Episode 58 – How To Come Up With A Business Idea In 6 Steps
Every year I help hundreds of people come up with their business idea as part of my role as a Business Strategist. It’s one of my
Finding a business idea is the first step to a whole new life of adventure and income opportunities.
Some people struggle with choosing one of their many ideas if that’s you go to this article I wrote on deciding on your business idea.
But many more people have difficulty coming up with ideas in the first place. So let’s talk about creating business ideas.
Here’s how to come up with a business idea in six steps:
1. Put any judgment aside
2. Don’t use random lists of ideas
3. Write out your experience, skills, interests, talents and past projects
4. Look for opportunities to provide value
5. Stay high level
6. Pick the best combination for you
That sounds relatively simple but It’s easier than done.
Let’s look at each step in detail.
Step 1: Put any judgment, including self-judgment aside
Generally speaking, as soon we think of an idea we then get straight into analysing whether it’s a good or bad idea.
Would people buy it? Who would want that? Would that even work?
Then we might even get into an internal discussion on whether or not we would be capable of pulling it off.
Who are we to think we can ?! What will people think?!
Then comes the option of googling it and seeing if anyone else is doing it…
Which can all lead down the path of writing an idea off before we even start because it’s ‘taken’ or someone else’s website looks amazing and we could never do that.
My advice is don’t do that.
Don’t decide whether it’s ‘the one’ in advance.
Don’t decide whether or not you are capable of it at this time and don’t google – yet.
Don’t cut yourself off at the knees before you can walk.
The key to coming up with ideas is, first of all, to allow yourself to freely have ideas!
And have them in a space of no judgment.
It’s okay if your ideas are outrageous, pie-in-the-sky, ridiculous, big, small, audacious or underwhelming.
The key is to allow the ideas to flow, capture them as they come and then know you’ll do the verification and make a good decision later.
In the brainstorming stage, your job is just to come up with ideas.
Step 2: Don’t use random lists of ideas
If you can stop yourself don’t peruse random lists of ideas off of the Internet.
I get it. I like doing that too.
To write this article I was looking at some of those lists and thinking ‘Oh, that’s an interesting one!’ and at that moment breaking my steps 1 and 2 in one go, but here’s the point:
When you are starting a business it’s for the long term. It’s your new way of making money.
The last thing you want to do is end up choosing an idea that feels like trying to squash yourself into someone else’s cocktail dress.
The business idea that is right for you is individual.
It has in many ways nothing to do with what anyone else is doing or what is hot right now.
Why do I say this?
The right business idea has to match up with what you want for your life.
The elements of what we want for our lives are:
1. Purpose – Meaning we have to care on some level about what we are creating.
2. Workstyle – Everyone is different and enjoys different environments, different tasks and different levels of interaction with people.
3. Lifestyle – Everyone wants to live differently outside of their business.
So choosing an idea off a list is unlikely to fulfill all of these things for you.
Your Purpose – Let’s Address The Elephant In The Room Here
Not everyone is born knowing exactly what they want to do with their life. Some people have a mission, some people don’t. Whichever you are is okay.
In fact, there are three different ways you can bring passion or purpose into your business.
The truth is though that there are things you care about and there are things you don’t care about at all.
And try getting up every day for something you don’t believe in.
You may already be experiencing that in your day job, so let’s change that.
Your Workstyle – This Is Your Operating Manual
Your workstyle is also important.
Because I essentially made up this word as there wasn’t a better one I could find already being used, I get asked a lot what this means.
Essentially this is like your operating manual, it tells you (rather than other people) how you tick.
Mine would contain information like this – likes to focus on one project at a time. Do not overload with multiple projects. Gets the best results working with people on an individual level and does not do well in crowds. Prefers to innovate rather than use established traditional processes.
(If you’d like to discover more about your workstyle it’s detailed in Your Entrepreneurial Design Report. Get yours here.)
I wrote that in a rather joking manner but can you see how this makes some business ideas utterly unsuitable for me and it makes some ways of working also a bad fit.
Coming up with business ideas works better when it’s an internal rather than an external process.
Getting the lifestyle you want
While we all can agree we don’t like long commutes, being micro-managed and crappy working environments, and we know we want more time freedom, more control over what we do and more money – this does still look different on an individual level.
Running a restaurant is only suitable for you if you don’t want to travel much for a good while.
A business that involves lots of speaking from stage is likely to ONLY be a fit if you DO want to travel.
So we want to consider what you want to be happening inside your business, as well as outside of it.
Getting to the point of why lists of ideas don’t always help…
List of ideas don’t take your what you are interested in (purpose), how you want your life to be (lifestyle) or how you do your best work and feel your best at work (workstyle) into account.
They can help give you an idea of what’s out there, but that’s where the usefulness ends.
Choosing a business idea from a list is like trying to fit yourself into a box.
