“You have to come up with a lot of ideas to be successful,” says Stephen Key, co-founder of the website inventright.com based in Nevada, and author of One Simple Idea for Startups and Entrepreneurs: Live Your Dreams and Create Your Own Profitable Company, (McGraw-Hill, 2012).
Key, who has licensed more than 20 products in the last 25 years, says he generates ideas by finding different ways to engage his mind, from walking the aisles of stores to brainstorming about holes in the marketplace.
Here are eight techniques from Key and other experts that could help get your creative juices flowing:
Ask yourself, “What’s next?”
Successful business ideas are often ahead of the curve. Think about trends and technologies on the horizon and how you might move into those areas, says Sergio Monsalve, partner at Norwest Venture Partners, a California-based venture capital group.
He suggests, for example, thinking about innovations related to the living room and home entertainment systems now that companies like Apple are developing new television technologies. “What can that mean in terms of new ways to live in your house and be entertained?” he says.
Related: Which Business Should I Start?
Do something about what bugs you.
When Colin Barceloux was in college, he thought textbooks cost far too much. In 2007, two years after graduating, he decided to take action and founded Bookrenter.com, a California based business that offers textbook rentals at about a 60% discount.
What began as a one-man operation created out of frustration now has 1.5 million users and 200 employees. “You just have to look at what frustrates you,” he says. “There’s your business idea right there.”
Look for new niches.
Your business idea doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel. Take a look at what some of the big players in an industry are missing and figure out if you can fill the gaps, Key says.
In 2003, for instance, he started the company Hot Picks, now based in California, after realising the major brands in the guitar pick industry weren’t offering collectible novelty picks.
Key designed a skull-shaped pick that filled an empty niche and was sold in 1 000 stores, including Wal-Mart and 7-Eleven. “The big guys leave a tremendous amount of opportunity on the table,” he says.
Apply your skills to an entirely new field.
Think about your skills and whether they might be useful in a new area, suggests Bill Fischer, professor of innovation management at IMD, the top-rated Swiss business school, and co-author of The Idea Hunter: How to Find the Best Ideas and Make them Happen (Jossey-Bass, 2011).
Consider, for example, JMC Soundboard, a Switzerland-based company that builds high-end loudspeakers. Jeanmichel Capt invented the speaker by applying his experience building guitars as a luthier, using the same resonance spruce to create a loudspeaker that produces a high-quality sound and looks like a sleek wood panel.
There’s also Rhode Island-based Dear Kate, a company founded by Julie Sygiel, who used her training in chemical engineering to create a stain-resistant, leak-proof underwear material that active women can use without worrying about menstrual leakage during a workout.
Find a category lacking recent innovations.
When coming up with ideas, Key likes to identify markets that haven’t had many recent innovations. For example, when he realized there were few new developments in the product information label business, he created Spinformation, a label consisting of two layers — a top layer that rotates with open panels through which you can see, and a bottom label that you can read by spinning the top layer over it.
Companies needing to fit more information about a medication, for example, could use the extra label space for the details.
Make a cheaper version of an existing product.
Companies often get their start by offering customers an existing product at a lower price. Take Warby Parker, an eyeglasses company launched in 2010 by four business school friends. The New York-based business sells prescription glasses, which are typically priced at $300 or more, for $95. Since its launch, it has grown to 100 employees.
Talk to shoppers.
To come up with an idea that meets people’s needs, there’s no better way than by talking to shoppers. If you are interested in mountain bikes, hang out in the aisles of sports and bike shops and ask customers what they wish they could find in the marketplace.
If you’re interested in developing an e-commerce business, consider sending an online survey to potential customers to learn about their needs and interests.
Play the mix and match game.
Walk up and down the aisles of a drug, hardware or toy store combining two products across the aisle from each other into one, Key says. That should spark quite a few ideas, but be prepared for most of them to be bad. “You will come up with all these horrible ideas, and every once in a while you will find some brilliant idea out there,” he says.
A 7-Step Guide To Starting Your Own Trade Business
With that sorted, it is time to get on with the more exciting operational stuff.
Skilled tradesmen are always in demand. Whether you are a plumber, electrician, cabinetmaker, refrigeration expert, tiler or builder, there is a ton of work out there. For many, the best way to make the most of the opportunity is to open your own business.
