Where do small business ideas come from?

A rose-cut synthetic diamond created by Apollo...
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Have you ever found a diamond in the ground, in a river or deep beneath the sea?

I have never met anybody who stumbled across a real diamond in nature. Most diamonds anyway are found in restricted areas that are demarcated for mining. I suppose if you, for example, lived along the Orange River you may have heard stories about the old diamond prospectors who came across these precious stones in the river. Continue reading “Where do small business ideas come from?”

Firing up the workshop of your imagination

English: An elderly at stretching exercises in gym
English: An elderly at stretching exercises in gym (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve been trying to get back into running after a long absence. I had to drop out in the winter because of a calf injury I suffered one morning running below 0° with out doing warmup stretching exercises. The doctor said I could get back into running after three weeks but a friend in Cape Town who has gone into running in a big way said it would take 10 weeks. Guess who was right? The runner, the one who has knowledge of the road.

I practised walking for about two weeks before I took my first run. When I went out running the run seemed smooth flowing. But a few minutes after I got back I could feel the spot where the old injury was and my muscles were sore. The next day my muscles were so stiff that I took a break and went back the next day. Not everyone is interested in running, I realise, but it provides an excellent analogy for other areas in our lives such as our imagination, which is really the workshop of our minds in which all new ideas, concepts and solutions are fashioned. Continue reading “Firing up the workshop of your imagination”

When you’re stuck for ideas, try these three questions

FIRE!! (Photo credit: Thomas’s Pics)

The experts will tell you that if you want to create new ideas all you need to do is get out a pen or pencil and stare at a blank sheet of paper and write down your ideas.

Has this ever worked for you?

I’ve found that it’s very difficult unless you come prepared to you blank sheet and at least have some questions in hand that can spur your imagination. Continue reading “When you’re stuck for ideas, try these three questions”

Can you turn your ideas into gold (without a sweet-smelling corpse)?

Lao Tzu, traditionally the author of the Tao T...
Lao Tzu, traditionally the author of the Tao Te Ching (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In ancient China alchemy was part of the larger tradition of Taoist body-spirit cultivation that developed from the traditional Chinese understanding of medicine in the body. The alchemists tried to refine base metals into gold believing that immortal life would be delivered if the “fake” or synthetic gold was ingested.

Alchemists wanted to transform things into something more valuable such as converting copper, lead, iron and tin combined with cinnabar (a mineral with a reddish brown colour often found at deposits of mercury, or more lethal components such as arsenic and sulphur into gold. Taoist alchemy was concerned with transforming human beings so as to give them longer life and bring them closer to the Tao. They worked in laboratories, grinding, mixing and eating various substances together in search of the magical compound. Continue reading “Can you turn your ideas into gold (without a sweet-smelling corpse)?”

Unusual uses for the world’s dumbest product

A boy in a children's swimming pool.
A boy in a children’s swimming pool. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Finding uses for products can help to open new markets. For an aspiring entrepreneur or small business owner an interesting task is to take your product or service idea and generate a number of uses for it. Stretch your imagination. Don’t censor your ideas. You may come up with one that could give your product a whole new market – and a whole new life.

Take colas, for example They started out as a medicinal drink and then became a soft drink. Yet people still use colas for some interesting purposes such as for meat tenderising and cleaning battery connections.

Speaking about car batteries, while their primary use is for starting cars, people use their 12 V batteries for powering house lighting, radios, television sets and camping equipment.

What other uses do your products or services have? Continue reading “Unusual uses for the world’s dumbest product”

Pirates of the Christmas Carol

Charles Dickens: A Christmas Carol. In Prose. ...
Pirate publishers printed their own copies of A Christmas Carol stealing potential revenue from Charles Dickens.  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Charles Dickens took a trip to Manchester to deliver a speech in support of the Athenaem, which provided adult education for manufacturing workers.

Like most entrepreneurs he was in desperate need to make money. He and his wife were expecting their fifth child. His family needed money. He had a large mortgage on his Devonshire Terrace home. Sales from monthly instalments of “Martin Chuzzlewit” were dismal.

On his trip to Manchester he had thoughts about education being a remedy to crime and poverty. He wanted to “strike a sledge hammer blow” for the poor. Continue reading “Pirates of the Christmas Carol”

Who ever heard such nonsense about negotiation?

Whether you run a small retail or manufacturing business, a service outfit or act as a solo consultancy, you must have at one time or another been personally involved in some difficult negotiation that tested your mental powers to the limit.

As you wracked your brain for solutions, thought up ways to secure the best deal for yourself and visualised solutions to protect your interests, it’s hard to argue that your imagination wasn’t being stretched.

I came across some research the other day about creativity not really playing a significant role in negotiation. I’m not sure I even understand these academics but in my experience and observing other business people locked in negotiation I’m absolutely convinced that creativity does make a difference in negotiation.

Before we see how creativity influences negotiation, let’s look at what negotiation means. In the real world, all the academic definitions of negotiation don’t make much sense. What’s more grounded in reality is that negotiation is really about finding some sort of agreement that is mutually acceptable. It might require compromise. But if you don’t like the envisaged outcome you can always say no and walk away.

Negotiation is important to all of us because we do it all the time. At home, at work, at play.

I recently participated in several role playing negotiations. What I was struck by was that the negotiations deadlocked every time for these reasons: The negotiation team members did not creatively imagine their opponents’ world. They did not fully understand the world of their customer or seller and therefore could not make a fully imaginative assessment of their needs, wants and desires. With more creative thinking, viewing the problem from different perspectives, they could have immersed themselves more fully in their customer’s world.

The other area where they could have used more creativity was to brainstorm and invent more options for mutual gain. And in instances where there was no hope for this, they could have walked away from the deal.

Making conditional proposals, so the other side can’t get what they want from you without you getting what you want from them in return, requires creativity. So does setting the agenda or order of business. Deciding what issues to discuss first and which ones to deal with later is a very creative act especially when the stakes are high.

These are just a few instances of creativity in negotiations. In these economic times it is crucial that you negotiate the best deal with your customers, suppliers and other business people.

Leaving money on the table doesn’t only leave a bad taste in your mouth, it also hurts your bottom line.


Stay inspired

Chesney Bradshaw