Where Great Business Ideas Come From?

We are told that ideas rule the world! This is very true.

Now; let me guide you on how to arrive at great ideas for your business.

By the way, in coming up with concrete ideas, many business owners seek such lists bandied around for their new venture.
Pardon me, for reasons I would give much later, I don’t have an idea to impose on you.

But there is a much wiser way to get:
An idea that you own.
An idea that you can tame.
An idea that will excite you and your consumers.

Before we proceed…
Here are some questions many aspiring or existing business owners would ask, in the guise of discovering an exclusive idea…

I will list a few as follows:

“what business can I do?”,

“ how to get ideas for business?”,

“ the way to earn money…”,

“ what business should I start, with low startup capital?”,

“ how to make ideas real and profitable?”,

“ how to start a business with no money?”,

“ how to protect business ideas?”,

“ how to know if the idea is viable?”,

“what is the best business idea in time of recession?”

and many more.

I can go on and on.

The deep seated meaning in these questions is that these individuals don’t actually know how workable business ideas are arrived at.

They are looking for the simplest answers but ignore those that will be unique to them. They are thinking of a money making idea, that no other person is privy of. They want to beat other aspiring business owners or existing entrepreneurs to that lofty business idea.

Unfortunately it does not work that way. Such templates bandied around are too general and many like you have a copy or at least they are aware of such. Therefore there is a huge competition from onset.

There are two major sources of ideas.

They may come through our own circumstances and outside of us – that is, the external environment.

But a truly worthy set of ideas for business cannot really be found in those so-called lists bandied around. As you will see, they cannot take you far. They are just simple seeds shared by everybody. You need to discover your own but unique ideas that can bring you relative success.

Three Major Fears About Idea Development

Let me quickly address three major fears about why you may hesitate to bring an idea to the market place.

  1. The first is thinking that your ideas would be stolen.That could be true. But you know what? In my own reckoning, there has never been a finished product or a completed idea.Your idea being stolen depends on its type and your industry.
    I am not saying you should not keep secret, some creative ideas. However be consoled by the fact that it is the implementation or execution that is the real beef.That is where the real work is.Bringing ideas to the market place and sustaining them, is what matters. It is not every copycat that can do that very well, ultimately. But I will advise – where feasible – that you use the laws of your country, to protect your creative work and ideas.

    Be mindful that this effort might be expensive and it is not absolutely fool proof. And it also takes time to get the documentation done. It is your constant development of the idea, through innovative efforts that will put you ahead of the copycats. Your passion and continuous innovation are what would push you ahead.

  2. The second reason why some people choose to sit on the fence is that, you wonder about your coming late into the market. You see so many competitors and you become discouraged.But the question you should ask yourself is; are you sure there isn’t any room for improvement, if you look very well?
    In the same vein, don’t be excited to rush in if there are very few players too. It could be there is something discouraging about that idea and the business. Therefore, you have to find out why. Because you will need to watch a situation where there are few competitors. Study that industry very well before coming to your conclusion.
  3. The last reason of your hesitancy could be the fear that the idea might fail. Also that cannot be ruled out. That is a reality. In that case, you may be considering waiting until you come up with a perfect product to come out from your stable. The best advice is to come out with the minimum acceptable product. You can improve on that later.

But do believe that, no wise entrepreneur can ever be too sure of the success of any business idea, until you slog it out in the real world.
This is irrespective of all smart efforts and resources that must have been deployed. This is one of the known realities in entrepreneurship, which courageous business men and women are aware of.

All our efforts are simply adventures in risk taking. So take consolation in that.

You are not alone in your apprehension. Things may go wrong.
But remember the cliché, “No pain, No gain”.

Also you don’t need to romanticize the popular saying that, we all learn and improve after a failed experience.

That may be true, but let your decision be well thought out and have room for plan B, if all else fails. In other words, don’t put all your eggs in one basket.

Great Ideas Are Inside Of You

Sometime in early 2015, I stumbled upon an article where the founder of Vista Jet was interviewed.
Thomas Flohr – the founder – narrated how he had identified a special need for more detailed attention by people who fly chartered private jets.

As a client he had had a disappointing personal experience. He felt he didn’t get an optimum service.
Therefore, he researched further to discover that other patrons like him demanded that extra attention for details, he craved for.
Despite being a harsh, risky and highly competitive industry, he plunged into the business to offer more flexibility to that small segment. So far, the business has been reported to be doing well.

