Venn and the Art of Launching a Business


I met with some friends after work last night who are starting a new business. Unfortunately, they aren’t exactly certain yet what kind of business it’s going to be. 

Like many entrepreneurs, they’re nervous about narrowing their focus, because they don’t want to rule out potential jobs—or customers. 

This often leads to the smorgasbord effect—a flavorless web page of “services we offer” rather than a distinctive business concept and memorable brand. 

After some riffing back and forth, we came up with a decision-making formula (see diagram above) that asks four questions:   

— What do you do (your current skills and capabilities)? 

— What do you really want to be doing (now and in the future)? 

— What do people genuinely need/want?

— What are people willing to pay for—bountifully?

The intersection of those four questions—if there is one—represents a business that’s worth exploring. No intersection? Then maybe you don’t really have a business idea after all. 

Marketing is all about making hard decisions. For start-up service companies, the hardest one is often: What don’t we want to be?