Have a big idea? Well, unless we are dealing with philosophy or politics, ideas don’t matter. Execution is everything. Here is what you can do to take your dream from idea to execution.
- Count the cost - it will cost you more than you think and take longer than you like. I have friends who love to describe companies in terms of revenue. You should be looking at costs and profits. Even if you take in a billion dollars, if it costs a billion and a half to do your deal, it won’t be a good business! So, count the financial cost, time cost, personal cost, energy cost. And do that first! Once you’ve decided to move forward, write down your cost analysis and your why. Believe me, you will need something written to remind you why you got into this thing in the first place.
- Evaluate the market - look around! What are your competitors (or co-entrepreneurs) doing? If you aren’t aware of the market, then you won’t be able to see how truly disruptive or repetitive your idea is. I remember once someone described an idea for a real estate website to me. They were convinced it would work. I agreed. It was already working, as Zillow. This person had nowhere close to the time, resources or expertise to compete with Zillow. So, all the time they spent thinking of this idea and mentally perfecting it could have been saved if they had just looked at the market first. Remember, your idea doesn’t have to be unique or the same as the rest, but you should at least know what the market is doing if you are going to join the fray.
- Bring in experts - and ask their actual opinion. One company I worked with for a short time had amazing experts in the room, but created an environment where they were not free to speak, well, freely. The only acceptable view was “this is the next big thing.” In reality, it was clear to anyone with actual experience in the industry that this was not the next big thing but it could be an okay thing or maybe even a very good thing. The advice of the experts in the room could have moved the project from not good to very good in a short amount of time. Instead the company rejected any advice that varied from the party line and, no surprise, ran out of money and exited the market soon thereafter. If you don’t have someone telling you what you DON’T want to hear, you have the wrong people on your team.
- Invest for the short run, dream for the long run. This may seem counter intuitive, but many founders and entrepreneurs I know are always thinking about the long term potential of their company. Unless you are trying to build the next Facebook, you need to turn a profit soon, or at least break even. Don’t keep pouring all your savings into a company that isn’t profitable and is not, by the numbers, headed there. At the same time, dream big! Dream about the future and think of how your idea could help others! Dream outside of the box. Dream of taking the product or company somewhere unexpected. Those kind of dreams combined with realistic short term financial decisions are a winning combination!
- Prepare yourself for divorce. Marital pre-nuptuals are super controversial among many conservatives but business prenuptial agreements should be required! What happens when this company breaks up? This is even more important when there are outside investors (or family investors God forbid) involved. How are you going to break up? How are you as the founder going to say goodbye? The end is coming. So, go ahead and think about what you’d like for it to look like now. Don’t get so caught up on this that you don’t move ahead, but it is still really important.
I hope that this has given you some basic steps for moving your idea forward. What are things you have seen successful startups do that have made the difference?
As always, if this is helpful to you, share! Comment! And let me know what you’d like to hear more about.
Dealing with something impossible?