I recently ran a questionnaire about the concerns that our community has around setting up a profitable business.
If you have followed my emails and blog posts for a while then you will know that I like to deal in real world, hard information. I don’t believe in putting something out there unless it answers the question with hard facts and in comprehensive detail.
So if you contributed that questionnaire, thank you.
From the responses has come this new blog post series. In it I intend to tell you exactly how you can legitimately find and develop a profitable business idea from scratch.
No stone will be left unturned, and the guide is entirely structured around answering the questions that real people have about starting their own business.
Why do you need a profitable new business at all?
This is the KEY starting question, and you need to answer it right at the start of your journey.
Most people who read this, perhaps even you, will be doing “all right”. You will have jobs that pay the bills, own your own houses and provide for your families.
For others, this may not be a reality. But the principle is the same. Unless you are living hand to mouth from the government, then during your day-to-day reality you are surviving okay.
So what is driving you to start your own business?
Well, the reasons most people actually have when they drill down to the core of that desire may surprise you.
Initially, most people would say something along the lines of “I want more money!”. They may expand on that, by saying they want to supplement a future pension, have some savings, pay off their mortgage quicker.
But those initial financial reasons are not the real reason. They are a smokescreen that obscures their true motivation.
The truth is that nearly every response I’ve had, when you look beyond the money, is around two things:
- Freedom to make choices
- Freedom to manage time
In my survey, the word freedom was used in 50% of the responses. That in itself should tell you what you need to know.
So the first learning point is to understand that you do not want a profitable new business to have more money.
You really want more time and the ability to make choices through the freedom money brings.
So grab a pen and paper now and right a list of how your life will change if you had time and choice freedom. Aim for a least 10 things. I bet you come up with 20.
And please do write it all down, you will need it later.
Before we proceed I want you to talk to yourself.
Inside every one of us are two opposing voices. No, I’m not talking religion or spirituality here.
The commentator is in one side of your mind.
The commentator is your negative voice. It tells you that you should know better when something bad happens. It tells you that you will never achieve something.
There’s no way you can jump off that cliff tied to a piece of elastic. You’ll hit the bottom and die.
On the other side of your mind is your coach.
Your coach is the voice that tells you that you can do something.
You can jump off that cliff attached to a piece of elastic. It will be great.
You get the point.
If you’re listening to the commentator you will never develop your profitable new lifestyle income business idea. If you listen to your coach, you can.
Now I’m being honest here, not everybody will. I would be a liar if I said every single person who sets out to do this will achieve it.
But if your brain is telling you from the start that you are very unlikely to achieve it, then you stand a much higher chance of failing.
So before you start on this journey you need to start recognising the difference between the coach and the commentator so that you can deal with your negative thoughts.
Don’t get me wrong here. I’m not saying you should be unhealthily positive. I’m not saying you should take a leap in the dark based on pure faith, ignoring your common sense.
All I’m saying is that most of the reason we fail is because we talk ourselves out of it. How many times in life have you not done something only to then regret it when you later realised it was possible?
How many times in life have you seen somebody else benefit from something you thought about doing? Most of the time it’s just that they listened to their coach and you didn’t.
To highlight the importance of dealing with the commentator, let me make this point.
One of the questions in my survey was:
Which of the following would you say is currently holding you back from starting your own online business?
22% of respondents said they didn’t have enough time to start now.
That’s the commentator speaking.
Ask yourself this question. When will you ever have enough time to start?
Ask yourself another question. If you don’t start now, when will you?
Listen to the coach. You will find the time and you will succeed.
Choosing an idea is the hardest part of setting up your new business
That’s one hell of a statement. How can it be true? Surely the process of physically and technically setting this all that must be tougher?
The answer is no.
The reason is simple. Other people can help you with physically and technically setting up your own business. As you know, I do it all the time through my Automated Business System.
But if you do not believe in your idea then you will fail.
It doesn’t matter what I tell you, it doesn’t matter how I set up your business systems. If you don’t believe in the idea, you simply will not achieve it.
Believing in your idea means overcoming fear as well. And as you might know, fear is simply an acronym for False Evidence Appearing Real.
