Well, as a small business owner I have the same trouble sometimes, but over time I have found a bunch of things that really help me get inspired, find new ideas and translate them into action. I'll find that at times one approach is more suitable than another, but they have all helped me get new ideas and get going!
- I know if seems a bit obvious, but go for a walk with a friend and ask them for their thoughts on your current challenge, where you're stuck, or even just where they think you could take your business next. Getting your blood flowing is often enough to start the ideas coming and it is always good to get out of the office, stretch the legs and take in the scenery.
- One of my favourite sources of inspiration is to listen to podcasts. Whenever I'm on a bus or a train, or even out exercising, I will often listen to a podcast. Some of my favourites include: the 1Day Business Breakthrough; Hack the Entrepreneur; ConversionCast; Seth Godin's Start up School; Social Media for Small Business and more.
- I always keep a notebook handy (electronic or otherwise) to catch those fleeting ideas. Sometimes they can seem like nothing, but if you jot them down, you might find them as a source of inspiration later. Personally I'm a huge fan of Evernote and have been using it for years. I will do another post in more detail on that shortly.
- Ask your customers. Do a small survey with them. No matter what the type of business you run, it is possible to get some feedback from your customers or clients. Reward them with something if you are finding it hard to get any bites... a voucher, free coffee, free mini-consultation... whatever works for you!
- If you have one, ask your team. Perhaps run a little competition and give a small reward to whoever comes up with the most ideas
- Perhaps call in an expert to facilitate a brainstorming or strategy session. Sometimes it is almost impossible to lift yourself out of the day-to-day and a structured session can leave you with a solid plan of action that will take you into the next phase of your business.
- Connect in with your local chamber of commerce. They often have networking or speaking events that can trigger your next great idea. At the very least, you will meet other local business owners and build your network.
- Look at the businesses in your local area. Are they doing anything you wish you had done? You can be sure they weren’t the first to think of the idea, so there’s no harm in you giving it a try too.
- Google similar businesses to yours online. What is their web presence like? Is there anything you could learn from them? Is there anything they are doing that would also be good for your business?
- Standing Brainstorm (alone or with a team). Find a whiteboard or put some butchers paper on the wall. Write three headings: Services; Customers/Clients; Team. Set a timer for 5 minutes and brainstorm at least 9 ideas for each - the only rule is you have to be standing up! Even if you are writing down problems that need to be solved, it might trigger you to think of something new.
As a small business owner myself, I'm well aware that it can be hard to get ourselves motivated to make change sometimes... but there is almost always something we can do about it, or learn from someone else. Do you use any of these ideas in your business? Which ones resonate with you the most? Leave a comment and let me know, I'd love to hear your thoughts!