Many people think they need a grand vision in order to succeed at starting a business. But what many entrepreneurs don’t realize is that most existing businesses were started by someone who just had an idea—and didn't even need any fancy marketing or branding campaigns!
If you're one of those lucky individuals who has already found a business idea that puts your talents and interests to the best possible use, congratulations! You've got the makings of a truly amazing company on your hands. And now all you have to do is figure out how to make it happen.
Finding the right business idea isn't always easy, which is why so many people turn to online resources like Quora when they're trying to get their creative juices flowing. Below we'll discuss some helpful tips for finding the perfect business idea. We also share advice from other experts who have been there before you, helping them get off on the right foot. If you want help getting started, check out our guide to choosing the best small business loan.
The Internet makes it easier than ever to search through tons of information looking for the ideal opportunity. There's simply too much data available for anyone to keep track of everything, though, so here are a few suggestions on how to narrow down your options.
First, you should consider whether you'd prefer to work alone or collaborate with others. For example, would you rather run your own social media campaign or partner with another person to create the content? Do you enjoy taking care of finances or delegating tasks? These decisions will affect the kind of business you choose to launch.
Second, decide whether you want to focus on a specific industry (such as health care) or take advantage of trends (like the growing popularity of pet-related products). This choice will impact not only your product line, but also where you locate your business.
Third, ask yourself if you prefer to stay within your current geographic location, move elsewhere, or expand into multiple locations. Many entrepreneurs opt to move their business outside of their hometown because of lower costs and more favorable tax laws. However, this decision comes with risks such as increased competition and difficulty building customer loyalty.
Finally, decide between creating a sole proprietorship versus incorporating your new venture. Sole proprietorships offer flexibility in terms of liability protection, while corporations often provide better protections against financial risk. Both types of companies require careful planning and legal paperwork to ensure success.
Ideas aren't enough to guarantee success. In fact, plenty of business owners give away valuable time and money without having anything concrete to show for it. That's why it's important to know exactly what you intend to build, especially if you're unsure about the type of business you want to pursue. Here are three methods you can try to answer this question.
1. Talk to friends and family members. They might seem like a terrible source of inspiration, but talking to people close to you can actually generate fresh insights. When you're brainstorming, jot down notes whenever something pops into your head. Then review those thoughts later and see if they align with anything else you've heard. Your friends and family members might even suggest additional possibilities that you hadn't considered yet.
2. Read books and articles related to your topic. Books and magazines can serve as excellent sources of ideas. The National Association of Small Business Development recommends reading at least five nonfiction business titles per month. By immersing yourself in research, you'll gain insight into topics you haven't thought about before.
3. Spend time thinking creatively. Creative minds tend to be open to different perspectives and solutions, so spend some quality time daydreaming about your dream job or business. Don't worry if you lose sight of reality along the way; you'll probably end up backtracking toward your original concept anyway.
Now that you understand what drives you, you're ready to discover what type of business fits your personality and goals. Keep reading below to learn how to identify the best business ideas based on your skills, interests, and desires.
Once you have a clear picture of what you want to accomplish through your future business, it's time to look around and see if anyone else wants to join forces. After all, it takes two people to form a partnership. So instead of going solo, you could team up with a friend or associate to bring your visions to life.
Here are four tactics for generating fresh ideas.
Talk to strangers. One of the easiest ways to spark creativity is to seek out people who are passionate about the same things you are. Chances are, you and your buddy will both end up coming up with similar concepts. Of course, this method won't produce ideas every single time, but it works well enough to get you started.
Look at competitors' websites. As mentioned earlier, many businesses began as simple ideas hatched by individual employees. It's likely that several of the companies currently operating in your niche area came together initially over shared passions. Take note of their website designs and copywriting styles. You can then apply what you've learned to your own site.
Watch TV shows and movies. While watching television doesn't necessarily inspire you to come up with new ideas, it can still expose you to opportunities you wouldn't normally encounter otherwise. Some popular series include House M.D., Grey's Anatomy, American Horror Story, Scandal, and How I Met Your Mother. Plus, Hollywood films generally feature inspiring stories about overcoming adversity and succeeding despite impossible odds.
Listen to songs. Music is filled with lyrics that express emotions and convey messages. Even if you don't understand the words, listening to music helps you tap into feelings associated with certain themes.
As soon as you've narrowed down your top choices, it's time to develop a detailed business plan. A proper business plan outlines your objectives, provides details regarding your proposed services and products, and lays out plans for hiring staff, managing expenses, and attracting customers. Once you complete this document, you'll feel confident knowing you've taken proactive steps to reach your goal.
To avoid wasting precious time, follow the process outlined in this article carefully. Before beginning, however, remember to set realistic expectations. Starting a business requires lots of hard work, patience, persistence, and a large dose of luck. With that said, if you approach your endeavor responsibly, you'll eventually reap the rewards.