  • Therefore, be rest assured that most of the so-called new ideas are not really original, but a hybrid of older or contemporary ideas. Most new ideas come about as a result of the synthesis, of all that have existed.
    These could be revealed from your subconscious. Some ideas might come to you as a hunch. Some people call it gut feeling or an instinct.
  • Recall the story about how the elusive chemical formula of Benzene was revealed to its discoverer (the scientist, Friedrich August Kekulé) in a dream.
    A school of thought is of the opinion that our subconscious mind would eventually push out what we ruminate over, after a period of time.

This statement may not be acceptable by everybody. But some people can swear on it as the truth.

I think the mind needs to be trained over time on this. After which you can consider what comes out, from within.

As for those who have such revelations, they must still test the ideas in the real world. And seriously speaking, there are a few people blessed with ideas that emanate through dreams. Think about that. Possibly you are gifted in that wise. Maybe.

  • An idea might be waiting to be extracted when we explore our own personal pains or needs for improved experience in our daily life. These may throw up business opportunities, especially those ideas that challenge the status quo.This could serve as a spark for an idea development, targeted at a segment of the society. In the same breadth that reminds me of a computer programmer who developed a computer Application for the restaurant business, after having worked as a waiter to understudy that industry.
  • Let it be known that innovative ideas may come to you, anywhere and at any time, when you least expect.
    It may not necessarily be when you choose to hunk over a table, in your office.
  • Write and save them as “sms” messages on your smart-phone, email these thoughts to yourself or voice record it on your phone.
    You may also choose to write these sparks of inspirations in your physical note pad if that’s convenient. These sparks of ideas tend to disappear quickly as they come to you. If they are not written down quickly, you may not recollect them again.

How To Come Up With Useful Ideas?

There are several ways to do this.

Let us look at it, this way.

Ask yourself about those things you personally want to experience but can’t find around you. It could be you are going through some pains or you desire improvement in an aspect of your life.
No matter how mundane such thoughts might be to you; write them down for further examination as to their practicability

An entrepreneur is both a scientist and an artist whose imagination must soar all the time. You want to bring new things to the world – new vision about our world that will create improved values.

When you do this self-reflection and examination, ideas might crop up when you least expect – that quiet voice. It is most probable there is an ever increasing large market out there, with same wishes as yours.

Explore and test that idea to know if there is a deep market for it and its possible profitability. You will only take a plunge with your idea having done with validation.
However, do note that, only very few ideas would fly without adequate testing. Some products or services have come to be successful, taking this route by whim.

Many small businesses take this risky path for lack of basic research knowhow. Others are simply impatient. Some lack adequate funds, manpower or technique of doing some survey. But I will advise you to do some test where practicable. This is always a better process to take to minimize risk.

  • Validation is a requirement to fine tune your novel idea. At this earliest stage, your thoughts are still raw. Kick away your romantic inner conviction of market acceptability.
    Restrain your emotional jubilation of a “eureka”.
    Don’t run out from the bath, thinking you have discovered a solution to mankind’s problems. You don’t deploy any resource at this early stage.

Where Golden Nuggets Of Ideas Are Hidden

  • That under-appreciated skill or knowledge you are blessed with, but which appears insignificant to you, may be the solution to some real problems experienced by many people out there.

Many of us look down on these skills we have mastered over the years. We do so because they have become too familiar and routine to us.
That is where we miss it! These are activities other people see as a big problem or as inconvenient tasks for them to accomplish. Therefore, we naturally do not give a deep thought to them.

  • Another reason is that, while some of us are aware, we are simply shy or ignorant of how to market this endowment.
    A quick advice: get or pay someone to market your skill for you.

So, search yourself by writing them down, what you think is “mundane” about your activities. They may be tangible or intangible. For example, you might have built alliances or fraternities over the years. This could be within your state, country or outside of it.
This network could be utilized as an economic opportunity of a comparative advantage in nature. Leverage on it.
You could use such relationships and connections to solve distribution challenges most small business owners have.
Or bring two people together for a common cause. And get paid from both sides.
Being well connected is an asset, which can throw up possibilities of good ideas too.