Where do you start? The first step is to register your business with the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC). Look for a catchy name that is easy to spell and memorable – you do not want customers to struggle. The CIPC will tell you which names are taken. It is also a good idea to do a trademark search before deciding on a name. Register with SARS and make sure that all your tax affairs are in order.
It is a very good idea to get a good accountant right at the early stages of the game. They can also help you set up the legislative requirements for running a business. The National Small Business Chamber is a non-profit organisation that offers a range of services to its members that aim to help them grow faster, save money and receive the support they need.
With that sorted, it is time to get on with the more exciting operational stuff.
1. Finding customers
You want to find customers in order to grow your business beyond the ones you already have. These days, that means a website and some smart online marketing.
This can be as simple as setting up a Facebook page and any one of several other social media sites (like Instagram and LinkedIn). These services are at no-cost to you and allow you to quickly build up a following of loyal customers. You can share ‘jobs well done’, so prospective customers can see what you are capable of, while your contact details are easily accessible. In due course, consider some paid averts on relevant social media platforms and perhaps a website of your own. It is a good way to get potential customers on board.
At the same time, list your services in community newspapers, noticeboards and newsletters so everyone in the area can easily see that you are available and what it is you do. Also, keep your eye on social media community groups – and ask family, friends and existing clients to refer and/or recommend your services when an opportunity arises.
Finally, there are many government initiatives and non-profit organisations whose aim is to help small businesses succeed – with a particular emphasis on black-owned businesses. This help could range from facilitating access to finance, all the way to mentorship. Spend some time finding out what help is on offer. The SME Movement site also has this kind of information.
2. Stay focused
For those just starting out, there might be a temptation to take any job that crosses your path. Rather stick to your area of expertise to build a reputation based on proven skills. If you are an electrician with a little plumbing experience, for example, tackling a piping job could cause more trouble than it is worth. Every trade is different and you are an expert for a reason.
Leave the other work for experts in those fields – but build up relationships with them so that you can refer work to each other.
3. Ride on your qualifications and references
You have spent a lot of time getting certified. Let your customers know about your qualifications and experience by putting it on your Facebook page, your invoices, e-mails and other communications. The same goes for references; these are valuable and provide evidence of your ability to get the job done. Ask for a reference when the job is complete and then on to social media it goes. The good news with social media, by the way, is that these references do not ever go away.
4. Stay on top of the paperwork
The good old days of doing business on a handshake may be behind us. Providing quotes, contracts, invoices and records of payments electronically makes paperwork a whole lot easier by creating a digital archive where physical copies aren’t needed, but it serves the same purpose, when it is formally recorded, it is far easier to see what has been agreed to, done and paid for. Do not skimp here, even the best customer service provider relationships can go awry if verbal agreements are all you have to go on.
5. Register with your trade association (and invest in CPD)
Being a member of a trade association (like Master Builders, the Institute of Plumbing or other professional bodies) lends credibility to what you are doing. It also provides access to new customers should larger contractors need to sub-contract. Your trade association also formalises training and continuous professional development (CPD).
6. Get business insurance
All too often, this crucial coverage is ignored by those starting out on their own. You want to protect tools and equipment on the one hand and you also want broadform public liability to safeguard yourself, your employees and your business against third party claims should something go wrong on the job. It provides cover in connection with your normal business activities and also your liability if any employees are injured in the course of work.
Putting the right insurance in place can mean the difference between staying in business for the long term or folding the minute the tools grow legs and disappear.
7. Deliver good service
Do not forget that every job is a potential reference and, at the very least, is your entry into that client’s network of friends or business associates. Concentrate on giving good service and actively request feedback so you can remedy any shortfalls. A take-it-or-leave it attitude may be relaxing, but it will prevent your business from growing to what it potentially can be.
MiWay is an Authorised Financial Services Provider (Licence no: 33970)
The Ultimate 101 List Of Business Ideas To Start Your Own Business In South Africa
Want to boost your income on a part-time basis? Looking for a new business to start and grow into an empire? You’ve come to the right place. This list of business ideas will help children, adults, men, women and even people in rural areas think about ways to become an entrepreneur.
Are you looking for that one idea to spark a business that will make you money? We have one hundred and one just for you!
