Following the culmination of our seven-part startup guide authored by entrepreneur and investor James Caan, we rounded up the questions we’d had from readers over the period and put the best ones to him for some insightful response.
Caan partnered with Business Advice to guide readers through all the important steps in starting a business – from working out whether an idea has any validity to securing the finance needed to move forward.
(1) How can I protect my idea? I’m scared someone will steal it.
People get so paranoid about someone else stealing their idea that they end up underestimating the effects embracing this ultra-cautious attitude can have on the potential success of their business.
It is absolutely critical to get effective, constructive feedback on your idea and not just from your mate at the pub. Family and friends are always likely to give you good feedback and this isn’t enough – you need to be speaking with experts in your field, people who understand the market, have similar experiences and can really add some value to your market research
I always encourage entrepreneurs I meet to share their idea with as many people as they can because this is exactly what I do. I want to speak to as many people as I can because this is my way of de-bugging the business before it’s even started.
When you have a business idea, it quickly overtakes your life; it’s your baby and you’ve never been so passionate about anything before. If I try and replicate your idea, it would never be as successful because I don’t have the same level of conviction and passion as you because it’s your idea.
Generally speaking, I would say that very few people ever rip off someone else’s idea – the percentage is so small that it is immaterial. However, if you’re really worried, you can use an NDA template to ensure protection or run it by a patent agent.
(2) Our services have been well received by some blue chip organisations, but I need to find more prospects/customers so that we are not reliant upon the current customer set. Have you any suggestions for doing this?
It’s great to hear you’ve already attracted a few well known customers, this is great for you brand and proves you’re a trustworthy provider.
However, as I can tell you’re aware, it is really important you don’t just assume your business will fly just because you have a few big names in your portfolio. The only way to grow is to gain more customers so business development – focusing on your marketing strategy and ensuring you’re continuously developing your brand in the market – should always be a main priority.
Simultaneously, it is critical to ensure the quality of your service isn’t affected by this, it’s all amount finding a balance between maintaining relationships with current clients and pitching new prospects.
Utilise recommendations to your advantage. People buy people and if you have a load of great customer feedback quotes from blue chip’s available on your website, this could work wonders. Also, don’t underestimate the significance of networking, it is really important you’re out there making yourself known to competitors and potential customers in your field.
Have a look at the James Caan seven-day startup guide pieces:
- Day one: Is my idea really a business?
- Day two: Testing out your idea to fit customer needs
- Day three: Playing the numbers game
- Day four: Building the right team
- Day five: Capitalising your business and the rise of alternative finance
- Day six: Branding and marketing your business the right way
- Day seven: Pulling it all together
(3) Do people working for you ever feel like starting their own business after hearing your knowledge and advice?
Great question – I always encourage my team to embrace innovation and the passion all entrepreneurs possess. In this sense, intrapreneurship is quite a regularity in my office – I give my colleagues the freedom and autonomy to work on their own projects and I am always open to hearing about their ideas.
In fact, one of my businesses – Recruitment Entrepreneur – was born out of a colleague’s constant persistence for me to back her idea. She was passionate, determined and really believed she could make it a success, so I did it.
I think it’s difficult not to get the entrepreneur bug when you work in that kind of environment and when I ask colleagues, all of them tell me they enjoy working in a culture which encourages them to think outside the box.
(4) When’s the right time to startup?
There’s never really a ‘right time’ to startup – this is completely subjective to current situation and experience.
At risk of sounding cliché, I think you know when it’s time. When you wake up with an innate desire to work on your idea and make it a lifestyle, I suppose that’s the right time.
People startup at many different stages in their lives but we all share one thing; the want to work for yourself on something you actually care about. Something you believe can make a difference.
Something you’re so passionate about, you’re willing to spend every waking moment making it a success.
If you have any more questions from James Caan then please drop us a line in the Q&A box below. We’ll again be putting the best ones to the successful business builder.
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