Many people dream of starting their own business, but how can you find an idea that will work for you?
If your dreams of running your own business are frustrated by the notion that you have to come up with a brilliant new idea, think again. The key is to come up with a business concept that is relevant in today's market to meet customers' needs. The majority of successful new businesses are based on existing ideas, products or services with maybe a tweak or improvement in the offering, thereby creating its appeal in the current market.
We all develop a unique set of experiences as our work and personal lives and this is where we suggest you go hunting for your own new business idea. To achieve this you need to undertake a thorough, logical and well-organised search – including researching the current market – and the ideas will begin to flow.
Our suggestion is that you adopt the following three-stage approach.
1. What skills have you developed?
Look at all your historical experiences. You will have developed specific skills in your career, which may be provide the basis for a business. In addition, you should think about the different companies and market sectors that you have worked in. Some will have been more interesting and enjoyable than others. More than likely, you will have excelled in those elements of the businesses that you found most interesting and enjoyable.
Do not confine your thinking to those experiences you have had at work, though. Think about the skills you have developed outside of work too. In particular, what do you most enjoy doing when you are not working and what would you ideally love to spend more time doing? It could be sports related, voluntary work or just a hobby, but importantly this pastime could involve additional skills. Creating a business that focuses on a hobby can create a very satisfying future job.
2. What's going to work?
Once you have documented your past, you can think about your experience in the context of what is happening right now.
Look for areas of growth in the economy for instant inspiration. Look for businesses that are succeeding and explore if there is room for you. We live in a world where people are prepared, even in times of recession, to pay for perceived added value.
Similarly, look around for changes and opportunities that are being thrown up through the depressed economic climate. Is a particular market now being inadequately served? Staying abreast of local press, business publications and trade organisations may suggest some possibilities. The London Gazette, available online, publishes a variety of insolvency notices including winding up petitions and orders and details of the appointment of administrators and liquidators. Keep your eyes and ears open.
The world is becoming a smaller place all the time and this opens opportunities for you to be able to source products from afar and take them into a more local market. Also, there is a very rich vein of consumer interest in locally sourced products.
Think about your friends and colleagues, as you may be able to marry up your business and management skills with someone else's physical or creative skills.
Online shopping is the fastest growing area of the retail trade. Can you see opportunities to meet consumer need with a product with limited online provision?
3. Think long-term
Finally, do not forget to look forward.
There are certain global and local trends in markets and demographics that you should consider when searching for your inspiration. It makes sense to go into a business that has future growth potential. The media can be a good source of information as they regularly report on new trends – the skill here is to find long-term opportunities as opposed to short-term fads.
But possibly the greatest inspiration of all is to try to envisage how it will feel to have your own business. Think about the rewards of running your own company both financially and emotionally and the benefits of being independent. More than anything, this should spur you on. Your personal experience is unique and should be the foundation for any new business venture; don't underestimate it as it can go a long way to making your business unique too.
Chris Garden and Catherine Blackburn have just written a book, Employee to Entrepreneur: How to Ditch the Day Job and Start Your Own Company
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