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  • Writer's pictureDavid A. Schneider

7 Ways Of Finding Business Ideas

In our last post we gave some general advice on how to find a business idea.

This time, we will look at 7 actionable ways anyone can use to create the right business idea that will change your life.

Without further ado, let’s get started:

Way 1: Find Potential In Things That Already Are In Use

ways of finding business ideas

The most innovative ideas are often those that are actually not new, but just re-positioned and re-thought of in their use, as we already discussed with the creative thought process.

To create successful business models and ideas you do not necessarily have to be an inventor, but an innovator.

But where is the difference between those inventing and innovating?

The greatest inventions of all times throughout humanity have not been ready for the market for many years.

A nice idea, but it won't prevail”, is what the German Kaiser said as he was shown the first car, for example.

Very often new ideas first demand a shift in thinking and mindset of the people to really grasp their full use and potential, and this alone can take decades as you can see with the comment about the first car.

Furthermore, great inventions are often full of small failures and mistakes during the early stages that often will demand more years of twisting and turning until the desired outcome is achieved.

That in its essence is an invention - something radically new.

Innovation instead is a process that can instantly be applied and used from day one, this is the true potential you are probably looking for in a business idea.

There is no need to invent a spaceship if you want to become a successful entrepreneur.

It is more about making the already existing visible in its potential application, and to make it more useful in today's world.

Because things are already here in existence, there is no need for a new invention.

One of the best examples I can give you for this would be the story of Sergio Rial, a bank director from Brazil.

He was ordered to go to China to help build ABN AMRO in China and develop the company over there.

While he got used to the chinese culture and the local banking system he noticed that chinese people love to eat chicken feet.

Not the flank like we would eat it, but the real feet of the chicken with claws on it.

Rial did not have a night vision with his eyes or other superpowers, he just saw what everybody else saw who visited the country.

And many people visited China before him.

Except he saw it differently and started to think how he can make use of this situation.

In his home country in Brazil and most other parts of the world, the feet of the chicken get thrown away as garbage.

They are waste in these countries, while people in China pay money for them.

A lightbulb went up above his head.

I think you can already guess what followed.

Rial started to buy the chicken legs in his home country almost for free because they are waste after all, and transported them over the ocean.

He is now a millionaire thanks to his keen observations and nothing else.

He invented nothing.

He created nothing.

He just made use of an opportunity where everybody else just looked away.

And this is the kind of thinking you will have to adopt to find your business idea.

Way 2: Focus On Solving The Problem, Don't Mind The Current Solution

ways of finding business ideas

One thing many entrepreneurs and businesspeople have in common is that they get their thinking freed up from any conventions and rules to obey.

What this means is to think of every possible way to solve a problem and seriously consider even the most ridiculous and unrealistic ways, until they are proven to be wrong with their idea.

In our last blog post we wrote about this in detail to “stop judging” your business ideas.

True innovation can only come from observing all the processes and individual actors on a given market, and by releasing yourself from all the drawn-in ways of thinking.

You have to step back and try to see everything from the perspective of an outside observer, even if you are in the midst of the market with your daily business.

Many things that just work in the existing ways, are built upon old structures.

The car for instance has existed for more than 100 years.

Can modern technology not bring a new and better form of transportation to get people from one place to the other?

The important thing is not to look at a car and think about building a better car, but instead to look at the functionality of transport and try to answer this question entirely differently.

You are radically questioning the entire process instead of looking at making a thing more cost efficient, faster or better.

Had I asked people what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse”, is what Henry Ford used to say.

Ingvar Kamprad, the founder of IKEA, looked at the furniture business with the same perspective.

Until he came along, furniture was very expensive for people, and everything you bought was fully finished when you bought it.

He was the first person to ask if people would be willing to assemble the furniture themselves in their home, if this could save them a lot of money and thus create cheaper furniture for everyone.

IKEA is now the largest furniture company on the planet, and they actually don’t sell furniture compared to the old days.

They sell individual parts that can be assembled to create the desired furniture.

It is the same end result (furniture in people's homes), but achieved in a different way.

If you are just at the starting point of your venture and you have no real idea how the industry works so far, consider this one of your biggest advantages.

The big player who dominates markets for many years, usually has become blind to shortcomings in company processes.

This is exactly where you can gain a huge advantage as a small, flexible company.

By trying to find a better answer to the question, the product actually does for the customer you are not limited to thinking in industry boundaries.

Find a way to get the products from their origin to their end customer, with as minimum hassle and costs as possible.

This is where a beginner has the best chances because they don't know a lot about the given market specifics.

