"Keep on going and the chances are you will stumble on something, perhaps when you are least expecting it. I have never heard of anyone stumbling on something sitting down."
Charles Kettering, 1876–1958
American inventor, holder of over 300 patents. Founder of Delco Electronics Corporation and head of research for General Motors for 27 years.
The collection of diverse events you have experienced during your lifetime is unique to you.
Every day you make decisions about the progress of your life, from brushing your teeth to choosing what task to do first. You are an individual and you make innumerable decisions with infinite outcomes. Explore the way you live your life and question why you make certain decisions – could you do things differently?
Use all of your experiences and connections to find insights and opportunities that no one else has the eyes to see.
You will never, ever meet anyone exactly like you. This is your primary competitive advantage.
"Opportunity often comes disguised in the form of misfortune, or temporary defeat."
Napoleon Hill, 1883–1970
American author who was one of the founders of the genre of personal success and self-help books.
Look at products and services and think about the problems they solve. What annoys or upsets people is a source of opportunity: the washer would not have been invented if it were not for a dripping tap.
Many entrepreneurs make the mistake of believing that there must be favourable economic conditions when they're trying to generate ideas, but in a declining economy many problems also need to be solved. High interest rates force people to seek credit management advice. The unemployed need assistance finding jobs. Companies worried about their future growth plans may be able to develop consulting opportunities.
There will always be problems that need to be solved.
"We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak."
A Greek Stoic philosopher who taught that individuals are responsible for their own actions and that we have a duty of care to all fellow humans.
When selling a product or service, listen to your customers to understand their requirements. Customers already have an idea of what they want to buy.
Don't spend most of the meeting telling your clients what you can do for them – you can miss the opportunity entirely. Base your sales pitch on customer-specific needs and tailor an individual solution.
If you are passionate about your product, this will show through even if you have no specific sales training. If there is a market for your product, convey the best solution to meet the client's needs and customers will understand.
A sale is simply a conversation.
"My advice is never to set out just to be rich. Do what you love to do and if in the process you become rich then regard it as a bonus."
James Dyson, 1947–
British designer, inventor of the dual cyclone bagless vacuum cleaner and a fast hygienic hand dryer.
Group your interests and pastimes together and see if there is a way to turn what you love doing into a business. When you enjoy what you do every day, will it feel like work?
If you have a hobby, then start a business around it. You will be more willing to progress and learn than if you're starting from scratch in an industry you don't yet fully understand.
All entrepreneurs work hard and for long hours. If you're going to spend late nights and early mornings on your business, it must be something you enjoy with a passion.
"Skill without imagination is craftsmanship and gives us many useful objects such as wickerwork picnic baskets. Imagination without skill gives us modern art."
Sir Tom Stoppard, 1937–
Multi-award-winning British playwright and screenwriter.
If you don't try new things you may never find the roots of your future success.
You may need to learn a particular skill to plug a gap in your business – but once in a while, also be interested in something you would never normally give time to.
Embrace new things away from your day-to-day routine. Try a new sport, research a new industry, go on a course or volunteer to help in a friend's business for a day.
Try fresh and different experiences and grow ongoing opportunities for further unique insights.
"If I have seen a little further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants."
Isaac Newton, 1643–1727
British physicist, mathematician and astronomer, one of the most influential scientists in history.
You can often find opportunities in existing products that have been around for so long that their failings and costs seem normal to the consumer.
Airlines such as easyJet and Ryanair took the travel industry by storm, offering no-frills air travel at an attractive price. Their flights weren't radically different to what others were offering – they were simply cheaper and delivered access to air travel to a mass market.
The changes you make don't have to be complicated: the simpler, the better.
Build on the advances in technology that others have created to move ahead with your own ideas.
"Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution."
Albert Einstein, 1879–1955
German patent office worker who became the most influential theoretical physicist in recent history.
Children don't seem to be constrained by what they already know and understand. Listen to the stories they create and the make-believe games they enjoy. Where do these ideas come from?
We all had access to our inner child once upon a time, but a sense of conformity creates the need to be accepted as an adult, so we tend to switch off our creative imagination.
Creativity is also stifled at work, especially in corporate environments. Develop your own creativity by reading, drawing, singing and playing games.
If you exercise your creativity then it will be ready to work for you when you need it most.
"Making money is a hobby that will complement any other hobbies you have, beautifully."
Scott Alexander, 1976–
British millionaire and socialite, often cited in the media as 'the most vain man in Britain'.
Research a seemingly uninteresting subject right now by purchasing a magazine on an obscure topic. You will always find something you didn't know, which may spark an idea for an opportunity.
If magazines were of no interest then they wouldn't be able to sell copies or advertising space. They have to be interesting to someone, otherwise they would go out of business.
Every pastime or hobby is interesting to the people who enjoy it for a reason; find out what that reason is and see if it can be a benefit to your business.
"Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery."
Charles Caleb Colton, 1780–1832
English cleric, writer and collector.
Your ideas need to be protected as soon as possible. Ideas are worth money.
Contact local patent and trademark representatives to learn how to protect yourself from imitation and ensure you have the rights to your invention or idea.
The simplest way to protect your ideas is not to tell anyone until you are ready to launch, unless they have signed a non-disclosure agreement (NDA). Find a standard NDA on the Internet and tailor it to your needs. Once you are emotionally involved with a start-up it can be incredibly difficult to keep it a secret, especially as you will need to begin researching the idea and the market opportunity.
"For a dream to become reality, make it real enough to believe in."
Peter Jones, 1966–
British entrepreneur recognized for his lead role in the UK BBC series Dragons' Den, with interests in media, mobile telecommunications, leisure, property and television.
Can you clearly convey your business idea in 5 to 10 seconds?
A good elevator pitch is a set of short statements covering who you are, what you do, and how your goods and services can offer real value to customers. Use this to encourage people to ask you further questions on the nature of the business.
The elevator pitch was created for use during conferences, when you may meet an influential person in a lift and only have the time it takes to travel between floors.
Keep your pitch simple, understandable and concise and it will be a good introduction to your business.