How do you go about executing this? When in the ideation development phase, you’ll need to exercise prudence when testing your idea, obtaining validation and support for it. Why? Because your idea—your vision—is like a seedling that needs to be nurtured with care until you have enough information to decide whether to move forward or to discard.
How do you nurture it? By building a team of supporters. While there are many kinds of support that entrepreneurs garner for their ventures, during ideation formation phase, there are two key areas: emotional support, and idea validation.
Who Is Your Number 1 Fan?
Every startup needs a team of supporters, whether it’s a team of one or a team of a dozen. The first member of that team should be you. As you are moving on your entrepreneurial path, you will encounter unanticipated challenges, and during those moments when no one else is there, you need to be the No. 1 fan of your idea, your dream—you need to be there emotionally and mentally for you! This seems so obvious; yet I’ve listened to many founders looking outside for others to be the No. 1 cheerleader of their dreams. When they didn’t receive the cheering they needed, they faltered. If you have a co-founder, then that individual must share your vision and core values, and be your startup’s No. 2 fan. Remember, your No. 1 fan is you!
What criteria do you use to select those you are going to contact and vet your idea?
Are you willing to talk with just anyone who will listen and give their two cents? Many people will give you free advice and input; that said, free does not mean quality input, whether it’s encouraging or questioning.
With your F&F circle, who can you share your idea with and enlist support?
- Is the individual someone whose judgment you trust?
- Is the individual open-minded and by nature an optimist?
- Has the individual given you emotional support in the past? Is this someone who has been one of your loyal cheerleaders?
You may be drawn to different individuals with different personalities who comprise your inner circle of friends and family (F&F). Not all of them may share your core values and personal outlook. If you are by nature an optimist, asking for input from a relative who sees the glass half empty and is not a risk-taker is not going to be helpful to you. Most likely, that relative will point out all the downside and deflate your enthusiasm. F&F may have their own personal fears and risk-averse inclinations that will not serve you well as you embark on a new journey. Think carefully about the individuals who comprise your personal landscape and select the right cheerleaders to support you emotionally.
Do not mistake emotional support for professional validation of your idea.
If you have friends and family with the appropriate experience to give you a professional assessment of your idea, that is most fortunate. But if no one on your personal list of connections possesses the appropriate experience, then you need to seek out input from those who are qualified.
We live in a world that is saturated with Facebook, LinkedIn and MeetUp connections. The upside is that we have access to so many specialists and experts as we have never had before. The challenge is how to cull the right individuals to support you, to give you business advice and even to mentor you during your new venture.
With those in your professional networks, who is qualified? As you are coming up with a short list, think about the following:
- How well do you know this individual?
- If you have never met this person in person and received an online introduction through a colleague or an acquaintance, should you be placing a lot of weight on his / her input?
- Have you researched their professional backgrounds and do you respect their professional judgment? Do you believe they know enough to give you a sound evaluation, whether that will include validation of or concerns about your business idea?
- Do they share similar values to yours? While this is not a deal breaker, it is helpful to know. For example, if you believe in creating a product with quality service and material, and this person you’re talking with is successful from cutting corners and using cheap, exploited labor, is this someone whose input you want?
In the big picture, products and services that you created will be a reflection of your values, vision, and execution. If you are enlisting support and incorporating input from those whose values and business practices are not aligned with yours, your creations will be influenced by them as well.
I had mentioned earlier that you need to exercise prudence in testing your idea and obtaining validation because sharing it with the wrong individuals can set you back, and worse, derail you from your idea and your dream. You want to start out with smart moves by asking for positive support from the right people.
© 2014-2015 My-Tien Vo