By Nilooka Dissanayake
In the past two articles we considered how you could find a business idea that is capable of satisfying a prospective group of customers at a profit that is at the same time suited to your aspirations and circumstances. Today let us examine further how you can develop that business idea.
Tread with Caution
In developing your business idea you should tread with caution. What you decide and do today will have long term repercussions for yourself, your family and for your business. Get ready to develop the business idea in the same manner you would get ready for a long journey – by gathering all the necessary information and by equipping yourself with whatever the gear that is necessary for the journey. Build up your skills in the same way that you would strive for health and fitness in anticipation of a long journey. Take decisions carefully.
Take heed of an old African adage:
“Only a fool tests the depth of the water with both feet.”
This article is useful for those of you who have already identified a number of possible business ideas as well as for those still trying to find that elusive business opportunity.
Business opportunities are many and varied. Consider the following questions adapted from the Sinhala publication “Sulu Vyaparayak Arambamu” or Starting a Small Business (ISBN 955-8429-00-7). They will help you choose from among the many possible alternatives:
- Can I make, assemble or repair some product?
- Can I provide some product or service to another business?
- Do I have the ability to capture some part of a large market?
- Can I add value to an existing product or service in some way? – That is, Can I do something for a particular group of customers to fulfill a need that is not being fulfilled at present?
- What are the opportunities I can discover through the changes taking place in society and the latest trends?
- What can I change, convert or imitate?
- Can I become a distributor or a service agent for some other organisation?
- Can I go into an import or export business?
- Can I teach, co-ordinate affairs for someone or provide consultancy services?
- Can I buy an existing business?
These questions will also enable you to develop and build upon your basic idea.
Whether you are searching for a suitable business idea or developing an already identified idea, try to be creative; let your hidden creative abilities take over some of the work. Here are a few tips to help you be more creative:
In his book titled “Thinkertoys,” Michael Michalko recommends that you SCAMPER – i.e. Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Modify, Put to other uses, Eliminate or Reverse. So try and SCAMPER something to find or improve your business idea.
Look at any familiar object or activity and see how you can SCAMPER with it.
The makers of soft drinks have substituted our cup of tea or even the glass of water we take after a meal. Food processors have successfully combined noodles together with dehydrated vegetables and even soup. The modern providers of herbal and ayurvedic products and services have successfully adapted and modified age-old formulae, recipes and treatment techniques to suit the modern-day requirements. Toothpaste has more or less eliminated the need for toothpowder. The versatile two-wheel tractor has more or less managed to eliminate the use of buffaloes among farming communities around the world; it is also used for transportation of people and goods, for threshing of grain and for separating the grains from the husks. It can be put to a large number of uses after being combined with necessary implements. All these people dared to SCAMPER. Then why not you?
Ask yourself why something is necessary? Where should it be done? When should it be done? Who should be doing it? What should be done? How should it be done? These are good questions to ask yourself in respect of your business idea. What other uses? is another useful question to help you add value to anything at all. Your quest should be to offer a better quality competitive product or service to your potential customers. Then you will be in a position to satisfy your customers in a way that will surpass their expectations. And they will be willing to pay a price for your product or service.
In trying to be creative, beware of the stumbling blocks to creativity. This is how to stop being creative:
- Be remorselessly practical
- Be logical
- Follow the rules – Can you hear yourself saying “This is how we have always done it!”
- Be serious and take yourself seriously
- Don’t be curious
- Avoid ambiguity and jump into conclusions at the slightest chance
- Believe that you should not risk making mistakes and also that your mistakes will be punished.
- Believe you are not creative – easy enough for most of us – isn’t it?
- Believe that there is only one right answer and that you know it
Don’t rush into making decisions regarding your business idea. If you let your creativity work it’s magic, every human situation and need will open up limitless potential business ideas for you.
On the other hand, to be creative forget about being practical. Logic itself cannot be proved – can it? So it doesn’t matter anyway! And rules? What rules? Freak out and have fun being creative. Curiosity may have killed the cat, but you are not a cat – so go ahead and be curious. As Albert Einstein said “The important thing is to not stop questioning.” Enjoy ambiguity. Mistakes help you to learn and to correct yourself in the future. The great inventor Thomas Edison had this to say about his own mistakes: ” I haven’t failed, I’ve found 10,000 ways that don’t work.”
Your mind is your greatest asset – so believe you are creative and you will become creative. As for the right answers, there are enough to go around. Don’t they say there’s more than one way to skin a cat? Instead of believing you know all the answers keep on searching.
The human mind is like an umbrella. Iit functions best when open.
~ W. A. Gropius,
Don’t rush into making decisions regarding your business idea. If you let your creativity work it’s magic, every human situation and need will open up limitless potential business ideas for you. As a result you may end up with more than one business idea which you’d like to explore. This is great, but you should try to limit the number to a few selected ideas. Just because you have a number of ideas, many of these may not turn out to be profitable business opportunities.
How can you identify the feasible business opportunities? This will be the subject for our next week’s article.
The Sinhala publication mentioned above, “Sulu Vyaparayak Arambamu” is one of a set of six books published by Athwela (Private) Limited, the publishers of Athwela Vyaparika Sangarawa, the Sinhala business journal targeted at educating the small and medium sized business operators. The other books in the set, all published in Sinhala, are titled Starting a Home-based Business, Marketing for the Small Business, Financial Management for the Small Business, Managing the Small Business and Record keeping for the Small Business. Athwela Vyaparika Sangarawa, the Sinhala business journal also deals with the many aspects of starting and developing a small business. All of these are currently out of print.