_We all have ideas. The kind of epiphanies that seem to spawn in our minds just before we fall asleep for the night and then keep us wide awake for hours imagining how we will execute them and change both our lives and the world forever. The self-cleaning toilet, a non-profit for saving endangered Turtles, a guide book about escaping credit card debt. There are no limitations on space for our collective idea inventory. Yet, for some reason only a tiny percentage of these ideas ever come to fruition.

Typically, we open our eyes the next day to discover that the idea already exists or we may have just been delirious the night prior and talk ourselves out of it. Just as often, we continue to see the idea as great, shelf it regardless and proceed with our routines. As 2012 inches closer I want to encourage those true entrepreneurs out there to finally make the visions you just aren’t able to shake into reality. You may tell yourself every New Years that this is the year you’re going to change your life by quitting your job and doing what you are passionate about. It might be opening a specialty store, going back to school, creating a website or even launching a company or product. Some of you, like many C2Bseen clients, have taken this step and are well on your way to realizing that dream. Others are still stirring with the ‘what ifs’ of abandoning comfort zones while remaining fearful of taking risks.

Here are a few key steps to helping you transition from an idea person to an entrepreneur in 2012:

Eliminate ‘Can’t’
Write down all of the reasons why you shouldn’t pursue your entrepreneurial vision and why you can’t. Now come up with counter points for why you should pursue the vision and cross off everything you wrote under the ‘can’t’ category. You can do anything.

Anticipate Change
Realistically outline the changes you’ll have to make in your life to focus on your project. Include solutions for how you will overcome the barriers that these changes will present. For example, if you have children you may be unsure of how to balance their activity schedule with your new endeavor. There are plenty of options if you eliminate ‘can’t’ from the equation: you may consider asking a relative or friend to help you, assess how you can re-balance their needs by asking for extra involvement from your spouse or find ways to break up the day into specific blocks of time that you are completely committed to your work without interruption while the kids are occupied. Again, this is about finding ways to make things ‘go’ rather than stopping yourself before you start.

Conduct Research
Do some research- check to be sure your idea has demand from an audience that you can reach and familiarize yourself with the competitive landscape. Do not let the fact that competitors exist keep you from pushing forward. If others hold your idea it means that there is likely a need for it. Market share is always open for the taking if you can deliver a better version of the product or service. See what competitors are doing right and what they might be missing. Speak to the end consumer before conducting steps of branding or execution. Adapting other entrepreneur’s concepts is an entire industry in itself. Just be aware of copyright and trademark infringement before playing with anyone's ideas. If no one else is doing what you are, be sure you understand why. There might not be a market for you or you might need to create the market yourself. These can be daunting challenges, but often see the biggest payoffs when carefully approached.

Engage a Professional
There are many consulting companies, including C2Bseen, available to help you navigate the questions that arise from launching a new brand. You might be someone that prefers not to go it alone or you may wish to receive expert advice to reassure you are taking the steps that will result in the highest probability of success. It is often worth the investment to get a professional opinion, as it will save you from having to backtrack and resolve preventable problems later on. You will also need to collaborate with other contractors to fulfill the needs you personally cannot, such as graphic design and accounting services. Write each of these needs down. Then, be patient in finding the best value available to you by speaking with other entrepreneurs, reading review sites and getting quotes from a variety of vendors before settling on one for each task. Consultants often have these networks built into their service offerings. Ultimately, do not do anything until you have a clear business plan. Even if it is just a series of notes on scrap paper...have a plan.

Do Not Quit Your Job
Anticipate your financial needs and continue to work until you are stable enough to concentrate on entrepreneurship full-time. There are many hours prior to a normal work day or after, as well as weekends and vacation days that will allow you to ease into this new world of risk. Entrepreneurs have always been associated with risk-taking. From someone that has been down this path and watched countless others do the same, it is important to emphasize that you should be taking calculated risks. Too many idea people rush the process and go broke before they achieve their goals. Patience is just as important as passion in this case. You will know when it is time to quit your job when the dollars make sense.

Generate a list of goals and a schedule that will realistically allow you to bring your vision to market on a timeline that suits you. Know that any worthwhile pursuit will take an incredible amount of energy, hard work and time. Do not falter on the days that you feel overwhelmed. Simply take a break to find your balance and return to the next task when ready. Becoming an entrepreneur takes one main thing: discipline. Without self-control you will not succeed. Be conscious of this every day and stick to the plan. Eventually, your persistence will pay off.

Have Fun
The main reason to be your own boss is that it allows you the freedom to shape your life as you see fit. Remember that you are taking these risks for the rewards and the rewards can be plentiful if you are willing to put in the work to receive them. Take vacations after you have reached a major milestone, pause at lunch for a walk or a workout, sleep in on a Wednesday once in a while (but make up for it by working a Saturday). Simply put: never forget why you chose this incredible path into entrepreneurship.

I wish each of you success in whatever your 2012 goals might be and invite anyone interested to contact me directly to discuss your lingering questions related to entrepreneurship. Have a Happy and Healthy New Year. -Jeff