Many of us want to be entrepreneurs. We want to run our own companies so we can take control of our own lives and build a better future for our families. Sometimes your business startup is a passion project that you’ve considered for ages before you make the big leap into starting a business. In other cases, starting your business is a natural progression based on your education and experience. For me, after decades of working in marketing that became increasingly focused on digital marketing, starting a business around this area was a natural way to go. But, I know there are those of you out there with a strong desire to start your own business, but you’re struggling with ideas of what industry to choose and the type of business you want to operate. That’s where it helps to start brainstorming ideas to get the creative juices flowing. And, that’s the topic of today’s post.
The value of brainstorming ideas
Brainstorming ideas is a tried and true tactic for problem-solving. Businesses use brainstorming all the time to come up with ideas for new products and other types of out-of-the-box thinking to generate new ideas. In new product development, we talking about brainstorming as the “fuzzy front end” of the development process because it thrives on an “anything goes” mentality that isn’t overly concerned with what can be done but what should be done. Brainstorming ideas helps you be more creative and generate much better ideas.
In writing, we talk about free-flow writing as a form of brainstorming ideas. With this tool, you concentrate on getting words on the page and, for the moment, ignore the rules of grammar and spelling as well as logical flow and citations. Many great writers recommend starting each day with this exercise for 30 minutes or so as a warmup for your actual writing tasks. This is a great way around writer’s block and you can usually salvage some of what you wrote during these sessions.
The rules for brainstorming ideas are simple:
- There are no bad ideas at this stage
- Everyone gets to provide input without fear of criticism
- Don’t settle on an idea too quickly; set a minimum number of ideas before you consider settling on one
- Use images or a prompt to help generate ideas in the beginning or when you find ideas are slow to come
If you’re struggling to come up with a great idea for your startup, here are some ways you can use brainstorming to help you identify a great idea.
Using a team approach
One of the classic way to brainstorm ideas is to bring a group of people together, especially ones that come from a variety of different backgrounds and with various types of experience. If you’re struggling to find an idea for your startup, consider posing the question among your friends and family, either as a group or individually.
A great way to start this process also comes from social media where you gain access to the thoughts and dreams of a wide range of users. If you’re really smart about brainstorming ideas from social media, you’ll soon discover unmet needs in users’ posts. For instance, a user might mention a problem they encountered that wasn’t solved by existing products or how they wish there was something like X. These conversations are a goldmine when it comes to finding an idea for your business.
Improve on an existing product
Sometimes, the best business ideas are not revolutionary ones, but simple ones. A case in point is taking an already existing product and making it even better. I once did a brainstorming session run by a facilitator who recommended a way to improve on an existing product by either adding something or taking something away from it to make it more useful. For example, you could take the humble can opener and make it electronic so that it is easier for people with conditions like arthritis to use, which, of course, companies already do so think of your own idea for adding something. You can take something away to make it more useful such as removing the power cord from a product to make it more portable. Also, consider existing products and how you might make that product for an upscale market or for someone at the bottom of the pyramid. Sure, folks at the bottom don’t have a lot of money, but there are a very large number of them so making a few pennies apiece adds up to real profit.
Look at the products and services around you and think about what small changes would make them even more convenient for you and chances are you can generate a few good ideas that can transform your idea into a viable business.
Look at what’s missing
Look at your town or city and think about what kinds of businesses are not established in the location. If there, for example, your community lacks a service used by lots of folks, then people will need to go elsewhere to have their orders filled. By setting up companies that do not have much of a presence where you live, you can easily fill the gap, provide service and start making money.
OF course, you need to ensure the market for whatever it is you plan to sell actually exists beyond your imagination and that the market is sufficiently large or growing to the point where your company gains a leg up on the competition before they decide the market is viable. For instance, I live in a community outside Washington, DC. As housing prices continue climbing with no end in sight, more workers move into the area despite the longer commute. That’s changing the composition of the area from somewhat rural (my neighbor is a farmer who makes a living by raising pigs, chickens, and other animals for food) to a bedroom community for well-paid urban workers. Yet, our grocery store options are limited. Putting in a Whole Foods or Trader Joes to capture these migrants from the city offers the store a leg up on this lucradive market before other upscale grocery stores move in.
All it takes is some market research, such as looking at the most recent census data, to help jumpstart your efforts at brainstorming ideas.
Buy an existing business
One really effective way of overcoming a lack of business ideas is to simply visit a business broker and purchase an already existing company or buy into an established franchise. The advantage of doing this is that you can buy a business that has already found not only its idea, but also its market. By investing in a business with a proven track record, it’s easier for you to hit the ground running and start making a profit as soon as possible.
Of course, if you’re expecting a business with a high growth potential, this might not represent the type of business you want. And, a franchise, despite an above average potential for profits, means following someone else’s rules, which may not fulfill your goals of independence.
Think about what you love
It s much easier to make a success of your new business if you are truly passionate about it, so if you are struggling to come up with a great business idea, start making a list of all the things that interest you from music to travel, and then list all the possible ways you can make money with each interest, research what the local people need, try to find a way of doing the thing uniquely and chances are you will be able to generate a long list of business ideas after all.
It’s not always easy to think of the perfect business idea, but if you are struggling, there are lots of things you can do to find the business that is right for you. So, what are you waiting for?
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