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There are many great ideas percolating in our heads. Once we start down this road of finding business ideas, it seems like they’re everywhere. When you’re getting ready to leave the forces, or any secure, well paid job, it’s easy to believe that fortune awaits. When I’m thinking about a new idea, the honest question I ask myself is, will anyone pay money for it?

I’ve had many of these lightbulb moments. The excitement of realising I’ve stumbled upon the most brilliant idea, why hasn’t anyone thought of this before? It gets inside my head and all I do is look for ways to use it and make money from this discovery.

And it’s not just me.

A few years ago, we were at a friend’s house, for a summer BBQ and beers. He was also self-employed, and our inventing machines were at full power as we bounced off ideas, looking for one that was going to make us rich and famous. He announced his lifelong idea, the one he’d been sitting on for years.

The problem it solved was valid. How can we get more into our recycling bin? He had four kids, it seemed his bin was always overflowing and all he could do was take the excess to the tip. His idea was a machine, that sat on top of the bin. Engineered to compress it down to nothing. With his invention, you could double or treble bin capacity.

Brilliant

Yes, it solved his and many of our problems. Yes, we could all do with a bit more room in our recycling bin. However, realising it would need some heavy engineering, and it was unsuitable for home use, we developed his idea into a weekly round. Customers would pay us £2 a time for us to compress everything flat, problem solved. But the acid test was, would anyone pay money for it?

This business idea, the one that was going to raise enough profit to pay for the wages, vehicle, machinery and running costs, would anyone want to pay money for it every fortnight? For that matter, would I?

The excitement faded as his sober wife pointed out, he could simply order a bigger bin. Problem solved, and luckily we hadn’t started on our waste compactor machine purchase.

It’s good to dream, to have ideas and follow these ideas to the logical conclusion. If your idea requires investment, always ask the question, ‘will anyone pay money for it?’. If you can’t find ten people that will, you’ll have saved yourself a fortune.

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