Does needing to fit into a box sound familiar?
Maybe you’ve already experienced this at work.
In business, we get to make our own rules!
So how do we do make our own rules instead of picking from a list?
Instead of choosing from a list, like choosing a job from the job board, we design our own.
Step 3 – Write Down All Of Your Experiences, Skills, Talents, Interests & Anything Else You Feel Is Relevant
This is how we design a business that fits you rather than choosing yourself a business that feels no better than a job.
Get a big piece of paper or a fresh document in whatever you like to write things down in.
At the top write:
YOUR NAME – TODAY’S DATE – BUSINESS IDEAS
Why today’s date? Because later, with even more experience, your piece of paper will look different and there will be new options for you.
But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t start now.
Write down all of your career experience as well as anything from school that may be relevant.
Also, write down any other experiences you have had that gave you knowledge or life experience that other people may not have.
For example, I have experience of emigrating, divorce, starting a business, learning languages amongst other things.
You may have experienced a child that would not sleep so you learned new skills from that.
You might have overcome an addiction, had challenging parents or had any number of life experiences that enabled you to grow and learn new skills.
What skills do you have?
As an example are you trained in coaching?
Do you have project management skills?
Do you know how to edit videos? Handle difficult clients? Use Excel?
Try to think of as many as you can here.
I would challenge you to write down 100 skills. This is because you have WAY MORE skills than you are going to think of at first.
Just by getting through life, likely to at least your twenties if not a few more decades on top of that, you are going to have done many things in that time.
Even if you think you haven’t.
What is that you are good at?
Remember no judgment here.
No one is watching what you are writing, this is for you.
Are you good with numbers?
Good at organising projects?
Good at getting things to completion?
Are you the person who can smooth over awkward situations?
Are you the one who does the big-picture thinking?
Write down as many of these as you can.
WITHOUT JUDGMENT of how relevant they may or may not seem right now.
What are you interested in?
As in what do you do in your spare time? What would you do in your spare time if you just answered that you don’t have any?
What do you read about?
If you find yourself always looking stuff up on your phone when you shouldn’t be, what are you looking up?
Your Anything Else
Is there anything else?
Yes, some of this will seem irrelevant, and some of it may be in the end, but the point is to get everything out of your head so you have something to work with.
If there’s anything else write it down.
Step 4 – Look For Opportunities To Provide Value
Next, think about how those experiences, skills, talents, interests and anything else could be of value to someone else.
On your big piece of paper write:
HOW CAN I GIVE VALUE?
A profitable business idea that suits you is the overlap between your skills and talents, your likes and passions and potential paying client.
That means a profitable business idea for you is something you like, something you are good at and something someone else is willing and able to pay for.
Your experience could be of value to different groups of people as well.
As an example project management experience could of value to solopreneurs, bookkeepers, non-profits, dance studios or any number of groups.
Write down as many options to provide value to different groups of people that you can think of looking from looking at your big list.
Do some writing, take a break, then come back to it. More ideas will come up as you keep coming back to it.
You may also remember things you had forgotten you did to add to your skills and experiences.
If you’d like a downloadable version of this exercise it’s in The Business Idea Starter Kit.
Step 5 Stay High Level – Big Picture
Don’t get wrapped up in the business model, although I do have a recommendation on the best business model if you are new in business.
What I mean by that is don’t wonder if you should run retreats or make an ecourse or do consulting at this stage.
That’s the business model or the way that you are going to DELIVER the value.
Right now we more want to think on the level of:
‘I’m going to help busy career women lose weight’
‘I’m going to help stressed-out small business owners get their books in order’
‘I’m going to help people who work long hours get their dog exercised’
or whatever is on your list.
What your products and services are will change over time as your business evolves.
Right now you are looking for ideas on what your business does, and not what the individual products are yet.
Otherwise, it can be very easy to get into designing the whole business and falling down a rabbit hole before you’ve properly chosen an idea.
Step 6 – Pick The Best Combination For You
Try to spend some serious time on steps 3 and 4 and get as many business ideas down as possible.
It’s easy to hit on one idea and get super attached to it, only to potentially bounce to another one and never get to the stage of having looked at all the possibilities and then making a solid choice.
Even when my clients are 100% sure they have their business idea already I step them through a more detailed version of this process.
That way they know they’ve gotten all the possible ideas out at the beginning before picking the one they feel is the best fit.
The final stage, at least in the idea generation, is to pick the best combination for you to test in the marketplace.
If you are having problems deciding on your idea I have a great article to help you make a decision here.
If you want more information on how to build your business in the most time and cost-effective way so you can get paying clients quickly as well as learn more about business ideas check out my Zero To Paying Clients Masterclass.
Now I’d love to hear from you
How do you come up with ideas?
Have you found yourself writing off ideas before you even start?
How did you come up with your business idea?
Let me know in the comments below.