New business ideas

A series of short practical articles on running successful and profitable small to medium size businesses.

Today we focus on the seeds of the tree — new life and ideas.

Imagine your business as a tree

The seeds of the tree grow other trees — they replicate and reproduce — they help the forest to grow.

Likewise, with a business the seeds are new ideas — without them businesses will eventually die away.

When was the last time you had a new idea?

New ideas are the lifeblood of thriving businesses.

If we stick with the same old products or services we will get the same old results and the chances are our competitors will soon overtake us.

Sometimes it is not easy to come up with new ideas on our own, especially when we are busy and maybe feeling stressed!

Here are a few ideas to help new ideas flow:

* Involve others — staff, friends, family, business mentor. Two heads are always better than one and it is much more fun brainstorming new ideas together!

* Start with a large sheet of paper and lots of coloured pens — write down all the ideas you can think of.

* Have fun doing it!

* Clear the decks — find some space and time — turn off your mobile phone — make yourselves comfortable.

* The art of good brainstorming is not to judge — write down every idea and then think about them one at a time. Be careful about your own judgments — just because you might not do it, doesn’t mean it is a bad idea. It might not be right for your business at this time but it might be in the future!

Once you have a long list of ideas then leave the list on the wall for a few days — let everyone read and think — allow time for incubation and thinking.

Then, again with other people, work through each idea and create a short-list — try to rate them as (A) great ideas (B) good ideas and (C) good ideas but maybe not yet or not for me.

Then with the A list, choose one and start to plan, as you would with any other business process.

At this stage, if you haven’t already done so, engage an external person to give you her/ his opinion — this might be a mentor or accountant or other business colleague.

Some ideas might cost money or need new resources or new people while other ideas might be implemented with no new or additional investment.

Just because it is a great idea it doesn’t mean you can afford it now!

Good ideas don’t have to be big ideas — it might be something small but effective — a new way to display your products or a change to your website or your opening hours or your advertisement in the newspaper.

New ideas tell your customers that you are a forward looking business — they put out a good, positive message.

Like seeds multiply, so do ideas — start with one and you will end with many more.

Sometimes it is good to meet with other businesspeople in your area and brainstorm ideas together — the brain is very powerful yet we only use a fraction of it.

Look out for the dream-takers!

These are people who will always have something negative to say — they suck energy out of good ideas.

Share your ideas with people who are interested and who will have something positive to contribute.

Sew the seed, water it, feed it the right compost, nurture it and watch it grow.

Coming next — small businesses — high impact part 11 — the earth in which the tree grows — the marketplace.

Chris Elphick is director of Vanuatu-based Learn.fast Pacific, supporting the development of a range of businesses and organisations in Vanuatu, Fiji, Solomon’s and other Pacific countries. He is an experienced business mentor and has years of experience of working with small and medium enterprises. Learnfast Pacific works in close association with business support organisations including chambers of commerce and industry throughout the Pacific.

If you have a business issue for Chris to comment on or you want copies of other articles please contact him at chris@learnfastpacific.com

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