| How to Discover Innovative Opportunities
|Let frustration be your guide for finding money-making ideas.
In a previous column (Why Innovate? To Make Money, of
Course!), I wrote that in order to make money from innovation,
you need to find a good problem to solve. I suggested that a
good way to find such a problem is to look at some of your daily
tasks and identify the ones you detest. I then suggested that if
you hate doing it, then there are probably countless other people
who hate it as well, which means that you have identified a
problem that needs solving. And, your solution might become
a million dollar idea.
Another way to discover a million dollar idea is when you’ve been
frustrated as a customer. But, don’t take my word for it. Thomas
Stemberg started several successful businesses after he was
frustrated as a customer. When he couldn’t find shoes that
properly fit his children’s feet, he started the Olly Shoes Fit for
a Kid! company. When a dry cleaner lost one of his expensive
shirts, he created the Zoots dry cleaning chain. And, when he
couldn’t find a printer ribbon on a holiday weekend, he founded
the STAPLES office supply store chain. Those are just three of
the many business ideas Stemberg had. He once said, “I get my
best ideas for starting a new business from having been
frustrated as a customer.”
That quote by Stemberg is like a roadmap for finding
money-making opportunities. Where have you been frustrated
as a customer? Perhaps you already have a million dollar idea
lurking in the back of your mind, because you know you can
do it better. Don’t just complain about it, and walk away. Go
deeper, think about it, explore the possibilities, and see if you
have what it takes to create a new business.
Here’s another scenario to ponder: How is your competition
frustrating their customers? If you can find that out, and
improve upon it, then you can take their customers away.
While you’re at it ask yourself: How am I frustrating my
customers? Ask them, they’ll happily tell you. Then you can
fix it; keep your current customers satisfied; and earn some new
ones with your improved product or service. That’s why so many
companies run customer-satisfaction surveys, so they can solve
problems that might be costing them money.
A great example of someone who was frustrated as a customer
and started a business because of it is Rico Elmore. Rico is a
big guy: he is six foot, three inches tall, and weighs 300 pounds.
When he got married, he and his wife went to Las Vegas for their
honeymoon. While there, he misplaced his sunglasses. No
problem, he thought, I’ll just buy a new pair. But, when he went
shopping he couldn’t find a single pair that fit his large head. He
went to several stores before giving up. There simply were
no sunglasses available in his size.
Frustrated, Elmore decided that when he got back home to
Indiana, he would have several pairs of sunglasses custom
made to fit his head. He was determined to never have this
problem again. He’d keep several pairs on hand, so he’d always
have a back up if one pair were broken or lost. Then while he
was doing his research on getting custom sunglasses
manufactured, it occurred to him that he couldn’t be the only
person with this problem. So, instead of only making a few
pairs for himself, Rico decided to start a company that specialized
in making sunglasses for people with big heads.
It took him a couple of years to figure it all out, but in late
2005 he launched his new company Fatheadz eyewear. By 2010
he had landed Walmart as an account and hit $2 million in
sales. The company has been growing ever since.
MAs you go through your life’s activities keep your eyes open,
or better yet your feelings. When you find yourself feeling irritated,
annoyed, or frustrated, look a little closer and ask, “Can I do this
better? Can I improve this situation? Is there a business opportunity
here?” Then maybe you can make the world a better place, by
coming up with a million dollar idea!
© Robert Evans Wilson, Jr.