Find a good company concept

A good idea doesn't fall from the sky and is not served on a platter, ready to use. First you need to look for ingredients, i.e. observe, record, consult various sources, and discuss as much as possible. Where can you get your inspiration from?

Write a list of your skills, knowledge, and interests

To identify a profitable company concept, you need to first ask yourself where your personal strengths lie. What have you already done?  What do you do at the moment?  Do you currently have a talent or specific skill which could form the basis of a company?

Examples of professionals who have a specific skill and who create their own agency or consultancy firm are everywhere. However, don't just consider your professional knowledge! You should also consider what you like to do outside of work.  As an example, a person who likes dogs and enjoys walking could create a dog walking service.  Or perhaps you have an interest that could be developed and taken in another direction?  This same dog lover and amateur photographer in their free time could offer various ways of immortalizing the owner and their dogs using various media (photo, t-shirt, bag, digital postcard, etc.).

Obviously, you should then investigate the feasibility of each idea, but don't let the practical side of things hold you back at this stage !

Look for inspiration online and list the predominant trends

A good idea is rarely the result of a burst of pure inspiration. More often than not it is a combination of ideas, data and, thoughts.  There are many ideas for creating your own business available online.  Perform a search using the keywords "database business ideas" and you will find a huge amount of them!

Keeping an eye on trends can also help you spot potential ideas.  The Internet may also be a useful tool in this respect.  Observe the latest trends carefully, but consider future trends as well (in your sector) and try to work out how you could contribute.  You should also consider trends in society in terms of health, leisure, and environment as well as shortages, etc. If the population is an ageing one, it would be logical to assume that this sector requires more services, etc.

You may also be able to find ideas on forums or social networks, or on crowdfunding platforms.  Take note of what is being discussed on Twitter (trending), what the buzz is online or the terms most searched for on Google (via Google trends). Finally, don't forget traditional specialist literature, publications on new technologies, specialist magazines, strategy reports from consultants, or trend analyses!"

Consult patent databases

Patent databases help you find out if others have developed a similar idea.  There is a wealth of information in these databases. In addition, some patent-offices make their databases available to the public so as to help entrepreneurs detect new opportunities.  Around 90% of solutions found in patent databases can be copied freely.  In fact, many patent requests are no longer active because they were refused, because their applicants withdrew or cancelled them, or even because they have expired or the taxes were not paid by the applicants.  Other patents are granted, then abandoned rather quickly.  Without a patent, without protection, you are free to copy the idea.  Espacenet is a large database accessible to the public provided by the EPO, then European Patent Office.  It contains over 70 million documents relating to patents issued in over 80 countries.  

Consult business takeover sites

Several websites offer businesses available for takeover.  You may come across an idea when browsing the companies available for takeover! To get an overview of these businesses, see www.overnamemarkt.be / plateformedetransmission.be, Overnameweb.be and Bedrijventekoop.be (Flemish region) and www.sowaccess.be and www.affairesasuivre.be (Walloon region).

Consult legislation

The legislator provides (perhaps unwittingly) a source of good opportunities. Therefore, changes made to legislation may open doors.  The legislator may launch the development of new technologies and new job profiles.  Examples of this are the rapid increase in the solar panel sector or energy performance certificate specialists!

Look for sensitive points

Need is the key to any invention, and more specifically frustration caused by the existing offer, a lack of quality, process, etc. Your annoyance (as well as complaints from dissatisfied customers!) may be the origin of a new company.  First, identify these problems or sensitive points.  Where are the gaps, what annoys you? You are unlikely to be the only person bothered by a specific problem.  Then ask yourself exactly what could be improved, simplified, or made more efficient.  If your solution reduces the disruption, disorganization, stress, time lost, poor communication, or solves a poor collaboration, a poor operation, etc., then you are on the right track.  Try to recognize the market "demand” in order to develop your ideas.  Make sure that your concept provides a significant improvement, because consumers don't tend to change their habits unless they actually need to.

So if you are passionate about cooking, and if you get annoyed that the chicken dries out in the oven, think about how you could solve this problem! In the USA, an 8-year-old girl, Abbey Fleck, has become a multimillionaire because she found a solution for heating bacon in microwave ovens without it literally drowning in its fat.  Look around you, at home or at work, and see what you could change. 

However, your improvement may not necessarily result in a completely new product or service. Always check if your idea could give added value to an existing product or service.  For example, a local farmer cannot only sell his harvest at the market, but can also deliver a basket of fresh vegetables each week for a determined price.  By visiting various companies in your sector and observing and analyzing them, perhaps you can find ways to improve the efficiency of specific processes or operations.

Look beyond the borders

Some ideas are not suitable for "local" consumption, but may be suitable for other areas or give rise to exchanges between people/companies or countries.  Discovering what interests other cultures or populations, or analyzing commercial opportunities in other countries, may also be a great way of inventing a business concept.

In short, finding a company idea requires active and targeted research. However, it is important to ensure that your business creation ideas are as concrete as possible by expanding briefly on paper all the ideas that come to mind. Try to highlight the strengths and more realistic aspects, and analyze the feasibility of them.

Try out your ideas on your family, your friends and your professional advisers.  You will only know if this idea is a business opportunity when you present it in a business plan.

Updated 23/03/2018

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