Do you always admire other entrepreneurs who seem to have gotten it all together? Though business ideas are not the exclusive preserve of anybody – they don’t always come like a flash of inspiration either! Most of the time, you need to make a conscious effort to capture the kind of idea that will lead to a product or service people want and will pay for.

There are traditional ways of getting good business ideas such as brainstorming and environmental scanning but I am going to talk about 7 (seven) newer, somewhat unconventional ways first.

1. Listening

“Are you kidding me?” did I hear you say. No, I’m not. I am 100% serious. “What the heck am I supposed to listen to?” Listen to what people around you say or complain about. The news, your intuition, the voice of God. Listen carefully. Like the broadcaster says on the radio “stay tuned”; there is usually fulfilment of purpose, an opportunity to be realised and good old money to be made when we listen- carefully.

2. Identifying your Core values

If you thrive best in finicky, picky, almost sterile environments, then cleanliness must be one of your core values. For others it could be adventure, utmost integrity, compassion or service. What do people constantly admire you for? I have known people who successfully turned their love of cleanliness into a janitorial business. Remember Mother Theresa? See how she turned compassion into a calling, and a mission which could not be ignored.

3. Don’t restrain your personality

From happy- go- lucky and expressive to reserved and melancholic, there is a business idea suited to each. Can you imagine a melancholic running an after-hours bar? Come on, don’t laugh! With a face as long as a Long John Silver (no pun intended).

To drive home my point, I know my sister will kill me for this but here goes: at the time when the teenage years meant giving as many excuses as possible in order to dodge household chores,my youngest sister practically revelled in mopping the entire house and organising lunch to boot.

On one occasion when we had to make a trip, she was also the one who had the nerve to ask the air hostesses on board to guess her name and they gleefully marched her to meet the pilot in the cockpit! What a personality for Event management or Talk Show Hostess! But she didn’t toe those paths.
4. Unveil your talents

You have probably heard the injunction “Your gift will make away for you”.

Just yesterday, I was watching the very first Nigerian Idol, Yeka, talk about how she realised that her talent in singing was something that had to be nurtured and properly harnessed. She did just that and secured a place in the talent show. Little surprise she came tops but the story didn’t end there. She went on to be the opening act for SHALAMAR in the Oxygen Pavillion London (where Michael Jackson was billed to perform) and has recorded her very first single. Now she has built a business around her talent by adding on voiceovers and the like.

5. Engage in conscious exposure

Never been out of your own state? The Museum is not on your agenda, right? WRONG! This is the time to seek for business ideas in fresh new surroundings. Even when the hike or cross country race seems gruelling, there could be a rose amongst the thorns somewhere.

Go on and conquer distant lands, like Maria in the Sound of Music, “Climb every mountain, till you find your dream”.

6. Study well established companies

This could be in a formal study tour, casual visit, fact finding mission or whatever.

One of my mentors revealed the wealth of information that can gathered by just hanging out in the lobby of a big company. Information from suppliers, staff etc.

A colleague of mine absorbed information about a paint companies’ deal for distributors during a study tour and promptly applied to be one. He now runs a thriving paint distribution company.

7. Read widely

I repeat, read widely. From autobiographies to “How – To” guides, to reports and studies. Unearth the inner recesses of the internet and fill your mind with business ideas. The story of how large corporations and even nations were built are not just inspirational but oftentimes phenomenal. Read widely. Go on, make it a habit.

Now connect the dots

Sift what you listen to, extract problems in your environment, turn them upside down to find solutions. Identify your core values and align the solutions with what your inner being is comfortable with. Importation of exotic highly sought designer wear in one country may be called smuggling in another. Make sure you are also on the right side of the law.

Think of your personality; is there a good blend with this idea? List your talents and skills, ensure they are in sync with the other cabins in your idea train. Add a dash of spice from your conscious exposure to flavour the idea in a unique way. Finally, give yourself a reality check and ask, can this idea grow into one of the big corporations I visited? Read more about your idea, talk to people and again, listen

Getting a couple of good business ideas is not the end of it all. You need to subject your ideas to some tests, drill down and see which will really fly.

There is an international brand of small business training that can help you achieve this. Just keep watch this space for a coming attraction on “How to Generate Your Business Idea”.