Many people believe starting a business is a mysterious process. They know they want to start a business, but they don’t know the first steps to take. In this article, you’re going to find out how to get an idea for a business, how you figure out exactly what it is you want to do and then how to take action on it.
The idea process
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, and 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. For many years now, there weren’t many business magazines to focus on enabling young people to start, run and grow a business. Most magazines were based on giving business news and focusing on topics that only benefitted mostly older people. A young man in Nairobi found this situation very frustrating. He needed specific information, information targeted for his age group on how he can start, run and grow his business but in no vain. Sure, there were some business magazines, but the area of focus and the market segment was out of the youth range.
One day, as he was lamenting his problems on how he can start, run and grow his business, he thought of something, “Wouldn’t it be great if I could start a magazine that can address my business problems and other millions of youth?” The proverbial light bulb went on! Then he did what many people don’t do, he did something about his idea. He started The-Founder magazine in Nairobi, Kenya, the magazine that you are reading right now.
To date, the magazine has reached more than 2000+ young people! It’s neither a complicated business nor an original one. The competition has gotten stiffer, and yet the magazine is doing phenomenally well by service both national and global interest through its website. And it all began because he listened to his own frustrations and decided to do something about them. So while these young entrepreneur initially thought he was responding to a personal need in his city, he 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 water challenges in Turkana, 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.”
Inspiration can be anywhere. Here’s another classic startup story: Ever get stack in the house the whole weekend just because you don’t know places you can go to have fun? Bet you didn’t do anything about it. Well, Tony Bogonko got stuck at home bored all the time, instead of accepting and moving on, he got inspired. Tony wondered “How come there is no place I could check to see events that are taking place around me?, where, weather you are in Mombasa, Kisumu or any other part of Kenya you can identify events near you” From this thought, Loopah.co.ke was born , an online platform that promotes events and much. From its start loopah has grown by each single day.
Getting an idea can be as simple as keeping your eyes peeled for the latest hot businesses; they crop up all the time. You can take any idea and customize it to the times and your community. Add your own creativity to any concept. In fact, customizing a concept isn’t a choice; it’s a necessity if you want your business to be successful. You can’t just take an idea, plop it down and say “OK, this is it.”
One of the best ways to determine whether your idea will succeed in your community is to talk to people you know. If it’s a business idea, talk to co-workers and colleagues. Run personal ideas by your family or neighbors. Don’t be afraid of people stealing your idea. It’s just not likely. Just discuss the general concept; you don’t need to spill all the details.
Just do it!
Hopefully by now, the process of determining what business is right for you has at least been somewhat demystified. Understand that business startup isn’t rocket science. No, it isn’t easy to begin a business, but it’s not as complicated or as scary as many people think, either. It’s a step-by-step, common-sense procedure. So take it a step at a time.
First step: Figure out what you want to do. Once you have the idea, talk to people to find out what they think. Ask “Would you buy and/or use this, and how much would you pay?” Understand that many people around you won’t encourage you (some will even discourage you) to pursue your entrepreneurial journey. Some will tell you they have your best interests at heart; they just want you to see the reality of the situation.
Some will envy your courage; others will resent you for having the guts to actually do something. You can’t allow these naysayers to dissuade you, to stop your journey before it even begins. In fact, once you get an idea for a business, what’s the most important trait you need as an entrepreneur? Perseverance. When you set out to launch your business, you’ll be told “no” more times than you’ve ever been told before. You can’t take it personally; you’ve got to get beyond the “no” and move on to the next person because eventually, you’re going to get to a “yes.”
One of the most common warnings you’ll hear is about the risk. Everyone will tell you it’s risky to start your own business. Sure, starting a business is risky, but what in life isn’t? Plus, there’s a difference between foolish risks and calculated ones. If you carefully consider what you’re doing, get help when you need it, and never stop asking questions, you can mitigate your risk.
You can’t allow the specter of risk to stop you from going forward. Ask yourself “What am I really risking?” And assess the risk. What are you giving up? What will you lose if things don’t work out? Don’t risk what you can’t afford. Don’t risk your home, your family or your health. Ask yourself “If this doesn’t work, will I be worse off than I am now?” If all you have to lose is some time, energy and money, then the risk is likely worth it.
Determining what you want to do is only the first step. You’ve still got a lot of homework to do, a lot of research in front of you. Most important: Do something. Don’t sit back year after year and say “This is the year I’m going to start my business.” Make this the year you really do it!
This article is an edited excerpt from “Start Your Own Business, Fifth Edition”, published by Entrepreneur Press.
Originally posted 2015-05-10 21:29:08.