So, you want to start a business. There is a fire in your belly and a desire to do more in your career. You decided to become a successful entrepreneur.
But you don’t have a business idea, though, so you are stuck in limbo.
Does this sound familiar?
Firstly, it’s nothing to worry about. Many of the most successful business people and entrepreneurs looked at a range of business ideas before settling on “the one”.
Where are you going to get the inspiration for yours?
First Step: Learn From Others
Before going into the practical tips that will give you the inspiration you need to start a business, let’s first look at how other business leaders got their inspiration.
What you find is there is no single path to take.
Jeff Bezos had successful careers in IT and banking before working for a hedge fund in the early 1990s. It was during this time he found a statistic that would change the course of eCommerce forever: he learned that internet use was growing by 2,300 percent. He had his inspiration, and the world now has Amazon.
For the founder of action camera brand GoPro, Nick Woodman, the inspiration he needed came from surfing. His friends were surfers, and they wanted to go pro, i.e. become professional surfers. To do that, they needed to be filmed riding waves, but the amateur photographers trying to capture this footage couldn’t get close enough, and their equipment was poor quality. Woodman set out to change this.
These are just a few examples, but they show that business ideas and inspiration can come from anywhere.
How to Get a Business Idea – 12 Practical Tips
Okay, you are probably impatient to find your inspiration, so let’s get down to business with practical tips to help you move closer to your goal of becoming a successful entrepreneur.
1. Do Something – Anything
The first thing you should do to achieve success is to do something.
In other words, stop thinking about starting a business without doing anything about it and stop pontificating.
Instead, do something. It doesn’t even matter what you do. The important thing is to take steps every day, even if you don’t know where the endpoint is (or the start point!).
2. Conquer Your Fears
We all have doubts, fears, and negative influences that hold us back. You need to get over these barriers. To do this, start by writing down the things you believe are preventing you from taking the plunge.
Here are some examples
- The economy is not strong enough
- You’re unsure of where to source funding
- You don’t have the right knowledge/skills
- You’re too busy with other commitments
Evaluate every fear and doubt you have, and take steps to mitigate and resolve them, cause most of them only exist in your mind.
3. Surround Yourself with the Right People
Negative people can place doubt where it shouldn’t exist. It’s important you limit this negativity in your life.
This doesn’t mean you should only interact with yes-people, of course. After all, you need people who will give honest opinions and who will stress-test your ideas, give you a different perspective, and call you out when you are not being sensible/reasonable/logical.
However, you need people to do this from a position of positivity. These are people with a can-do attitude, people with ambition, and people who believe there are no ceilings to achievement.
When you are surrounded by people like this, you will feed off their positivity.
As Oprah Winfrey says:
“Surround yourself with those who only lift you higher.”
4. Prepare Yourself for the Challenges
You will encounter challenges during every step of your journey to becoming a successful entrepreneur, so you need to prepare. Importantly, do this straight away, so the challenges you encounter don’t derail you when you are further down the road.
Specifically, come to terms with the facts of starting a business:
- It’s going to be hard work
- You’re going to be told “no” a lot
- Your ideas are going to be criticized
- You’re going to make mistakes
- Some things will take longer/be more expensive/be more of a hassle than you anticipate
These things are all normal. So, accept right at the outset they are going to happen.
Where possible, you should also think about things you can do to help you get through the challenges you will face.
5. Ask the Right Questions
Coming up with viable business ideas can be tough. You will make the job even harder, however, if you are asking the wrong questions.
What are the wrong questions? Here are some examples:
What can I base my business on that is brand new/unique/never before heard of?
This is the wrong question to ask because completely new and unique business ideas are very rare. Most entrepreneurs find success by improving on something that already exists.
What business can I start?
This is the wrong question as successful businesses are about solving a problem, whether that is making it easy for people to purchase products (Amazon), making electric cars a reality (Tesla), or providing high-quality coffee in comfortable surroundings and convenient locations (Starbucks). Start with the problem, not the business.
If the above are examples of wrong questions, what are the questions you should be asking? Try these ones:
- Is there a market problem that I could solve?
- Can I do things differently and capture a market share?
- Is there a gap in the market where I could enter?
How many times have you thought, “I wish I had come up of that”?
You need to ask questions like the examples above to be the one who thinks of the next “that”.
6. Understand Why You Want to Start a Business
There are lots of motivations for wanting to be an entrepreneur or wanting to start a business. Understanding yours will help you get the inspiration you need.
Understanding your motivation will also help you focus your efforts and channel your energy in the right direction.
To help you get a better understanding of your motivation for wanting to start a business, here are some examples:
- You want to achieve a better work-life balance
- Your desire is to become wealthy
- There is an urge to make a positive change in the world or to improve people’s lives
- You would like to provide employment
- Your dream is to become your own boss
7. Explore Your Interests and Passions
Many entrepreneurs get business ideas from the things they are interested in. This could be anything: the environment, women in engineering, using tech to improve the lives of people living with a disability, food and cooking, sport for young people in deprived areas, etc.
The key is to get more involved with the things you are interested in and passionate about. You never know what will inspire you when you do.
So, volunteer, read more, participate in online discussions, go to events, join a club, or do anything else you can that gets you more involved.
8. Surround Yourself With The Best
Networking has been important in business for as long as there have been businesses. Today, it’s never too early to start. Even if you have no idea at the moment about the business you will launch, you should still start networking and building up your contacts.
Focus on building a network of positive and like-minded people who have already experienced business start-up success.
Your network of contacts should also include people who know what it takes to go through the process of launching a new business, nursing it through the early days, getting it to a position of stability, and then driving forward for growth.
Remember, though, that networking is not just about getting to know potential customers or people you may do business with. Also, it’s not only about networking with people who might be able to help you in the future.
Instead, you need as broad a base of contacts as possible.
Here are some practical tips to help with your networking efforts:
- Go to local business events
- Follow successful entrepreneurs and business leaders on LinkedIn and Twitter
- Attend webinars
- Join online discussion groups and take part in conversations
As they say, who you spend time with the most is who you will become.
9. Get Yourself a Mentor
Richard Branson is the world-famous entrepreneur behind the airline Virgin Atlantic. Launching a new airline wasn’t easy, though. Branson cites the help of his mentor, airline industry veteran Sir Freddie Laker, as being crucial to Virgin Atlantic’s success.
A mentor will help you achieve your full potential, and they will inspire you. They are a sounding board and can offer practical advice. They will also tell you what you don’t want to hear, plus they can see things you might not be able to, not least because they are not as close to the action as you are.
Crucially, a mentor will do all this from a position of believing in you and looking after your interests.
10. Never Stop Learning New Things
The man who started the Ford Motor Company, Henry Ford, once said:
“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.”
You should have an insatiable desire to learn, to acquire new skills, to find out about new practices, ideas, technologies, industries, etc. You can find inspiration and business ideas in this learning.
Here are some of the practical steps you can take:
- Read books written by successful entrepreneurs
- Follow business leaders on social media
- Read blogs, particularly those focused on start-ups, launching businesses, and entrepreneurship
- Do a course
11. Research, Research, Research
This point follows on from the last one. You can find inspiration for your new business by learning more about other industries and trends, particularly those that are emerging or that are experiencing significant levels of growth.
How can you do this? Here are some ideas:
- Talk to people
- Watch or listen to TED talks, podcasts, and YouTube channels
- Find out about businesses/ideas/technologies/products etc. that have proven successful in other locations or countries
- Look for opportunities outside what you normally consider your sphere of work, i.e. your hobbies, the hobbies of others, the things you are interested in, etc
Another way of looking at this point is to think about the things that frustrate you others. Can you alleviate those frustrations in some way with a new product or service?
12. Write Down Your Ideas
Even if you are unsure or you haven’t thought the idea through properly, write it down.
Reading over your list in the weeks and months ahead could give you the final golden nugget of inspiration you need. You may also be able to draw on the list in the future after your business is up and running.
How To Get a Business Idea: Conclusion
Launching a new business and becoming a successful entrepreneur is tough and challenging. Since you’ve read this article, it means that you are already on this journey, so don’t get frustrated at your current position.
What is important is that you’ve already started. All you have to do now is keep moving forward.
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