For many, starting their own business seems like a wonderful dream, but it may also feel unattainable. Becoming your own boss, determining your own future, and having more freedom are some of the many attractions. In fact, most people have come up with at least one business idea in their lifetime, although few have acted on it. A recent study found that 61 percent of respondents have had an idea for starting a business, but an overwhelming majority (92 percent) haven’t followed through with their ideas.
But what if the opposite is true: you are determined to become an entrepreneur, but you don’t have a clear, actionable business idea? How can you come up with an idea for your new business?
Sometimes ideas become apparent with little effort, but sometimes it involves some homework. These five strategies can be used alone, or in combination, to help you find your new business:
Pay Attention to Emerging Trends
Do you pay close attention to what is going on in the economy? To hot button social issues? What changes are expected that affect people’s lives?
I recently spoke with a woman who started a home health care agency, focusing on providing services for the elderly. She had noticed that there was increasing local demand for assistance, including providing rides to help people get to appointments. By paying attention to what was happening in her market, she was able to start a promising new business.
Act Upon Your Passion Project
If you have a passion that motivates you, it just might provide the spark for a business. Personal passions have inspired people to start fitness franchises, gift shops, consulting firms, and Fortune 500 companies. If you have a hobby that you love, could it be turned into a money-making opportunity?
But passion isn’t enough; it must be an actionable idea. You’ll need to make sure your passion is shared by enough people to make it a real business, and that customers will be willing to pay for your product or service.
Anyone who has ever watched “Shark Tank” knows that coming up with an answer to a problem can be a great way to start a new business. It may be a problem that hasn’t been solved previously, or it could be that current solutions are lacking. Sometimes it’s as simple as noticing problems that you have personally encountered.
But you should also understand what others think about the problem. Asking them, through surveys, focus groups or informal discussion, will help identify opportunities and determine how much people will pay for solutions.
Transform an Existing Business Sector
One way to land on a good business idea is to take an existing area of business and expand upon it or make improvements. For example, Uber took an existing business (hired rides) and improved upon it through technology and a network of drivers. Similarly, Airbnb took the hotel business and turned it into something new by employing technology to make rooms available in homes worldwide. So sometimes you don’t need to come up with an original idea; just take an existing business and make it better.
What are you particularly good at? What are your skills? Why would someone seek you out? A friend of mine was consistently told that he gave good advice, and that he made a real difference by listening to and helping others think through their problems. He decided to turn those skills into a business, and now has a successful personal coaching company. He didn’t have to dream up anything new; he just redirected and repackaged what he was already doing.
No matter how you come by your new business idea, once you have one, you’ll want to validate it by testing the market, running the financials, and putting together a solid business plan. Good business ideas should stand up to in-depth scrutiny. If your idea doesn’t make the grade after a thorough assessment, it’s time to revisit the strategies for finding a sound concept. Start the process again and see what develops. If you’re still stuck, defer your entrepreneurial dreams for the time being. The right idea is worth the wait.