Where Do I Find An Idea?
So you decided you want to start your own business. Be your own boss! Great idea! After all, you will be the coolest boss ever! Ok, so what is your great idea? How are you going to revolutionize the world? This blog series is going to take a step by step approach to building your own startup. I’ll use lean startup methodologies and help you step by step. I chose Millennials as my target audience because I feel like more and more of people in that demographic are trying to find more meaning in their business lives. The first step though is having some idea. Some product or service that people want.
This first article is going to start with “the idea”. Let’s first state that everyone has ideas. Ask anyone, and at one point or another they had a great idea! They’ll tell you when they see it in an ad or on TV, “That was my idea!” They’ll tell you all about it. Unfortunately, they never did anything with that idea and they are content as they sit back and imagine the overnight success and riches that could have been all theirs. First off, there is no such thing as an overnight success. It takes months and years to build a great business. Secondly, just because someone did something doesn’t mean you can’t do it too. Next time someone tells you that something was their idea first, tell them to go after it! The fact that someone else is doing it proves that there might be a market for it. Also, there is always room for competition. For every Uber, there is a Lyft. You’ll quickly find out that they have a million excuses for not starting on the project, and starting is everything!
So back to the idea. If you don’t have an idea that’s ok. Let’s go through some ways you can come up with an idea. A great way to come up with a new idea is to talk to people. Really work on how you can guide a conversation. You can interview someone about problems they have at home or at work. Now, you’re not going to be able to just walk up to your Cousin and ask, “What problems do you have at work?” Odds are you won’t get much that way. Instead, ask them about their day at work. Get more information about what they really do. If you genuinely seem interested, people are more likely to want to talk about themselves. Don’t worry if the conversation strays off topic from you wanting to find a new business idea. Really listen and see if you can learn something new. Once the conversation is going well, then you can start to steer it into “finding a problem mode”. If you ask them about their day at work and they answer something like, “Same old crap…” then it’s your job to drill down and get more information. Ask them leading questions, but don’t steer the conversation. Ask things like, “What do you do at work that takes you the longest time to complete?” When they answer, ask open ended follow up questions such as, “I bet that’s frustrating, do you have to do that over and over?” or, “Is that time consuming task difficult?” “What would you do with the time if you didn’t have to do that part of your job?” You can also ask things like “What frustrates you at work the most?”, “How many repetitive things do you have to do every week?” If you have this conversation with enough people, you are bound to stumble on a problem. Problems lead to solutions and those solutions might be worthy of a new product or service business. This method takes practice and time to find real problems. One thing you have to make sure of is that most people in your target market have the problem too. So you’ll want to follow up with your Cousin’s co-workers or people they know in the same industry. You can also do this with business owners, workers at businesses and pretty much anyone you meet. Try it out and see if it works for you. If you use this method, you will end up knowing at least a few people who have the same problem. Other methods might have you researching and testing to find this out.
Another way to come up with a new idea is to think about your unfair advantage. What is it that you know how to do that others don’t? If you could do anything, what would it involve? For instance, do you know how to paint? Maybe you could use that to your advantage. My wife loves going to the local wine and paint place. She has a great time hanging out with her friends and comes home with a picture she painted (with some help from the artist at the shop). This idea is no longer new, but someone had the idea and made it all happen for the other copy cat businesses. Can you think of a new twist on this business? As an example, I recently spoke to someone who had just moved to the United States. She was telling me how difficult it was to buy a home and car here as compared to London. Maybe there is a business in there helping people from other countries getting their homes and cars (and car registrations) and other things I don’t realize are issues myself. The concept is simple, take what you are already good at, or already love to do and turn your unfair advantage into a business idea.
The final way I’m going to write about is one I learned more recently. I already touched on it above. New Entrepreneurs are often discouraged when they see someone else go live with an idea they had. Many times its easier to let someone else prove that a market exists for a product or service. If you embrace this idea then you can turn it around to your advantage. What if you find a great idea that is already out there. You know people are using it. There is always room for another player in any market. People will try your business if you give them a good reason to do so. Search for things on google with the term project management. There are tons of solutions out there and many of them are making money at it. Find out what people like and what they don’t like about a product and do it better. Your version does not have to be cheaper, it just has to solve a problem in a better way, or be easier to use, or have a better mobile version, etc. You can hang out in the support forums for a product to learn what people are having trouble with, or what they like best. Even if you can’t out-do the current market leader it won’t matter. I would be happy being second or third best to Facebook! Apps like SnapChat, Instagram, Twitter, WhatsApp all came around well after Facebook. I’m not suggesting your idea have to do with social media at all. Just find a business that you love to use (or an application) and add your unique twist to it to make it better or more focused, or even more narrow for a specific vertical.
You can also combine the above ideas to come up with your next great venture. I once knew of a guy who worked for a software company that catered to the trucking industry. They sold $10,000 software to track shipments in trucks going across the country. If a customer called in to see where their package was the software would let them know (truckers would call in and tell the dispatcher where they were from time to time and the software would save the information). The guy wrote his own version of the software that did not do as much, but it did do the tracking part. He found that smaller trucking companies could not afford $10,000 software, but still wanted the functionality so they could compete with the larger companies. He sold his product for $1000 per year license and was able to quit his job and work for himself. He used his unfair advantage of understanding the needs of the trucking industry and combined that with copying and improving on the idea of existing software.
In closing, there are many ways to come up with your next amazing business. It might take some effort, but I think you’ll find the journey fun and exciting. Go ahead, I challenge you to start! Let me know what works for you in the comments section.
The Savij Coder