Generating Business Ideas
Below are a few simple tricks to help spark the creative idea generation process.
Use Personal Frustration for Inspiration
Over the years we have learned that frustration can be the catalyst for innovation. If you harness the power of your personal frustration and combine it with something you are passionate about, amazing ideas and solutions can come from it.
For example, in 2005, our CEO, Dan Daugherty began to become more and more passionate about real estate. Within 9 months, he invested in 9 different rental properties. As these properties remained vacant, he needed to find more creative and resourceful ways of getting them rented or he eventually wouldn’t be able to afford the monthly mortgage payments. With his knowledge of how people search, he knew he couldn’t just post the properties in one newspaper or even one rental site. He needed to post on many. He began to post his 9 rental properties on 10 different rental sites. That equates to 90 postings. If he wanted to change the rental price, he would have to do it again 90 more times. This major personal frustration was the catalyst to try to solve it.
Dan began to write down ideas on how to solve this problem. It didn’t’ matter how crazy the ideas were. He didn’t worry about resources. He just wrote them down. He had ideas ranging from paying neighbors to put signs in front of their houses promoting his properties to developing a network of real estate agents to show and rent the properties out for him. He finally ended on the idea of building software to automatically post rental property listings on multiple rental related websites with a click of the button. This personal frustration has led to a solution that has generated 8 figures in sales and has outlasted many competitors.
See into the Future for Inspiration
Another exercise you can do to generate new business ideas is to look into the future to see what products you think will have mass adoption based on the current technology. For example, in 2008, Apple launched the app store. If you believed that this phone and platform was going to be a massive success, you could have thought of new business ideas or apps that you could have built to be part of this new revolution.
You can also leverage market research to determine where technology is going and build your business ideas around that. After reading some market research about the home automation market growing to $79.57 billion by 2022,we decided to figure out how we could solve problems associated with home automation within the multifamily industry. For example, if an apartment wanted to add home automation they would need to solve challenges for both the renter and the onsite property management team.
A renter needs to be able to control their thermostat, locks and lights from their phone but the property managers also need to have access to changing lock codes, changing app access, detecting moisture if there is a leak, setting rules to ensure thermostats don’t fall below a certain temperature, allowing access to communal areas and all of this needs to be incorporated into their property management software. We took all of these unique problems and launched a solution for them called remotely.com. Remotely was the first to offer home automation specifically designed for the multifamily industry. It won numerous competitions and rewards and was off to a great start.
Think 10x Better
Many ideas you might come up with are probably already out in the business universe. This is actually a good thing, it means there is a market for it. Some of the world’s greatest inventions piggybacked on top of products and ideas that were already out in the market. Thinking 10x will help you expand your mind to think of ideas that you may have thought were impossible to create before. When you eliminate mental barriers, your creative conscious and unconscious mind will begin to take over.
Take a leading competitor or two within your industry and begin writing down ideas, products and or features that you believe would be 10x better than the competition. Don’t limit yourself to your current resources right now, assume you have unlimited resources. This will not only help you do some competitive research, but it will also help you focus on some of the customer problems that may exist.
In some service-related industries like property management, your 10x could be focused on improving the service levels for both renters and owners. For example, over 50% of all renter leads that currently come into property managers go unanswered. This is an absolutely horrible experience for renters looking for their perfect home. One idea to increase this service 10x is to develop a strategy to ensure 100% of the incoming phone leads are answered by a human and to ensure email leads are responded to within minutes. What if you made it dead simple for the renter to book a time to see the property with one click of the button? What if you used automation to help renters do self-showings? What about developing an app to submit maintenance requests, pay rent, give feedback and book local restaurants or services at a steep discount for being part of your property management network? What if you supplied your owners with semi-annual filter replacements and services to increase the longevity of their AC, heater, and appliances in their home?
Even though we do this exercise assuming we have unlimited resources, it is important to keep in mind that if all or most of the ideas you come up with need significant amounts of capital or time to get started, then it is time to think about a different industry or product. Remember, we want to build a long-lasting, impactful and profitable business with very few resources. If your idea is to build a better rocket ship or a self-driving car, you will need significant amounts of money and people, which doesn’t align with the IDEAL Method for Resourceful Startups.
At the end of the day, with the IDEAL Method, you don’t necessarily need to be 10X better than your competition. In reality, you could have a marginally better product or service in a large growing market and still be incredibly successful. Your competitive advantage will actually be your resourcefulness. You don’t need to be 10x better, you just need to think 10x differently.