Deciding on a business idea that you going to develop is a potentially life-defining moment. It is the moment you go from being a person dreaming of lifestyle freedom to a person who is committed to a journey to achieve that dream.
It’s the moment when you transform your way of thinking. You stop thinking in the way 90% of our society does and you align your thinking with those 10% who succeed.
It’s a new way of thinking. It’s the way you must think from this point on.
Your business idea must align with your personal goals
What are your personal goals in life? Have you ever done goal-setting and worked towards achieving them?
I’m betting half of you haven’t. I’m betting 45% of the rest of you have, but didn’t stick with it.
That leaves 5% of you who are gloating right now, having already completed this journey.
Take a look at what you wrote down a little while ago. Remember, when I asked you to write down at least 10 things that would change if you had time and choice freedom.
If you didn’t do it, then you’re wasting your time reading any further. Setting up your own business is about going for it.
I’ve already told you I’m going to help you to clearly define a strong and profitable business idea to move forward. So if you are serious, why haven’t you written anything down yet?
So come on, give yourself a chance and do it now.
Right, so hopefully now you have a list of least 10 ways your life will change if you had time and life freedom.
Those are your goals.
Your aim is to get to your goals through using your new business as the platform.
So the next step to do right now is write down the steps you are going to take to achieve your goals.
So if one of your answers to how you will benefit from time and choice freedom was “I want to spend time with my children.” then lets add some detail on what needs to change to achieve that goal.
First of all, right down what that means. What will you do with your children? What is it you actually want to do in the time you will have with them? Visualise those wonderful times, imagine how you will benefit from creating that space to spend time with them.
Once you have an idea of what you will actually do when you get the time with your children, now it’s time to start working backwards. You won’t suddenly just have time with your children, your time will grow as your new business develops.
How does your time look with your children now? How will your time look with them a year after starting your business? In two years?
Only by defining where you want to be at the end of the journey, can you work backwards to understand how your important goals will develop over time, by mapping out the steps to achieving that goal.
Now it’s time to turn your goals into money
Now you have turned your list into some properly visualised goals it’s time to look at how much money you need to support them.
Look at how much you earn right now. If you doubled that income and cut your working hours in half could you achieve all your goals?
If the answer is yes, you have your starting financial formula for success. If you answered no, try three times your income and half your hours.
Anyone can say they want a million-dollar turnover business. Anyone can pluck a figure from the sky.
But only when you look at where you want to be, and then look at how your existing money and time would need to be scaled up to achieve it, can you get a solid reality into your financial business aspirations.
You must recognise what type of person you are for the future of your business
I don’t mean sex or race. I’m talking about your motivation for personal buy-in.
In my experience, you have to be passionate about your business for it to succeed.
But that passion falls into two very different types. Let me explain.
The first is passionate about the idea they settle on. That is the main driver in pushing the business. Yes they want to make money, but their real sense of achievement comes through passing that passion onto other people and delivering a service or product that is second to none.
The second is passionate about making money. They don’t really care what they are selling as long as they are selling it. They want quick wins and lots of money.
Neither of these mentalities is wrong.
But what I found is that the first type of person tends to create lifelong businesses. The second type of person creates businesses that either work quickly, or they walk away and try something else.
So want you to think about which type of person you are.
As I say, there is no right or wrong, but it will help when you when you come to define the idea you are going to use. As you develop your business, understanding your personal driver will also help you to make better decisions further down the line.
An important principle: your idea is never set in stone
Great businesses are always adapting and evolving. Almost every business that starts with a great idea looks nothing like that great idea five years down the line.
Although the core product, service or ethos is still there, the business is successful because it has been flexible enough to evolve.
In the context of you setting up your own lifestyle business, this means it is about you being flexible and evolving.
To put it bluntly, it means you mustn’t be precious and cling onto a single vision.
On the flip side of that, knowing when to quit is another skill you will have to learn. The best business people are smart enough to recognise when things simply aren’t working.
When developing your new business, you must be testing at all times. You must be analysing. You must be looking at the data and the feedback and adjusting constantly.