  • I will give you another scenario about individuals blessed with skills yet hidden. Many professionals have built processes and systems that have worked effectively in various industries. Possibly you are one in your field. A well-oiled process or mastery of a system that renders faster and quality products is indeed, a welcome intangible asset.
    This is a service that many setups could be interested in if it meets up with their expectations.
  • Another opportunity that beckons is a need to do a self-appraisal in terms of past experience of our failures and successes in life and business. You would have learnt from either of the two opposite experiences.
    Anyone of them will put you in a good stead to help others from making same mistakes. It could be an affair about life. Therefore, you are now in a position to easily help others to identify and grab opportunities in the offing, since you have the experience to smell such beforehand. And you get paid for it.

Personally speaking, I have gone through these diverse experiences – over 30 years in the entrepreneurship world and challenges in my personal life. This has therefore put me in a good position, to guide entrepreneurs in their business philosophy and personal life.
Despite the semblance of existing solutions in the market place, personal experiences are always more practical and more real. Think about all these things!

Ideas From Outside

On the most popular book-selling website, I read about a guy who makes cool money on a theme for children stories. He had earlier tested this idea on his nine year-old son, who very much enjoyed them. Thereafter, he assumed other kids within that age bracket would like the theme. Luckily his hunch proved him right.
Since then, he has been self-authoring a series on this funny theme, while smiling to the bank.
This idea development came as a result of a keen observation of his external environment.

  • Outside of ourselves, our environment could reveal much for innovation. This we could develop further into business opportunities.
    From common and repeatable societal complaints and expectations, business opportunities are abound. Painstaking studying of various segments of the society reveals much.
    You should study deeply the fad, lifestyle, trends and beliefs at whichever location you want to test our ideas. It could be within your neighborhood, state, across the country local, or global.

We have to look out for the good and bad experiences of consumers that are in need of solutions and further tweaking for improvement.

For instance, today there are people who now accept that painting and other art works can be bought online. A few years back, it was never a popular channel by most of these collectors.
Saatchionline, Fine Art America – where the two have some of my own personal works available for sale – and other art galleries are slugging it out on the Internet.

Tastes of collectors and fallouts of global economics have changed the tradition in many areas of our life today. Physical art spaces are becoming more difficult to manage profitably; therefore the Internet has become an additional platform to be considered.

Imagine PayPal™, in spite of the inherent risks to the organization, still ensures smooth online transactions across the world.
Sadly though, as I write, the company is still apprehensive of my country, Nigeria by leaving it out of a part of the full experience. PayPal’s innovative solution to global financial transactions goes on despite the traditional mediums of monetary exchange which they met in the industry.

You never can tell about possibilities out there, if one looks hard enough. In essence, if one observes closely, the societal nuances reveal much about money making possibilities. Events in the society throw up ideas in disguised manners.

They may not be earth shaking in their outlook but could be very rewarding with time.

  • Government, political and socio-economic challenges do throw up opportunities as new ideas for start-ups. Sadly, some of these will include terrorism and extreme beliefs, especially religion. New doctrines and ideologies are not excluded.
    These are our unfortunate realities of today. But as infamous as they are, it is an invitation to finding ways to solving these problems in all their ramifications.
    As unwelcome as some of these global trends have become our reality, there are smart entrepreneurs who analyze this reality, to develop new product ideas.
  • New technologies also throw up opportunities for idea development. If we recall, when the iPad came out, somebody was observant enough, to produce simple covers for them. A Patrick Buckley took calculated actions to test his dodo cases and the venture has made good income as reported. For those looking for home-based businesses, there are opportunities for working from home, if you take the time to reflect on this book very well.

I will repeat: business ideas do not have to be earth shaking.

Simple beginnings are much easier to get started. Thereafter you may choose to get bigger; at least you will have some bucks in your coffer before trying bigger things.

You can always start on something so basic, as long as it solves a significant problem of the society.

On the other side of the coin, one needs to be wary of the disruptive tendency of technology, which could make an existing but successful idea, to become suddenly obsolete. As nothing is permanent, the concurrent reality brings new opportunities. As a matter of fact, we should be able to make accurate projection of the consumer’s future needs – before he or she realizes that need.

  • The environment often gives us business opportunity leads, if we reflect much beyond the obvious.

Remember the McDonald hamburger franchise is a classic example. The popular story was that the founder saw beyond the hamburger. He saw the possibility of replication, like an assembly line.
A process that could churn out in a predictable manner, a food product of same taste, size and weight that could be replicated in any outlet.

