Finding "Real" Business Ideas

We're exploring adding a new service line at, so I'm working on customer development again. After a few months away from sales and account management, it's been fun to get back into it and talk to customers again.

These conversations have made me reflect on how many first-time entrepreneurs get stuck looking for ideas.

Most would-be entrepreneurs know they should talk to potential customers, but many ask the wrong questions once they get on the phone. The biggest mistake I see is asking:

"Would you pay for X?"

or some variation of this.

The problem with asking people what they would pay for is that it isn't really a priority. If it were, they would already be paying for something, even a subpar solution. So, the right question is:

"What do you currently pay for that you're unsatisfied with?"

Every startup should sell something that solves a problem. If that problem is already known and the customer spends money trying to solve it, you just need to be a better option.

I wish this were a wholly original idea, but I borrowed it from, The Mom Test, a fantastic little book about coming up with real business ideas. If you're in the idea phase, it's definitely worth a read.

Karl Hughes