Are you thrilled by the idea of starting your own business? You know you have the energy, enthusiasm and commitment of an entrepreneur, but you're missing one critical element to success: a good business idea. Don't get frustrated -- inspiration is all around you. Here are five tips on where to find good business ideas.
Problems and pet peeves
Good business ideas often solve a problem. Begin your search by listing the problems in your own life.
"Look for problems that no one has addressed yet," said Boris Wertz, founder of Version One Ventures. "These could be problems that you are having yourself, such as 'I wish this kind of product or service existed,'" Wertz said. Alternatively, look for problems that other people and/or companies are having.
"This approach tends to work best when you have experience with a certain company or industry, and can understand what their needs are," Wertz said. "You can build a better idea off of this experience."
A side project or hobby
Sometimes awesome ideas grow from a pet side project or hobby. If you're having trouble finding your next business idea, start a side project.
"Simply sitting down and trying to brainstorm ideas for a new business doesn’t normally work well for most," Wertz said.
"Instead, choose an area that interests you for your side project, and look for problems and issues that arise while you are working," he said. Wertz said to always keep your eyes open for problems that need solutions, and then to find ways to solve the problems you identify. "Spend time figuring out viable solutions to the issues and problems you have found during work on your side project," he said. "This is where you'll find the foundation for a great business idea, the solution to an identified problem."
Your business network
Remember the phrase "two heads are better than one?" Some of the best business ideas appear when you work with others, instead of on your own.
"I've seen great people waste years on terrible business ideas, and if there were one characteristic that separates them from the great ideas it's this: No ideas in isolation!" said international business coach Jacob Aldridge.
If you don't know where to find people who may help you come up with a great business idea, Aldridge says to begin by getting in touch with everyone you already know in the business world.
"Ask them all, even your accountant, for an introduction to the most interesting business person they know," he said.
Another source that may inspire new business ideas is LinkedIn. In addition to your existing network, look for industry-specific LinkedIn groups. "Familiarize yourself [with the topics] first by reading some of the articles and discussions," Aldridge said. Look for recurring questions or problems. The more discussion around a topic, the more likely it is to signal a potential business idea.
Business people you don’t know … yet
If you're really serious about finding the next great business idea, reach out to individuals beyond your own business network.
"Many innovators, especially young tech startups, are surprised to learn how easy it is to open doors and have conversations in industry," Aldridge said. "There are very few successful business people who won't take a meeting when someone asks, ‘Can you spare 30 minutes to help me understand what works well, and what doesn't, in your industry today?'"
Aldridge said that as your idea develops, feedback from these people helps you determine whether it's good or not, because you are attempting to solve their real-world problems.
"And if you can solve real-world problems for successful business people, then you have a great business idea," Aldridge said.
An often-overlooked source of new business connections that could lead to good business ideas is your own local community. Take a look at people who are often quoted in your local media, including business award winners. "I find it most useful to contact them about three weeks afterwards, when the immediate congratulations have quieted down," Aldridge said.
Outside of work
Getting frustrated because you just can't find that great business idea? Stop looking for it.
"One cannot find a great business idea, a great business idea finds you," said Greg Isenberg, a 25-year-old award-winning serial entrepreneur, founder of Wall Street Survivor and CEO of mobile video app 5by.com. He suggested finding a quiet spot outside to get your creative ideas flowing.
"Usually the best ideas are conceived with a pad of paper and pen while in a calm, isolated area, like the countryside or the beach," he said. "The best ideas flow when you’re out of your usual physical spaces like your local coffee shop or your home."