Your vision as a newcomer is not blurred yet from existing paradigms and boundaries, so make full use of this fact to your advantage.

Very often it also becomes obvious what you should do if you analyze existing processes and think about what could be left out from this process.

Or sometimes new founders are often short on cash - and thus need to find a more creative, better solution to the existing problems.

Keep it simple and functional without anything not absolutely necessary.

It is the simple things that make a breakthrough to find your business idea.

Way 3: Combine Existing Elements to Something New

ways of finding business ideas

Those ideas are the category when you see the end result as a product on the street and are an aspiring entrepreneur you very likely will ask yourself: “How come I haven't thought of that?

It very distinctly shows how limited our thinking in daily life can be.

In fact, there are ideas and possible new options all around us, we just wander around in life too blind to see them or much less make commercial use of them.

I am sure you also remember those shoes with wheels in them.

Maybe you also had them when you were a child, or someone in your school had them. When I was young those shoes were absolutely cool and everybody wanted to have them - you could walk normally and slide on your wheels from one end of the room to another. Simple, easily accessible to make, and yet brilliant!

Basically those shoes were just a combination or ordinary shoes with wheels.

Now let's think for a moment: what else could you combine wheels with?

If you are old enough you will remember a time when it was normal to carry your suitcase around when you were travelling.

I mean literally carry because back then suitcases had no wheels so you had to lift those heavy bags for your family vacation all the way through airport terminals and other travel areas until you finally reached your hotel room.

It was not only exhausting, but also unhealthy for your back.

You probably already guessed what happened next, some genius had the idea to put wheels on the suitcases and integrate them with the overall body so you could roll around your luggage instead of carrying it.

And the rest is history.

Today you hardly see anybody with a suitcase not on wheels. All is the result of a single entrepreneur who did see the same as everybody else, and acted upon the underlying opportunity.

For this way you do not need to invent anything new.

You just have to keep your eyes open and try to see the world in its opportunities and possibilities.

Try to see what things could be instead of what they are.

Way 4: Put Things To Another Use

Our social and economic world has very strict rules to follow in order what is expected of something and what things are supposed to be or to look like. For example, we go to a club to party on the weekend and we go to a restaurant to eat. Or we use bike lanes only for bikes and car lanes only for cars on our streets.

But outside these deeply embedded paradigms there are many things in everyday life that could be used for all kinds of different outcomes.

Nature has followed this principle for a long time already.

For instance a fruit is used by the plant to reproduce itself but also as a fertilizer in case it only falls to the floor and starts rotting.

Look at many of the large concert halls and community centers all around the world.

They are used for all kinds of fancy gala performances or live shows, but what happens in between those shows?

What if there is no performance for two weeks, or even longer?

Such buildings are usually located at prime locations in the city center and cost millions of dollars to build and maintain, yet their use is often limited to only a few nights per month.

What else could we use these buildings for? How could you add another function serving the community for it and seamlessly integrate it with its initial purpose, namely to be a location for great events?

The building will use up exactly the same costs if used for only 1 night a month or if used throughout the entire month. It would just need a number of services in alignment with each other so they would correlate and not to be in conflict.

There is so much potential that just gets wasted with the current general use of such buildings, and there is a huge demand for all kinds of services the community could get from such buildings.

Or have you ever seen a dirty Fire Truck? How come you see other trucks covered in dirt and of course all other sorts of dirty cars but never a fire truck?

Being a fulltime firefighter means you have to be ready for duty as soon as the alarm goes off. But what if there is no alarm for several days in a row? Apart from occasional trainings and checking that the gear is ready for the next duty there is only thing to do throughout the day: cleaning the fire trucks.

What else could firefighters do when they are not on their way to the next burning house? How could you integrate their daily schedule with other tasks that can be beneficial for society, while still being ready for the alarm? What else could you use the entire infrastructure for that is there anyway for the fire departments, but only gets used when a fire breaks out, what other purposes could all of it serve?

The salary and other costs associated with it would stay the same, you would only make better use of what is already there and could better serve the community.

It is one of the central aspects of entrepreneurship to discover the hidden potential in everyday things, if you take a close look at things with an open mind you will be surprised what kind of things can be accomplished and in which ways you can reap benefits and win-win situations. AirBnB did just the same thing - by renting out a private room to travelers. And look what they have made out of this simple concept.

What will you make out of your own concept?

Way 5: Problems Are Your Chances

ways of finding business ideas

Some people are sad when it rains, and see it as a bad day if the weather is not as they had expected it to be.

