How Do You Come Up With A Great Small Business Idea?

Small Business Advice With Tim KnoxOne of the questions I’m most often asked is, “What business should I start?”

Actually that’s the short version. The longer version is, “What business should I start that will make me a ton of money really, really fast?”

Short or long version, my advice is always the same: forget about making a ton of money really, really fast because that rarely happens.

It’s best to start a business in an industry that you’re familiar with; a business that you can merrily dedicate yourself to for 16 hours a day, 7 days a week; a business that will make a comfortable life for your family and above all, a business that makes you happy.

That last one should be the most important criteria of all.

Start a business that makes you happy, that makes your spouse and family happy, that makes your customers and employees happy.

Remember, if you’re not happy in business, chances are you’re not happy in other aspects of life.

Misery in business breeds misery at home.

No business is worth the sacrifice of your family.

Most entrepreneurs I work with have a business idea in mind, but some are still watching the horizon for their ship to sail in, thinking it will have the perfect business idea sitting on deck in a crate for them. They have the desire to start their own business, but lack an idea for exactly what business to start.

If you’re in the “what would be a good business to start” boat, here are a few ways you can spot the ship on the horizon that might hold your perfect business idea.

What’s in the news?
Current events are a great way to spot profitable trends on the horizon. You never know when you’ll turn on the evening news or pick up the newspaper and find a story that sparks an idea for a new business. For example if you see a news item about a new subdivision being built nearby you know that means more consumers, so what business or service could you provide to these new residents? Or you see a news item about the obesity epidemic in our country. What business could you start to serve this growing (no pun intended) customer base?

What are your kids interested in?
Believe it or not, teenagers are actually good for something. They are great trend setters and trend spotters. Kids, especially teenagers, are usually at the forefront of the technology curve. If you want to know anything about computers, software, the Internet, iPods, video games and the like, ask a teenager. You should also ask your kids, “What are you and your friends into these days?” Chances are you’ll hear about things that you’ve never heard of before.

Close your mouth and open your ears.
Listen to what your friends, family and coworkers are talking about. Are they complaining about bad customer service they received somewhere? Have they mentioned that they can’t find a particular product or service nearby? Listen to their complaints and problems. Perhaps you can find a profitable way to solve them.

Rub shoulders with other entrepreneurs.
Even if you don’t have a business of your own, you should start socializing with entrepreneurs who do. Look for networking opportunities at the local chamber of commerce and business organizations. Go to where entrepreneurs gather and mingle with them. Listen to what they have to say about their own businesses. What observations and complaints do they have? What needs do they have that aren’t being met? Are they upset with a current vendor? Having trouble finding good employees? What ideas and advice might they offer a new entrepreneur such as yourself?

What’s on the magazine rack?
Go to the local bookstore and browse the massive magazine section. You will find hundreds of magazines on a variety of topics, all of which my spark ideas for a potential business. Thriving magazines may mean a thriving market or niche.

What needs in your own life are not being met?
The best way to come up with a business idea is to look at your own life. What existing products or services that you are familiar with might be improved on? What needs are not being met? What new product or service would make your life easier? Chance are if you have a want or need, others will, too.

Don’t reinvent the wheel, just make it roll faster.
Many entrepreneurs think they have to come up with some revolutionary product or service to succeed in business. Nothing could be further from the truth. Domino’s was not the first company to sell pizza, but they were the first to offer it delivered hot and fresh in 30 minutes or less. Starbucks was not the first coffee house, but they were the first one to mix expensive coffee with an atmosphere of community.

Now get out there and make it your business!

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