Entrepreneurs are the most innovative people on the planet. They make things happen and push the boundaries of what's possible; they're the reason you're reading this article on a screen that uses satellites to bounce information to you. Imagine telling that to someone 100-years ago - they would have freaked! And it's all down to the persistance and big thinking of entrepreneurs. But how do entrepreneurs come up with ideas?
Doesn't it seem like some people were just born ideas-machines? Even though they're running a multi-million dollar business they're still innovating and creating extra revenue streams for themselves.
They're the entrepreneurs that many people in our world hold in an almost God-like status; hanging on their every word and hoping that even a tiny part of their genius will rub-off on them and their business. But if you think getting a constant stream of business ideas is just for a small percentage of people, think again.
How Do Entrepreneurs Think?
To become an ideas machine for your own business, you've got to put yourself in the shoes of the most successful entrepreneurs on the planet. And to do that, you've got to be asking yourself the question 'how do entrepreneurs think?'. Because once you start thinking like an entrepreneur you'll start to understand the answer where do entrepreneurs get inspiration for their next money-making idea.
And I have some good news.
The easiest way to start thinking like an entrepreneur is to just look and listen at the world around you.
Actually, that's not true.
The best entrepreneurs do this in just a few carefully selected ways:
By Doing Deep Work
The term Deep Work was first coined in Cal Newport's 2016 book of the same name. Newport is a best-selling author and professor of computer science at Georgetown University.
Deep Work is essentially the ability to work in a state of complete focus, without distraction, to achieve tap into your subconscious and achieve greater results on anything you put your mind to. Many people also know this state of mind as being 'in flow' or 'a flow state'.
It's a state of mind that Newport himself credits for his ability to write massive quantities of peer-reviewed papers and best-selling books in very short periods of time. It's also one famously used by people like Bill Gates, who has a 'think week' each year, and JK Rowling who checked herself into a hotel to finish The Deathly Hallows'.
And the good news is you don't need special training - or a hotel room - to achieve this state of mind. Just ask yourself the 5 Whys. That is, identify the thing you're currently struggling with, answer that question with a 'Why' and then repeat that process another four times.
For example, maybe you want to know if it's even important to know the answer to 'Where do entrepreneurs get inspiration':
1. Why is it important to know where entrepreneurs get more inspiration?'
So I can make more money in my business
2. Why do I need to make more money in my business?
So I can spend it on marketing
3. Why do I need to spend more money on marketing?
So more people in my industry can find out about what I do
4. Why do people in your industry need to know what I do?
So I can help their business get noticed online
5. Why do they need help to get their business noticed online?
Because most people have been burned spending money on ad platforms that don't create new sales for them or provide any long-term benefits
Seems like answering that original question was pretty important!
Try it yourself, ask yourself the 5 Whys (let me know what you find out in the comments!)
Podcasts are a great way to get inspiration if you're an entrepreneur. And I say that as a big consumer of them!
They're free, often delivered by people who are further up the entrepreneurial ladder than you are right now, and they're easy to find.
A word of caution with podcasts though.
Note I said that they're 'often delivered by people who are further up the entrepreneurial ladder'. That's important.
Because if you're tuning into podcasts that are created by people who are in the same place as you are right now, you're not going to learn anything you can put into action today. It's like going to college and being taught by a professor who hasn't actually studied the course.
One of my favorite podcasts right now is My First Million - bad name but fun content for entrepreneurs or people who want to start their own business.
Going to an Ivy League university isn't about the certificate you get at the end. It's about the network you create along the way.
Those are the people who go onto build businesses and even govern countries in the future. So, of course, you're going to want to pick the phone up if you're stuck for ideas for how to make more money in your own business.
The good news is you don't need to have gone to an Ivy League university to prosper from your network. But you do need to carefully curate who might be a great source of inspiration.
Take a pen and paper and hit 'My Network' on Linkedin (Facebook is not a great resource for this as it's more based on shallow social-interaction). Look at all of your contacts and write down five names who either:
Always seem to say smart things
Are running their own business or have run one in the past
Are actually smart (they've studied something to a high level)
Once you've got that list, reach out to them and tell them you want to set up a call to talk about ideas for your business (it will help to have at least one idea you can riff on to get started). Or, if you all live in the same city, grabbing coffee with a bunch of them at the same time is a fantastic way to cross-pollinate and really accelerate the idea process.
Meeting people you don't know is also a great way to get inspiration if you're an entrepreneur. Networking events and conferences are great places to do this.
Events are especially good if you're naturally confident and happy to talk with strangers. The key is to seek out the entrepreneurs in the room and ask questions about their business - forget your own. Listening deeply and asking questions of people who are running a business (even if it's totally different to yours) is a cheat code for getting ideas for your own.
But if you're less confident and would prefer not to have those awkward few moments of wondering how to break the ice, conferences are also brilliant places where entrepreneurs can find new money-making ideas for their business. Conferences that are focused on your industry or niche are a great place to do this, especially as the speakers are likely to be people who once sat where you are right now. But going to a conference in an industry that seems a million miles from your own is also a brilliant way to think outside the box and seed that field of ideas in your mind.
Lastly, books are a traditional but brilliant place to get new ideas. There are a ton of great books you can read reviews for online but I'm a traditionalist and love going to a bookstore - always heading straight to the 'self-help' section (can they please re-name this?!).
I go to the self-help section first, rather than the business section, because I find a lot of business books are pretty stale. Sure, their content is good, but they're hard to get excited by. And Excitement-Ville is where inspiration lives, so you need to be wandering those streets!
I have a tonne of recommendations for books that inspire me and give me new ideas, but among my favorites are You Are A Badass by Jen Sincero, Influence by Robert Cialdini, and Never Split The Difference by Chris Voss. Jen Sincero's book was a book a read over and over again when I started my first business (without any experience).
Are there any other great places you know for coming up with money-making business ideas? Let me know in the comments!
Rob Barratt is the Co-Founder of The Industry Leaders and is passionate about helping first-time entrepreneurs get the attention their business needs while learning from industry leaders in their field.
After creating and selling a brick and mortar business Rob started an online business and immediately found out just how hard it is for small business owners to get noticed online - especially on a budget.
This lead him to create The Industry Leaders, offering opportunities for entrepreneurs to get published alongside industry leaders, appear on podcasts in their niche, and get a long-term return on their content. You can find out more about becoming a contributing writer and getting booked onto podcasts in your industry, here.