All business operates on a simple premise. One person creates value for another. Outside of gift-giving and other types of benevolence, the creator gets paid. He or she receives value, often in the form of money, and both partners to the trade are better off than they were before.
Many forms of value are obvious. Clothing, shelter, food, and the people who create them are valuable because we need those basic things to survive. Music, paintings, sports and other non-essentials improve our lives even though we could live without them. But they too are commonplace and obvious.
Many people who start businesses are stuck in the obvious. They try to provide more of what others are already providing quite well: dry cleaners, groceries, web design, etc. There is nothing wrong with opening this kind of business. If you can do it better, faster, or cheaper than your competitors, you may do well. But why butt heads with the rest of the market?
Each of us has value to others that may have gone unrecognized. We may know how to do something unique or make something unusual that is valuable to 0thers. But how does one discover these hidden veins of value? Start by brainstorming fifty ideas for businesses. Don’t criticize or question any idea, just write down fifty. Even if some turn out to be “obvious” keep writing. Chances are, you will find something valuable that only you can provide.
The next step is refining your idea into a business model. A business model takes your initial idea and builds around it a “delivery system” that allows you to get paid for what you do well. More on business models next post.