What Hard Questions Should You Ask About Your Business Idea?


Monday, 9.07pm

Sheffield, U.K.

If debugging is the process of removing bugs, then programming must be the process of putting them in. – Edsger Dijkstra

Someone I know describes herself as a completer-finisher.

This is one of the nine Belbin team roles – a detail oriented person who checks work and makes sure there are no mistakes.

That’s not me.

Checking stuff is dull. It’s much more interesting to think of a new product idea or throw something together that does something that might be useful.

When you do that, however, you might also end up with a pile of half-finished things – the detritus of your inability to stay on track.

Have you ever met one of those people that you just know are going to be successful?

It’s never the flashy ones, the sales stereotypes – the ones with the suits and the patter and the social media exposure.

No. It’s the ones that are quiet. The ones that have an expertise in something boring that you just have to get done if you want to get whatever it is you want.

The ones that have a focus and quiet intensity and know what has to be done to get a result.

Those are the people that you just know have a workable business model.

But how can you figure out if what you have is one of those?

Software developers have this concept of testing their code.

They try and figure out what the correct output would be from a program and then write test suites – code that checks if what comes out is right or not.

It’s too hard to make anything perfect – so this approach tries to check that what’s happening is as right as it can be.

And it’s an approach that we can use to test our product ideas as well.

For example, BCG, The Boston Consulting Group, writes about Business Model Innovation – the idea that “when the game gets tough change the game”.

They argue that there are six components to a business model three of which relate to the value proposition and the others to the operating model.

You could have a go at creating a test suite by asking questions that test each component of the business model – as shown in the image above.

Let’s say you need to stand up and deliver a pitch to potential investors – tell them what you do.

Can you answer these questions?

  • What’s your product or service?
  • Who needs it?
  • What do you charge?
  • What tools and skills do you need in house?
  • What’s that going to cost?
  • And what else do you need?

For example, let’s say we were going to offer open source consulting services – we’ve got a product.

Now what?

we think everybody needs it, we’re going to charge $5,000 an hour, we’ve got a ten year old laptop. We’ll do all the work ourselves. There’s no other outlay – other than the mortgage and the kid’s private schools and we don’t know many people in this town.

Now, if those are your answers, you can probably also write down what good answers will look like.

And you could compare the two – test them – and see if your answers pass.

If they don’t – or worse – you haven’t got any answers at all then it’s time to debug your business.

Find out where the flaws are in your logic and thinking and fix them before you run the tests again.

Then again, maybe this is all too hard, and you’re just going to have a go and see what happens.

Well, in that case, it might be wise to keep an eye on those quiet folks with the boring business and the intense focus.

You’ll probably need to ask them for a job one day.


Karthik Suresh

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