Struggling to come up with a business idea?
If someone is hell bent on a business, but is out of ideas, I always suggest trying (and bear with me, it’s about to get cringey), to make the world a better place.
Struggling to think of a business idea?
Gentle reminder — new year doesn’t have to mean new you. It doesn’t have to mean a new morning routine beginning at 5am, or a commitment to running a marathon. If you really want to, great! But a new year can be just that… a new year.
But a new year does mean a lot of people re-evaluate their careers. And often people turn to the idea of running a business. In just the last week, three of my friends have turned to me with a gleam in their eye and nonchalantly (for fear of judgement presumably) mentioned their desire to run a business.
I always start with a warning. Running a business is hard. Studies have shown just how unlikely it is a business will ever reach their tenth year (roughly 4%) or hit a turnover of $10m (under 0.4%). Other studies have shown that yes, luck, timing, hard work and a great product are all indicators of success… but the biggest is actually grit. Having the tenacity and sheer single-mindedness to stick it out when the pressure is almost unbearable.
“…luck, timing, hard work and a great product are all indicators of success… but the biggest is actually grit.”
Once that is out of the way we talk about the idea. This will go in one of two ways. They’ll have an idea and we’ll chat about it, or they won’t, but they still love the idea of going into business for themselves. Which obviously, I understand. I started and sold two start-ups when I was nineteen and twenty-one respectively, and currently run several others. I totally get the desire and it goes without saying that the financial upside if things go well is well worth it.
So, if someone is hell bent on a business, but is out of ideas, I always suggest trying (and bear with me, it’s about to get cringey), to make the world a better place.
If you’ve ever read anything I’ve written, it’s a common trend that I believe business is the way to change the world for the better, making it a kinder, fairer place for people and planet. But business as usual doesn’t really do that.
If you don’t have a business idea, why not take a business, or product that already exists, and change the operating model.
I’m going to use the example of one of the company’s that Nous (an investment fund Tristan Roberts and I co-founded) invested in as an example. Critical Supply sells instant coffee. Without question a saturated market that it will be hard to make a dent in. There are already hundreds of brands on the shelf, and one of the biggest companies in the world dominates the coffee aisle. The marketing investment needed to stand out boggles the mind.
But the two founders also believe in a better world through transparent, fair supply chains and they have sourced a fair-trade instant coffee that is made in Tanzania, ensuring the entire value chain is held by the producer.
They have taken an existing product, and used it to make a unique business, with a solid story that will stand out on a crowded shelf (with some impactful marketing of course), simply by doing what all coffee brands should be doing and making it fair trade with a genuinely transparent supply chain.
This is what I encourage my friends to do. And what I encourage you to do. If you have a longing to control your own destiny, but really don’t have that lightning bolt idea, look around you. What can you do better, fairer, more equitably, more sustainably? What product can you tweak so that it’s less resource intensive, or so the packaging is home compostable, or reusable, or is done away with altogether? What can you do to a supply chain to make it benefit all involved?
Business is changing. The flawed Milton Friedman idea that business simply exists to make money for the shareholders is the dominant idea now sure, but it is causing no end of problems for people and planet and is slowly but surely being rejected by consumers.
Business is changing. The flawed Milton Friedman idea that business simply exists to make money for the shareholders is the dominant idea now sure, but it is causing no end of problems for people and planet and is slowly but surely being rejected by consumers. Over three quarters of people under forty believe businesses need a purpose beyond making money in order to exist. Profit should not be the sole driver.
So get out in front of the trend and get involved in making the world a better place. And build yourself a business and a different life (if that’s what you want) at the same time.