If you're looking at starting a new business, one big question looms over all others -- what's my business' competitive advantage going to be? It's not enough just to say "we'll sell widgets," or whatever else your product might be. You need to know how to make those widgets better than anyone else in the world. This means having some sort of edge on your competition. That edge will likely take the form of an intellectual property such as patents, trade secrets, copyrights, trademarks, etc., or perhaps something more tangible like a patent-protected design or manufacturing process. But even without any IP protection, there are plenty of ways to differentiate your company from other companies selling similar products. The key is finding a niche where your company has a distinct advantage over competitors.
The problem is a lot of people who've never started their own business think they already know what their customers want. They assume that they can figure out which industry would benefit most from their specific skillset by doing research into their personal interests. Unfortunately (or fortunately), this approach doesn't work too well when applied to business ventures. People aren't really interested in how many books you read, whether you enjoy playing darts, or how long you've been working toward your goal. Instead, we tend to care about things like price, convenience, quality, reliability, safety, taste, performance, value, and so forth. And while our individual preferences vary greatly, most of us share common buying habits. So instead of trying to guess what kind of business to run based on your own tastes, why don't you ask someone outside your immediate circle of friends and family? That person might be able to give you advice about what type of business might suit your talents and interests. Or maybe you should consider consulting a professional before making any final decisions. Either way, here are eight reasons why getting feedback from someone outside your inner circle is important:
1) Your partner won't necessarily agree with everything you decide to do with your life. If you choose to go into business together, chances are he or she will disagree with your choice of careers, hobbies, travel destinations, clothes, music, cars, pets, and pretty much anything else you do. In fact, most partners simply wouldn't understand why you'd spend time and money pursuing a career path that isn't right for them. Even if your significant other agrees with your decision, he or she probably won't fully appreciate the sacrifice involved in running a small business.
2) Your spouse/partner won't always be around to help you succeed. When you open your own business, you become responsible for every aspect of the day-to-day operations. There's no one else to call when you get stuck with a customer service issue, or can't remember where you hid last year's Christmas decorations. Don't forget that even though your partner might love coming home to see you after a hard days work, he or she also needs to eat, sleep, and relax once in awhile.
3) Friends and family members usually aren't qualified to offer objective opinions. While close relatives and friends might try to lend moral support during tough times, they often lack sufficient training or experience to provide sound guidance. For example, if you're considering opening a restaurant, your mother might recommend you study culinary arts first because she believes it's a noble profession. However, her suggestion ignores the realities of running a commercial establishment. Instead, focus on learning the basics of food preparation and menu planning before deciding on a more specialized field.
4) Potential clients will only buy from people they trust. No matter how talented you are, you won't be able to convince everyone to purchase from you unless you build a reputation for being trustworthy. As a result, building rapport with your target audience is critical to earning their respect and eventually their patronage. Start by establishing relationships through networking events and social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. Then, show prospective clients that you actually listen to their concerns and respond appropriately. Finally, demonstrate your ability to deliver exceptional results by providing stellar client service.
5) Most experts suggest waiting until you have experience to launch a business venture. This rule doesn't apply to all types of businesses -- especially ones that require little financial investment or risk. Nevertheless, it makes sense to wait until you have some success under your belt before launching another project. After all, you wouldn't try to learn how to drive a car by taking lessons from a complete stranger driving down the road for the very first time. Similarly, you shouldn't expect your employees to perform flawlessly on Day 1 unless you've given them ample opportunity to practice beforehand.
6) A mentor will teach you valuable lessons faster than you can learn them alone. Mentoring programs allow aspiring entrepreneurs to connect with experienced mentors who can guide them along the journey. In exchange, mentees receive hands-on instruction from their master teachers. By immersing themselves in a community of knowledgeable peers, young professionals gain access to information and connections they couldn't otherwise acquire on their own. Also, since mentors typically volunteer their time to serve as guides, they're less expensive than paid consultants. Plus, mentors usually possess far greater knowledge and expertise than regular business owners. Therefore, they'll likely save you years of trial and error while offering invaluable insight into how to improve your business model.
7) Working with a coach will ensure you stay focused and productive throughout the entire process. Many entrepreneurs struggle due to distractions caused by self doubt and anxiety. To avoid falling prey to these mental pitfalls, seek assistance from a trained expert who can keep you motivated and accountable. Coaches encourage accountability by keeping tabs on progress reports, managing budgets, and ensuring goals are met on schedule. On top of that, coaches can act as sounding boards when problems arise and offer additional solutions when necessary.
8) Having a mentor will prevent you from wasting money on unnecessary expenses. One major reason it takes so long to successfully launch and maintain a new enterprise is that inexperienced entrepreneurs waste resources chasing false leads, hiring unqualified staff, and investing heavily in projects that fail. By contrast, seasoned veterans realize early on that it's futile to pursue opportunities that are unlikely to yield positive returns. Thus, they steer clear of costly mistakes and invest their efforts elsewhere.
There's nothing like starting a brand-new venture - especially one based on an original concept or inspired by something outside the box (like a hobby). It’s exciting! You're in charge! And most importantly, it feels good! But what happens when you realize that there isn't enough time left in the day to accomplish all your goals before bedtime? Or when you begin to notice that some of those goals aren't being met? What then?
