May 052011

I often come in contact with people that say “I don’t have a fresh idea to start my own business — so much has already been done” and my only answer is “so why’s that a problem…” because there is plenty of room for improvement.

Is every restaurant perfect? Was your last taxi ride perfect? Is every donut shop near your house perfect? How about your local frozen yogurt hole-in-the-wall?

Of course not.

You don’t have to invent new markets — you just have to improve on decent business ideas and make them better. Inventing something net new, creating demand when people don’t understand the need and are not yet looking for the solution, is tough sledding and full of risk.

Did RedBox invent DVD rentals or did the just make it cheaper and more convenient than BlockBuster? Did TIVO invent the idea of video recording a TV show, or did they just make it a lot easier, only to start losing out to unbranded DVRs a few years later?

Every time you go out into the surrounding world, think in terms of “could this be easier, simpler, cheaper, or better?” Each time you see possibilities for improvement, jot them down in your journal or your smartphone. Then, after 3 months or 6 months, rank your ideas (more on that next time).

You will be amazed at how big and vibrant the list becomes in a short amount of time. There is plenty of room, without creating the next new thing in a new market.

You only have to be 20% better to win a lot of marketshare. There is plenty of opportunity for the Optimistic Few.

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