Treasure chest

Talk to your clients: Build on your relationship with them to generate a flow of ideas about new products, services or businesses you could launch. Take customers to lunch to ask them what you can do better and what else you could offer to make their lives easier.

Observe your clients: Ask for permission to tour their facilities to see your product in action. Bring someone from your firm with you, so that one of you can talk while the other observes. Look for pain points that you could create a solution for or ways to improve your existing products.

Enlist your employees: Ask your front-line people how your company could serve clients better. Offer incentives to staff who propose ideas that you implement. And create an ongoing brainstorming group with employees from all levels.

Pick the brains of rivals’ ex-employees: Meet with key people who’ve left the competition. This will give you insights into opportunities your rivals have spotted, and a look at potential hires whose experience — and Rolodexes — could help you exploit those opportunities.

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