Mahatma Gandhi once said that every worthwhile accomplishment is composed of three stages: a beginning, a struggle, and a victory.
It’s a quote that is often referred to by entrepreneurs for inspiration and motivation—but it must be said, when it comes to the process of launching a startup, it lacks some necessary detail.
In the run-up to launching a business, there are a number of stages that all aspiring entrepreneurs must pass through before joining the founders’ hall of fame.
NEOMA Business School in France, where students on the Global EMBA work on a business plan for the duration of the 22-month program.We decided to break them down with the help of Pierre Morgat (pictured right), a professor at
Stage 1: The Idea
Everybody knows where all businesses have to start: with an idea.
Many people think that good ideas arrive complete and need little work to become great businesses, but it’s not always that simple according to Pierre.
“We see a lot of professionals who have false good ideas,” he cautions. “Lots of people think when they’ve heard of new technology that they can make money out of it—what we try and do is make sure that they have all the key factors on their side.”
Stage one already comes with its own in-built hurdle, then, in this challenge to work out whether your idea is viable—which brings us to the next step.
Stage 2: Know your niche
When evaluating whether a student’s venture is viable, faculty at NEOMA have a simple system that has been worked out over years of analyzing student ventures.
“We have a checklist,” Pierre says simply. “To make sure [startups] have a competitive advantage before they start their business project.”
One of the key factors on this checklist is knowing everything you can about the field you are about to enter. You need to know your competitors, your customers, and trends in the market—what might seem groundbreaking to you could in fact be a total flop when tested in the real world.
In fact, 42% of startups fail because of a lack of market need.
Another factor on the list is building a network of relevant contacts, an area that business school can be of great use in.
NEOMA Business School alone has almost 60,000 alumni in its network worldwide, giving a distinct advantage to its EMBA entrepreneurs when it comes to making connections in their sector.
42% OF STARTUPS FAIL BECAUSE OF A LACK OF MARKET NEED.
Stage 3: The 5 ‘W’s
Stage three begins with what faculty at NEOMA call the “genesis session”—“It’s the session where we try to teach all our participants to act like architects,” explains Pierre.
Each student comes to the session with an idea for a business, where faculty and students alike critique it using what Pierre calls the “five ‘W’s”.
Students must be able to answer firstly why they are starting the business, and what it is it will be providing. They need to know who they will be providing this to, and when the best time to launch is.
Finally, they need to answer where this project belongs—both geographically, and online or offline.
“They present their projects in small groups, and all participants try to understand why it will create value—that’s the main focus,” says Pierre.
All this helps create a solid foundation on which a business can be built, which leads to the final stage of business preparation.
Stage 4: The business plan
This is the goal of the EMBA’s entrepreneurship track, and Pierre believes that the school have mastered the process for arriving at this key milestone.
“The big change from [when we ran this program] two years ago is that before, we’d give people a blank page in order to build their business plan,” he explains.
“Now, we have a comprehensive methodology which is [hosted] digitally, with questions they have to answer [about their business].”
Rather than focusing solely on the ‘how’ of business-building, NEOMA teaches students to look at the ‘why’, creating added value for their enterprises so that when they are all set up, they are at the helm of a values-driven organization.
It seems to be working—Pierre estimates that 80% of the current participants in the course will set up their own venture, whether as fully-fledged entrepreneurs, or as intrapreneurs within a larger company.
These four stages may only be the beginning of an entrepreneur’s journey, but they are essential to success in the long run.
As for the rest, Pierre has one piece of advice.
“Never, ever give up,” he says. “This is a life project [as well as a business project]: it will have an impact on your personal life, so if you’re not passionate about your project, don’t do it.”