Are you a Visionary or an Executor? Twelve Tips to Make your Idea a Reality
Being a visionary is great for inventors, idea people, researchers, and dreamers. Thomas Edison had an idea about a light source and perfected the light bulb after hundreds of tries. Steve Jobs had clear ideas about design and user interface of his products to entertain and inform users. Oprah knew that the talk-show format was her strongest way to communicate with her audience. Mother Teresa believed that the poor deserved respect and caring.
The one thing that makes visionaries like these our household names today is they were able to take the clarity of their vision and execute in the real world, with real people, places, and objects. They created a new reality out of their visions. You'll have had exposure to this process in any goal-setting or visionboard planning scenario when you define what do you want, as well as which steps you need to make it happen and how will you know when you've attained your goal.
Not everyone is able to execute on their visions: while some people are idea generators, and some people are workers, it's the rare individual who can do both. If you can dream, believe, and then go forward to achieve, you're a step ahead of the rest of us. Do you find yourself with a fantastic idea but you just can't seem to get past the hurdle of converting that idea into rents, royalties, or sellable products/services? If so, here are twelve steps to help you:
1) Learn from the masters. Inc Magazine, Fortune, Entrepreneur, and TechCrunch all have up-to-date information on people who are building the new economy. Become acquainted with your industry of choice and start to know the players, trends, and market changes that are predicted. SCORE.org advisors have retired and have a wealth of knowledge; alternatively, your local small business development office or SBA branch has many available resources.
2) Meet successful businesspeople where they are. Go to Chamber of Commerce events, tech or hack groups, venture capital meet-n-greets, or trade networking association meetings in your community. Get acquainted with established entrepreneurs and business owners in your field. You'll get a better sense of who's "on the ground" and you can ask for informational interviews or mentors.
Your team must consist of people who are strong in the tasks you cannot do.
Typically this includes one or multiple people from the following fields: legal advisor, financial consultant, tax planner, accountant, intellectual property attorney, coach, and best friend.
Choose your "teammates" wisely as their advice will get you through the inevitable difficult periods ahead.
3) Go online and research. Search engines are your friend. Get connected with online forums or interest area groups, online women's groups, MeetUps, NAWBO, alumni groups, business-to-business peer groups, BNI, or other networks. Establish your online profiles like your LinkedIn account, Facebook Fans Page, Twitter feed, Pinterest collection, or other social media.
4) Get coffee once a day with a new contact. Establish and cultivate the art of person-to-person communication and mutual respect. You are in a interconnected web within the economy - and we are all built to thrive on interpersonal relationships. Find a new person in your network and have coffee, breakfast, brunch, lunch, appetizers, dinners, or cocktail hour with them. Increase your ability to connect with people different from you.
5) Develop a solid business plan. Ensure a viable product with a addressable target market that can sustain your company's products or services. Don't get into a funk - keep it lean and clean, learn by doing. The hardest challenge is to get started instead of just talking about it/thinking about it. You can start out, then pivot if you need to, but the longest journey begins with your single step forward.
6) Obtain startup funds. You need money to begin production, purchase equipment, or set up your inventory so you can offer your unique spin on the nice market you've identified. Consider how much you need, then double it, then double it again. Find financing through your own savings, friends and family, bank loans, or credit cards, but try and bootstrap as much as you can to prove your concept and develop a base of customers.
7) Get a website. You'll need an online presence so that no matter where people are, they can find you. Your website, along with social media and ongoing blog posts will dramatically increase search engine optimization and demonstrate your authority and transparency. Online outreach and marketing efforts are a winning combination to specifically target your desired demographic who are seeking you through search engines.
8) Print up business cards. Print up nice cards with correct contact information. Put coupons, pictures, tip charts, or calendars on the back of the cards. Make sure your business cards get into the hands of decision-makers. Follow up constantly (easier with a memorable card) so you can get the right person to review your proposal, place the order with you, seal the deal, or sign the contract. Cards, brochures, leave-behinds, DVD examples, flash drives with your beta software, or even promotional items are all equally important as good quality card stock business cards.
9) Ask for the sale. Learn how to ask for a sale and how to deal with rejection (comes with practice). Your business relies on you being able to take something that was in your head and make it into something that people can interact with - it helps them, feeds or nourishes them, entertains them, or gives them information. You do a good job preparing the item -- do a good job asking someone to buy it.
10) Accept credit cards online. In the ideal situation, you receive payments from clients and customers from the very beginning of your launch. PayPal and Google Checkout take a 2.9% transaction fee and a small per-transaction amount. Authorize.net offers low cost monthly rates to hook your website into credit card payments. Get started right away with accepting funds - it trains your customers to pay promptly and gives you cash flow as soon as possible.
11) The right technology helps you throughout your entire process. If you're a drop shipper or an e-retailer in North America, find a US-based or Canadian fulfillment center that can stock and ship your product once orders are placed. Establishing an account with a product fulfillment canada or USA provider allows you to focus your efforts on improving your product line, negotiating terms with suppliers, and building strong relationships with current and potential customers.
12) Say Thank You. Express gratitude to all the people who have helped you along your process. A simple thank-you phone call, email, or card can go a long way to helping people feel good about being a part of your success. It also makes people more inclined to remember you and potentially help you the next time you ask for assistance.
When you believe 110% in your idea, either get it done yourself or delegate to someone who can help you. By executing on your visions, you reach the best of both worlds: you can think of a wonderful dream in your mind, in full detail, and then you can also build that dream in the here and now of reality, with all the correct moving parts.
Make it happen! Make it work! Our economy depends on your savvy and strength in creating a new business, thriving organization, or great company that helps build jobs, develops infrastructure, and becomes an integral part of the local fabric of your specific community.