This means you are constantly working toward your business milestones, while also constantly looking at whether they need to be changed.
It also means being honest with yourself.
Changing direction through panic or misinformation is a disaster. I have seen too many people who just believe that an idea will work. Look at the TV program “Dragons Den” or “Shark Tank” for evidence of that blind faith being ruthlessly shot down in flames.
Some people simply do not have a flexible enough approach to achieving their business milestones. They focused on a single idea, and refuse to budge from it.
That is where having a coach alongside you can help immensely. That is why my Automated Business System works so well. Not only do I sort out all the technical side for you, but I am acting as your “wingman” throughout your first year in business.
So far, we have looked at the mindset you will need in order to successfully create and run your new online business.
Now we are going to look at exactly how you can generate ideas for consideration and then scrutinise each idea in detail to test is viability.
This is the “meat”. The step most people, maybe even you, have not succeeded in completing.
Create the right mindset to generate business ideas
A lot of people who responded to my survey felt the ideas they were coming up with for a business were not good enough to be successful.
A large number of people also made comments which demonstrated they had a fear of failing.
Still others said that they they didn’t have enough hours in the day, that they had other responsibilities to consider.
And others cited reasons such as lack of technological knowledge, not being an authority in any subject and even blaming failure before they have begun on other people in their lives.
These reasons all amount to the same thing.
Making excuses for doing nothing now.
You may think that is unfair, and obviously there are circumstances which simply stop you from doing everything you want right now.
But in my experience, most people are simply making excuses for not taking action.
The reason they are making these excuses is because they are scared of failing. If they don’t start, then they can’t fail.
It’s this negative mindset that you have to put to one side if you are to positively generate your new business idea and follow through on it.
Let’s start with an example for you
Before I go into the details of how you can generate great business ideas and then consider them in detail, let’s start with an “out there” example.
Let’s say that you have three pet cats. You love cats. You’ve always wondered if starting a cattery would be a positive, profitable and enjoyable business.
Now let’s go through some obvious barriers people will throw up to stop themselves starting that cattery:
- I don’t have space in my garden
- I don’t have the money
- I don’t have the experience
- I don’t know what the legal implications are
- I don’t think there is enough money in it
- I don’t see how it can be a hands off lifestyle business
On the surface all of those seem like very valid and genuine reasons for not using this idea as the basis of your business. It is also the completely wrong way to look at things.
Let’s address each of those reasons in detail, so you can see how problems can be overcome simply by changing the way you look at them.
Now I’m not saying you can overcome every problem and make every idea work, but I want you to look at this example as a way of approaching a problem from different angles to see if you can get the whole thing to work.
“I don’t have space in my garden.”
What about your parents? Is their land you could rent? Are you thinking of moving soon? Have you spoken to local farmers and landowners? Does anyone nearby have a large garden and good access, who might be open to renting some of it out?
“I don’t have the money.”
Could you start a website based on your passion first? Set up a group of online products telling people how to care for Cats. Blog about cats. My Automated Business System is perfect for this type of initial business structure, so could it be used to finance your future plans by investing a small amount now, to use for bigger plans later.
“I don’t have the experience.”
What is it you don’t have experience of? You know how to look after a cat. There are students and young mothers out there who also love cats who would work for minimum wage. There are also people out there who’ve already started a cattery before. Could you speak to them and offer them a fee in return for some mentoring?
“I don’t know what the legal implications are.”
These can be researched. Speak your local council or authority. Regularly place your own cat in a local cattery and chat to the owner, tapping them for information. Go on the Internet, there are cat lovers forums everywhere, there are loads of people on them who do have the experience and can advise you on what you need to do legally.
“I don’t think there is enough money in it.”
There are a lot of catteries around, so there must be some money in it. Plus, if you have already set up yourself online, making your initial income from a cat lovers site, then you have two streams of income rather than one. Look at your local catteries. Visit them and count the pens. Multiply that by the daily rate to get a feel for the maximum potential turnover.
“I don’t see how it can be hands off lifestyle business.”
