Aliza, who writes an entrepreneur focused blog on Work It Mom has a great post about how to analyze a business idea. She even mentions!  She offers great advice for anyone who has a business idea and is thinking about turning it into a real business. Here is some of the advice that I want to emphasize, as I often see people making the same mistakes, again and again, when planning their business:

Aliza says: “And don’t forget to check out the competition.”

Often times I see business plans that claim they have NO competition. Everyone has competitors. It may not be a company selling the same solution, but there IS competition. When Henry Ford made the first car, he could have said that he has no competitors. But the reality was that trains and horse and buggies were his biggest competition.

Aliza says: “If your product idea is truly unique, explore getting it patented.”

This is solid advice. I just want to add a caveat. Patents will not protect you. They are good to have, investors like them, but your competitors will find ways around them (if the solution is that good believe me they will.) Proving patent infringement is also a long and costly process that would most likely kill your business. So please, go ahead and get a patent, but then put a strategy in place to market the heck out of your solution — so that when someone copies it you are the true front runner with the best quality solution.

Aliza says: “Part of any solid business plan is an entire section evaluating the market or potential customer base.”

Don’t be afraid of market research. It sounds scary, and it sounds like you need a lot of expertise and money to conduct it. You don’t. It’s just a fancy term for “do your homework.” If you are starting a coffee shop, go stand on the corner of the locations you think will be good. Analyze the car and foot traffic. Boom, market research! Or you can go talk to 10 or so people in your target market, and ask them what they are looking for in the solution you provide to them. And as Aliza mentions, use the Internet. There is free information everywhere! Check out the US Census.

Starting a business, or thinking of starting a business is exciting. Take a little time, read Aliza’s post, and get the information you need to assess whether your idea is a true business opportunity.
Good Luck!

Sabrina Parsons, Mommy CEO

AvatarSabrina Parsons

Sabrina has served as CEO of Palo Alto Software since 2007.