5 Ways to Validate Your Business Idea

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The concept of starting a small business has been gaining traction within British Columbia. An analysis conducted by BC Statistics shows in the 2014 Analytical Report that small businesses actually make up 98 percent of all businesses in British Columbia. Furthermore, 81 percent of these small businesses employ five people or less. This goes to show that British Columbia holds an abundance of small business opportunities for you to pursue.

But how can your business idea be validated in a relatively short time span? According to Gregg Brockway, co-founder of Hotwire and Triplt, “There are ways of looking at a business and seeing it’s working.” As smart business people, you understand the need to leap at any opportunity that can potentially provide profitable customer interaction.

Here are 5 ways to validate your business idea that can drive results for Cyber Monday:

Does It Ease A Pain Point?

Truly valuable business ideas help ease pain points for customers. These ideas solve problems and adds value to the lives of customers by bringing them more simplicity, efficiency or affordability. One of the most challenging aspects of validating your business idea is the fact that you’re the only initial user of this product or service. It’s difficult not to not be biased when you’re so in love with this business idea. Make sure your business idea is solving a common problem amongst your customer target audience and not just a problem you experience as an individual. Smashingmagazine.com suggests looking at the problem from alternative angles if you can’t come up with a traditional solution.

Don’t Commit To It

You shouldn’t be committing all your time, energy and life savings to one particular business idea. Sometimes you’ll realize that the business idea is just not worth pursuing partway through trying to get customer validation. It’s also easy for customer demands to change, in that case, you always have the option of pivoting your business and pursue another business idea.

One clear caution sign to be aware of is if you’ve lost sight of your initial vision. If you’ve forgotten why you’re pursuing this business idea and how it brings value then it’s time to take a pause. Don’t be afraid to put a halt on your project and take a step back to look at the bigger picture.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

As much as your potential customers appear to take interest in your business idea–are they really willing to give your product or service a shot? The biggest mistake you can make is take the customers’ word for it when it comes to stating whether they’d use something that has yet to exist. When it comes to actually using a physical project or service, customers take other things into consideration like ease of use, convenience, lifestyle compatibility and more.

A great way to validate your business idea is by creating a prototype and showing it off to the world. Let your target audience touch it, feel it, use it. You might discover that your target audience refuses to use it because it doesn’t make their lives more efficient and that’s perfectly fine. The essence of validating your business idea is to capture whether it is something your customers will actually want, without investing a fortune on developing something no one will use.

The Customer Is Always Right

Indeed, the customer tends to be right most of the time in this case. When you’re out and about validating a business idea, you’re in it to hear what your customers have to say, so never forget that. Listen to why your potential customers wouldn’t want to pursue this product or service and take it to heart. Is there a similar product they’re already using? Is your product or service simply too expensive? Too time consuming?

If the responses are positive then consider which aspects of your business idea your customers really appreciate. Sometimes it’s easier to criticize the faults and more difficult to figure out why something is working. Here is where you need to figure out what it is that made your business idea a success among your target audience and scrap the rest.

Is It Time Yet?

When its all said and done, ask yourself, is the present time the most appropriate timing for you to launch your business idea? In the context of our discussion, it is the right timing. Cyber Monday is coming up and you can certainly consider holding a soft launch for your business idea to better test the waters.

Now It’s Your Turn

Are you planning on using any of the above tactics to validate your business idea? If so, which of the tactics will you be using to best tailor to your customer needs and values?

Make the “Big Picture Goals” Your Priority

goals

Ever not been able to cross off everything on your to-do list at the end of the day? I’m willing to bet you anything that the phrases “I’m too busy”, “There is no time” and “It’s too late for that now” has crossed your mind time and time again.

Taking a step back let us identify our daily important tasks as “big picture goals”. The majority of us willingly choose to first focus on non-important goals (or “little picture goals”) and activities that take up most of our time and save the big picture goals for last.

Evidently, the problem here is procrastination.

The more you push the big picture goals to the end of your to-do list, the more and more likely you’ll find a way to not face them. Some people suggest that finishing the little picture goals first builds confidence. But think about it again this way: The big picture goals require the most attention and energy from you, saving them until the end means you’ll be strained for time towards the end of your day and attacking it when you have the least amount of energy. Ultimately, you’re building up more stress and not accomplishing your goals.

Attacking the big picture goals first drives your motivation level to new peaks because you’re accomplishing tasks with true urgency and impact–challenging yourself to face the lion early. Having fought the fight you did early in the day, accomplishing the little picture goals later on in your day will come at more ease. Best yet, you’ll be way more likely to cross off everything on that to-do list.

Still not enough time you say? Look, by already having fulfilled your big picture goals you’ll have maximized the use of your time and feel much more accomplished. Sometimes it isn’t always about getting through the to-do list in its entirety but rather, optimizing your strategy to make the greatest impact on the results. So give yourself a pat on the back for addressing the big elephant in the room.

Now don’t just sit there, take advantage of the benefits prioritizing your big picture goals will bring you. Take a minute right now to write down your morning goal for tomorrow. This could be the 5k run you used to do every morning but now “cannot find time for” because of school or getting your pre-lecture readings done for class that just “puts you to sleep” at the end day.

Completing big picture goals first thing in the morning is the foundation for building motivation throughout the rest of your day. Carefully select important tasks that will require more of your attention to complete because of its difficulty and make an effort to write it down and commit to it even if it’s the one thing you do that day. Prioritizing tasks is breakfast for the mind; you’ll start off strong and finish off stronger. Give it a shot and you’ll realize how great it feels to be carefree for rest of your day.

Do I really have to ask you again? [Part 1]

I asked my sister to help me run an errand last week out of pure laziness. When I got back from work, I was pleasantly surprised with my package having been picked up and dinner ready.

There is nothing quite as satisfying as asking something of someone and having them exceed all expectations you had for them. Rarely does this happen, but when it does–it’s a glorious day.

More than anything it seems like we’re easily annoyed by all the little things. When your significant other is late for dinner, when your roommate eats your last pizza pocket, when someone doesn’t clean up after themselves around the house–when they aren’t really “listening” to the things you have to say. Being with others in general is not only a constant state of change but also filled with what feels like many unfulfilled expectations.

In moments of temporary resentment we resort to criticizing as an immediate response. Lucky for us, there are “new and improved” ways to respond to these situations with family and friends.

Acknowledge it. Move on.

Sometimes life happens and the trade off between being resentful and letting go–letting go is just freeing oneself of disappointment. Do whatever works for you. This isn’t a lesson of calming exercises as much as it is realizing real life experiences of upset and anger. It’s a human tendency to dwell on feelings of hurt and disappointment. Prolonged resentment is what makes our lives at home seem dissatisfying at times. This is one of the few cases where over-thinking benefits no one as it prolongs pain and damages relationships.

Start. Empower. Inspire.

The times we want to nag roommates or family to do certain chores–criticize them for their lazy choices–realize it isn’t going to prompt anyone to take initiative next time around. It isn’t often that negative emotions, extreme or not, inspire others to make changes–let alone fulfill unmet expectations.

Have empathy.

Have empathy for the person you want to criticize. Chances are you’ve neglected promises to do house chores as well. Rationalize the situation without using accusations and demanding language to create a defensive atmosphere. In this way, we get the point across without harboring resentment. Of course this takes much more control on our part but the results are certainly worth it. I’m sure you’d feel much more inclined to help someone who got their point across without demanding that you HAVE to do something but by using more appreciative words.

— itsfruitcakeweather.

Awaken Your Empathy

The first and only step to developing empathy is to connect with people.

And it doesn’t matter if I just gave away the whole purpose of this article in one sentence because knowing and not exercising the knowledge still leaves us in the same place with people that are not aware.

Too many times we confuse having empathy with sympathy. Allow me to clarify how they are quite the opposite.

We’re all capable of expressing empathy and it’s applicable to all aspects of our lives–whether this be personal relationships or work.

Awakening individual empathy requires us to take the perspective of another. Or as we say in the most cliche way possible, “be in someone else’s shoes”.

It also requires us to refrain from judgement. When has that ever been easy for any of us? Especially since so many of us enjoy it more than we’d like to admit.

But beyond the judgmental filters, being able to sense the emotions of another regardless of how we’re personally feeling isn’t enough. Being able to not only sense, but acknowledging it through communication is what’s important.

As much as we’re capable of spreading happiness, we are also capable of feeling pain with others.

