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How to Find Business Plan Ideas within Your Work Environment

Don’t overlook your work environment for business planning inspiration. A survey of 500 of the fastest-growing companies in the United States showed that nearly half grew directly out of the founders’ previous work environments.

In other words, the founders created these companies after looking around at what they were doing and saying, “There has to be a better way to do this.” Solutions to challenges also often come from within. After all, who knows your business better than you and your employees?

Many companies require employees to sign non-compete agreements. These agreements usually prohibit former employees from engaging in competitive businesses for a set period of time. If you’ve signed a non-compete agreement, make sure your new venture doesn’t violate its terms.

Although people inside the company are an invaluable source of new ideas, there are many examples of companies that recognized the challenges they faced but were completely unable to come up with effective strategies to meet them.

The reason: People inside a company, who are used to the way things work, often have trouble thinking outside the box. Even sole proprietors and small business people run into the same problem. They’re so close to the company and its way of doing business that they can’t see the forest from the trees.

One approach is to bring an outside consultant in — someone who sees your business and its challenges with fresh, unbiased eyes. Hiring a consultant can be expensive. Another approach, if you have employees in a variety of positions, is to ask someone from an unrelated part of the business to look at the problem and suggest solutions.

When considering new business possibilities, keep in mind that 99 percent of all businesses (both old and new) fall into one of three broad categories:

  • Products for sale: Consider the range of products that your industry offers.

    • Can you think of innovative ways to make them better?

    • Can you imagine a product that completely replaces them?

    • What new product would knock you out of business if the competition offered it first?

  • Services for hire: Consider the services that your industry offers.

    • Do you notice problems with consistency?

    • What isn’t being done that should be?

    • What do customers complain about?

    • What new services would threaten your business if the competition offered them first?

  • Distribution and delivery: Ask yourself similar questions about your distribution and delivery systems.

    • What are the most serious bottlenecks?

    • Can you think of clever ways to improve distribution?

    • Can you envision a radically new delivery system?

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