This book is a guide for anyone who has an idea for a product or service they would like to turn into a business. Entrepreneurs, inventors, innovators, and students can all benefit from this book as you turn your ideas into a reality.
This is the first of The Next Step guides. Read this book first. It will provide an overview of the startup process. Other books will then fill in the details of that process, including: marketing, sales, financial planning, pitching, and fundraising.
No gimmick, just step after step after step.
Most business books have a “gimmick,” a single catchy idea that helps to sell more books. That works well for authors, but The Next Step is here to help you, not me.
If there were just one simple piece of knowledge to turn an idea into a successful company, this would be a very short book or perhaps just a long blog post.
The reality is that the process of creating a successful startup is complex. Arduous. Unforgiving of missteps and mistakes. The only idea that you’ll see repeated in this book and this book series is that there is always a next step to work on to increase your odds of success.
Entrepreneurs no longer spend months researching and writing up long, written business plans before starting their business. Experienced entrepreneurs such as Steve Blank and Eric Reis have taught us that the most important market data you can gather comes from your potential customers. With that in mind, entrepreneurs have begun talking to those customers with a product or service already in hand, ready to be purchased.
That said, this does not mean you should skip all business planning and simply jump directly from idea to production and sales. Instead, what you should do is spend enough time researching until you believe there is an opportunity worth pursuing and build just enough of a product or service to verify that belief. Then take what you’ve learned from conversations with customers to refine your plans, update your product, make more sales calls, and repeat this cycle repeatedly.
This book will take you step by step through the process of planning and starting your business. Other books in the series dive deeper into marketing, sales, financial planning, pitching, and more.
Along the way, you will find targeted questions that will help you understand your own thoughts, needs, and desires. Take your time in answering these questions, using your answers to guide your decisions in getting from idea to startup company.
However, first things first. Read through the whole book. Note the questions as they come along, but do not spend time answering them. Focus instead on understanding the whole process. At the end of the book, you will find the full list of questions, and at that point, you should have enough of a grasp of the process to start answering those questions. Those answers are your business plan.
As you progress, expect that an answer to one question may change the answer to an earlier question. Iteration is normal. In fact, when you have a complete set of answers, expect to go back and reiterate through all the answers at least three times, if not ten times—or, in some cases, dozens of times.
Building a business plan is neither a simple nor linear process.