Business ideas can occur at any time and be sparked by anything. Some people get inspired by a dream or sitting inside a classroom. Others read something in a book, magazine, newspaper, Web site, or blog and the proverbial light bulb goes off. Ideas sometimes sprout from seeing a business in another part of town, an entirely different city or state (sometimes it’s even a different country), and then are duplicated at home.
But one of the best sources of business inspiration is frustration, though it often goes untapped because of the very nature of the source itself. People get frustrated when they can’t find something they need. Unfortunately, during these moments, the last thing most people are capable of doing is recognizing the opportunity at hand instead of the roadblock. There’s a good chance that what’s bothering you troubles many other people as well, so the challenge at hand can sometimes be an opportunity yearning for a solution (say, a business).
The key is to remember the source of your frustration, and once you’re not mad anymore, find the opportunity hidden within. It’s a lot easier than you think.
First, try to remember your last few moments of frustration. As an exercise, think back several years if you can, note the frustration, and try to find the business opportunity hidden within. For example, several years ago, after another late night at work, I drove by my dry cleaners, now closed for the night. It was only then that I realized I had forgotten to pick up the clothes I needed for a business trip I was taking the next day, at 6:45 a.m.; too early to get my clothes. I had to rush to the mall to buy something appropriate to wear.
A frustrating moment, to be sure, and one I’m sure has happened to many of you. Most people when faced with that situation would do what I did—nothing. Others, however, might recognize the opportunity to start a dry-cleaning pick-up and delivery service.
Then there’s the story of two co-workers really frustrated by a situation at work. One night they were in a bar, letting off steam. Unbeknownst to them, a brilliant idea had been hatched. Fortunately, a third friend, still in college, and who therefore didn’t share in the problem, heard the idea loud and clear. He told his pals they had just solved their problem. Today, about 12 years later, their company has revenues of around $15 million. Had it not been for their third set of ears, their complaints would have drowned out the successful idea.
Back to your list of frustrations. Once you play “spot the opportunity,” examine your list to see if any of those business ideas would still be relevant today. If not, move on to your more recent frustrations. Ask family, friends, co-workers, and colleagues to share theirs. Try to find a pattern—are there any common frustrations on the list? Is there a business that can be built around that? For instance, a growing concern for many people these days is senior day care. Is that one of your frustrations? Your neighbor’s? Can you start a business that addresses this issue?
There are thousands of people who are in business today because they came up with a better version of an existing product (baby strollers, golf clubs, or even shampoo) because they were unhappy with their experiences using the original. Or they improved on a business or personal service (dating services, staffing agencies, or airlines).
One good way to make sure you capture your moments of frustration is to jot things down. Carry around a small notebook, or record it on your phone or a small recorder. When something bothers you ,no matter how minor it appears, note it. At the end of the week (or pick another designated time to do it) review your notes and look for the opportunity. This applies to all parts of your life, both personal and professional.
When you think about it, the keys to success at turning frustrations into a business are the same for succeeding in business:
- Listen/Observe (even if that means listening to yourself)
Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, www.growbizmedia.com, a content and consulting company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses.