It’s a terrific time to be starting a new business!
The world is changing. It’s changing fast. Change favors the new guy, the new business.
The most obvious changes are impacting the business landscape in a big way, such as advances in technology, high-speed Internet, mobile Internet, social media, and so much more. In addition, we’re in the midst of massive ramp-up in demand for services, for personalization, and for customization. All of these changes spell opportunity for small business entrepreneurs.
Never before has it been so easy for a very small business to achieve mass distribution and mass recognition on a national or even global scale. There have never been so many support networks, services, and intermediaries that make it easier than ever to launch and succeed at business.
But before you decide to start a business, you need to decide which business
Although there are tons of opportunities, finding one that excites you can sometimes soon feel more difficult than it seems initially. But first let me set aside some misconceptions or myths about what you don’t need to find in your next business idea.
You don’t need the blockbuster biggest new idea of the century to succeed in business. You don’t need to discover the next light bulb, the next automobile, the next spaceship, or the next fuel source. Your idea doesn’t need to be complex, and your great idea doesn’t need to be new. Your great idea doesn’t need to be free of competitors. It may have many direct competitors, but that’s okay. Later I will show you how to differentiate your business, so even if your business seems very similar to those of competitors, you can still successfully compete.
It is important to note that all ideas are not created equal. Some small business ideas are much more likely to succeed than others. For example, retail businesses are more likely to fail than consulting businesses.
So how do you start choosing a business idea?
I suggest you start by building a list of possible business ideas. You add to your list business ideas that might excite you, without being critical of the ideas at first. Then, slowly, over time, you carefully weigh the pros and cons of each idea.
Consider having a “brainstorming session” with yourself; when you’re in a good mood, surf around the Internet looking for ideas. Or maybe do it the old-fashioned way with a bunch of magazines and clip out every article or advertisement that might suggest a business idea to you.
You also should consider keeping a list with you, perhaps on your smartphone, and anytime day or night when at work or at play type in possible business ideas as they come to you.
Business ideas are lurking all around you. They are lurking in your garage, in your kitchen, in your attic. The ideas may be right there in the packaged food bought at the store, in the back of your car, or in the back of your mind.
In the garage, someone stepped in oil from his car and developed a floor sealant that made the garage floor easily washable.
Someone else tripped on the piles of stuff in the cellar and realized she could build a big business helping people get rid of the junk in their house.
Someone else walked into the dark upstairs closet with no wiring for the last time and created the stick-up battery-operated light bulb with a pull chain.
Tired of walking around your house? Visit your neighbors or get a pile of old magazines and start ripping out pages for ideas. Visit a local store and look at the many product ideas that people came up with to fill those store shelves.
Be creative and give yourself enough time to let your creative juice flow. After all, choosing your business idea is one of the critical steps to starting your own business.
Does your budget matter?
Your budget might limit the number of business ideas you can choose from. For example, I am not recommending you start a high-tech 3D printing business or a health-related business with $1,000. It just would not work.
However, there are plenty of cheap businesses to start out there. Your initial investment is important but not a real obstacle if you really want to start your own business.
How about your car?
There are high-tech floor mats and HEPA filters for allergies, auto door locks for safety, and side mirrors that can tell there is a car in your blind spot. There are deodorants for smelly cars and sprays to rid cars of the smell of leather. In your truck, there are liners for the cargo bay, along with caps for the cargo bay liner. These are all big money ideas that others came up with. You don’t need to be a genius or an MBA to spot ideas and turn them into profits.
Still other business owners turned their hobbies, interests, and skills into satisfying lucrative businesses, simply by finding needs around them and ways to fix, fill, or solve the problem. You can, too.
To identify opportunities, start by considering problems that people or companies have and figure out how to solve them. Or determine what unfilled needs people have and think about how you can meet them. That’s how you create business ideas.
