You Don’t Need That One Big Idea To Start A Successful Business


When someone tells me that one day they want to start a business, I always ask them why they haven’t already done it.

People have a million and one excuses for not starting, but by far the most common is: “I don’t have an idea yet”.

They think that once they get that big idea, everything will fall into place.

They’ll go out there, build their idea, and take over the world.

There are two huge problems with this mentality.

  1. It puts too much emphasis on the idea, as opposed to the process. Ideas aren’t worth crap. How many people have you talked to that said “I had the idea for X before Y did it”? Everyone has ideas. I have ten business ideas every day. What separates the people with ideas from the people with successful businesses isn’t an idea. If you tell a venture capitalist you have a great idea, you need ten million pounds to build it, and will use the money to hire a team to implement the idea, they’ll (rightfully) laugh you out the door.
  2. It’s a completely backwards way of thinking. When you start with an idea, you try everything you can to make your idea work. You try to find a market for your idea, and problems your idea can potentially solve. This typically results in products and services that don’t solve any real problem for any real market. On top of that, you get emotionally attached to your idea. You do whatever you can to make your idea work, rather than molding the idea to better fit the marketplace. We’ve all seen those terrible business ideas that have infatuated founders on Dragon’s Den.

If you want to start a business, start looking for problems to solve instead.

Find and isolate a problem, then think of a solution to that problem.

You don’t even have to have a “new” solution. Your solution just has to solve the problem faster, better, cheaper, easier, greener, friendlier, …,  than other businesses do, for one super specific segment of the marketplace.

I run a marketing agency — there’s hundreds of marketing agencies in the UK alone.

It’s not a new, revolutionary idea.

We’re different to many agencies, though. We’re super targeted. We’re a HubSpot partner that helps UK B2B businesses turning over less than £25m to solve a problem: traditional marketing tactics aren’t generating the sales leads they need to grow.

We have a service which is tailored to solving this specific problem for that one specific market segment, and are focused on positioning ourselves as the experts in that segment.

It’s easy to be perceived as better than the alternatives when you make your target market specific enough. If you go specific enough, your target market is under served by your competitors, because most of them are trying to be everything to everyone.

Big businesses can’t build a specific product or service to sell into small market segments. They need to add billions to their bottom line to please share holders, so don’t even try. If a segment is worth £10M per year, a huge company just won’t care about it.

Is a £10M business too small for you?

I’m guessing not.

Screw the big, revolutionary ideas. They’re usually not worth the paper they’re written on.

Go solve a specific problem for a specific group of people.

Go start your business.

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