An entrepreneur instead will go out and start to sell umbrellas.

In theory, politicians should serve the people and create a better society and country through their jobs.

Ironically, most countries and societies are worse off after a politician was in his period of office than it was before.

And at least during the last decades I dare to say that most problems have only been reinforced through politics instead of solved, and hardly any attempts are made to make this better.

Those people who really make lives easier are entrepreneurs, who invent new products, look at new solutions and create a better outcome for the people involved at the end.

A perfect example is the water hyacinth.

It is a plant that grows exuberantly in tropical regions and creates a lot of environmental and economical damage because it is growing so incredibly fast that whole rivers and lakes were clogged.

For locals as well as for tourists this plant is omnipresent and a material that everybody could use straight away, for free and everywhere.

There is no need to sow, cultivate or fertilize it, it grows totally on its own.

And by making any use of it, it would even be an ecological benefit and helpful for the country.

Unfortunately, because it consists of 98% water with the rest of it being tenacious fibers, it failed to be used even as fertilizer or food for pigs.

Hundreds of studies and tests have been made, all without any success in making use of this plant that is spreading like a virus across south-east Asia.

Until one day a designer experimented with putting the plants stalks through the wringer and discovered that the result is a robust material you can build something with and she started to braid them together.

Today we know this material as rattan cane, and it is used to make furniture or baskets that get sold all over the world

In countries like Thailand there is a whole industry evolved out of this discovery to make use of a plant that is available in abundance, with hundreds of millions of dollars in sales every year.

What was a weed before has now become a resource with almost unlimited potential, and it was basically free to use everywhere.

Of course such a development cannot be visible right from the start.

In most cases and also in our example it meant a lot of failed attempts and frustration.

And even then after the discovery it took years from building the first chair to really make an industry out of it.

It takes true entrepreneurial spirit and persistence to chase a goal like that, but the payoff will always be worth it.

What other problems do exist in your area that could be solved?

If you look around in your daily life you will see that there are hundreds of problems that could be solved everyday.

Many times we are just so busy “getting by” that we hardly pay attention to all the hidden potential that is waiting to be uncovered right before our eyes.

And by providing solutions and creating a business out of it you do not only benefit yourself, but also other people as well.

Problems can be your best resource for finding business ideas.

Way 6: Turn Work Into Entertainment

ways of finding business ideas

Today's world is full of secrets and closed doors.

There is hardly any office building that you would be allowed to enter without special permission, and no factory that would welcome you as a guest.

Instead the doors are closed for outsiders, only people who work there have access and even if actual processes run very simply there.

These places are often closed to the public like they would work on the next big thing and create world-changing inventions.

It is this secrecy that makes it often interesting to look at how things get made, or done in other industries.

A lot of people do get very curious if they would actually get the chance to see what really goes on behind the curtains.

And this again opens a lot of opportunities for entrepreneurs, and it often even helps you to save costs.

In my country for example, people love to go to strawberry fields in the summer.

But of course you would not be allowed to enter them normally or much less pick some of the strawberries to eat them.

In many countries this would be stealing.

But people passing by loved to pick strawberries fresh from the field.

So the farmers had a very bright idea:

They offered self-picking areas, where people could pick their own strawberries in the field, as many as they would like.

Before exiting, you have to put your small harvest on a scale and pay only for the weight of the strawberries you picked and take home.

Of course many people also eat a lot of fresh berries right on the field, but that is already calculated into the prices.

This genius move saves the farmer all the equipment and staff that would otherwise be necessary to harvest the strawberries themselves, plus they sell directly to the end customers which means more profits for them instead of large supermarkets.

It even gives the farmer a whole new distribution channel and access to customers that would otherwise probably have never bought from him.

And harvesting strawberries is still an expensive and exhausting task for the farmer, by the way.

The customers benefit as well - first of all, the strawberries are cheaper than in the ordinary supermarket.

They are also much fresher and as organic as it can get - straight from the field into your basket.

And last but not least, it makes it a fun event to go with your family and kids to pick some fresh strawberries on a beautiful sunday.

This business idea turns a daunting task into entertainment and activity for families and creates a profit along the way - entrepreneurship at it’s finest!

All in all, it creates an overall win-win situation for both sides.

Picking strawberries is actually an unpleasant and fussy work.

The strawberries grow very individually and the fruits have to be handpicked, there is no machine that could do it for you.

This creates high costs for the farmer and at the same time workers have to do a hard job for a comparably small salary - because the overall revenue generated by selling strawberries is low.

