Despite the overwhelming belief that it is Soooooooo Difficult to start a business, it really isn’t. The fact is, more businesses are started each year than one can imagine. True, most fail as well, but that shouldn’t keep you from considering the concept. Most novices think that the wheel must be reinvented, and that the purist idea must be at hand. Nothing could be further from the truth. I am actively working 7 businesses in one stage or another, and if I can do it, well………..
Food for Thought:
- The Idea – It’s Not Rocket Science (unless it is)
- Plan Your Work, Work Your Plans
- Did I Mention Money, Honey?
- The Word is Like Butter – Spread It
Ideas are Everywhere; Generate One and Run With It! Ideas are all over the cosmos, they float in and out of every gathering of people, hint their existence in every action or inaction and can easily be identified if you are paying attention. Unless some sort of action occurs in the pursuit of an idea, they will lay dormant, only to be “thought of” by someone else. It isn’t all that hard to come up with an idea for a business. Most think that it must be original, unheard of by anyone else, and must have mass appeal to the marketplace for an idea to flourish and be successful as a business. Not necessarily so. Some will state “I can’t seem to think of anything that hasn’t already been invented.” Some others might say that “All the really good ideas are already taken, and I am no good at technology. The new computer application is beyond my grasp!” It doesn’t have to be bleeding edge technology, or Rocket Science, unless of course, you have a breakthrough idea that NASA would just fall in love with. Ideas come in all shapes, sizes and industries. How about the guy that invented the “Chip Clip?” Or what about the person that came up with the Slip & Slide? The Pet Rock and The Chia Pet are two great examples of a simple idea with great instant appeal.
The wheel is fine as a wheel, and doesn’t need to be reinvented, so get over that stumbling block.
Pull Your Head Out and Get a Think Tank Started. If you can’t seem to come up with an idea, enlist a group of friends or business associates to get together for a Thought Group. There are Think Tanks everywhere, especially on the internet. Check out The Thinkubator, or Innovation sites. With a little encouragement, the juices will begin to flow. Open your eyes to what is going on around you. You can do it by working at it.
Get your thinking cap on and ask yourself a few questions, noting the answers on a sheet of paper. Some of the world’s greatest ideas turned into successful business ventures from a paper napkin; thus, the “Napkin Idea!” Ask yourself what frustrates you about your typical day. What can you do differently from someone else’s idea that is already in production and successfully selling in the marketplace. Draw a column down the middle of the page and list at least 10 things you REALLY like to do. They can be anything, from fly fishing to quilting, writing poetry to repairing washing machines. If more than 10 come to you, write until the list is exhaustive. If you like children, write it down. If it is landscaping, write it down. Don’t worry about whether it makes sense or not; write them all down.
Now list the things that frustrate you; that you don’t like or just don’t make sense to you. An example might be that “when I walk the dogs the leashes get twisted up, causing me to fumble and get twisted up in them.” Perhaps an improvement can be thought up. If you have small children, maybe their favorite home made treat can become a national hit. Maybe you like to speak to groups but don’t like to do the administrative aspects of putting speeches together, scheduling and that sort of thing. Try to make this list every bit as long as the other, but if it isn’t, don’t worry about it.
Once the lists are complete, ask yourself if there products or services that would make your personal life more complete, more comfortable, provide more free time or less stress, or simply more enjoyable, list them on the left half of a separate sheet of paper. On the other side of the paper list the products or services that would make your business life better.
If the lists are complete, spend a bit of time thinking about all four lists, and try to determine if any sort of pattern emerges. Remember, business address shortcomings in the market that existing products simply do a poor job with, or maybe a small niche that is unaddressed where you live. Businesses don’t have to be the only one in town to be successful either. How many drug stores are in your town, or neighborhood? How many hair salons, barber shops, transmission repair shops, fast food restaurants, formal dining restaurants, etc. etc. etc? There is room for your idea, so don’t worry.
Example of Thinking Through Your Idea
Make sure you understand how your idea will impact the economy. What I mean is, are you going to create a new “Pet Rock” type of product? That product will have instant impact, sell really quickly and then fade just as fast. Your plan might be to make it and take it, or you plan may be providing a service that will improve other people’s lives, address a niche that is being ignored, or simply a twist on a traditional product or service.
I consulted with a fine dining restaurant in a Chicago suburb that did a slow lunch business but a really great cocktail hour and dinner business. The restaurant was housed in a very large office complex, it had its own cafeteria, and there were chain restaurants, fast food joints down the road, and lots of varied “competition” at every turn. Franco (my client) mumbled and grumbled nearly every afternoon because his restaurant was open, but nearly empty. He wanted more business, but could not come up with a winning idea.
I had him perform a quick survey of the office tenants about their dining choices, how much time they typically had for lunch, and what goods or services were the highest in demand that were not currently available within their lunch hour constraints.
People in the towers only had between 30 minutes to 1.5 hours for lunch, with the majority falling into the 30 minutes to 1 hour time frame. They liked the convenience of the cafeteria, but longed for higher quality of food at reasonable prices. That meant if anyone wanted something good to eat outside the cafeteria, they had to walk to their cars and drive up to a mile to find something. The majority of the office tenants wanted hot sandwiches, gourmet salads and beverages, as well as a high quality “special” that varied daily, but time became their enemy.
The answer became crystal clear once we thought through the challenge, found an idea and exploited the market.
Franco’s Restaurant was of Italian theme, and his food was terrific. He had a large coat room just inside the door of the restaurant, but it wasn’t used very much because most diners came from within the buildings. We converted his coat room into a Deli by cutting a service window out in the building hall way, placed about $6500 in new equipment, did some minor marketing with flyers in every office through the building’s mail center. Customers didn’t even have to enter the restaurant; they simply queued up for quick service of gourmet food. Boom: An Instant Success!
His New Deli business offered shaved Roast Beef and Turkey Breast sandwiches, daily Italian dish specials, salads and all of the other things that were noted within the survey results. It took a cashier, a deli chef and a buss person to tend to the business, and Franco’s revenues increased to more than $1900 a day in a 3 hour period, 5 days a week. He used upscale plastic wares, offered high quality food and beverages, and became extremely successful. The staff was already on the payroll, so they were simply reallocated to a winning new venture. This may not have been a completely new business, but in a way it is. Niche marketing solved a critical problem for the tenants as well as the restaurant owner.
Part 2’s Upcoming Article
It’s More than a Money Magnet- The Business Plan
The business plan is a lot more than just something that a lender or investor needs to evaluate your idea. It is the philosophical, analytical, strategic and tactical plans on how you intend to become successful. Remember, without a road map, any direction will get you to no where.
For additional information, articles of interest and Scar Tissue Real Life Examples, read my blog at: www.theovercaffeinatedentrepreneur.wordpress.com