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Monthly Archives: January 2017

5 Ways to Turn Your Customer Complaints Into Business Ideas

Do you cringe when a customer complains? If so, it’s time to start thinking of those complaints as possible opportunities instead of problems – opportunities that could lead to new product lines, services or a new venture.  But how do you actually identify new business ideas hiding in your customer complaints?  Here are five tips to get you started.

Be open to closing the gaps

To get useful inspirational tips and leads from your customers, they must know that you’re open to hearing about the gaps in your product lines or services.

“Ask your customers what you could do better,” said Kevin Barnicle, founder and CEO of IT consulting and software firm Controle. “This seems like simple advice but it is very powerful.” Barnicle said that asking one of his customers this simple question uncovered a potentially profitable need that wasn’t being fully met.

While the customer acknowledged that the product Barnicle sold him did what it was supposed to do, the client needed more than the product provided.  As a result, there was a gap in communications between two critical teams in the client’s company – the IT team and the legal team. “If you could offer a service to help me bridge that gap I would buy it,” Barnicle recalled his client saying.

When Barnicle left his old company and started Controle, he offered exactly the service the client had pointed out was missing, and even named it for the complaint. “Our Bridge the Gap service is one of our most profitable and popular services we provide,”  Barnicle said. “It was all created from a customer complaint.” [Looking for a business idea? Visit our business idea section]

‘Simplify’ may signal business opportunity

Is there a demand for a simpler or faster version of your product or service hiding in your customer complaints?  This was the case for the folks at, an online graphics design contest platform.

“Our new products are a direct reflection of the feedback we receive from our customers and designer community,” said Shayne Tilley, general manager of Swiftly. “A great example of this is our newest offering, Swiftly, a service for quick design jobs.”

Tilley said that although customers are happy with the services they receive through 99designs, they often had other smaller or simpler jobs that didn’t fit the service offerings of 99designs. “After our customers had their logo, website, banner ad, business card, etc., created on 99designs, they would ask us, “How do I get this updated or integrated with other existing marketing collateral like brochures, social media creative, et cetera?” Tilley said.

And the 99designs team had the same problem with their own simple jobs – it didn’t make sense to ask the company Web designers to stop working on important projects to complete something like a simple business card update, Tilley said. “Given that our customers were experiencing the same problems as us, we decided to do something about it and thus Swiftly was born,” Tilley said. Swiftly lets customers post small design jobs and have them completed within one hour. “Our average turnaround time is actually 30 minutes,” Tilley said.

Pay special attention to the loudmouths

Do you have a handful of customers that complain frequently? Instead of labeling them troublemakers, start thinking of them as your idea-generators.

“Realize that a customer that complains is sometimes the best customer,” Barnicle said.  Though no one likes to deal with some who’s constantly whining about something, Barnicle said the customers that complain the most usually are the most passionate. “If you can solve their complaint or problem, you will most likely have a customer for life,” he said.

Look to your own complaints

Are you a customer? Take a look at your very own complaints – there could be a new business hiding in your pet peeves. And chances are, if something isn’t working for you, there are others out there with the same problem.

“In 2009, when I was moving, the shipping company broke my TV,” said Girish Mathrubootham, founder and CEO of online customer support and help-desk company Freshdesk.  “I sent multiple emails to the shipping company, but they just asked me to jump through hoops and made no signs of intending to settle my claim.”

Mathrubootham was so frustrated, he finally wrote about his experience in an online forum. Within a day, the shipping company paid him what they owed.

“This experience taught me that customers have social power, and it inspired us to build a customer support solution that leverages social media,” Mathrubootham said. Freshdesk now has 23,000 customers using their customer-support solution worldwide.

Will your customers pay for a solution?

While there may be multiple new business possibilities in your customer’s complaints, how can you find those that will lead to profitable new business?  Evaluate each complaint carefully. If the issue shouldn’t have occurred, or been solved by the service or product they’ve already purchased, simply fix the problem. If not, it could mean there’s a potential new business idea right under your nose – and to find out, ask.

“Simply ask customers,” Barnicle said. “Be up front, and just ask them, ‘If I could solve your problem would you pay for it?’ Doing so you will immediately find out how much of a complaint it really is,” Barnicle said.

