For many people, the hardest part of becoming a business owner is coming up with an idea about which business to start. In fact, the search for a business startup idea can take up so much of their time and energy, that all too often they never actually launch a business. One common problem for many aspiring business owners is thinking they have to come up with a completely new idea—one that’s never been done before. Getting too caught up in the idea of “brand new”, as the old saying goes, can lead aspiring business owners to not see the forest for the trees.
That’s exactly the wrong approach. Instead of trying to reinvent the wheel, it’s a lot easier (and cheaper) to improve, tweak, or build upon business concepts that already exist.
How do you that? It’s actually easier than you think. You can even figure it out using one sheet of paper. (Feel free to do this on your computer if you prefer.) I’ve been teaching this method for years, and it really works.
Step 1: At the top of the page, write: “It’s All About Me.” On the left side of the sheet, list six to 10 things you like to do, that you feel passionate about, or that at which you excel. These could be as simple as: “I love to write;” “I’m great with numbers;” “I’m a people person;” “Kids are my passion;” or “I like to build things.” On the right side of the paper, list an equal number of things you don’t like to do, you’re not very accomplished at, or that make you uncomfortable when you do them. Perhaps you’re a behind-the-scenes person who is not good at dealing with people. Maybe you’re afraid to fly. When you really think about it, you might realize you don’t want to own a brick-and-mortar establishment. This is not rocket science, so don’t spend a lot of time dwelling on this. Just jot down your thoughts. Overthinking just wastes your time.
Step 2: Draw a line under your lists. Below the line, on the left side of the paper, answer this question: “What product or service would make my personal life easier?” See if you can come up with about five of these and list them. What you’re looking for here could be things that help you be a better person, spouse, parent, or child. Or it might be something that gives you more free time (think convenience), helps you accomplish more, or simply makes you happier. Across from this list, answer the same question, except make it about your business or professional life.
Step 3: Branch out and ask your friends, family, and business colleagues what products or services would improve their lives (both work and personal). List these underneath your own lists.
Step 4: Why do you want to start your own business? Is it to give you more control of your time and life? Are you seeking more purpose; to give back to the community? Are you bored with your job? Or maybe you’ve lost your job and need to earn money. Whatever your motivation, write it down.
Step 5: Examine your lists. Chances are you’ll see a pattern. Often the answer will be obvious. What you’re looking for is the need for a business that closely matches the things on your list where you feel you are successful or that you want to do. Before you move ahead, make sure you have an interest in running any of the types of businesses that have emerged.
Step 6: Once you think you’ve come up with some ideas, check back in with your friends, family, and business colleagues. Don’t give them too many details, but ask them what they would think of a (fill-in-the-blank) type of business. Whether they are shopping online or at a storefront, ask them if they’d frequent that business? What would they pay for this kind of service?
Obviously, that’s only a start, and more market research is needed, but this is a great exercise to get you moving in the right direction.
Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media www.growbizmedia.com, a content and consulting company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses.