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There are two ways of starting up a company. The first is to take an existing business idea, and do it better. Preferably you will concentrate on an area where the competition is limited or you have some existing connections.

The second is where you come up with an idea that’s completely new. People think that it’s the only way to make a real fortune, but that’s not true. It may come as a shock, but Bill Gates became the world’s richest man largely by improving on the work of others. He wasn’t the leader in new technologies, but he was close behind. And he did things very effectively.

Microsoft didn’t invent the Windows and mouse interface. It was invented by Xerox at its research labs. Microsoft didn’t even produce the first commercial Windows-based computer. That was Apple with the Lisa. But it did get its timing right, do a plausibly good job and market the product very well. The rest is history.

The problem with developing a totally new concept is that it’s totally new. You are not only selling the product, you have to sell the idea too and educate the market. Even if it would sell, it’s more than twice as much work. If you have all the capabilities you need, with limited resources it is hard to succeed. And it’s even harder to recover from a failure.

The world economy is driven in the long run by breakthrough products. But for your own success, it’s worth remembering that the odds are greatly improved by exploiting an area where a market already exists.

Chris Barling, Actinic

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Such a big part of growing a successful business is ensuring that you’re always thinking of new ideas or making improvements to your current business. But as many small business owners know, coming up with a great idea is easier said than done. If you’re someone who struggles with creativity or can’t easily prompt a brain wave, watch this show to get ideas from a brand which is growing rapidly and improving constantly.

A popular method of tracking and recording ideas is to write them down – or to “always have a notebook with you”. Tell us, when (and where) do your best ideas come to you?

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We’ve all heard that saying let’s not reinvent the wheel.  For a lot of great businesses lack of originality is not an archilles heel, but the absolute essence of their product and of course, their success.

People tend to over-think and over-complicate what it means to be “clever” in business. Too often, people feel they need to engineer something from scratch in order to truly create a unique and highly needed business thing. But the truth is, many of the world’s most successful businesses have found their success by taking an existing (business) idea and either copying it wholesale, or modifying it slightly – and then making their mark in a slightly different market.

I’m not talking about breaching intellectual property rights here.  That’s not a good idea.  But opening up a Pizza shop could be a brilliant business idea in a certain location – even though it is not a fabulously clever, new business idea.

How about fixing a problem that frustrates you?  Most of us see areas for improvements in things around us on a weekly – if not daily – basis. And what we sometimes fail to realise is that those problems or inconveniences we come across every day are probably being felt by numerous other individuals just like us.

So if you’re looking to start up your own business but don’t know how to come up with an idea, simply look around you.  Perhaps there is an idea right under your nose which doesn’t need inventing after all.  You could just find yourself with a new business in a matter of days!

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