How often do you as a small business owner get out to see what is going on in the market?

IMG_0284I mentioned to a small business owner the other day that a similar business to his had started down the road. He told me that he spent so much time in his business that he didn’t even know about it. Perhaps when he gets a chance to take off an hour or so he may go down the road to look at the business and see what his competitor he is doing.

How often do you get out of your start-up or small business to go look what’s happening in the market? Do you have the time? Is it worth your while?

It may sound easy to encourage small business owners or start-up founders to go out and look what’s happening in their marketplace but often they don’t have the time. They are caught up in the everyday problems of managing and running their small business and can’t get away. Are you faced with a similar problem?

The other day I came across a would-be entrepreneur who wants to generate business ideas. The only advice I could give to her was basically that some of the best ideas come about through observation, listening, especially to potential customers, and your own experience. She wanted to know about the best idea-generation tools. But if at all possible leave the idea generation techniques to the last unless you have a specific problem or challenge that you wish to solve. The best place to find out new ideas and where market demand is forming is out in the marketplace.

Yes, there are other sources of ideas such as reading your market or industry trade magazines and newspapers, going online or do doing basic desk research. But isn’t it better to go see real businesses and have an opportunity to speak to real business owners about their experiences and interaction with real-life customers. Often you read about new small business ideas and small businesses which are put up as shining examples of success but you really don’t get told what is happening behind the scenes. Going out yourself into the marketplace is often more valuable because you are able to see what is happening in the real world of small business.

When you go out looking for ideas what should you be searching for? That depends very much on the nature of your product or service and your particular type of business. You may not necessarily be looking to start a new business or develop a new product or service but merely want new ideas to supplement or maybe spark off your thinking in an area that you have been troubled about or are finding difficult to manage.

Over time every small business owner develops their own ways to find new ideas. Whatever works for you is probably the best way to approach it. The only advice I could really give is that absorb as much as you possibly can out in the marketplace and wait a day or two while what you saw “composts” in your mind. Perhaps out of this process you come up with a combination of ideas that you haven’t thought of before. New ideas are often brought about because of a cross-pollination or combining of existing ideas. This is the area where you may get the personal or business breakthrough.

It may not always be possible for you to get out of your start-up or small business and go in search of new ideas but if you set aside an hour or so once a month you might find that you could be richly rewarded.

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