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

More Business Advice

Business owners, employers, and leaders can sharpen their skills with the content below.

What Did You Mean by That?

What Did You Mean by That?

I know what was said, but what was really communicated?  Too often, because of courtesy, culture, or for other reasons, one party doesn't believe it's appropriate (or more likely worth the risk) to share their true thoughts and opinions.  I sometimes wonder how much...

Peer Pressure

Peer Pressure

In my experience, one of the most formidable powers in your workplace is peer pressure.  The ongoing anxiety by employees that their input and actions will be observed, judged, and possibly challenged by co-workers, associates, friends, and family. When the culture...

Definition of Culture

My simple definition of an organization's culture is: (Leadership + Strategy) = Culture Who leaders are, what they believe, how they behave, and their plan or strategy to move the organization forward and deliver increasing value to stakeholders tends to define the...

Shared Success

Find a simple way to "share the success" of your organization with your workgroups and you can unleash amazing capacity and potential within your workforce!  Learn more at IncentShare.comRead for More Business Advice Whether you're a C-level leader, entrepreneur or...

Super Strategies

Super Strategies

During 25+ years as a business leader, some strategies have proven to be game-changers.  Virtually all were taught to me by others, and many produced amazing results.  Here are a few from my Top 10 list: A simple emphasis on LSP - Leadership, Strategy, & Process....

Exceed Expectations

Many leaders make promises, commit to deadlines, or take on challenges that are at the limit of their capabilities.  For some, it's a requirement of the job.  Can you relate?  How do you manage the pressure of promises?  Am I stating the obvious that upfront is the...

Unmanaged People

"If you pick the right people and give them the opportunity to spread their wings, and put compensation as a carrier behind it, you almost don't have to manage them." Jack Welch - 20yr. CEO of General ElectricRead for More Business Advice Whether you're a C-level...

Sam’s Rule #4

Sam’s Rule #4

Among the many amazing organizations and leaders I've worked with, some have influenced me more than others. Two of those were Walmart, and Sam Walton. Although I never knew Sam Walton personally, I’ve felt his spirit and experienced his impact on numerous occasions....

Shoulder to Shoulder

With which would you rather enter a battle -- 20 average warriors or 5 Navy Seals? Rob Marchalonis helps organizations improve their Leadership, Strategy, & Processes (LSP) so they can grow and prosper.  Connect with him at or IncentShare.comRead for...

Let Strategy Bridge Your Leadership Gap

Let Strategy Bridge Your Leadership Gap

Need Leaders? Organizational success begins with leadership.  Unfortunately, leadership effectiveness varies widely in most organizations. This is especially true in smaller businesses with young or inexperienced leaders, inadequate training, and limited "bench...

Subscribe for Updates & Resources

15 + 2 =