You’ve got a great business idea, you’ve identified a need in the market and now you’re ready to turn that idea into reality. But how do you know if it will work, and when is the right time to take the leap of faith? Here at the Australian Graduate School of Management (AGSM), our view is that it’s best to combine real-life experiences with astute commercial skills.
The Australian Innovation System Report 2015 states that Australia has one of the highest proportions of start-ups among small businesses in the OECD countries. It’s even more exciting to know that Sydney is the start-up capital in Australia, with 48 per cent of ventures choosing New South Wales as their headquarters. We are certainly in a great position poised for growth and innovation.
1) Test. Experience.
So how do you know if your idea will be brilliant? In the entrepreneurial world, there’s no sure-fire way of knowing until you run with it. “The best way to understand if an idea is worth pursuing is going out to test it,” advises Pablo Quintero, CEO and Founder of FishGig, and alumnus of AGSM’s MBA program. It was during the program that he discovered the school’s Entrepreneurship and Innovation courses, which provided just the platform to operate in such an environment. For 12 weeks, students are placed in start-up ventures – learning to take risks, practicing agility and learning from mistakes – an invaluable experience to arm yourself with before launching out on your own.
2) Equip yourself with business skills.
Most people forget that entrepreneurship is about running a business, and this means having basic business skills like accounting, marketing and leadership. One way to acquire these skills is through an MBA program. “I was always thinking of new business ideas to implement in the market, but I knew that I was lacking the basic skills to run a company,” says Pablo, who worked as a nutrition lab researcher prior to starting FishGig, a platform for on-demand workers to search for real-time jobs. Fellow alumnus Quirin Schwaighofer echoes this sentiment. The COO and Co-founder of MadeComfy, Australia's first performance-based home-sharing start-up – known for increasing property rental returns by over 40% – says: “The MBA provided me with the foundation for understanding the basics of strategy planning, marketing, legal and finance. It equipped me with the framework to launch my start-up.”
3) Turn criticisms into motivation.
Author and Canva evangelist, Guy Kawakaki, believes that innovation ignores naysayers, and that some things need to be believed in order to be seen. “People are very afraid of change and are comfortable with the status quo,” says Pablo, who advises that staying grounded to your vision always makes it easier to convince, or even ignore, the Negative Nancys. “If I hear that something can’t be done or isn’t going to work, that’s when I know that I’ve got something,” he says. Innovators are always going to ‘disrupt’ and rock the boat of established big players – so turn the criticisms into motivation to keep going.
4) Surround yourself with the right people.
To be agile and lean, one has to be a continual learner – and what better way to learn than by surrounding yourself with those whose ceiling is your floor. In fact, 62.5 per cent of respondents from the Startup Master Report 2016 claim that their business benefited from mentorship, above other factors like investments, awards and media exposure. When Quirin embarked on his MBA, he knew that it would provide him with the opportunity to network with business leaders and fellow entrepreneurs. He says, “Without the MBA I would not have access to a network of people I can call on, who have failed and succeeded countless times in the past. They offered me a different perspective on things.”
5) Don’t be afraid to fail.
Part and parcel of being an entrepreneur is to be a risk taker, and that means failure as a high possibility. For Pablo, it’s knowing when to let go and move onto the next project. “Failure to me is knowing that you don’t have the market fit, and yet you keep on trying,” he says. “Many entrepreneurs are so attached to their idea that they are simply not willing to let go.” I’m a firm believer that success is about not giving up, and the saying goes that either you win or you learn – there’s no losing in all your experiences. Past failure as an entrepreneur only makes you better, and the best innovation comes from life experience.