  • I remember in 1994, I used to have these nagging thoughts about young mothers and the need for medical insurance scheme in Nigeria. It was non-existent then.
    I realized that young and educated working mothers would eventually need the services of formal crèche setups. This was because the traditional helping hands – that hitherto were uneducated who came from the villages in the hinterland – had been dwindling in numbers. And still is, because of improved education and awareness.

Then I also thought of security video-cameras that would enable mothers at work to remotely monitor their kids at the crèche. Widespread telephony and Internet penetration only became prominent after 2001.
I think my wild but seemingly impossible thoughts – as they were – have become a reality in a few crèches today.

The second idea, as a practicing optometrist – with my own clinic, I saw a need for a health insurance scheme. In the same 1994, I wrote, I think, the International Health Insurance in London. They replied me to say they were not ready for Nigeria which did not even have a scheme in place until now.
Invariably I lost interest in that idea as it developed. I could have been one of the players in that industry. Today for those involved in that line of business, it appears they have been doing well in Nigeria. Now we have the scheme in place.

  • What I am getting at is that, ideas generally in any industry or in any aspect of our lives can be scanned with all our senses. Namely by what we see, hear, touch, taste and how we feel as entrepreneurs.

A Mr. Elon Musk rubbing shoulders with NASA through his Space X company, as we are made to believe?

A Little Exercise About A Simple Idea

Imagine how some people would react to a fabric, leather or other types of texture finishing, which has never been used for a particular style of furniture.

That could be a revolutionary idea, as subtle as it is. A mere change from the popular color known for that traditional piece of furniture could arouse curiosity. An idea that could eventually lead to increase in sales or not.

Note. We are testing the idea here.
You never can tell what will sail through, in the market place until you test it.

  • If you look within your neighborhood, you can see some businesses that have lost out, to a more polished service due to superior ideas, within that same industry. And since the loyalty of an average customer is shaky, they will move on to a more pristine shore.You will discover new ideas by mere but conscious listening to people and groups of people. You must discover the root cause of people’s behavior, which may be different from what they are actually projecting.

I am not too sure if the late Steve Jobs actually uttered that…
“Consumers generally didn’t know what they wanted!”

You may not entirely agree with this declaration if true.

On the other hand, you should be asking yourself, “What do they REALLY want beyond what they are voicing out?”

  • Feel the environment beyond the cacophony of “noise”.
    Search for the deep meaning. That’s your job as an entrepreneur, to break things down to the elements.
  • But verify and validate before you can conclude on your inference. This may reveal good business opportunities, if you analyze them very well.

For instance, getting somebody to cut your lawns and do your laundry means your time is more valuable to do such things. Not because you are incapable. If you are an aged fellow, health issues might be the reason and not necessarily because of you want to spend the extra money.

  • Studying the root cause of societal behavior can reveal actual needs. A casual observation of that person next to you may reveal a need for a service or product. Her disposition may be representative of a large market segment, waiting to be served.

Examples are abounding of successful ideas that came from the least expected places and circumstances.

And that’s why I would call successful entrepreneurs as sleuths of opportunism.

  • Revelations of problems yearning to be solved could emanate from your spouse, kids, partners, family and friends or from total strangers. Search for repeated complaints by human beings, anywhere they aggregate, online and offline. Of course, they don’t have to be big complaints.
  • Complimentary ideas may be served together to give a very powerful combo product – a hybrid of sorts. Imagine the dad-author I mentioned earlier; he could do what is called a brand extension.

He could get hold of a visual artist to make cartoons of the characters in those children books. This he can produce in different formats even as toys. He may even get a producer to make jigsaw puzzles out of this seed idea.

He may set up a website to provide free but interesting content to attract huge traffic from kids. This traffic can be monetized or content made free or as he deems fit. He can sell complimentary products branded in the characters of his stories and sell them through the website.
The author can outsource these ideas while he concentrates on churning out more stories.
The possibilities of a spinoff are there to be considered, provided you can manage the offshoots through assistants.

Take Away

Finally, business idea development is as vast as an entrepreneur can stretch his or her mind.

You don’t have to do everything yourself. Successful entrepreneurs know it is important to collaborate with others for effectiveness. Be a good conductor of an orchestra of your team who would bring your ideas to reality.

Let me have your thoughts below if I missed out anything…

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