We can think of the whole process beginning from when someone falls into a deep dark well of emotions. Someone that is overwhelmed with a certain negative emotion and can’t seem to make their way back up the well. And you know what we can do for them? We can let them know that we’ve been in the same dark well and that they’re really not alone.

That’s empathy. A choice. Quite a risky choice as well because connecting with someone in a dark well of emotions means digging back to a time we ourselves experienced the same thing.

Sympathy is when someone doesn’t make the connection. When we say, “Hey, I know your relationship really isn’t working out but AT LEAST you have someone to be with”. This is what we do all the time when someone shares something with us that’s hurting them. We throw out the ‘AT LEAST’ . We try to put a silver lining around something that is incredibly painful because we want to try and make things better when it evidently won’t.

Truth be told, we can’t always expect to be able to make things better for anyone that’s in a painful whirl of emotions. Rarely does responding to someone that shared something painful with us make things better. What makes things better in the dark well of emotions is connecting with other people and that’s why support groups work so effectively.

— itsfruitcakeweather.

 

“Those who lead inspire us.”

I’m not usually one to reference specific books directly but Start With Why by Sinek spoke to me. It speaks of leaders with power and those who lead by inspiring. It speaks to those that desire to inspire and those seeking inspiration from others. Perhaps the most fantastic part of it all is realizing how the most influential people leading communities and organizations all share the talent that tells us the “why” of their presence in our lives.

If we take a moment to consider inspiring leaders, not once do we envision a 30-minute powerpoint presentation packed with specific information nailed down to the nitty gritty details of their ideas. Instead, we recall the board–inspirational statements–they make that celebrate the very driving ideals that give us the reason to believe and recall it when we wake up the next morning.

Not once did you favourite author have to tell you “I write great books”. They let you know that their written work is valuable by challenging the norms of a supposedly saturated industry. No one will ever be motivated, nor care enough, to be part of a community that only preaches on how well you do one thing.

There is a reason people thrive on inspiration. Because it can model both our personal lives and organizations we run.

Sinek developed the Golden Circle as pictured above. Just as I spoke of inspiration, the Golden Circle encompasses both people and their business interactions.

In short: It doesn’t matter how good you are at what you do–people won’t care unless they know “why”.

Is this really applicable to our lives you might ask?

Fair question. I thought the same.

Last week someone asked me to map out the “why” of my life for my own personal clarification. After what felt like hours of talk, I realized I still had no understanding of what “why” really meant.

So, here’s what I’ve come up with: Your WHY can be broad. Vague. With lack of details in fact. All it has to be is something that drives you to continue moving forward every morning.

My why in this case is to inspire through written communication. To enable people to find their own place in the world–whether this be a mental state of well-being or a physical home.

We are people of change and growth. Our actions will shift its course as we move forward but our “why” is what will remain consistent.

— itsfruitcakeweather.

Unfollowed.

Is there ever a good way to address the problem of unfollowing? Before the time of social media, this form of rejection never existed.

At one point or another in our lives, we get unfollowed. I don’t just mean via our social media accounts but rejected in various aspects of life as well. A friend might delete you off Facebook and a business partner could want to stop working with you. Some of these things we can shake off easily and move on. Then we are left with those that can haunt us for years to come, until we make an effort to seek out new perspectives in our lives.

After every single rejection we fret over how we’ll be able to put ourselves out there again after being so hurt. We become jaded over the frustration and anger. The same negative emotions pester us to no end and build a negative energy over and over again.

I won’t deny that to a degree, we all need the validation of others. But what’s more is that freeing yourself from being unfollowed or blatantly rejected in life only truly begins when you find fulfillment in yourself.

Most recently I had the pleasure of working with someone incredibly bright in the field of academia with multiple upcoming publications. When she broke down, stating she was alone and that everyone hated her–it was all nonsense to me. Despite having been successful in her field of choice, landing the job of her dreams and having many adoring students she had read negative messages directed towards her while at the same time ignoring all the good.

Anyone in a similar situation would feel lost. Because of this, our motivation is temporarily heightened as we feel the need to obsess over results. This is what happens when we weigh our fulfillment on validation from others and their judgments. Staying grounded is key to having more self-love.

Before you decide on what to wear from your wardrobe each morning, you should wear the confidence. Why? Because it looks good on you.

