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leadership lab

This column is part of Globe Careers' Leadership Lab series, where executives and experts share their views and advice about leadership and management. Follow us at @Globe_Careers. Find all Leadership Lab stories at tgam.ca/leadershiplab

Most new business ideas are destined for the graveyard; 50 per cent or so of new businesses succumb in five years.

New business leaders need an edge. They need to understand what it takes to increase their chances to survive the fate of most "brave ideas."

Here's the way to lean into success:

On the front end

1. You may think you have an incredible idea, but you probably don't. Most original ideas have already been thought of by someone else. So before you go pouring your precious time and money into moving your genius forward, do detailed due diligence to discover if someone else has taken a similar idea to market. If your idea is not unique in some way, either dump it or look for a way to make it unique.

2. Identify the people you intend to target and be as specific as you can. This is critical in a couple of ways. First, your message will be highly relevant as you are speaking directly to the people who can benefit from what you are offering. Second, it will help you target your marketing investments and maximize your chances of success. It's not really helpful to try and "boil the ocean" with your innovation even though your excitement and passion urge you to do so. Contain yourself.

3. Define in precise, specific terms the value your idea will deliver. Stay away from talking about what it does and the cool technology it uses. The Internet of Things is based on connecting a myriad of smart devices and, through sophisticated IT technology, performing functionality never made possible before. But unless this added performance and functionality are translated into customer value, the idea will get lost.

Key value questions to ask: What problem does your idea solve? What want, desire or fantasy does it satisfy?

4. Assemble a group of potential customers to give you feedback on your idea. Is it unique? Is it similar to what other suppliers are doing? Does it satisfy a want or desire? Would they be interested in buying it? What price range would they be prepared to pay? Never assume that you know the answers to these questions. You don't. The only people who do are the people you intend to target.

On the back end

5. Start small. Earn the right to "go big" after you have established a winning track record on a small scale. Husband and apply your resources to the vital few things you have to achieve to get traction. "Go big and go home fast" more likely will describe your outcome if you let lofty helium-filled goals guide your beginnings.

6. Ask customers for feedback as you execute your plan. Establish a learning loop early on. Test the assumptions you made on value and price constantly.

7. Stay focused. Don't get mesmerized by new stuff you could do, keep your attention pinned to the stuff you must do. If you start chasing the "art of the possible," you could burn up and go down in flames.

8. Tweak your plan as you learn what is working and not working. Implementation is a great teacher; pay attention.

Roy Osing (@RoyOsing) is a former executive vice-president of Telus with more than 33 years of leadership experience. He is a blogger, educator, coach, adviser and the author of the book series Be Different or Be Dead, dedicated to helping organizations and individuals stand out from the competitive herd.