Creating a totally new great idea may not be the best route to go
You don’t need a totally new idea to succeed; in fact, there are very few totally new ideas. Most so-called new ideas are some kind of twist on or extension of an existing idea. In fact, some of the lowest-risk opportunities may be very mundane. But there’s nothing mundane about making lots of money and building a successful business. You don’t need to create exciting new products or services to go into business.
Millions of business owners profit by selling routine unglamorous services, such as window washing, car repair, sandwich making, building maintenance, house cleaning, and plumbing. The key to making money with the mundane is to sell something your customers can’t do well, don’t want to do, or don’t have the time to do.
Furthermore, the company you start today may not be the business you run tomorrow. All the more reason to start a lower risk, more mundane business today and perhaps later consider a higher risk/higher reward, more complex undertaking as you become more experienced and as you build up capital.
Also, it might be easier to start a more mundane business part-time. Starting with a part-time business idea is something I highly recommend. Keep your full-time job until your business gains enough traction to become your main gig!
Maybe you can turn your existing skills or knowledge into a business
One person with expertise in repairing cars but without enough capital to buy a service location started a mobile car repair service, servicing his clients at their homes and carrying his tools in his truck.
Maybe someday you would like to open a large nursery for plants but can’t afford the property now. So maybe you start by establishing a service to care for plants in offices.
Maybe you’d like to open a pet store or a dog kennel but don’t have enough money for either today, so instead you start a dog walking service.
Perhaps you have no idea what business you’d enjoy and nothing really jumps out at you. You really love reading about your friends on Facebook and writing up new posts on your social media sites or your personal blog. Well, that’s easily turned into a business — almost every business out there needs a social media program, and plenty of businesses are happy to hire an outside freelancer to do all that writing for them!
Maybe you think you don’t enjoy work at all and would rather be shopping. Well, shopping can be a business, too. You could start a “secret” shopping service for large retailers to help them keep tabs on their outlying stores. You could start a shopping service to keep a check on their rival stores. You could set up a detailing service for a store supplier to see that their products are well displayed. Or you could start a personal shopping service for wealthy and busy individuals or even celebrities to fulfill their shopping needs. You might hear, “Go out and buy me the 12 nicest pursues and the 10 flashiest high heels you can find today, please!”
As you can see, the world is filled with endless opportunities for starting businesses. Many of these ideas require little money and little expertise to get started. Many of them can be a lot of fun, too.
Don’t forget to make your business official and protect your personal assets by forming an LLC. Top incorporation services like ZenBusiness (the #1 LLC alternative to companies like Incfile or Inc Authority) can take care of the paperwork.
Remember, business opportunities don’t just happen — you have to make them happen
Doing what you love can make things happen. Whether you plan to profit by twisting balloons into smile-generating shapes or orchestrating the growth of a multimillion-dollar multinational, your success relies on what you bring to the business. There is nothing quite like your passion for making things happen.
If you’re feeling lukewarm about what you do, your performance and success will also be lukewarm. If you love what you do, your passion for your dream business will shine through. It will drive you to be knowledgeable and creative. So keep looking until you find a business you think you could get passionate about running and operating for a long period of time.
Before you get going today and start putting together your dream list of possible businesses to consider, don’t forget to consider these questions to ask when starting a business.
Takeaways You Can Use
- Look to your everyday life for inspiration.
- Identify a problem, and then find a way to solve it.
- Your idea doesn’t have to be glamorous to be successful.
Looking for a business idea?
Check out my most popular article, The 300 Best Small Business Ideas. This comprehensive multi-page article offers expert advice on every single business idea. It includes home-based, online, steady-income, low-cost product and service ideas. Many of the ideas in this long article can be started part-time.
Disclaimer: The content on this page is for informational purposes only, and does not constitute legal, tax, or accounting advice. If you have specific questions about any of these topics, seek the counsel of a licensed professional.
Bob Adams is a Harvard MBA serial entrepreneur. He has started over a dozen businesses including one that he launched with $1500 and sold for $40 million. He has written 17 books and created 52 online courses for entrepreneurs. Bob also founded BusinessTown, the go-to learning platform for starting and running a business.