Somewhere between scribbling your idea on a serviette and actually starting a business, there is a process that an entrepreneur needs to carry out to try and determine whether the business is viable and how it should be set up.
Often, would-be entrepreneurs get so excited and energised by their initial epiphany that they forge ahead without taking time to find out whether the idea can actually work. Of course, sometimes the idea works anyway, in spite of lack of market research.
However, more often that not, those who proceed without researching their idea tend to be halted in their tracks by telling market forces. Market research is a key tool to manage the risk associated with launching a new business venture.
The market will always give the final evaluation of the quality and execution of a new business idea. There are, however, specific things that an entrepreneur can do to assess whether the market is likely to embrace or reject the idea.
Entrepreneurs should use market research to gain insight on issues like the market size, market growth and customers’ needs for a product or service, and to answer the fundamental questions on the viability of their proposed business model. The reality is that an entrepreneur is invariably limited by time and money constraints and can therefore not afford to engage a consulting firm to do a full analysis of the market.
Many entrepreneurs stress the importance of doing market research yourself, but they also suggest that it is critical to focus your research process to ensure you get maximum return on effort. The question therefore arises: How should an entrepreneur engage in a research process to maximise their return on time and effort?
The starting point for engaging in a process to research a new business idea is to work out what it is you need to find out, so establish your research objectives. Many entrepreneurs are guilty of diving into a research effort without establishing what it is they need to know; as a result, they feel overwhelmed, frustrated and directionless.
Stipulating what you need to know gives you an excellent launch pad for gathering data and insights. So what should an entrepreneur aim to find out when researching a new business idea? Meaningful market research should focus on the four Cs listed below. They will help you organise your thoughts and focus on what’s important:
It is important to ascertain the size of the market – that is, approximately how many potential customers there are and how fast the customer base is growing. It is also advantageous to try and ascertain what causes customers to buy – in other words, find out what the key influencers are on the buying decision.
It is useful to research who the potential competitors are, what their offering consists of, where they are situated and what their strengths and weaknesses are.
Entrepreneurs invariably rely heavily on other people and organisations to make their business model work. They need to form alliances with suppliers, funders, distributors and professional advisors. It is important to carefully research these relationships so as to make wise choices for the future.
4. Company model.
Researching the company model involves doing the necessary calculations to understand where revenue will come from, what costs will be incurred in generating revenue, what investment is required to keep the company cash positive, and identifying what the critical factors for success will be.
Sources of Relevant Research Information
- Refer to trade journals, market reports and industry associations;
- Interview experts in the industry;
- Interview, observe or survey potential customers.
- Become a customer of the competition;
- Visit competitor websites and stores and read their promotional material;
- Interview your competitor’s customers.
- Visit suppliers, talk to them and talk to their customers;
- Discuss funding options with other entrepreneurs;
- Make an appointment with the bank manager;
- Obtain and read the National Venture Capital Association’s handbook to identify all venture capitalists who offer funding for your type of business;
- Search the Web for entrepreneurial financing options;
- Attend networking events to find local business partners.
- Consider different revenue models, including subscriptions, unit- or time-based models, advertising models, licensing, franchising, or transaction fees;
- Evaluate the costs and the cost drivers. Distinguish between fixed, variable and semi-variable costs;
- Do cash flow projections to calculate the necessary capital funding;
- Speak to industry experts and other entrepreneurs to identify the critical success factors.
Organisational Design Disruptions Do Not Occur In A Vacuum: Future Business Models
What is the shape of the world in which models need to operate and how do they come together to build future value?
In today’s ever-changing world, organisations are using a disruptive business model design to build unique approaches to creating value and organisations that are ready for the future.
At all scales, from micro-enterprise to multinational, operating in multiple settings and contexts, rethinking business models has become one of definite ways of offering customers something truly better than what already exists.
To ensure sustainable business growth, businesses need to navigate modern economic development and societal issues and in so doing articulate what meaningful, inclusive and enduring value looks like. In the past, a linear approach to business model design may have sufficed – inputs enter a logical process that creates outputs of value.
Today, to truly deliver a value proposition that can flourish, an understanding of the way that complex adaptive systems come together to create both outputs and outcomes is required. ACCA identified12 characteristics that organisations are combining as they build new business models. The full model and characteristics can be read here.
The accountancy profession is well placed to support the growth of business models of the future that help build resilient, inclusive and prosperous societies, by leading in strategic roles. In order to be ready to make the most of these opportunities professional accountants will demand new skills. Financial acumen, technical knowledge and ethical judgement are attributes that the accountancy profession can uniquely bring to support business model innovation across the three spheres of value proposition, value creation and value capture.
But to navigate the contours of a changing economy, new mindsets are required. These include the ability to:
- think like a system
- understand how to capture and assess new sources of value
- build creative capabilities to think differently and problem solve
- adopt a long-term mindset.
Business models of the future: Systems, convergence and characteristics attempts to answer fundamental questions; why does business model innovation matter? What is the shape of the world in which models need to operate and how do they come together to build future value?