When one of Controle’s clients constantly complained about inefficiencies dealing with a software manufacturer’s customer support, Barnicle did exactly this. “We simply asked them, ‘If we offered a service to take that completely off your area of responsibility, would you purchase it?'” The result?  A new service, and a new long-term contract.

7 Business Ideas for Food Lovers


If you frequently find yourself whipping up a batch of cookies to stave off boredom, why not get paid for it by opening a bakery? Pull out grandma’s old recipes (or create your own) and find desserts that you can replicate perfectly every time. Of course, retail space and equipment can cost a small fortune, so if you want to launch your bakery sooner rather than later, accept orders online and deliver or ship to local areas. This is a great business to run in your spare time, as you can fill orders during evenings and weekends.


Have you ever hosted a dinner party or holiday meal and found yourself barely able to enjoy it because of all the preparation? If you’re a skilled home cook that can create delicious meals for a large group of people, you can help alleviate the stress of planning and preparing food for parties as a caterer. While bigger events like weddings and Sweet 16s might be hard to handle without a team, you could likely handle smaller home gatherings by yourself or with a business partner. Make sure you have enough kitchen space to prepare the meals and the means to transport the food to your clients.

Grocery delivery

On-the-go working parents barely have time to cook dinner, let alone shop for groceries. If you have a spacious vehicle and some spare time during evenings and weekends, you can help these busy families by making supermarket runs for them. Clients can send you their grocery lists and pay for the items you pick up. Then you can make a profit by charging for time and delivery. Make an effort to compare prices for the best deals, and shop wholesale for common items to save them money.

Specialty food maker

With an increasing number of Americans living with food allergies and dietary restrictions, the market for vegan and gluten-free specialty items has grown exponentially. In fact, a May 2013 report by Markets and Markets predicts a compound annual growth rate of 10.2 percent for gluten-free products alone. With a little research, you could learn to make these specialty snacks and baked goods to package and sell.

Farmers market vendor

If you’re an avid home gardener and want to make a profit from your produce, sign up to be a vendor at a farmers market. The organic movement is still going strong, so having naturally grown fruits and vegetables will give you an advantage over competing growers that use conventional methods. You may have to go through an application process and/or get certified by your local board of health to begin selling.

estaurant franchise owner

Investing in a franchise is a great way to become a business owner without having to come up with a concept or marketing strategy. With restaurant franchises, the product, brand and audience are already in place. All you need is a good location and some startup money, which is relatively easy to come by: Because a franchise has a proven business model, you’re more likely to get a loan for this low-risk investment.

Nutrition coach

There’s no question that obesity is a growing problem in America, and many people who want to lose weight and eat better simply don’t know where to start. You don’t necessarily need to be a registered dietitian to offer meal plans and diet counseling. Read some nutrition books or take an online course, and use that knowledge to recommend delicious and healthy recipes to your clients that they can easily prepare at home.

5 Smart Ways to Come Up With a Good Business Ideas

Are you thrilled by the idea of starting your own business? You know you have the energy, enthusiasm and commitment of an entrepreneur, but you’re missing one critical element to success: a good business idea. Don’t get frustrated — inspiration is all around you. Here are five tips on where to find good business ideas.

Problems and pet peeves

Good business ideas often solve a problem. Begin your search by listing the problems in your own life.

“Look for problems that no one has addressed yet,” said Boris Wertz, founder of Version One Ventures. “These could be problems that you are having yourself, such as ‘I wish this kind of product or service existed,'” Wertz said. Alternatively, look for problems that other people and/or companies are having.

“This approach tends to work best when you have experience with a certain company or industry, and can understand what their needs are,” Wertz said. “You can build a better idea off of this experience.”

[Looking for a business idea? Visit our business idea page]

A side project or hobby

Sometimes awesome ideas grow from a pet side project or hobby. If you’re having trouble finding your next business idea, start a side project.

“Simply sitting down and trying to brainstorm ideas for a new business doesn’t normally work well for most,” Wertz said.

“Instead, choose an area that interests you for your side project, and look for problems and issues that arise while you are working,” he said.  Wertz said to always keep your eyes open for problems that need solutions, and then to find ways to solve the problems you identify. “Spend time figuring out viable solutions to the issues and problems you have found during work on your side project,” he said. “This is where you’ll find the foundation for a great business idea, the solution to an identified problem.”

Your business network

Remember the phrase “two heads are better than one?” Some of the best business ideas appear when you work with others, instead of on your own.

“I’ve seen great people waste years on terrible business ideas, and if there were one characteristic that separates them from the great ideas it’s this: No ideas in isolation!” said international business coach Jacob Aldridge.

If you don’t know where to find people who may help you come up with a great business idea, Aldridge says to begin by getting in touch with everyone you already know in the business world.

“Ask them all, even your accountant, for an introduction to the most interesting business person they know,” he said.

Another source that may inspire new business ideas is LinkedIn. In addition to your existing network, look for industry-specific LinkedIn groups.  “Familiarize yourself [with the topics] first by reading some of the articles and discussions,” Aldridge said.  Look for recurring questions or problems. The more discussion around a topic, the more likely it is to signal a potential business idea.

Business people you don’t know … yet

If you’re really serious about finding the next great business idea, reach out to individuals beyond your own business network.

“Many innovators, especially young tech startups, are surprised to learn how easy it is to open doors and have conversations in industry,” Aldridge said. “There are very few successful business people who won’t take a meeting when someone asks, ‘Can you spare 30 minutes to help me understand what works well, and what doesn’t, in your industry today?'”

Aldridge said that as your idea develops, feedback from these people helps you determine whether it’s good or not, because you are attempting to solve their real-world problems.

“And if you can solve real-world problems for successful business people, then you have a great business idea,” Aldridge said.

An often-overlooked source of new business connections that could lead to good business ideas is your own local community. Take a look at people who are often quoted in your local media, including business award winners. “I find it most useful to contact them about three weeks afterwards, when the immediate congratulations have quieted down,” Aldridge said.

Outside of work

Getting frustrated because you just can’t find that great business idea? Stop looking for it.

“One cannot find a great business idea, a great business idea finds you,” said Greg Isenberg, a 25-year-old award-winning serial entrepreneur, founder of Wall Street Survivor and CEO of mobile video app He suggested finding a quiet spot outside to get your creative ideas flowing.

How to Building a Relationship

What do we mean by relationship-building?

When we talk about the competency of relationship-building in the world of business, we are referring to building strong relationships with partners and clients – about using interpersonal skills to network in an effective way.

What does a competent relationship-builder do?

Somebody who is competent at relationship-building focuses on understanding the needs of the client and getting the best possible results. This competency promotes an ethic of client service and so an understanding and anticipation of a client’s changing needs is essential. Stress and conflict are other issues that a competent relationship-builder will manage – keeping composed and acting as mediator when conflicts arise.

How can I start to develop the competency of relationship-building?

First identify the business plan goals of your department and decide what your role is going to be in helping to achieve those goals. You will need to study the business plan and learn as much as possible about your clients’ activities, interests and needs. This information might be available in their own annual reports or in client surveys conducted by your company. Talking to your clients about how you can best meet their needs is also a sensible first step to take.

Seven steps to becoming an effective relationship-builder:

  1. Draw up a plan of what you need to do in order to give your clients what they want. Discuss your ideas with your line manager and then do what is necessary to implement the plan.
  2. When the plan has been set in motion, schedule regular meetings with your line manager to review the progress that you are making and make any necessary adjustments.
  3. When you are working as part of a team or group within a department or a company it is important to assess your contribution to the group’s work. Think about how your efforts help or hinder progress.
  4. Make a weekly analysis of your commitments. Set yourself a goal for each week so that you follow them through. Make an effort to do what you say you are going to do – and also, to do it by the time that you say it will be done. If you get into the habit of doing this it will become like second nature.
  5. Build up a file of contacts and classify them in a way that is meaningful for your particular work context. Then you will know exactly who to call with any queries or when you need information.
  6. Don’t just wait for feedback to come to you, request it from a variety of sources – from your line manager but also from colleagues, clients and people who you supervise. Listen to what they have to say and act accordingly.
  7. Build informal relationships with the people who are working around you. Make a point of greeting people who you normally don’t speak to. Ask them about their interests and make it a goal to practise small talk with them. Listen to what they say and remember so that you can ask about a particular interest the next time you meet.