Every entrepreneur starts with big dreams. Launching a business takes an enormous amount of risk and effort, and the payoff for that, at least in theory, should be equally grand. After all, something has to keep you going through all of those ramen-fueled nights of spreadsheets and market reports.

And those dreams can vary.

Some people want to start their business and strike it rich, taking an idea and turning it into eight figures and a home in the Hamptons. Others want freedom. They want a world in which they call the shots, set the dress code and decide when work starts or stops. Still others just want a chance to do something they've always wanted, whether that's launching a social media network or selling fresh cut flowers.

The question is, what does it take to transform those visions into real (rent-paying) success?

To start, don't try and start all at once. It can be overwhelming to think about the scope of what you're trying to do. Starting a business is like writing a book, training for a marathon or planning a wedding. If you sit down with a blank sheet of paper and write "new business" up top the sheer scope of the project can break you. Instead, get started by breaking it down into these three components:

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Identify a problem with a marketable solution.

"Ideas relating to business generally are a function of there being a problem that someone sees, one that strikes them as being something that someone cares about," said Max Eliscu, CEO of Viewpost. "That's the base level decision that entrepreneurs have to make, to decide whether this is worth doing or not."

Do I care about this problem? Does someone else care about this problem? Do enough people care about this problem, and would they pay to have it solved? When you start a business there are a lot of factors, but this is always the first step because everything else follows from it.

This is the step where you figure out what your business will do, and getting it right sets the stage for everything else down the road. Any business, ultimately, exists to do one thing: ask customers for money in exchange for a product or service. By finding a problem that people need solved, you can figure out what those future customers will pay you for.

For example, do the residents in a local community have to drive far out of their way to find a flower shop? Or are their local options too shoddy or too expensive? When you speak to people in the community, would they shop at someplace nearby? If so then you, as an aspiring florist, may have found a problem to solve.

On the other hand, is this a town which already has three different garden stores and a boutique shop specializing in red roses? In that case, they may not have a problem that your particular business can solve.

Finding a problem to solve is the step where you figure out if a customer base will exist for your business, who they are and where they live. In other words, you find the need and the market that your business will serve. This is the step that stops you from sinking thousands of dollars into a vanity project, and far too many businesses fail because their founders didn't think the problem solving through.

Take your time, do the research, and by the time you're ready to start making phone calls you'll be surprised at how clearly this future business comes into focus.

Figure out if it is solvable.

Once you've found your problem, make sure you can actually solve it in a practicable, profitable way.

"Is the problem, in fact, solvable?" Eliscu said. "Is the reason it hasn't been solved that it can't be solved, and is your own approach what's misguided? And the answer is that you have to do a lot of work. You have to look at what everyone who has tried to solve it has done…. Is everyone who has looked at this problem in some way misguided, and is there a way you can solve this problem in a different way?"

It does you no good to identify a problem with no practical solution. Some problems are easy to dismiss if they defy technical or functional resolution. The really insidious ones, the problems which inspire people to launch doomed ventures all the time, are the ones that you can solve… just not profitably.

So get into the nitty gritty here.

"You have to ask yourself, 'where do I stand in the competitive landscape?'" Eliscu said. "What are the relative strengths that exist?"

For example, he said, "it could be that the analysis of your competitive landscape was wrong and the barriers that you thought existed don't exist. So the people already in your space can adapt to do what you're trying to do, and they're bigger and they're already profitable."

Look at the cost effectiveness of your business. Analyze what it will cost to solve your problem and how that lines up with what the market will bear. Look, too, at who else is out there. Many businesses can thrive by iterating on existing business models, but to do that your solution needs to offer enough of an improvement to peel people away from established competitors and enough of a unique advantage that your competitors can't easily adapt.

In other words, it isn't enough to just have a problem and a solution. Your business needs to meet these needs in a competitive, profitable way.

Identify what, specifically, this solution needs.

So, you've figured out a problem and researched the viability of your solution. Now what?

Now start the checklist of what it will take to build that solution.

"Once you're convinced that people care and it's a solvable solution, then you have to break it down and say, 'O.K. let's start talking about the fundamental things needed to actually solve this problem,'" Eliscu said. "What are the steps to actually building this thing? Do I need a guy who can dig a ditch? Do I need a girl who can pour concrete? You have to put it together. You have to build the formula."

No matter how ambitious your idea, you can always break it down into this kind of to-do list. What would it take to build your idea? What skills will you need, what infrastructure and who will you have to hire?

Don't let this step overwhelm you. As you write down your ideas they will become more clear, allowing you to further refine exactly what it will take to build your idea and get it off the ground.

At the same time, don't worry about getting too ambitious right now. Start small: what will it take just to get your idea off the ground. Yes, it's always good to plan for the future, but thinking too big at this stage is a recipe for getting inside your own head. Just consider who and what you'll absolutely need to get started.

By the time you're done you'll find that you've made a checklist for your new business.

"In order to be a successful entrepreneur," Eliscu said, "you have to have a remarkable amount of persistence, an incredible work ethic, a problem solving capability and just enormous drive. You can't be overwhelmed by problems."

Owning your own business will involve a lot of late nights and a lot of complicated challenges. But this is a good place to start.

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