If I had a dime for every time I heard someone say “I want to start my own business…but I just don’t have a good idea”, I’d be so rich that I’d spend my days sipping overpriced cognac and smoking pre-embargo Cuban Cigars and making stodgy, incomprehensible jokes that only rich people find funny (“…and he took $5 million out of the QTIP trust and bought puts on gold! Ha!”), and as such probably not writing this article.

So consider yourself lucky I don’t get paid when I hear that, lest you be unable to bask in the wisdom that I am about to impart.

My cigar-smoking fantasies aside, it’s actually a bit concerning how many people think it’s really hard to come up with a good business idea.  Veteran entrepreneurs all know that coming up with an idea is basically the easiest part; but you do need to start with an idea.

And starting with an idea I shall help you do.

One of the big reasons you have trouble coming up with a good idea is because “you don’t know if it will work”, right?

Luckily, in 3 ridiculously simple steps, you can see how good your idea is, and make it stronger.  Here it goes:

Step 1: Start with a broad idea

Let’s say you want “a kick ass social network for cereal box collectors”.  I’d say “that’s really weird”, but this is your company, not mine.

And by the way, no “I can’t come up with one!” BS.  This is just a broad idea.  Think…think…there you go.

Step 2: Write down 3 specific reasons your idea might not work

Not a whine, not “because 90% of business fail!”; be intellectually honest, think about it for more than 7 seconds.  Relate them to your own abilities and relevant externalities.  For example:

- “I don’t know how to code”

- “I don’t know if there’s actually other cereal box collectors out there”

- “Even if there are other collectors, I don’t know if they need a social network”

Step 3: Test your reasons

I don’t want to steal any of Bill Nye’s thunder, but what we’re doing here is bringing you back to 7th grade biology and using the scientific method.  We’re turning your worries into testable hypotheses, and doing some ol’ fashion exploring to see if your worries hold true.

You go out there and see if there’s a way to make a social network without coding.

You mercilessly scour the far corners of the internet looking for cereal box collector communities.

You identify the “thought leaders” in the community, befriend them, and ask what they need.

I spent about 12 seconds doing these tests, and here’s what I came up with:

  • You can make a social network without knowing how to code.  There’s quite a few ways to do it, but BuddyPress seems to be the most popular.
  • There are communities out there for cereal box collectors like you (just Google “cereal box collector”).
  • The community seems to be gathered around a few active forums.  Finding the community leaders would likely be very easy.  Just shoot them a quick e-mail with your idea, and ask “what do you think?”

And voila, your idea awaits!

What we did here was get specific about your idea.  Whereas most people worry that “their idea would never work”, you actually went out there and did something about it.  You’re now ready to move onto the next step: figuring how to execute.

Or maybe you figured out your idea sucked.  That’s okay too.  But at least you made an informed decision, and unlike 80% of people, you actually tried to do something about it.

Your idea’s probably more complicated than something like this, and that’s fine.  But the point stays the same: stop worrying, start testing, and repeat.  Watch your idea develop before your eyes.

Featured photo credit: five travel about locomotive costing on rail via Shutterstock and inline photo by Tsahi Levent-Levi via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Love this article? Share it with your friends on Facebook