It takes more than just an idea to build a business

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Turning a great idea into a viable home or small business is not so easy. Heather Douglas examines some of the stumbling blocks, and how home businesses can be helped to be more successful.

If all it takes is a great idea to make a business successful, there would be a wealth of thriving Kiwi home and small business entrepreneurs by now. One has only to delve briefly into the BizBuzz Directory of Home and Small Businesses in New Zealand to discover a variety of home and small businesses founded on interesting, innovative ideas. But with about half doomed to failure in the next two years, according to statistics, what will make the difference between the ones that survive and the ones that won't?

As Michael Gerber so aptly points out in his book, "The E-Myth Revisited", many solo entrepreneurs are skilled technicians, who gain satisfaction from what they do well - but working at the coalface is not what makes great entrepreneurs. Gerber fashions an elusive mix of Technician, Manager and Entrepreneur to create his successful business owner.

Perhaps it is worth looking beyond the make-up of the operator though, to discover some of the real reasons behind the failure of many home businesses to survive, and why many that do survive, fail to flourish. Let's look at his or her motivation to go into business in the first place, and what long-term objectives the majority of home business owners have in mind. Let's also examine the business skills, training, support and incentives available to the new home or small business operator, to help then turn their idea into a viable, profitable, growing business capable of reaching its full potential.

New businesses, like babies, are born into a wide variety of circumstances. A few are conceived by entrepreneurs eager to create a "tool" to generate sufficient passive income to allow them to choose when and how they work. Many are spawned by parents or lifestyle seekers keen to be their own boss and capitalise on the flexible working conditions while earning sufficient income to support themselves or their families, others come into being when the owner, who has skill and experience, finds other avenues of employment closed, has difficulty securing a job in their field, or has had enough of kowtowing to someone else whom they frequently, and often correctly, perceive as having less skill than themselves. For the majority of home and small businesses then, generating sufficient income to meet their own needs is usually the main objective, sometimes because the owner doesn't wish to burden themselves with more responsibility than simply earning a living, and sometimes because they are not aware of any alternative or do not believe themselves capable of growing a business beyond this basic level. Any one of these objectives is perfectly valid - but achieving it can be a challenge for the operator.

Which leads us back to how to help new businesses become more successful at turning a great idea into a profitable business. Surely the first step is for the owner to become familiar with the variety of outcomes available, and make a clear choice as to what they wish to achieve with their business - e.g. generating a passive income, selling a viable business (or part thereof), earning sufficient income to meet his or her individual needs or simply the satisfaction of doing something he or she enjoys. Basic as this may seem, many home and small business owners do not have a clear goal in this regard. Clarifying their thinking at this level frees them to make decisions about how to achieve what they want from their business.

The next step is for the home or small business operator is to become educated about business development, management and entrepreneurship, to develop a business model and put plans in place to achieve it. A variety of information and training resources is already available, both free and otherwise - the challenge is to identify areas where the business owner lacks knowledge or expertise and for him or her to be sufficiently motivated to invest both time and money to upskill him- or herself. Tapping into a supportive community, having ready access to experts and developing mentor relationships with experienced business operators makes it easier for the new entrepreneur to expand his or her thinking, overcome obstacles and stay the course. Much work - by Government, private organisations, and those starting out on the path to self-employment - remains to be done before we see the majority of great home and small business ideas turned into flourishing Kiwi businesses.

In the end, though, it's up to individual owners to take the initiative to make their new businesses succeed, and that boils down to not only having a great idea, but putting a framework in place to ensure there is a suitable business model in place, that the necessary homework is done, and that systems and processes are created to take their business beyond just an idea, to become a whole business concept which is well thought out, implemented and run. And while that might be easier said than done, it's those business owners who get this right, who will really have a small or home business which is significantly successful in the long run.

Topics: 

  • Planning
  • Startup
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Home business

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Heather Douglas's picture

I started Bizbuzz (or HomebizBuzz as it was called then) in 2000, when I worked from home and realised there was nowhere for home businesses to find relevant information, nor a community of like-minded people to tap into for support, or just a chat. A few years later, Smallbizbuzz was born, and...