Stacey Back
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Career Strategist + Leadership Coach

Thinking about starting a business or pursuing a new career path?

Maybe you are, but you haven’t taken this idea any further because there’s a lot at risk. You’re not sure if it’s financially viable—and you have no idea where to start.

Follow these five steps to quickly test out a business or career idea. You’ll walk away with a validated idea to minimize any risk with your move.

1. Start with one idea.

Too many business ideas or potential career paths of interest? Test out your ideas one at a time. Be sure to run each idea through all the following steps to fully validate it before testing another. Always start with the one that’s easiest to test and validate. 

2. Find fast ways to test your ideas.

Find quick, easy ways to test out your business or career ideas. Think about volunteering, taking on extra work tasks or small projects outside work. 

Before changing careers, I explored my interests in coaching, speaking and facilitating. To do this, I volunteered at a not-for-profit, running workshops and coaching sessions. I was also the MC at a friend’s event.

This doesn’t need to be a big investment of time and money, like signing up for a full master’s program. Consider webinars, online programs or short courses to try out your ideas too. 

3. Have real conversations—with real people. 

I recommend having two types of discussions:

Career conversations.

To test your business idea, set-up conversations with entrepreneurs running a similar business. Let them know why you love their business or the work they do. Explain that you’re considering starting a business. Ask if they’d be willing to jump on a brief call to share their insights and experience.

Considering a career pivot? Using a similar approach, reach out to people doing work you’re interested in. See if they’d be happy to share their career journey or advice as you consider your next professional move. 

Always make these approaches about the other person, not you. And, make it clear you’re not looking for a job.

I adopted this strategy before pivoting my business and career back in 2018. Every person I reached out to was willing to share, very generously. As human beings, we love to help—and talk about ourselves!

Prepare questions in advance and make sure the other person does most of the talking. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Talk me through a typical day in your role—what does it look like?

  • What do you love about your work/business?

  • What do you find most challenging about your role/being a business owner?

  • Tell me about your business/career journey and how you ended up here?

  • What does it take to be successful?

Customer research.

Conduct research-based conversations with your ideal customers to test out your business idea. Get clear on who you serve and how you can help them. Make sure you can articulate your solution and the benefits it provides. 

Identify seven to ten people who represent your ideal target client. Set up a chat to dive deep into their motivations, challenges and buying behavior. Here are some suggested questions:

  • What are their biggest pain points as it relates to your offer?

  • What are their goals and ideal solutions?

  • What steps have they taken to resolve these problems or reach their goals?

  • Have they purchased similar services before? What was their experience? 

  • Would they buy again—why or why not?

4. Validate your idea.

After testing your idea, run it through the following validation checks. Confirm your idea aligns with your strengths, passions, financial and lifestyle goals. 

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Strengths: Do I have the required skills and experience? If I don’t, can I fill any essential knowledge gaps?

  • Passions: Do I enjoy this enough to spend the majority of my time on it every day and commit to it long-term?

  • Profits: Are people willing to pay? Is the financial payoff worth it?

  • Vision and purpose: Does this idea align with the greater impact I want to have and the lifestyle I want?

Only proceed if you answer a clear “yes” to each question.

5. Proceed or pivot.

These practical tips will ensure your idea is logical and financially viable. However, don’t forget to step out of your rational mind and check it makes sense at an energetic level, too. 

Does the idea of proceeding with this business or career fill you with excitement or dread? Do you feel expansive or contractive? Lighter or heavier?

Check in with your body and pay attention to the feelings. Our bodies are full of wisdom and knowledge. Before committing, this idea needs to resonate at a deeper heart and soul level, too.

And if the first idea you’ve tested and validated isn’t right, don’t be afraid to pivot. Use the insights you’ve gained to try out the next one using the same process.  

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Stacey Back is a business coach, career strategist and Founder of Profile Careers. She helps high-achieving women transition from their corporate careers into their own businesses. Stacey also supports senior leaders and entrepreneurs to navigate career changes and develop professionally.

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