Where To Start From?
A couple of days ago, me and two of my buds have decided that it’s time to start a business. I mean we’re pretty young, the world is full of opportunities so why not? Plus we all hold expertise in different areas, so theoretically the synergy is there, present on the paper somewhere.
Down to work. First things first: industry. In other words, which market should we tackle and what kind of product should we offer? At first sight the task was quite easy in its nature – or at least that’s how I saw it; never have I ever been so wrong. We skyped for 1 hour and a half and barely had an idea about our domain of activity. The product or service would be left for another day, as our neurons were stretched to the max. for one session. After the call ended I thought to myself “hey, there has to be a better way to come up with feasible, realistic ideas in some way or another”. So I jumped in front of the Internet, googled various idea generating methods and read a couple of books and articles. Here are the outcomes at which I came to:
a) Brainstorm for 20 minutes. No more or less. The time frame is ideal to generate 50 ideas and so you have where to start (pick) from. It doesn’t matter if they’re good or bad. In the end the majority of them will be complete BS (I once had an idea about providing mosaics as raw material for the religious mosaic paintings inside the churches – in Romania a lot of churches are built everyday, so don’t judge), but 1 or 2 might have potential and could be transformed into a business model. The key here is to write them down and NOT debate them in the beginning and during the process.
b) Idea Sex. This comes from James Altucher, and goes hand in hand with the last point. Pick up two or more “ugly” ideas and combine them. BAM! There you have it; your new company. Facebook is a good example, with Altucher describing the social platform as a chimera between communication and stalking, which we all know worked and still does.
c) Complain. Yes, you heard me right; but complain productively and in a smart way as Mark Cuban says. Think about all the products/services you use now or have used in the past, figure out all the downsides and risks that come along with utilizing them and then just jot down ideas about how you could improve or enhance their features. For example, you might be frustrated because you’ve done your blood tests at a private clinic and you have to go there in two days to take the results personally, instead of having them emailed to you in just 5-8 hours the exact same day. Ding, ding, ding! Business idea here.
d) Use the autosuggestion feature when searching on Google. Antonyms search terms work quite well here. For instance type: “companies who provide..”/”companies who lack..”, , “the best company to..”/”the worst company to..”, “most profitable product..”/”least profitable product..”, “happiest employees..”, “most innovative company..”, “industry with..” and so on. Better search terms translate in better results. Be picky and creative.
e) Capitalize on your expertise. Don’t follow your passion. I’m against this rule. According to it I should fully emerge myself in learning about foreign cultures & languages and make a living out of it. Doesn’t work for me. Rather use the knowledge and practice gained in one specific domain. Develop more expertise and confidence there (yes, I know, it’s the 10.000 hours rule here) and you will see how easily you will identify opportunities to make money out of them. Passion follows experience, not vice-versa.
f) Path of least resistance. People will always choose this way cause it saves them time and money. They might even choose it out of pure boredom. But who cares? You care. Take a product or service from a big company, find ways in which you can improve their processes and start to deliver the enhanced feature to your customers. The ball is in your court since you have a smaller customer base and so you spot more accurately the needs and wants of your customers; while your harsh competition, the big ones, are just dinosaurs entrenched in loads of red tape. Just look at customer care nowadays. It takes approximately 3 minutes to get past the robot, then wait for someone to pick up the phone and finally talk with a real human being. Total response time: 10 minutes. Why not make it 10 seconds?
To conclude, I want to give a heads up to all the beginners out there like me. This one is from Guy Kawasaki. He warns youngsters who start up a company not to think too much in terms of numbers about a market. Let’s say you estimate that the Mobile App market is $25 billion worth, and if you can capture just 5% of this market everything will be fine; maybe you and your partners will take a long vacation or even retire. Nothing is more far away from the truth. Don’t fall into this trap. Metrics might help you but there are other factors of economical, political, social, environmental, technological and God knows what nature, that might and will influence the final outcome of your business and annual profits. Therefore take small steps, one thing a day, and give it a thought about all the measures above. The next brilliant business idea might be closer than you think.
Don’t forget to comment below about other idea generating mechanisms and further suggestions.
Altucher J. (2013), Choose Yourself;
Cuban M. (2011), How to Win at the Sprots of Business;
Kawasaki G. (2015), The Art of the Start 2.0.