Entrepreneurs don’t wait until they have their “eureka moment” to start a business. In fact, most of the truly successful businesses are not new ideas, but a fresh approach to an old business:
Groupon did not invent the deal-of-the-day business when they launched in 2008. Most credit Woot as having started the phenomenon in 2004 -- Groupon just put a fresh spin on the model by focusing on local retailers in a specific city.
Can you find a local spin on an idea that is working nationally? Or vice versa?
Lululemon Athletica is in the business of selling comfortable sportswear. They happened to use a yoga vibe to peddle their comfy pants.
Can you take an exiting concept and mash it together with a pop culture trend?
Five Guys did not invent the hamburger joint, they just super-sized it.
Can you make a larger, smaller, fatter, thinner, taller, shorter version of something someone is already selling?
Google didn’t invent the search engine, they just made searching for stuff better than it was with Yahoo!
Can you take an exiting business and make it 5 percent more efficient?
Apple did not invent the laptop (the IBM 5100 was first), they just made it better.
Can you take an existing product and make it sexier?
Salesforce.com allows you to access your contacts through a web browser, but they didn’t invent customer relationship management software.
Can you find a new place to distribute something that has been around for years?
In my own case, I had an idea for an audio tapes series (yes, before CDs died, and a decade before iPods) to broadcast the stories of successful entrepreneurs. The tape series flopped but I was able to salvage some of the demo reels, which I sent to a radio station that liked the concept. My radio show led to a nationally syndicated feature. One of the show’s sponsors, RBC Royal Bank, asked for my opinion on how the entrepreneurs I was interviewing would react to an advertising campaign they had planned. I gave them my thoughts and that morphed into a consulting company that provided advice to large companies targeting small business. I then tweaked the consulting model to a subscription business, which was acquired by The Corporate Executive Board (NASDAQ: EXBD) in 2008.
My idea of a tape series was a dud but I never would have figured out a tenable business model had I not taken that clumsy, awkward first step.
Mark Zuckerberg did not envision a social network of 500 million users when he hacked into Harvard’s mainframe to set up the now-famous “hot or not” online voting platform which would ultimately morph into Facebook.
So if you’re still waiting for your “killer idea”, stop. The most successful entrepreneurs make small incremental improvements to existing ideas. They place a premium on starting, learning and adapting. They go when they are 80 percent of the way there and use the feedback of the market to get them the rest of the way.
Do you know someone who is still waiting for the perfect idea?
* * * * *