Questions to Evolve a Great Idea into a Legacy Business.

by Rob Marchalonis

What’s the Goal for Your Big Idea?

Clients, friends, family, and others regularly share their business ideas with me. Usually, the ideas are exchanged in casual conversation to get a first reaction or some quick feedback. Sometimes the discussion gets more serious, especially when a significant investment of time or money is involved, or when the idea will have an impact on others. Occasionally, a considerable investment has already been made but the intended outcomes are not being achieved. One question I ask is, “What’s your goal?”

Good things almost always start with a great idea. But great ideas often don’t result in the intended good thing. Somehow, along the way there are breakdowns. One way to achieve good outcomes, is to evaluate key aspects of the idea at each step along the way.

Questions to Ask as You Evolve Your Idea and Business

  • Passion – how excited are you and others about the idea?
  • Persistence – how committed to the idea are all the stakeholders?
  • Time – how much time will be required from you and others to proceed with the idea?
  • Money – how much investment will be required to support the idea at each stage?
  • Interest – how are prospects, customers, and investors responding to the idea?
  • Impact – what value is being received by each of the idea’s stakeholder groups?
  • Sustainability – what will ensure that the idea continues, beyond your direct involvement?

The best outcomes begin with great ideas that evolve through a series of progressive steps or milestones. How far the idea progresses typically depends on the goal of the creator and the viability of the idea. Consider the following stages, from idea to legacy business, and how you would answer the key questions for each.

From Great Idea to Sustainable Business – 10 Steps and Questions

  1. Idea – a thought seems to make sense that you or others would enjoy or value. “Who would benefit from this?”
  2. Dream – idea is researched, challenged, and evolved; passion is developing. “Why can’t you stop thinking about this?”
  3. Plan – strategy clarified with purpose, vision, mission, values, outcomes, metrics, goals, actions, SWOTs. “What’s in writing?”
  4. Hobby – some effort and money are being invested to activate and make idea tangible. “What are you willing to invest?”
  5. Expensive Hobby – considerable money or time is being invested to advance the plan. “Is the value worth the investment?”
  6. Business Idea – idea offers enough value that others might purchase or invest in it. “Who would pay for this? Why?”
  7. Start-Up – prospects are paying to try the product or service and sharing feedback. “Are first orders coming in? Why?”
  8. Profitable Business – customers re-ordering; income exceeds expenses. “Are you receiving second orders? From who?”
  9. Sustainable Business – repeat customers are growing, trying other offerings, referring you to others. “Is cash flow positive?”
  10. Legacy Business – many customers are “partners”; wealth created and shared. “Why can’t customers do without you?”

At what stage is your big idea in the progression above? What aspects of the idea have gotten it that far? What needs to be addressed next? What may be holding up the idea?

Your great idea could become a legacy business. A lot depends on the questions you ask, how you evolve through each stage, and your goal – idea, hobby, or business?

Rob Marchalonis helps business leaders take ideas from plans to profitability. Learn more at or connect with