Initially it won’t be. But that’s the same in any business. But as it grows, you can employ people. For minimum wage, there are tons of young mums and students out there who can pop in for a couple of hours a day to tend to the cats.
The point here is that whatever ideas you are considering, you have to approach every problem from different angles to come up with the solution to make it work for you.
Sometimes, problems will be showstoppers. But then a showstopper stops the show, simple as that.
Ditch it and move on to analysing another idea.
The best business ideas don’t have to be great
You may not have a passion for cats, but I hope you can see that even the mundane can work as a completely viable business online and then extended offline.
Reasons for not getting started creating a new business in the survey I set up included responses where people worried that they only had mundane ideas or that their ideas had already been done.
Your idea doesn’t have to be clever, complex or unique. So what does it have to be?
In my experience, the best ideas are simple solutions to specific problems. There is a famous proverb that says “necessity is the mother of invention.” This is completely true and is a great basis for designing profitable business ideas.
On the other side of that coin to addressing a need is offering a want.
The luxury market can be recession proof. By targeting the upper middle classes and above, you can create a niche business that is generally stable regardless of wider economic issues.
These people purchase based on what they want, not just what they need.
Let’s brainstorm your first group of business ideas
This is it. We are here. After telling you how you need to approach putting together ideas for businesses, now is the time to do it. So grab yourself a pen and paper.
But before you start, let’s give you some more information to help you come up with a better list:
- Think about your passions and interests
- Think about your skills
- Consider websites you regularly visit
- Are there things you’ve come across that you wish could have been done better?
- Think about the people around you and what they do.
- Think about what makes people money
- Don’t try to be too complex or clever
and if you are still struggling with general ideas, consider putting your own spin on an existing product or service:
- Can you make an existing product or service better?
- Can you make an existing product or service more appealing to a certain group?
- Can you make an existing product or service more results focused?
- Can you make an existing product or service more user-friendly?
- Can you make a premium version of a an existing product or service?
- Can you reposition an existing product or service to serve a niche better?
- Can you simply segment or repackage an existing product or service?
- Can you localise an existing product or service?
- Can you turn an existing product or service into a more hands-off experience?
- Can you improve a product or service through your personality traits others will buy into?
- Can you create a concierge experience from an existing product or service?
Let’s give you another example, just to make sure you’re still not struggling to come up with great ideas.
Let’s say you’ve had a career in the corporate world. You’ve done a lot of networking. You been to a lot of meetings, dinners, seminars, presentations and workshops. You’ve seen the good and the bad of the corporate world and how people interact in it.
But although you’ve gained a lot of experience, how on earth does that help you set up your own business, especially one you want to be predominantly online and hands off?
How about creating online courses for individuals and small businesses who struggle to network in the local business environment?
You have the experience, you can put together the initial draft and then hire freelance writer to create the core structures. Or through my Automated Business System, I can help you to do all that.
One month writing and designing the courses, and you are good to go. You can market that business online to anyone in the world, and you can approach local businesses. Setup costs are minimal, growth potential is massive.
Further down the line, once your experience and knowledge grows, you could use free online tutoring software such as Moodle to create segmented Virtual learning courses that businesses can tap into.
You could then create video courses to sell alone, or bundle up with existing courses as a premium version.
From one seed idea, in two minutes we have come up with the outline for a scalable business that does not require endless money and time to develop, just your core experiences defined in a problem-solving package.
So put your fears to the side. Put your excuses back in the box. Rule nothing out.
Grab a pen and paper write down your first 10 potential business ideas.
I’m hoping that you have already smashed your first 10 ideas, and now your brain is going haywire thinking it all through. Hopefully your mind is racing to develop paths to success for each one, you may even is gone as far as to start jotting down additional notes for each idea.
Now you have the information you need to come up with viable ideas, you will start to see ideas everywhere. So if you want, take some time to expand the list.
You could even make it a goal over the next two weeks to come up with a new business idea, complete with a few bullet points of how you would do it, every day. Get your mind conditioned to spotting opportunities everywhere.
That’s it for now! In Part two of this series we are going to discuss how to shortlist your ideas, analyse them and find your most profitable idea.