Monday, August 26, 2013

Don't Let a Great Idea Waste Your Time & Money

When you discover a "great idea," it is utterly dependent on you for survival. You must be able to nurture and support your idea until it has enough momentum to thrive without you. This means that you must be perfectly qualified to develop your idea, or else it will die.
Long ago, I used to raise funds for WGBH/Boston, one of the most prolific producers of television programs for public broadcasting. Countless professionals came to the station with ideas for new shows. I learned that success wasn't just about the idea; the right idea, talent, director, producer and funder all had to come together at exactly the right moment.
Get any one of these wrong, and you have a flop instead of a hit.
If you are an entrepreneur - or intrapreneur - your first question needs to be: am I the right person to bring this idea to life?
  • If you are a marketing professional who doesn't understand code, you are not the one to "leapfrog Google" and launch the next generation search engine.
  • If you always take a three-week vacation in August, and two weeks at Christmas, you are not the one to "take down Oracle." (They are fierce warriors compared to you.)
  • If you are a genius at coding, but you can't work with an interface designer or pick a font to save your life, you are unlikely to create a top ten consumer app.
Many entrepreneurs test their idea, but they skip the step of testing whether they personally have the right skills and demeanor to build upon the idea.
I say this from experience...
At one point in my career, I started a new product line for a private company. In three years, I generated $20 million in sales, at which point I quit my job to start my own company. Four years elapsed, during which I lost and earned back my original $80,000 stake several times. In retrospect, the outcome was predictable. I'll spare you my logic in starting the company, but the cold hard facts are that I spotted a true opportunity; unfortunately, I was not the guy to capture the opportunity.
It is hard for you to test your ability to execute a great idea. Most people aren't that good at self-insight. You might believe you are relentless, but others may think that you only work hard for short periods of time. You might believe you are highly perceptive, but others may think you barely even listen to them.
To avoid such blind spots, involve others. Don't just ask them what they think of your idea. Ask whether they would hire you to manage a business that was seeking to capitalize on this idea. Ask who else they might hire, and why other people might be better suited than you to succeed in this situation. Ask the most perceptive and honest professionals you can find.
If you have another minute to spare, now watch what happens when an entrepreneur has trouble telling the difference between himself and his great idea...

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