A Simple Formula to Vet Your Business Idea


“Do you think my idea will work?” I get that question often from aspiring entrepreneurs who enter my office for business counseling. My silent response after listening to their dream and seeing a hopeful expression is, “Sure, people will buy anything.” My mind goes back to the mid-1990s when eBay first came out and someone wanted to test its effectiveness. They offered a red pencil for sale-a plain, red pencil. It sold for $35.00!

Of course I don’t give the “sure” answer to entrepreneur hopefuls, but I have come up with an easy to understand way to determine if a business idea is worth pursuing. I say, “Ask yourself this question, ‘Will my idea save, solve, or serve?'” If the person can answer “Yes” to at least two, preferably all three, they may be on to something. I call it the critical three “S’s” of developing a business idea.

Since the fast food industry serves 50 million Americans every day and brings in $100 billion in annual revenue, obviously something is working so I’ll use that industry to show how they relate to the three S’s.

Years ago when I was a young TV news reporter in Columbus, Ohio, I did a story on the fast-food craze and talked with the top executives of McDonalds, Burger King, and Wendy’s. I got the idea after meeting Dave Thomas, founder of Wendy’s, which is headquartered in Dublin, Ohio, a suburb of Columbus. He had come by the station for a special event. I later contacted his office requesting an interview and he obliged.

After talking with him about his background and how he started the popular chain, I asked him what distinguished Wendy’s from his other top competitors. He quickly said, “QVC-quality, value and customer service.” What’s interesting is when I asked the same question to the executives of McDonald’s and Burger King, they said the exact same thing-QVC. Let’s look at the parallel to the critical three S’s.

I’ll start with value. Value represents save in the three S’s. The most popular fast food companies in the world tout that they save consumers money. Consider all the promotions about dollar menus, everyday value menus, mix and match menu deals. “A good meal at a low price,” as Thomas said, is what the fast food giants market.

Let’s look at quality. It relates to solve. What problems do the fast food chains solve? One is the age old question “What’s for dinner?” The fast food giants solve that issue by offering what they consider a quality menu, one with a taste and enough variety that everyone in the family will find something they like, especially children, who can be picky eaters. They also solve the question (or attempt to), “Is it OK for my family to eat it?” by promoting quality ingredients. You’ve heard the commercials, “Two all-beef patties, special sauce… ” and “Fresh, never frozen.” They’ve also added salads and baked potatoes as more “healthy” alternatives. They also solve the issue of consistency. People tend not to like surprises with food so the companies have a quality system of preparation and delivery that gives customers a consistent experience at any location.

Finally, there’s customer service. That’s the serve of the three S’s. The fast food giants are clear on whom they serve and they deliver customer service with that target in mind. Families with children will find a fun environment for kids-toys, special menus, even a play ground, all served up with a smile. People on the go will experience fast, efficient service so they can grab lunch and get back to work. A business must know the specific customer it will serve.

Any business idea can be put to the test of save, solve, or serve. It’s a quick way to tell whether to proceed to the next step or take the idea back to the drawing board.

Source by Barbara L Hall

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