There is no pleasing everyone. And if they unfollow? Good. You didn’t abandon yourself to keep them.

What we really need aren’t opinions from others on how we should feel. We need to do something. Anything. As long as we do it while treating ourselves with value.

It’s true what they say about us giving up power for others to hurt us by their rejection. Even when we look back to the people that unfollowed and countless more rejections that slapped us across the face in the past, we manage to see the good in it for being the pivot points of our lives. We survived another episode of rejection. And guess what? It wasn’t so bad after all.

So next time you get unfollowed or rejected in one way or another, know that it was just what you needed. Not that “they shouldn’t have!” or “you deserve better! nonsense.

Happiness that remains dependent on judgments formed by others will always be temporary. Beyond that, it’s difficult to recall the world we lived in before part of our validation became based on how many up-votes our thoughts received. Instead of fishing for compliments from others, we can try constantly complimenting ourselves instead. Why not tell yourself you’re awesome everyday?

Can we really learn from rejection you may wonder? Of course we can. Perhaps the rejection happened to show us that our approach was all wrong and yes, ultimately meaning we screwed up. Not only is it important to ask ourselves “Why?” but it’s just as important to ask “What can I takeaway from this rejection?”. We’re capable of reflections that make us better as human beings and prepare us for upcoming opportunities in our lives. Being rejected or unfollowed isn’t a “me game” where the whole situation revolves around you and you only. There isn’t a need to be battling more fears and insecurities of the imagination. Sometimes we’re more capable of nurturing ourselves after rejection than anyone else.

We’re the only ones responsible for healing our own wounds. Not time.

— itsfruitcakeweather.

Disney Fairy-tales and Other Glorious Lies

“As long as you’re a genuinely kind person, you’ll be able sing with cute animals all day and eventually a fairy god mother of sorts will come and rescue you from your misery.” (What Disney plots are telling us)

Indeed, that is the magical world of Disney and folklore. The time when you were five years old and looked forward to talking to stuffed animals in a universe where wishes came true.

Perhaps our imaginations were boundless enough as we grew up to encompass more adventurous travels to places that do not exist.

But do you remember when you realized Disney fairy-tales do not in anyway reflect real life? That Santa was never real and if you were lucky enough your parents attempted to prolong your vision of this make-believe character. We felt in one way or another–cheated. Maybe confused as we all should be after having been fed years worth of lies. Taught to tell the truth but told fables to expand our horizons and grow our imagination.

Escapism is the adult form of Disney fairy-tales. In our adult lives, time is a constraint to adventures we would like to have. At the end of the day, it comes down to some form of reality that may involve mortgages and childcare support. As children we lived for the day a dragon swiftly takes us to the faraway land with fairies and as adults we live for the two days at the end of the work week. Why do we lie to our selves? Why tell ourselves we’re doing it right when all of this feels wrong.

We allow our career choices to define our self worth, cannot live without electronics, have visions of IKEA themed showrooms in the house and dream of getting a fat slice of the year end bonus at work.

The lies we tell ourselves are so much bigger than Disney fairy-tales will ever be.

Visiting  different workplaces in various areas of the city in the last month has reminded me of how little I’ve traveled geographically. Not that I was physically chained to anything but psychologically speaking, work often times has us tied up in the same corporate mindset. We’re told what tasks to perform and specific ways to conduct them. We’re literally cardboard cutouts that require the approval of others to make progress in our work lives and beyond.

Just because it’s a luxurious cage doesn’t make it any less of a cage. A seemingly high-end job can still be a constraint.

It’s too cliche to say that we’ve lied to ourselves so much that life is no longer the great adventure it once was when we were children. We stopped playing with puppets but allowed ourselves to puppets of the corporate world. Why create a reality only to desperately seek out ways to escape it?

Again and again we discover that adult life isn’t filled with unlimited freedom and happiness as we hoped. It will always be nice to believe there is something enchanting beyond the lagging computer systems and isolated corner cubicles.

Let us continue to believe in mountain top castles and whimsical creatures.

Let us continue to pass on fables.

Let us stop thinking we’re old enough to know better.

Let us stop thinking happy endings are just for wishful thinking children.

Let us refrain from the illusions created by our lies and enlighten ourselves with thoughts of countless possibilities.

— itsfruitcakeweather.