The Best Idea for Starting a Business

I have a section of my computer’s desktop dedicated to small business. There’s a file with over 60 ideas for future articles to write. There’s another file filled with ideas on businesses I want to start in the future. There’s a folder with half-finished concepts and links to things I might find useful someday, even though I’m not sure how yet. There’s a list of books that I want to read, a list of my goals over the next year in our current businesses, links to legal issues and business plans, you get the idea.

Just when I thought I was the only one all over the place I met a woman today that is in the middle of starting three businesses and mentioned she has ideas for about 10 more. She doesn’t seem to be gaining a lot of traction in any of them because her focus is split in so many different directions. My conclusion is that most people with a sense of business acumen have no shortage of good ideas to choose from…

Where we, as small business owners run into trouble, is filtering out the good ideas from the bad ideas, and then developing the right ideas from what’s left.  

Before I started my first business I wrote over a dozen business plans and considered over 30 possible business ideas. In fact, the whole process from the day I decided to start a business to the day we opened our doors took more than 3 years of planning, research and development. The process was both very interesting and incredibly boring!

The earlier steps, taking more than 30 ideas down to a dozen, weren’t so bad really. Some were good ideas but not ones that I would be able to, or likely to put together successfully. Others were in saturated markets or declining markets and just didn’t offer enough opportunity to justify the intense effort required to start a new business. Other businesses did seem to make enough sense on the surface to warrant digging much deeper.

I considered the economics of owning several types of real estate (apartments, rental homes, and commercial properties), commercial and residential construction along with other construction related businesses, as well as several automotive based options including luxury/high performance modification, motorsports, and automotive repair. With a list of about 12 possible choices I researched the industries; the costs involved, how to acquire customers, and considered the scalability of the businesses as well as how they fit into my future goals. Through this process I found the “right idea” was in the auto repair industry and we opened our garage a little over 3 years after starting this journey.

Interestingly this process never seems to stop once the business is up and running. In the opening paragraph I mentioned a list of goals in our current business. The file actually contains a list of ideas and specific things we want to implement into the company as we grow and we use it to filter out the right ideas in the right order, and then accomplish them one at a time or in small manageable chunks.

What I have discovered through this process in the importance of finding and developing the “right ideas”. This means we need to have a clear vision of what we desire and what we want to accomplish in the big picture so that we can develop the best ideas to move us in that direction. Once we have discovered the right idea we need to develop the plan and stick to it, not letting ourselves get pulled off course by other “good ideas”. As Jim Collins says, “Good is the enemy of great!”

How does this apply in your business/life? Do you have a vision for where you want to go? Are you filtering out the “right ideas” to get you there? Remember, you only have a limited amount of resources to invest and we don’t want a “good idea”, we want the “right idea” that gets us to where we really want to be.

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