How do I get good business ideas?

Are you sitting with a white piece of paper in front of you, waiting for that bright business idea to drop? Well, many people struggle to take the initial step – getting a good business idea. Without an idea, you have nothing!

Good business ideas do not fall from the sky – or do they? Well, sometimes they do, but it’s not the norm. A good business idea solves a problem – it makes overcoming the problem easier and rewarding.

I would like to tell a few stories and give a few pointers to help you get your business idea.

Does it evoke emotion?

Imagine not being able to get out of a cellphone contract. Now imagine how you can get a large group of people together that forces a corporate to listen to you. Andrew Mason created this platform, but, with someone’s advice, he decided to change the “bulk action” business model to a bulk buying model: If enough people buy, then everyone gets the deal. If not, no one gets the deal. Today this company, Groupon has a revenue of $1.417 billion.

What evokes emotion in you? What makes you angry, happy, sad, frustrated or bitter? For some it’s the wreckless public transport, for others it’s the fact that they cannot get a hot enough chilli sauce. 

Start with solving your own problem.

Is it one of your passions?

We often hear how passion projects are turned into big businesses – and it makes sense. For example, you really have to love cooking if you want to start a home cooked meals company. You would probably have to experiment with different ingredients to see what works and what doesn’t. People are difficult to please, and few businesses have a winning idea the first time round

 If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.

–  Reid Hoffman, the founder of LinkedIn

Imagine having to spend lots of time on something you hate!

Does it suit your talents and abilities?

I often get people telling me “I have this amazing business idea! It will change the world!”. Sadly, they have no budget and no skills that align with their final goal. In my business, I do software development for small businesses. It tends to be a rate skill, and my clients understand this. My offering aligns with my skills and abilities – and ultimately I get hired as this aligns with what they need. 

Take the time to write down what your talents and abilities are. Once you know in which industries and field your skillsets and abilities are in, you can narrow down where to look for that good idea.  

Do you have the right people in your network?

Your business idea is just as strong as your network

Most people know someone knowledgeable that could benefit them in their new venture. For example, an ex-employer or some friends that know people that know people. 

While looking at your existing network is important, you might also want to look at strategically expanding your network of friends and business associates to help you achieve your goal. 

I personally work with the Core, community and crowd model:

  • The core is the people in my close circle.
  • The community is where, for example, my LinkedIn connections reside. These are the people you sometimes interact with, but not daily or weekly.
  • The crowd are the people you see once in a blue moon.

Be strategic about moving people into your core group and out into the crowd.

You will become the average of the people with whom you hang out with

Do you have the needed resources?

When exploring business ideas, look at what you have. This includes money, materials and people (please don’t call someone a resource). Here is an illustration:

Mr Espresso doesn’t have a lot of money, but he does have the skills to build WordPress sites. He is able to set up an e-commerce site. He uses his friendship with influencers to help him connect with his target market.

Use what you have. And if you need funding, then get that later when you have customers lined up.

Experiment

“I have a product that will change the world!”

I hear this line quite often. Though we should believe in the product or service that we offer, the only way to truly know if it will work is by customer feedback. What the customer says about (and do with) our product is proof that we’re on the right track. 

In most cases, as with the ready-meals, you need to experiment a bit to find what will work. For example, you might need to experiment on the price, quality, ingredients, packaging and appearance to see what makes your customer the happiest. 

Speak your mind. 

Talk about things you see.

Observe people and their habits and explore why they do it. 

Do a few experiments to see if the idea will work.

Research before you start

Ryan Daniel Moran knew that he wanted to break into the yoga market but didn’t know a thing about it. For this reason, he had to do lots of research: joining groups on social media and checking out the influencers in the industry. He also identified the needs and frustrations of his target audience before developing a special yoga mat especially for those looking for a thicker, bigger and more comfortable experience.

Define the industry you want to penetrate. Research the industry. And find what is lacking.

Start in general and then narrow it down

Imagine targeting males aged 1-5 years old in Griquatown with an LSM 9-10 that are interested in technology, the newest gadgets and gourmet coffee. Though this might be possible, it might not be feasible. 

In the same way, we should be careful not to narrow down our search for our ideas too much too early on. This will stop us from seeing the bigger picture and areas that might have bigger opportunities. 

An example of this is scrolling through social media to see what people are posting about, and then deciding on certain industries or types of posts that you would like to explore. Keep on narrowing down until you have your business idea.

Learn what customers want

Most businesses start with a product/idea first approach and then attempt to find customers. Many of these ideas have not been validated or are based on a feeling: “I believe this will work – let’s see!”. 

Why not rather start with your customer first? Imagine immersing yourself in an industry, circle of friends or experts – and then discovering what makes them unhappy or frustrated. Once you’re in touch with your customer, finding something that will solve their problem is so much easier to sell than something that hasn’t been validated.

Keep an ideas journal

Do you have a little black book that you carry around with you? An ideas journal is a place for you to make notes of business ideas, observations and interesting things that comes across your path in life. 

Making time to reflect on this can help you uncover insights – and allow you to test your hypothesis.

Stay clear of negativity

I was getting my hair cut the other day and saw a special half-hour television discussion about a political gathering that got out of hand. The sad thing is that I don’t have power over this – and I am not able to change this. Though public outcry happens daily and trolling on Twitter happens hourly – it’s unclear how we can truly change the world by lending out our ears.

Even though negativity can give you insights into people’s frustrations, most often we cannot do anything about them – and it makes us negative. 

If you have the influence to make large changes, then it might make sense to investigate and explore this as a business opportunity – but don’t let negativity find a place in your life. 

Conclusion

Good ideas don’t come from a vacuum. They come from putting yourself out there and immersing yourself in the customer’s world. 

To get good ideas, be in touch with your own frustrations, emotions and workflow as well as those of your potential customers.

Don’t expose yourself to what you do not want to become, including negativity and people complaining all the time.

Happy investing!

Sources consulted

  • Book: Ryan Daniel Moran – 12 Months to $1 Million: How to Pick a Winning Product, Build a Real Business, and Become a Seven-Figure Entrepreneur (Amazon link here)

Money Local

Frugal Local runs his own company (Effectify). He does software development and helps small businesses and startups with digital solutions. He enjoys writing articles and simplifying complex things - such as the article you're reading!