I don’t know about you but I love coming back to work after a good break at the start of another year. Hitting the reset button, reflecting on what lies ahead and pivoting where necessary are all therapeutic for business [and the people leading them].

One of the things I look forward to most at the start of a new year is the flurry of new business ideas that come to light – sometimes they have been lying dormant for a while and other times it is like an epiphany out of the blue.

Over the break, I spent some time with my gorgeous 11-year-old daughter Lucy [no, I’m not biased] working on her own little business idea – we have dubbed it ‘Cube Cream’. I cannot remember exactly how this all started but she has been making notes in her specially bought notebook for about 6 months. I am not suggesting that Cube Cream will take on Baskin Robbins or Ben & Jerry’s any time soon but it was quite interesting for me to take her through some basic business planning questions to test her idea.

Have you got a hot new business idea but you don’t know where to start?

The first thing Lucy did was a mind map. I simply asked her to write ‘Cube Cream’ in the middle of a page and write down everything connected to her ‘idea’ of Cube Cream. From here I then gave her a list of questions to research and consider with regards to the business idea.

Here are the questions I asked Lucy that you too could answer to get started with your business idea.

what does your business do?

This is more of a business statement than a vision statement [I think I would have lost Lucy if I gave her too long a time frame to focus on]. More importantly, you should cover off on what the business does ‘not’ do as part of answering this question.

For example, with Cube Cream, it is all about the fun experience associated with ice cream and Lucy was very adamant it is not a home delivery business.

who are your competitors?

Lucy jumped on Google to search for different potential competitors. After looking at their website and remembering her own personal experience, she came up with a list of competitors and what their key proposition was to the market.

It is important that you review competitors in a much broader way than just your direct competitors too. For example, Lucy also listed donut places as competitors because that is another treat kids love in a decadent kind of way even though it didn’t involve ice cream.

what makes your product [or service] different to its competitors?

Call it a unique selling proposition [USP] or whatever you like, really she needed to identify why Cube Cream was going to be different from alternative products. This took us down the track of what flavours of ice cream she was going to produce and challenging whether they are different enough to what is already available.

how are people going to find out about your product?

If your product is a ‘purple cow’ [like Seth Godin discusses in his book] then that may be the core marketing strategy but, even if you have a purple cow you have to understand how to spread the word and build a following.

Lucy defaulted immediately with her thinking to Instagram.  Maybe she just wanted me to let her have an Instagram account but, in this case she may be right – photos of happy kids having fun eating beautifully decadent ice cream may be enough to build a following [it just so happens this time to be digital channel].

how are you going to take your product to the market?

Business these days is about so much more than opening a shopfront and waiting for people to come through the door to buy your products. Is your business only online? Does it have a shopfront at all? Or maybe, it is somewhere in between.

For example, in Lucy’s situation, she wants it to be like a food truck that goes to the gastro food markets.

As with any question, the answers may not always be clear.  But, these five questions enable anyone with a business idea to have a deeper understanding of what exactly they are talking about. Don’t be surprised if as you analyse and test a business idea your answers to these questions change or your overall vision pivots radically compared to the original idea.

From here, there will be more analysis and reflection that needs to be done but these questions are a great start if your idea is still just that, an ‘idea’.

Need help assessing your business idea? Maybe you would enjoy one of our Business By Design workshops. If you are interested reach out at 07 3193 3000 or j.knight@businessdepot.com.au.

BTW: I love it when kids apply their open minds to business. I’m not sure Cube Cream will ever be a successful business but Lucy will reach her own conclusion on its viability [and I’m not going to be the one to take the wind out of her sales].