As I continue to visualize, build and tweak my own business model I think about processes and tools that may be useful to my clients as they do the same. Today I'm looking at the process I use to examine new ideas, determine the next steps, and take action on them.
Once we are past the initial love affair with our businesses, bringing ideas to fruition is difficult (at best) for most entrepreneurs. There are many reasons for this including the fact that we can get very excited about any number of ideas and we want to make them all happen. Some business owners have a difficult time setting the emotion aside and looking at their ideas logically. Let's talk about emotion versus logic — better said, right brain versus left brain.
Entrepreneurs like to emote. That's who we are; emotional, creative, passionate, driven human beings. Some of us are idea machines; one idea after another. Sometimes it's even difficult to turn off the idea machine when you want it to stop. Why stop? Because an idea is truly valuable only when you make it happen and when it adds to a) your bottom line and b) how you feel about yourself and your business. When the mind is reeling with ideas and there isn't a process in place to evaluate them and take them to the next level, we often become very overwhelmed and confused - it can drive the creative brain toward insanity!
Here's my process for evaluating, enjoying, and implementing new ideas (or not). Feel free to make it your own. Play with it, adapt it to your needs and style. And let me know how it works for you!
It begins with an idea that most often comes to me in conversations with peers and friends, during my walks in nature, or just as I'm awaking in the morning. My natural tendency is to jump right in, head first, emotions only! So, I allow that to happen for a few minutes or hours — because it's fun — but I refrain from taking action too quickly. Why? Because many of the ideas are fun, exciting and unique but simply don't make sense. So after indulging myself for a short while, I take a little "calming down" period and then initiate the next step: I move it over to my left brain hemisphere and process logically. I ask myself (in writing) questions like:
What will this idea do for my business?
Will it help me to serve clients at a higher level?
Can I incorporate it into existing passive revenue streams — or easily add another?
I look at the ease of use once the idea comes to fruition, and, of course, the overall bottom line.
Does this idea solve a problem or cause a problem? Am I simply jumping off the pier because the water looks fun and refreshing or am I bringing home some delicious red snapper for dinner? How will this idea add value to my business?
Will this idea open the pathway to new opportunities and/or relationships? Oftentimes an idea won't directly add to the bottom line, but it shows the promise of opening doors. What doors might this concept open for me?
How costly will this process become? Could it snowball out of control? Do I have the finances and resources in place to support it all the way? Sometimes we close our eyes to the damage that a new undertaking can do to our business (and our sanity) because we are SO passionate about the idea. Yes, entrepreneurs are risk takers, but make sure you accurately assess the risk.
After I do my "logic" thing I move back into my creative place. I use a whiteboard, my touchscreen computer, or a pad of paper to draw a mindmap of my concept. How will I connect the dots? How does it relate to the core business model? What websites will promote it, what tools will support it? I draw out the who, what, why when, and where questions and answers. I have a lot of fun here and it often sparks new creative thoughts to make the idea even more creative, functional, and practical.
Back to the left brain: I formulate my "to do" list and timeline. I schedule in chunks of time to work on each piece of the process and before long, voila! An idea has gone from conception to maturity.
But not every idea gets this far. In fact, I would say that about 1 out of 30 of my exciting ideas reach this point. What about the ideas that are solid, but not practical at this time? Or the concepts that feel good and could work, but still have something missing? Well, those go in my "new ideas" folder (on my computer). It's important to get these little gems out of the brain and onto paper; otherwise they feel overwhelming. I make sure to visit that treasured list during my brainstorming sessions. It's there that I find the little ideas that support the big picture.
Marla Tabaka is a small-business advisor who helps entrepreneurs around the globe grow their businesses well into the millions. She has over 25 years of experience in corporate and start-up ventures and speaks widely on combining strategic and creative thinking for optimum success and happiness.