How To Make Your Idea A Real Business

I define a real business with two main qualifiers. One it’s authentic to you and two it pays you. Authentic business building is all about receiving money for providing value that fulfills you. That’s it.

As Steven Covey in his excellent book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People shared – Begin with the end in mind and put first things first.

Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind
Synopsis: Self-discover and clarify your deeply important character values and life goals. Envision the ideal characteristics for each of your various roles and relationships in life.

Habit 3: Put First Things First
Planning, prioritizing, and executing your week’s tasks based on importance rather than urgency. Evaluating if your efforts exemplify your desired character values, propel you towards goals, and enrich the roles and relationships elaborated in Habit 2.

This may surprise you but the first thing in turning your idea into a business is not incorporating or figuring out how to file your taxes. It’s not ordering business cards or putting up a website.

These things are all necessary but distracting steps, that can dilute your energy and cause you to avoid taking action.

No one has ever been paid for getting ready to be in business.

You aren’t really in business until you have a customer.

Are there preliminary steps that you must take to develop your idea into a business? Yes there are but they do not have to take you months to accomplish and you don’t have to write a traditional business plan.

Getting started in real business building activity is more important than writing a plan you may or may not ever follow.

Yet a written summary of the business is an essential focusing tool. Just write out what your business idea is, explain the product or service, define who you will be selling to and what aspect of your product, service, delivery or business model gives you a unique edge in the marketplace.

After you do that – then get busy building your business. A good place to start is by asking, answering and acting on these five questions.

1). What can I do now to move this idea forward into a business.

2). What are the next 90, 60 and 30 day milestones to set and hit to prove that I am doing so?

3). What are the three toughest questions I could get from someone who is testing my commitment and the idea’s validity?

4). What are my most enthusiastic and confident responses to each question?

5). How can I put myself in front of potential clients or customers now so I’m having real conversations about my real business?

Do these things first and you will create clarity and progress.

Go direct to what you want. Take action to get it and before you know it – you’ll have a real business.


  1. A business plan gives one an idea of where it is their business should be heading and can be used as a reference later on. In all honest truth, what you assume will happen in the business world and what really happens can be two different things!

    Great tips and advice – authencity and getting paid… authencity is key.

  2. Gabriella – Welcome! Well said. In fact assumptions versus results is why I advise my business development clients not to spend too much time on writing a plan. It’s seldom the most essential element.

  3. Daniel Hughes says:

    Great tips and advice, thanks for sharing. and also would like to thank Gabriella, well said friend. very good points. “Authenticity and getting paid… authenticity is key.” — Nice thought.

  4. Chris Edgar says:

    Hi Tom — thanks for this — yeah, I’ve had the experience of doing this recently in creating a computer game with a partner. We do plan to sell it, but we don’t have any idea how it’s going to be marketed or distributed — at least right now. I’m trusting that this will come — now is the time for the creativity that goes into the design and programming, and the logistics will take shape in their own time as well.

  5. Daniel – Welcome — it’s hard to be against authenticity but some really are. Conformity creates insanity.

    Chris – Kudos for taking your swing in creative power. You are absolutely right. Do the next thing and the next things appears. best to you and your creation.

  6. > What are the next 90, 60 and 30 day milestones to set and hit to prove that I am doing so?
    I seriously like this as a way to frame the tests for success.

    There is something super clarifying about laying out things in terms of time frames and milestones. It makes things real.

  7. Hi Tom – yep – it’s not a real business until you have a customer – all the facebook pages and websites and business cards won’t do it. I like your point about having real conversations with customers about your business.

  8. J.D. – Spot on as always. It does clarify to frame with milestones otherwise we are flopping about hoping for results instead of proactively creating them.

    Robin – Right you are, real conservations is where the rubber meets the road. If social media creates conversation then it’s working. But if it just keeps us busy with an illusion of being productive then it’s a time suck.

  9. I have been following you for a while Tom and enjoy (and learn) from your articles. I used to be self-employed (in the 90’s) and then went into employment for 15 years….and very nearly lost my dream.

    Your thoughts give me hope, your practical tips are very helpful and your message regarding authencity, spot on.

    Two things have sustained me through these early days of excitement and terror (who needs go to a roller coaster, I have one inside my house).. Self-belief and when that wanes a little (as it always does) someone to sustain you.
    thank you again

  10. I love your saying you are not a business until you have customers.
    I like the way you think.

    Signing out Small Business Owner with customers

  11. Gill – It’s real good to hear from you. Yes we are never too old and it’s never to late to bring back the dream. It all starts with that powerful declaration of what you want. Be bold and then back it up with a first small step.

    Del – Bravo for you that you have customers. With all the investment in social media people forget that commerce means exchanging value for money. I’m glad you get it.

  12. Kath Roberts says:

    Enjoyed the post Tom. I agree that taking action is crucial and authenticity is the key to long term success, online or off. But there are smart ways of doing stuff and thinking , planning acting is no bad thing provided as you say the focus is on bringing in customers. I think we tweak as we go and any business is always a work in progress just like the owners. The more personal investment you make in yourself then generally the greater degree of commitment and success you have.

  13. Kath- I like what you said about making a personal investment in yourself. Often times that can be the difference because at least then the customer care and positive intentions shine through.

  14. Mads Singers says:

    The key to success in starting a business is faith in your idea, discipline and determination 😉

    Kind Regards

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