IDEAS DON’T MATTER
That’s a provocative statement, especially in the US. Growing up, I was convinced that one big idea could move anyone from poverty to prosperity, the shadows to the light, the back room to the pent house. After spending over ten years working with non-profits, startup companies, and new product launches, I am convinced that ideas don’t matter, execution is everything. Without execution, ideas don’t come to life. They are like wishes that cannot come true, fairies without the sound of children’s laughter, and wingless angels with no bells. (If you didn’t get all the movie references, I’m sorry.)
No one cares who had the idea for the iPhone, iPod, pack-n-play or your favorite kitchen utensil. All that matters is who brought that idea to life? Who branded it? Who packaged it? Who troubleshooted every new iteration? She’s the one who matters. He’s the one who counts. Execution is what matters.
So, what do you do with your big idea?
First, adjust the way that you think about success and your big idea. Here are the big don’ts of idea execution.
1. Don’t get hung up on how unique your idea is. (It’s probably not.)
As Seth Godin, and many others, have pointed out, the most unique ideas are sometimes the least profitable. Restaurants (regardless of theme) aren’t a unique idea. Feeding others for a fee has been around for millennia, but execute well and even this ancient idea can pay off. I’ve seen clients get hung up and romantically involved with the uniqueness of their ideas, obsessive over the idea being stolen, and hostile to any criticism. The value is in execution. You don’t have to be unique, you just have to deliver.
2. Don’t be discouraged by the success of others.
Someone else either has done this, will do this, or is thinking of doing it right now. And you may run into them in a trade show or in a dining room. Don’t let their success discourage you! Most markets (worth entering) can sustain more than one player. So, if they are writing kids books, you still can too!
3. Don’t buy the cover, read the book.
Being an inventor or a innovator looks really fun. However, without the support of marketing, discipline of good financial planning, and consistent management, it’s not fun at all. Even with all those things, we are talking years of really hard work. I remember being surprised to find that the toy industry boasts some of the saddest most unhappy people I have ever met. I mean, it’s toys! How can you not be happy dealing with toys all day? Many of these people are the inventors who take their big ideas of the next best toy from fair to fair hoping to find a buyer. Don’t get into your industry hoping for one big break. Create great work, then do it again and again, and enjoy incremental progress along the way.
4. Don’t have a love affair with your idea.
Falling in love with an idea will only leave you heartbroken. You and your idea should have a strictly professional relationship. That means when you aren’t good for each other anymore, which will happen one way or another, you part ways as friends without a lot of drama. Falling in love with an idea will also leave you broke! Because an idea you love will cost more, require more, kick more people around, and take you farther than wisdom would suggest.
5. Don’t expect to make money right away, but don’t lose too much of it either.
We all know stories of entrepreneurs who sold it all for their big idea and it paid off. That is great, but what about the ones that sold it all and it didn’t work. Risk is necessary, but don’t let it destroy your life. Make sure that you don’t lose too much in the beginning or the middle or the end. Slow, consistent growth is better than flash and bang that results in bankruptcy. Get some good financial advice from people who will tell you hard truths.
6. Don’t use faith as an excuse to be stupid.
Have faith in God, and use that brain he gave you. Some of the biggest scams have been marketed to and in the church by using words like “It’s gonna happen. We have to believe. The big return is right around the corner!” Open your eyes. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Apply the book of Proverbs to financial/business decisions. And don’t let anyone tell you that you don’t have enough faith because you don’t buy into a dubious pie in the sky business idea. Tell them your faith leads you to the scriptures and those scriptures say don’t be an idiot.
7. Don’t try to be superman.
I know I said the one who executes is the only one who matters. That is a turn of phrase. Most of the time, big ideas aren’t just about one person. One person might get most of the credit, but ideas are brought to life by teams of people. Find your team and don’t try to be superman. You are not.
What other mistakes have you seen startups make in the early stages?
Those are the things you shouldn’t do, here are some ideas of what you should consider.