Don't Fall in Love with Business Ideas

Tuesday, January 5, 2010 , Posted by Johnny Fuery at 5:35 PM

Originally Published 2007-06-19 16:56:06

I have a friend who has a million and one entrepreneurial ideas. He’s not a quack, though. In fact, he’s one of the smartest people I know. He’s actually put several ideas into motion, made a few dollars, and been a part of many endeavors that any onlooker would consider successful.

duck in water

I find him a kindred spirit, because I, too, have ideas quite often, and it actually takes more effort to quell them than it does to articulate them. It’s an interesting dilemma, because it seems I meet people every day who want to pitch a startup idea, but have yet to really perform the due diligence it takes to actually articulate a profitable and scalable business model.

An extended family member of mine, for instance, has a new get-rich-quick scheme every time I see her. I remember her talking about one particular idea she had for innovating on an existing product in the home improvement market, but she was so scared I’d steal her idea that she wouldn’t tell me what exactly the widget was! I asked her how much it would cost to manufacture, where to determine the appropriate distribution or resale liaisons, and what it would take to patent the item. She didn’t know the answers to any of these questions. To be completely honest, I was a little offended that (a) she didn’t trust me, and that (b) she thought I couldn’t come up with a business idea of my own. Alas, she has yet to profit from her idea.

My point is not to downplay the importance of ideas, because innovation occurs every day, and the importance of tinkering just for the sake of creative exploration is the stuff of lore. However, if, like my friend, you have a new idea every ten minutes, then I submit to you that business is not about innovation. Some folks are just that way by nature (“geek” and “engineer” are often monikers reminiscent of this trait), and for you, the challenge is not to come up with a good idea, but rather to eliminate the ones you aren’t passionate about.

To everyone who has been sitting on an idea, waiting or the right timing, the appropriate amount of capital, the right partner, or that nebulous first customer, I have one piece of advice: get off your arse. If you’ve been sinking time and money into something for years and have yet to build a prototype, make a single sale, or pitch to an investor other than your uncle (or, in fact, all three), then it’s high time you stopped calling it a business and started referring to it as your hobby. Because that’s the difference: both consume time, money, and require passion in spades, but businesses make money. Hobbies don’t.

Now, I’m not encouraging you to quit your day job and jump head first into a new field where you don’t know the lay of the land. But if you cannot see the path to profitability within just a few days of analysis, you owe it to yourself to move on. I like to apply a “three shower rule” – if I’ve thought about it for three showers in a row and have yet to either take action or start making a task list, it’s time to stop obsessing and move on to something that makes sense.

There will be other opportunities, other options, and other deals. Stay focused on the albatross currently hovering over you, and you’ll miss the next Google-sized opportunity even when it lands square on your lap.


On 2007-06-20 01:26:58 Matt Jones said:
"I like to apply a “three shower rule” - that made my day very amusing!

On 2007-06-21 15:49:26 Johnny Fuery said:
Glad I could bring a smile... :-)

On 2007-07-11 06:05:45 Desty said:
The best way for someone who either doesn't know how to start/run a business or an existing business owner looking to go into something new is to do it slowly and on a trial scale. Don't bet the farm on something that you have no experience with. Having said that, I do agree action is a must! You'll never know if something would or would not have worked until you try. Failing is part of the process, just try to be smart and lose as little as possible, pick yourself up, and move on.

On 2008-04-01 04:33:25 ways to make money said:
ways to make money...

I feel that success can be measured by how much crap and criticism you get. If you’ re a nobody and don’ t mean anything at all, nobody can be bothered to criticise you. And, most of the time, people who make negative comments are the very ones who...

On 2009-06-27 05:55:16 Home improvement said:
I see this same infatuation with today's trendy marketing tactics... social networking, search engine optimization, microblogging, blogging... Social media is the current "brochure" of marketing....

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