With the so-called “strawberry land”, farmers in my and many other countries have taken a whole new approach to selling and harvesting their strawberries and people love it to eat lots of fresh strawberries and take them home.

Be creative for your own idea, it does not have to stop there.

What other work is there on a farm that could be interesting for outsiders?

How about milking a cow yourself and going home with fresh milk you just milked yourself? For the famer who has to milk hundreds of cows a day it is an exhausting part of the work, but for others it could be an adventure.

What other animals or plants could be suited for such a concept?

Or look at other industries, what about a bar in which people can draw beer themselves? Maybe you could even replace waiters entirely and people can pick their food up directly in the kitchen as soon as it is ready?

Opening a business concept to outsiders, even if it is as simple and seemingly boring as picking strawberries in a field, can be exciting for outsiders and financially rewarding for both sides.

It is the new experience created for the customer that automatically gives you an immediate USP for your product, and if the entrepreneurial design is right it can bring you massive advantages to build a great business.

Way 7: Let Your Vision Come Alive

Some visionaries think so much ahead of their time, that their genius and brilliant ideas often cannot be realized during their lifetime.

Leonardo Da Vinci for instance had already drawn the first helicopter of humanity, but it took the rest of the world more than 500 years to really let his vision come alive.

One of the most famous stories of all probably is the tale of a young boy who tried for more than 18 years to move a carriage with gasoline explosions instead of using horses.

He had one failure after the other.

His father declared that his son's intentions to let people sit above dangerous engines that create explosions were absolutely irresponsible and should be forbidden.

His friends called him crazy and incapable of doing anything right.

When this poor young innovator finally had his breakthrough and created such a vehicle, people even more thought he was insane:

The doors of the barn he built the vehicle in were too small to exit the building with the vehicle.

They had to widen the doors in order to get the creation out of there.

But despite all resistance he persisted and took part in a race in 1901.

Actually 13 vehicles were supposed to participate in the race but only three of them made it to the start at all.

Only two of them reached the finish line, and one of them was our visionary.

This is when people finally started to be interested in what the young man was building in his barn for more than 18 years.

From then on he went to build one of the biggest companies in the world and become one of the richest men ever lived.

His name was Henry Ford.

Interestingly none of this struggle is mentioned in his biography.

What is mentioned is only an overnight success. Not that the overnight success took 18 years.

It seems like sometimes you just have to be a little crazy if you want to become a successful entrepreneur.

People will sometimes call you all kinds of names when they don't understand what it is you are doing.

People will always fear what they don't understand.

There are countless stories like this one of Henry Ford, where people got laughed at and were ridiculed because they were doing something so advanced that it would exceed the mental capacity of ordinary people.

Just make sure you will not let them get you off your track, because this is when you will win.

Thomas Edison's teacher said that he was “too stupid to ever learn anything”.

He was fired from his first jobs for being non productive, and it took him more than 10.000 failed attempts to construct the world's first light bulb including a devastating fire which burned down his laboratory and all of his work up to this date.

Einstein did not speak until he was 4 and could not read until he was 7, his teachers said “he would never amount to much.”

Michael Jordan got kicked out of his high school basketball team, and missed the necessary shot to win the game for his team several times, with his colleagues blaming him for losing the game.

Walt Disney was once fired from his job for having “no creativity”.

Oprah got fired as a TV reporter because “she is just not fit for television”.

The list goes on and on.

See, the average person is very small minded and they themselves will never amount to much in their life.

When you tell them about a great vision, what they subconsciously do is to justify their standpoint where they are and where they will be in life.

It is a form of mental self-protection: “if others could do better than me, I would be a failure. This is impossible! Those others are just stupid.”

And this is why everything truly great that will bring lasting change will be attacked.

Be prepared for it and march on with pigheaded discipline and determination until you reach your goal.

It still happens today, just look at Elon Musk who is changing the world and founder of several innovative multi-million dollar businesses bringing humanity breakthrough technology in so many aspects:

Rockets to discover outer space, hyperloops for lightning fast transportation, electric cars for reducing global warming, underground transport systems to fight traffic jams, and even more!

To me, that man is a saint! A hero!

Those people really bring all of us humans to the next level and make our life better.

But you see almost daily some negative reports about him in the media.

And many of these attacks are unfair and unjustified.

So all good things will be attacked, it seems to just happen that way.

And it will be a long and painful road.

But in the end, it will always be worth it.

If you have a vision of the future - no matter how crazy it is, find a way to do it.

Find your business idea, and realize it.

Get going, and Keep Your Dream Alive!


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