Developing A Business Model That Works
Use these six tips to create the financial section of a business plan that will get your company off the ground.
The following excerpt is from Scott Duffy’s book Breakthrough.
What’s the first step in figuring out how to execute your big idea? Creating a working model for your business.
We’ve all been brainwashed into thinking that the best way to do this is to sit behind our desks and write a long, detailed business plan. You know the kind: It starts with a fancy cover and your mission statement, then describes your team, market, product, competition, and so on.
Most entrepreneurs spend a lot of time and resources writing their plan. Too often, they get feedback from all the wrong people. Their friends and family want to support them, but they’re telling the entrepreneurs only what they want to hear — that they have come up with the next Google or Apple or Tesla (keep in mind, none of this feedback is coming from customers).
By the time the entrepreneur gets to the last section in the business plan — the financials — he’s totally sold on the idea. Sometimes the financial section is left unfinished or dropped entirely as the business is launched.
And why not? We’re passionate. We’re committed. We know we can’t fail. So what are we waiting for? Let’s go!
Here’s the problem: Most entrepreneurs change their business model six times when working through the financial section of their plans. While running the numbers, they identify key distinctions with regard to income and expenses. They gain a deeper understanding of what it will take to break even and how to achieve free cash flow. As a result, they come up with better-informed strategies for attaining their desired financial outcomes.
The most important part of the initial business planning process, and the one people most often neglect, is getting your numbers to tell a story that makes sense for you and your investors. If you start at the beginning of the plan only to learn that your assumptions about the business don’t add up once you reach the end, you’ve lost valuable time and money.
Regardless of whether you’re in startup or growth mode or moving to the next stage of your business, mistakes can be costly, so here’s what I recommend:
1. Start with the last page first
Once I have a basic understanding of what I’d like to build, the market, my target customers, the business opportunity, and the product, I dig right into the numbers and create a simple one-page spreadsheet that clearly identifies how the money flows. Basically, I write business plans backward. I’ve learned that once the numbers tell the story you want, the rest of the plan will write itself.
2. Don’t wait
Don’t make this process more difficult than it needs to be. Limit your model to one page. Create the simplest, most basic spreadsheet you can that identifies income, expenses, breakeven, cash flow, and the capital required to achieve your outcome. Use conservative assumptions, and don’t rely on best-case scenarios.
3. Get out of the office
You’ll learn more about your business by getting into the market than you ever will sitting behind a desk. At least 50 percent of your time should be outside the office gathering information that can be applied to your plan. That means contacting industry insiders to learn more about the market, talking to prospective customers about their needs, and testing your competition’s products and services.
4. Be careful who you listen to
When we have an idea we passionately believe in, we’re convincing. It’s easy for our family and friends to tell us we have a winner on our hands because they want to be supportive.
But when you’re modeling your business, the people whose feedback matters most are current and potential customers. Listen to what they have to say and apply what you learn to your model. Let their feedback, and not your enthusiasm, sway your projections.
5. Don’t throw out negative feedback
Sometimes it can be difficult to absorb negative feedback in a constructive frame of mind because we’re so close to our projects and have so much on the line. We start rejecting and deflecting feedback that isn’t in line with what we believe.
But honest, educated feedback is like gold — use it to open your mind and ask tough questions about your assumptions. You must be obsessively committed to asking what you can learn from this feedback and how you can apply it.
This is especially important for people entering new markets where they don’t have prior experience. Getting feedback from others who’ve lived in the space will add to your perspective. Sometimes you’ll learn that there are things you don’t know as a newcomer that would significantly impact your financial results.
In fact, this holds true throughout your business’s lifetime. The entrepreneurs I know who’ve built the most successful and thriving businesses are obsessed with getting constant feedback from the marketplace and adapting their businesses based on evolving market needs.
Related: Developing a Stable Business Model
6. Be open to what the numbers tell you
The worst thing you can do is try to manipulate a model to match your assumptions. You need to approach your financial model with a completely open mind.
Recognise that it will probably take longer than you initially thought to get to market, generate revenue, create profits, and accumulate the cash flow you need to operate and further invest in the business. By being open, you’ll be able to make distinctions, apply them to your business, and set yourself on a path to success.
You need to be clear on where you want to go and put a simple and adaptable plan in place to help you get there. The clearer your vision is upfront, the easier it will be to back a plan to help you get there. Being obsessed with customer feedback will enable you to tweak strategy in a way that evolves with the market and helps keep you on top of the competition.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
4 Types Of Business Models To Suit Your Business Concept
There are four main types of business models, see which one suits your business concept.
Different types of business models suit different types of businesses. A business model is the way that a company sells products to its customers. It describes how a business creates, delivers, and captures value.
What type of business model should you adopt?
A business model defines how the enterprise delivers value to customers, gets them to pay for that value, and converts those payments to profit.
There are four basic types of business model that any for-profit business will fall into: