Get the Juices Flowing
How do you start the idea process? First, take out a sheet of paper and across the top write “Things About Me.” List five to seven things about yourself–things you like to do or that you’re really good at, personal things (we’ll get to your work life in a minute). Your list might include: “I’m really good with people, I love kids, I love to read, I love computers, I love numbers, I’m good at coming up with marketing concepts, I’m a problem solver.” Just write down whatever comes to your mind; it doesn’t need to make sense. Once you have your list, number the items down one side of the paper.
On the other side of the paper, list things that you don’t think you’re good at or you don’t like to do. Maybe you’re really good at marketing concepts, but you don’t like to meet people or you’re really not that fond of kids or you don’t like to do public speaking or you don’t want to travel. Don’t overthink it; just write down your thoughts. When you’re finished, ask yourself: “If there were three to five products or services that would make my personal life better, what would they be?” This is your personal life as a man, woman, father, husband, mother, wife, parent, grandparent–whatever your situation may be. Determine what products or services would make your life easier or happier, make you more productive or efficient, or simply give you more time.
Next, ask yourself the same question about your business life. Examine what you like and dislike about your work life as well as what traits people like and dislike about you. Finally, ask yourself why you’re seeking to start a business in the first place. Then, when you’re done, look for a pattern to emerge (i.e., whether there’s a need for a business doing one of the things you like or are good at).
Here’s a business startup story that’s a great example of seeing a need and filling it. Entrepreneur magazine is located in Irvine, California, a planned community. Many years ago, there weren’t many fast-food restaurants in the business area. Most were across town, where the neighborhoods were. Two young men in Irvine found this lunch situation very frustrating. There weren’t many affordable choices. Sure, there were some food courts located in strip centers, but the parking lots were really small and the wait was horrendous.
One day, as they were lamenting their lunch problem, one of them said, “Wouldn’t it be great if we could get some good food delivered?” The proverbial light bulb went on! Then they did what many people don’t do–they did something about their idea. Coincidentally, they purchased one of Entrepreneur’s business startup guides and started a restaurant delivery business.
To date, their business has served more than 15 million people! It’s neither a complicated business nor an original one. Their competition has gotten stiffer, and yet they’re doing phenomenally well. And it all began because they listened to their own frustrations and decided to do something about them. Little did they know that research cites the shrinking lunch hour as one of the biggest complaints by American workers. Some only get 30 minutes, making it nearly impossible to get out, get lunch and get back on time. So while these young entrepreneurs initially thought they were responding to a personal need in their local area, they actually struck a universal chord.
That is one way to get ideas–listening to your own (or your co-workers’, family’s or neighbors’) frustrations. The opportunities are all there; you just need to search them out. If your brain is always set in idea mode, then many ideas may come from just looking around or reading. For instance, if you had read an article about the shrinking lunch hour, and if you were thinking entrepreneurially, you would say “Wow, maybe there’s an opportunity there for me to do something. I should start researching it.”