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7 Ways to Think Up Great Startup Ideas

7 Ways to Think Up Great Startup Ideas

If you’re interested in startups, one thing that seems incredibly daunting is thinking up a great idea for your new venture. In reality though, ideas for startups are all around you if you know where to look. These are seven questions you can ask or things you can do to think up great startup ideas.

1. What do People Ask You For Help With?

It’s hard to start a company when you have no relevant skills. As someone who’s never painted since preschool, I’d have a hard time trying to make it as a painter. If you’re interested in starting a consulting or freelancing job, one of the simplest things you can do to come up with ideas is to think about what you’re friends and colleagues frequently ask you for help with. Maybe you’re the “excel wiz” everyone comes to, or you have great advice on public speaking. Any skill can usually be turned into a consulting business and eventually a product (such as online course, set of videos, etc.)

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2. What Annoys People in Your Life?

Go up to a few of your friends and ask them what annoys them the most about their day-to-day lives. There will be a lot of noise to sift through (you can’t easily fix traffic) but you might start to hear things that you can build a business around. Maybe all of your friends want a quicker way to shop online, or a way to find delicious new coffees; whatever it is, you could likely build a business around it, and you’ll already have a few interested customers.

3. What Do You Have an Ugly Solution For?

Odds are good that there’s something in your life you’ve cobbled together a partial-solution for. Something to save you a bunch of time that a full solution for doesn’t exist. Whatever the solution is, odds are good that other people are doing something similar or have thought about it, and if you can make a product that does it for them it will sell very well.

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4. What are People In Your Communities Looking For?

You are probably a member of a number of communities, both online and in real life. These could be forums, clubs, your job, or even sub-communities on sites like reddit. The benefit of having a community is that you already understand their wants and needs, and you can listen to see what they want to buy. You could go to a MeetUp group and try suggesting a few business ideas to see which one sparks the most interest, or post some ideas in a relevant subreddit to gauge people’s reactions.

5. What Makes People Mad?

JetBlue was created mostly because people hated airlines so much. They took an industry with a lot of animosity and created a solution that put the fliers first, and it’s done very well. You can find similar things simply by going to Google/Facebook/Twitter and searching for “I hate (something)” or similar. People love to complain on the Internet so you’ll be presented with a lot of startup ideas.

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6. Who is Your Sounding Board?

The #1 most important element to me in coming up with great ideas is having a few close friends to bounce them off of. Friends that can be honest with you about your ideas will save you a ton of time mulling over bad ideas and ignoring good ones, because they can poke holes in your bad ones and inspire confidence in your good ones. Even better, you’ll frequently talk to these people and together you’ll come up with an even better idea than what you’d originally started with.

7. Why Force It?

Sometimes when you try to force yourself to come up with ideas, you’ll be stumped. It’s hard to be creative on command, so one of the best things you can do is not sweat it, and instead get in the habit of jotting down every idea that comes your way. I try to come up with at least 10 ideas a day for anything (startups, blog posts, self improvements, etc.) and I always make sure to write them down. The more you get into the habit of capturing the inspiration that strikes you, the more you’ll become an idea machine.

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Nat Eliason

Writer and Host of Nat Chat

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Last Updated on February 20, 2019

The Most Critical Career Advice that Helps You Climb the Career Ladder

The Most Critical Career Advice that Helps You Climb the Career Ladder

You’ve got about three years in your current gig, and you love it. But you are reminded every now and then that there is greener grass somewhere. You would like for it to be here. But you’re willing to go elsewhere.

Regardless of whether you stay or go, you want more. How do you advance and skyrocket your earning potential? Where do you go to seek career advice?

In preparing for this article, I started hearing myself giving little tidbits of advice to my former students and new professionals. It occurred to me that these gems of wisdom are applicable to almost any career setting, and are especially impactful when you want to advance.

Then I recalled various bits of career advice I had been given over the years. And these have definitely resonated with me over the years as I’ve changed jobs multiple times.

Let’s get started.

1. Be Diplomatic

I shared this with a student leader at a large urban institution back in 2003. She was a very bold and outspoken young woman who wanted to be heard and make a difference.

On occasion, these desires made her difficult to work with. Olivia Edwardson wrote this about diplomacy in the workplace,[1]

“To be diplomatic, you need to understand and define your expectations clearly. What is it that you need, and what needs to be done in order to achieve this goal? At the same time, you must consider everyone else’s perspective: some tasks require different levels of help, and finding a balance between what everyone wants is crucial.”

How does this apply to you boosting your earning potential? In considering others’ perspective and finding balance, you show your managers that you are a team player and willing to work with others.

This insures that you are adding value to the company on a regular basis.

2. Embrace the Shades of Gray

I’m not talking the best selling novel here; I mean dealing with ambiguity.

In my first senior management position, my entire staff was also brand new and we were learning institutional culture day by day.

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Through this process, I had to model to my team the importance of being in the middle and not always making decisions from an all-or-nothing perspective. The plan isn’t always going to go from A to Z in alphabetical order.

Melanie Allen has said,[2]

“the best leaders are those that rise to the challenge of ambiguity and respond with confidence and adaptability.”

