Maybe you don’t have your business idea yet. Coming up with your business idea can be difficult. You know you want the freedom and independence of working for yourself. You have the personality suited to the entrepreneurial lifestyle. You sense that there are possible opportunities all around you. But first, you need to come up with that initial idea. Maybe it will be a service unavailable in your local area, an enhancement of an existing product, or even something so conceptually brand new, the world will be blown away; time to think.
First of all, what industry or sector attracts you? Is it retail, manufacturing, construction, or something completely different? Whichever it is, do some research to start seeding your imagination with information. Research the market, the products available, and the business models. For example, if you’re attracted to online selling then read about e-commerce, visit various websites and notice how products and services are presented and sold.
Now, broaden your scope a little. Write down a list of all the businesses and services that you both use and enjoy using. It doesn’t matter whether they are involved in your idea’s market niche; you’re looking for examples of good businesses; businesses that create a good response in you when you use them. Take your list and look for trends or common factors that create the appeal you’re feeling: is it something about the marketing, a quirk in the products, the top notch service…?
Next, think about your frustrations; the problems you keep coming up against in your daily life. When did you last think, “Surely, there must be a better way…”? What was that in response to? Ask your friends and family the same question. Encourage them to whine a little; it’s all fertile soil for ideas. After all, we may all be unique individuals but we often share common frustrations – the odds are, if something is irritating you, it’s also irritating a lot of other people. If you can find that “better way” then those people are a readymade market segment.
The penultimate stage is to draw on all this research and brainstorm ideas. Ask a few people to join you in this exercise – brainstorming always works better in a group because people’s ideas are inspired by each other to reach new heights. The basic rule is: nothing is out of bounds or too ridiculous to write down; you’ll evaluate them and narrow them down later, right now, quantity and volume are what you’re looking for.
Finally, decide on some criteria to evaluate your ideas. Do you have any boundaries or parameters? For example, the initial cost can’t be more than $X? Or it must be possible to run your business from home? Whatever your criteria, write them down and then compare each idea from the brainstorming exercise with them and put them in order of suitability. By all means, ask friends and family once again for their opinions; it’s all grist to the mill. What may well happen is that while evaluating you begin to refine the ideas further or perhaps even come up with fresh possibilities. That’s all good; just keep coming back to your criteria until you have a final list of possibilities and – hopefully – a clear ‘winner’: the business idea you want to pursue.
But don’t forget, this is just the first stage. That idea, great as it is, is just the seed. You have to water it, feed it, nurture it and help it grow before it becomes a business. This is where business planning comes in……