If this sounds familiar, don't worry. There's always another day tomorrow...and after that. The problem with having too many projects going at once is that they tend to spread themselves thin, leaving little room for any other work. If you're not careful, you'll end up spending more time running between your office/studio and home than actually getting things done. And while it might feel nice to take on every project that comes along without giving them proper attention, chances are pretty slim that you'll ever make a success of anything unless you set aside some time to focus solely on those few endeavors that will bring you closer to your ultimate goal(s).
To help get started, here are nine quick tips from Entrepreneur magazine to get you thinking creatively in order to generate fresh ideas for your own entrepreneurial pursuits.
"The first step toward finding a good business idea is to ask yourself why you want to start a business," says Richard Variane, CEO of Eureka Park Ventures in New York City. "Is it because you love working on it every day? Do you need money to pay off debt? Are you looking to build equity?"
Variane also recommends asking yourself how you would measure success. In addition to financial returns, he suggests considering whether your ideal business has an impact beyond just making money. Is it a social enterprise? A cause that aligns with your values? Something you'd enjoy doing even if it didn't result in profits? Then consider which skills you have and which ones you might acquire through training. Finally, think about who else might benefit from your services.
"You should spend 30 minutes to an hour reviewing each question you've asked yourself so far," says Variane. Once you've got a list of possible business concepts down, sit back and relax. That's right -- now that you know exactly what you're looking for in a business, you can go ahead and brainstorm everything you can possibly imagine. As long as you follow three simple rules, you won't run into trouble.
First, avoid jumping straight into writing your business plan. Instead, try to visualize your future self and see where you stand today. Think of what you want to accomplish in six months' time. How do you envision yourself? Where do you live? Who does/doesn't play a role in your life? Next, write down the answers to the following questions:
1) Why did you decide to start this business? 2) Whose needs will your product meet?3) What makes this business different from others available?4) Who is likely to buy your product or service?5) Will you need additional resources such as employees, inventory, equipment, etc.?6) When was the last time you tried selling similar products or services?7) What were your results?8) What problems remain unsolved?9) What would be the consequences of continuing versus discontinuing this business?10) What steps do you need to take to launch your business?11) What is the biggest obstacle standing in your path?12) What is the worst case scenario?
Now that you've identified several potential business ideas, you're ready to move onto the second part of the process -- determining their feasibility. To do that, check out the following four factors that determine whether your idea is viable or not:
1) Market size: Does the demand exist for your product or service? For example, if you're planning to open a clothing store, you should research local retailers and consumers to identify trends among customers and competitors. This information will give you an idea of how big or small the market is currently and where growth opportunities lie.
2) Competition: Are there already people offering similar products or services in the same area? In addition to researching current competition online, talking to friends and family members can provide valuable insight. They can tell you if someone else is already serving the same demographic. Also, look at industries that are closely related to yours and see what kinds of businesses they employ. Chances are, you'll discover commonalities that can lead to inspiration.
3) Teamwork and Support System: Can you handle the responsibilities involved in operating your business alone? Would you require extensive capital investment? Could you easily hire qualified staff? Consider hiring freelancers instead of full-time employees if you believe your business requires less supervision. Additionally, if your business involves physical labor or heavy machinery, you may need to rely on subcontractors. Make sure that whoever you choose to partner with understands the risks associated with your business model.
4) Investment: Do you have the necessary funds to initiate your business? Depending on your industry, startup costs may include buying real estate, paying upfront fees to banks and leasing space. Even if you don't intend to invest heavily initially, you still need to budget for ongoing expenses such as salaries, taxes, insurance, supplies and marketing materials.
Once you've completed both parts of the equation, you're well on your way to developing a winning business idea. Good luck!
1) Is there an existing market for this product or service?
Before embarking on any entrepreneurial journey, it's important to first assess whether there is already a demand for the product or service you desire to offer.
If there is no established marketplace right now, how will you reach people who want it?
Do you have customers lined up waiting for your services? If not, why do they need them? How can you convince someone else to buy from you instead of going elsewhere?
Can you easily see the potential value of your offering after reading through the details of your plan? Do you understand exactly how you’ll make money? If not, how will you know if your efforts were successful or not? Will you even get paid at all? These are just some examples of things to consider as you think about your prospects.
This question is very relevant because many entrepreneurs underestimate their ability to build a customer base until they actually start doing so. When I was working as a consultant, my clients would often ask me how much work I had done prior to launching my new business. In other words, they wanted to hear a number about how long I'd been thinking about developing my idea. Of course, I never gave them such information, but rather told them to take their time and wait until they felt ready to launch. This advice was always well received, and I found out later that it saved both myself and others a lot of frustration.
You may also discover additional challenges along the way. For example, did you expect your current job situation to remain the same while pursuing your passion project? Did you anticipate having to relocate during the process?
These issues require consideration, too.
The bottom line is that the more prepared you are for the unexpected obstacles that might arise, the less likely you'll encounter problems on your journey.
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