This means not being in control all the time, and learning to deal with uncertainty. It also requires that you be present, in the moment, so you can roll with the punches.

Getting comfortable with shades of gray can impact your earning potential in demonstrating your flexibility and willingness to accept change.

In trying times at corporations, managers and supervisors want leaders who are not stuck in their ways. Advancement comes to those who can go with the flow.

3. Keep Your Resume Updated (And Your Skills Fresh)

When was the last time you updated your resume? When you started job searching? After accepting a new job? Or every time you learned a new skill or took on a new project?

Prior to landing in my current position at a community college, I changed jobs every two years or so. That’s the topic of another article, but suffice to say that I got comfortable making updates and changes to that document.

When I switched to a Strengths-Focused resume in 1999, that changed everything for me. I learned how to represent my skills and achievements in my resume rather than just listing a bunch of “stuff” that I’d performed in my various jobs.

I push my agenda of a strengths-focused resume to about every career-changer with whom I interact, and for good reason.

This type of document has never failed to get me interviews.

But getting back to how often you should update your resume…

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Any time you develop a skill, create a program, or make a major change at your current place of employment.

In my current position, I’ve learned the basics of public relations, web design, communications and marketing, and branding all from the assignments and projects delegated to me.

Based on these new skills, I taught myself to use WordPress and other online tools because of the added value I bring to the organization now that I know these skills.

Walter Yate from Career Cast says of your resume,[3]

“You can start to change the trajectory of your life as soon as you take control of your career, with the careful development of the tools and skills of the new career management; and that all starts with owning a resume that gets results.

A resume is the foundation of your brand and is your primary marketing tool. When your resume works the doors of opportunity open for you, when it doesn’t they don’t. Keep your resume current at all times because you never know when you will need it, for that next promotion or a new job.”

Well, I couldn’t have said that better myself.

4. Never Turn down More Responsibility

Wait, doesn’t this advice fly in the face of the whole work/life balance thing?

Yes and no.

Let’s first ask why you are being offered the additional responsibility.

Is it because someone left the organization and the work needs to be spread out amongst the team?

Is it because you did an incredible job on the previous assignment and your supervisor trusts you and recognizes your added value?

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Is it because you’re being groomed for a promotion and your supervisor is running a little experiment with you?

It could be any or all or none of these. Your attitude and response will mean everything in this situation.

Accept the additional work with grace and style, and learn as much as you can. Then two or three weeks later you can bring up the new tasks with your supervisor and explore why the work was given to you.

Business Insider says,[4]

“Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone to take on more responsibility is a great way to grow personally and professionally.”

Talk to your boss, be proactive, and make the new work fun.

Approaching the new work with a negative attitude and a “woe is me” is just a sign to your boss that you aren’t up to the challenge. And then that added value you just landed is gone. And you aren’t being a team player.

5. Add Value to Your Organization

By making yourself indispensable to your organization and demonstrating to your supervisor how you contribute, you should find yourself climbing the ladder at your current place of employment or getting the reference needed to secure that ideal job at the new firm.

But what exactly does it mean to “Add Value?”

Simply speaking, adding value is making a product more appealing to its customers. Making it better, showing how innovative and multifaceted it is, things like that.

Now you’re going to figure that out about YOU.

Chrissy Scivicque of Eat Your Career identified six ways that an employee can add value to an organization:[5]

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  1. Save money
  2. Make money
  3. Improve efficiency of a process or procedure
  4. Improve quality of a product or service
  5. Fix an existing problem
  6. Prevent a future problem

These themes are pretty simple: if you can handle money, problems, and processes well, then you can add value to your employer. So start approaching your day to day tasks in those terms.

Do you produce a fundraising event every year? Determine how you can raise more money while spending less on the event.

Do you have a brave idea on how you can make that annual job fair run more efficiently? Draft your idea and present it to your supervisor.

Has your team leader consistently asked you and your peers to think more critically on the problem of staff turnover? Do some research and propose a couple solutions.

Keep in mind that to prove you are adding value, you actually have to do the work. You have to be proactive, innovative, and have the organization’s best interests in mind.

Bonus Tips!

I thought it would be fun to get some additional pieces of advice from some actual managers out there…so I polled some of my colleagues around the country, both from higher education and the private sector. Here’s what they shared with me on how to advance your career:

“Put together data or examples to show the value the said employee has brought to the department. Don’t wait until annual review time – it’s generally too late!”

“Never be afraid to speak up during staff meetings or personal 1:1 sessions with supervisors. Pointing out carefully considered ideas and being willing to take on new responsibilities with various staff members shows flexibility, professionalism, and motivation.”

“They have to demonstrate that they are all-in on the values of the company. This can be tricky in environments where employee and supervisor are of different generations. At 25, I may think I’m working hard, but my 60-year-old boss might think I’m just doing what’s expected.”

“Do what you do well and be fully present at all times.”

“Bottom line is the key. If you are increasing income, you deserve to share in it.”

What was the best piece of career advice you’ve received, and how did it impact your earning potential?

More Career Advice That Can Help You

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

Reference

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