Whether you’re a stay-at-home mom or dad looking to pursue your passion part-time, a nine-to-five employee seeking a side gig, a creative who’s keen on innovative and flexible moneymaking methods or a student at any level in your education, looking to start your entrepreneurial journey early…we’ve got the best ideas for you to choose from to kick-start your very own business, today.
This comprehensive slide show below is just what you’ve been waiting for to take your first step into financial independence. Read on to find your perfect fit and discover more about how to get started.
What You Need To Know When Starting A Tech Business
For the tech entrepreneur, the majority of your intellectual capital will reside in your software, code, databases, websites or mobile applications.
Protecting and managing your intellectual capital starts with finding, identifying and classifying your most important human and intellectual assets. Once you know what you are looking for, you can then determine whether you have the rights you need over those assets. If you don’t, you can then go about securing those rights and then select the best methods of protecting them.
Intellectual capital, intellectual assets and intellectual property
In the industrial and manufacturing industries, the conventional forms of capital needed to start and grow a business were real estate, factories, plant and equipment. But in today’s knowledge economy, these physical assets have largely been replaced by ideas, knowledge and creativity as the new drivers of value.
This new type of information and knowledge-based capital is known as intellectual capital. Your intellectual capital is basically all the knowledge, skills, capabilities and work product that you and your team have to offer, together with the relationships, reputation and brand equity that your business is able to attract and maintain in the marketplace.
Intellectual capital is made up of the following:
- Your ideas, insights, knowledge and creativity (intellectual assets)
- The talent, skills and capabilities of your team (human capital)
- Your contractual relationships and connections with investors, customers and other stakeholders (relationship assets)
- Your unique brand and the reputation and goodwill you have built around it (brand assets)
In the same way as we as individuals have a whole lot of information and knowledge, some useful, some useless and trivial; your business’s intellectual capital can also be categorised according to its uniqueness, usefulness or value.
Where your intellectual capital displays these additional qualities, it may qualify for statutory legal protection. These special assets, commonly referred to as intellectual property, are bestowed with rights and protections which give the owner a period of time (limited) to commercialise or exploit them without any undue or unfair interference from others. The trade-off is that after that period of time expires, the asset becomes part of the public domain for anyone and everyone to use.
Discovering what intellectual capital you have and need
For the tech entrepreneur, the majority of your intellectual capital will reside in your software, code, databases, websites or mobile applications. Copyright law without the need to register rights or comply with any further formalities automatically protects most of these assets. However, it is still necessary to identify and categorise those assets because the ownership rights and the ways to protect them may differ between the different types of asset.
At the same time, there may also be a wealth of other intellectual assets tucked away in your filing cabinets and hard drives, waiting to be discovered. These may include valuable trade secrets, know-how, methodologies, customer learning, and market research.
Once you have linked the value drivers and competitive advantages in your business with the assets that produce them, list those assets and classify them according to the structure that they take. Are they people-based or embedded in technology or documentation. Do any of them qualify for statutory protection?
The outcome should be an inventory of all your intellectual capital, classified according to the different levels of protection available as well as their importance to your business. You probably don’t have the time, energy or budget to protect everything, so taking the time to do this exercise will ensure that you separate the wheat from the chaff which will save you in the long run.
Business Ideas Directory3 days ago
20 Innovative Business Ideas Doing Well Overseas (That Could Make You Money In SA)
Business Advice for Women Entrepreneurs1 week ago
How I Run An International Business From A Remote Beach Town In The Eastern Cape
Entrepreneur Profiles2 weeks ago
Inspiring Entrepreneur Siyanda Dlamini Believes You Need To Back Yourself To Build Your Dreams
Entrepreneur Profiles1 week ago
30 Top Influential SA Business Leaders
Entrepreneur Profiles1 week ago
Kid Entrepreneurs Who Have Already Built Successful Businesses (And How You Can Too)
Entrepreneur Today3 days ago
Nedbank Brings Silicon Valley’s Plug And Play To Africa In Disruption First For The Continent
Business Ideas Directory2 weeks ago
How To Make (A Lot Of) Money On Airbnb
Lessons Learnt1 week ago
6 Habits Long-Time Millionaires Rely On To Stay Rich