I have so many new ideas for my business. How do I determine which ones are the best to pursue?

Most business owners want their business to grow, and often growth includes consideration of new products or services. Sometimes, though, brainstorming new possibilities interferes with maintaining the core business by distracting the owner from focusing on the issues confronting them. To allow room for new ideas without distraction, it helps to have a system for handling them.

At first, a new idea seems very exciting—but will it look as good after a few days? Is spending time on a new idea crucial, or just a way to avoid some unpleasant business task? The first step in this system is to write down the idea, date it, and put it in a file for at least two weeks. This ensures the idea is not forgotten and does not interfere with operating the core business.

Schedule a time periodically to review the ideas in the file, such as twice a month. Assuming an idea still looks good after two weeks, it is time to determine whether or not it is feasible. Ideally, ideas should be scrutinized through the business plan process, but sometimes time does not allow for a full business plan to be written. In lieu of this, try examining the idea using the following ten questions:

  1. What does this idea have to do with my business mission?
  2. Does this idea replace an existing outdated product or service?
  3. Will implementing this idea use excess capacity?
  4. Who are the customers for the new product or service?
  5. What is the value to customers they can’t get anywhere else?
  6. What is the financial opportunity and what are the costs?
  7. What commitment do you as the owner have to this idea?
  8. Who else is committed or partnering with this idea?
  9. What action must be taken to move the idea forward from idea to selling?
  10. By what date will action be taken to bring this idea to market?

New ideas are best implemented only if they improve business performance in some way such as increasing profits, using excess capacity, or improving customer service for existing customers. Include these in the next update of the company business plan. Begin implementation as indicated in the action steps identified in the last two questions. While some ideas may be good, they may not be a good fit for the existing business. It is best to discard these ideas or pass them on to someone else to implement so the core business can profit from the full focus of the owner.

New ideas build businesses if they are strategically a good fit. Any system that helps analyze ideas will benefit the business owner, so find the strategy that works best for your business.

Did you recently pursue a new business idea? Was it successful? Share what you learned in the comments. 

You can reach Arlene at asoto@socc.edu with further small business questions.

[ Down to Business is a weekly small business advice column featured in The World Newspaper, originally published online by the Oregon Small Business Development Center Network, and republished here with permission. ]

Arlene SotoArlene Soto

Arlene M. Soto is the director of the Small Business Development Center at Tillamook Bay Community College. She came to Oregon in July 2007 from the Wyoming Small Business Development Center Network, where she managed the Region 4 office in Cheyenne for almost 13 years.