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What's the Big Idea?

Feeling stuck in a rut? Rethink your predicament, make a plan, and succeed.

Jack felt burnt out--his constant marketing had produced minimal progress and few customers. He tried multiple advertising tactics, including networking and asking for referrals as his business books suggested. However, he was missing his "big idea"--the one formula that would generate numerous qualified leads.

Opening himself up to new ideas, Jack held a brainstorming session with a few professionals he trusted. His colleagues honestly told him of their difficulties referring business to him because they could not understand the benefit his product offered. Instead of traditional advertising, they recommended that he speak at large gatherings of his target market, explain his product and then answer questions about it.

Using the Yellow Pages, Jack found Rotary Clubs, Lions Clubs and women's business associations where he could clarify and market his product. His sales zoomed as each speaking engagement produced six or more new clients.

As entrepreneurs, we sometimes get stuck in certain routines that have worked for us in the past. Here's how to re-energize your efforts and find one or two of your own big ideas.

1. Restate your current challenge as a question. Instead of complaining about a lack of new customers, simply write, "How can I easily find 50 new customers for my business?" Be specific. Once people understand your need, they can provide you with unique solutions or refer you to experienced people who can give you the answers you seek.

2. Research solutions online. Type your question into a search engine, and discover how others have overcome the challenge you face. Expand your search by finding related articles--journalists uncover many big ideas during their interviews with experts. Try using FindArticles.com, or type the word "article" after your search inquiry.

3. Conduct a monthly idea party with colleagues. People love to feel smart, so let them share their success secrets. Gather monthly with a group of colleagues to exchange new ideas. During the meeting, have each person ask a question about a current challenge they face. The other group members can then share their unique success strategies.

4. Don't feel overwhelmed by information. Don't analyze or judge any ideas when they are first presented; just record them. When you return to your office, choose the one you think fits best with your goal and personality, and then test it.

Becoming open to new ideas takes lots of practice. Many people think asking for help shows others that they are weak. It's quite the opposite--the ideas you form will help energize your business's growth and will strengthen your resolve.

Editor's note: Looking for our "Countdown to Startup" series? We've compiled it into one easy-to-use feature. Click here to read it.


Speaker and consultant Romanus Wolter, aka "The Kick Start Guy," is author of Kick Start Your Dream Business.

Like this article? Get this issue right now on iPad, Nook or Kindle Fire.

This article was originally published in the February 2005 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: What's the Big Idea?.

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