and priorities is Swim Lessons (31 points). While this may very well not be the exact business she chooses to start, she can certainly identify other business ideas that are similar in nature to those that scored highly.
The process outlined above provides a logical, repeatable and customizable process for evaluating potential business ideas. Applying unique business criteria and priorities, prospective business owners can use this process to come up with business ideas that best fit their personal and professional preferences and goals.