You’ve got a great support system through your family and friends, and some professionals have encouraged you to pursue your idea and “bring it to market!” It’s all very exciting, but now what? The world of business can be a complex and chaotic place. However, with a proper foundation, you can ensure that your company not only survives the storms to come but emerges even stronger than it was before. But, before you take that leap of faith into the market, there are 5 key steps that must be taken: 1) Understanding the market that you are serving; 2) Take inventory on your competition; 3) Hone your unique differentiator; 4) Ensure that your idea uses carefully thought out technology that will help improve front-end customer experience and back end infrastructure; 5) Aggressively move forward with caution.


     Step 1: Understanding the market you are serving is one of the most crucial steps to building a foundation for your business. The purpose of a good company is to fill a niche in the market and provide a good or service that either creates a new solution to a problem or offers a better solution than what was previously available. Therefore, when thinking about your idea, make sure you look into the market and see what’s out there, and more importantly, what’s not. Being able to see gaps in the market and create valuable solutions to fill those gaps is the best way to ensure success. Industry articles, targeted consumer surveys, and interviews with industry professionals should all be pursued to help with this process, so you can begin adding focus to your vision.


     Step 2: Now that you have an idea and it has begun to take a more specified form, it is important to look at other companies in the field and take inventory. Look at how they are providing similar products or services and what their strengths and weaknesses are. How do they go to the market? How do they try to make their user experience best in class? Often times, observing others is the best way to “go to college for free” – you can improve yourself by learning from other companies’ successes, but most importantly from their failures, all while not having to pay the costs for making those mistakes yourself. This will allow you to already have a leg up on the competition before you even enter the market.


     Step 3: Now that you have observed other companies’ strengths and weaknesses, you can begin to hone in on what will make you unique and provide even more value to customers than those who came before you. “Me too” companies pop up all of the time, but they disappear just as quickly. You must be different; you have to be willing to shake up the same old same old and deliver something relevant in a unique way. If you aren’t BOTH relevant and differentiated, then what is your reason for being? This is what is often called a company’s WHY and it must be rooted in pertinence and distinction. After coming up with your company’s WHY, it is important to mold it into a mission statement that your business will adhere to and shape itself around. This mission statement should also give consumers an idea of what it is that your company is doing to provide value that other competitors can’t or won’t.


     Step 4: In the modern age, technology rules every aspect of life. Therefore, it is important that you are able to plan ahead for how your idea will utilize technology for the maximization of front-end customer experience, but also back-end infrastructure. This will allow the company to not only draw customers in but also function smoothly and efficiently. Whether it’s an app that grants easy access to consumers, or a program that monitors inventory, production efficiency, or financials, it is important to know what technology you want to use and how it will fit into the bigger picture of the process of providing value to customers. From there, you can begin to search for experts who will be able to build that technology for you.


     Step 5: After all of the steps you’ve taken so far, you are probably in a pretty good position with the development of your idea. So, now is the time to move forward aggressively, but still with some caution. Think things through fully and seek advice from trusted members of your company or others that you lean on to gain perspective. Be patient and flexible with your plans and always maintain a thick skin – the process will be long and hard and you will need to roll with the punches in order to survive. Furthermore, it is beneficial to gather groups of experts or advisers and talk to them about your ideas and plans; it is important to have them try to find any potential weakness and tear your ideas apart in any way they can. It is a brutal process, but one that will result in a better product and more success – if your allies aren’t the ones pointing out your flaws, it will certainly be your enemies that are exploiting them. Finally, have confidence that all of this preparation will lead to positive outcomes. Don’t spend so much time second-guessing each decision that opportunities pass you by. With bold, but thoughtful action come great rewards.


     So, what’s next? Now that you have taken these steps it is important to continue to listen to those around you, learn from their advice and the mistakes that will surely come, and get ready for an exciting, challenging, but rewarding ride.