If we were to look at 10 successful businesses, we would see 10 different ways the original idea was formed.  There is no hidden formula or secret trick to guarantee an awesome idea.  That said, there are some tried and tested strategies to help you along the way.  Developing a working business idea is a journey more than an inspired moment; a series of steps that you will take requiring reflection, research, inquiry, and action.

The 3 strategies that I will explore here are starting points.  At Business Link, we love to explore ideas with clients and we have learned a LOT about turning early stage business ideas into fully fledged businesses.

1. What’s the Problem?

We all have problems.  Cracked windshield. Lost our bank card. Can’t stop eating Fruit Loops for dinner. Sure enough, we all have problems.

This strategy gets us to reflect on a problem and come up with a solution.  Like all business ideas, the more we understand about our customer the better the solution we are likely to deliver.

Let’s dig deeper on the cracked windshield problem.  This can be a problem for people as modern windshields are expensive, the conditions in Alberta means they crack often, and it takes time to get a replacement or repair. By exploring the problem in more depth we start being able to see solutions that may work for the customer.  At-home service at a time that is convenient, installment payment plans helping them spread the cost, tougher glass that is more crack resistant.

Think of the problems you face in everyday life and observe the problems faced by others.  You’ll need to carry out market research to understand if this problem is significant enough for people to pay for a solution.  That cracked windshield is annoying, but people may be reluctant to spend more to avoid it.

Success comes when you find a solution to a problem and combine it with a business model that delivers profits.

2. Ask Yourself: Wouldn’t it be great if…

This strategy is intended to get your creative juices flowing.  This is a blank canvas approach to developing a business idea and is a way to generate many small ideas that may develop into something more concrete.

The title sums this approach up in a succinct way.  The entrepreneur starts with this as a sentence starter: Wouldn’t it be great if…

Here are some tips to add some extra fuel to your creative fire:

  • Think about different settings. Work, home, school, travel.  It leads us to interrogate our experience in a more focused way, hopefully leading us to more fruitful ideas. We now ask ourselves “At work, wouldn’t it be great if…” and “When I go on vacation, wouldn’t it be great if…”
  • Try it as a team.  Have a no holds barred brainstorming session with your partner, friends or colleagues
  • Don’t block your own ideas.  Progress can happen fast.  My great-grandfather saw the first powered flight and men land on the moon in his lifetime.  Your “wouldn’t it be great if…” idea may help you develop a business that is the first step on the journey to something incredible

So, get that notebook out and pen in hand and start now: Wouldn’t it be great if…

3 Ways to Come Up with a Winning Business Idea

3. Cutting Out the Middleman

Is there a product or service that you can deliver in a better way by removing an intermediary?

Take this example.  Dollar Shave Club removed bricks and mortar retailers from the razor blade business. Warby Parker does this for eyeglasses.  Which industry is ready for a shake up? Can you cut out a step of the buying process, and make it a better experience for customers?

3 Ways to Come Up with a Winning Business Idea

These tips should help get you started:

  • Take a single product.  Let’s say, a can of Chicken Noodle Soup.  List every business that has played a part in getting that can in to your cupboard. Everything from the chicken farmer to the grocery store.  Could any of these businesses be excluded or combined? That may be your opportunity.
  • Start with industries that have been slow to respond to technological advances.
  • Are there international examples that you can bring to Alberta?
  • Read this short blog to find out more

Remember: the 3 strategies listed here are starting points.  They are meant to give your brain a workout and it is important to give yourself permission to think big and not worry about every detail of how you will execute your idea.

Now that you have your amazing idea, you’ll need to work through the important steps of research and planning—lucky for you, our Strategists are the experts at guiding you from business idea to business launch.