Many businesses start these days by vetting a good idea in front of an audience. We present at conferences, competitions, and events like the IdeaSlam at Cary Innovation Center. For some, the whole process of deciding what idea to pursue can be daunting. (The director of a small business center at a local community college who has been asked to tell an inquirer what kind of business to start validates this fact.) Those who never start a business, but envy those who do, will say that they could have been rich if only they had thought of a concept first. Whichever category above fits you, know this: the initial idea is not the key to success–execution is!
Herein lies the “rub” — that many entrepreneurs expend enormous amounts of energy, financial capital, and (often) human capital in an effort to make an idea work that needs to be rethought. Frequently, we call in favors and have been know to burn bridges in the headlong pursuit of our personal holy grail. Emotionally, it is easy to become consumed with the idea to the point that we are blinded to any and every other thing around us–even important things! Along with the emotional “sunk cost,” we often lose our objectivity because of the amount of money invested in the initial idea.
Far more important is a rock-solid business model that creates value for a customer, especially relative to existing solutions. When the business model is battle tested through the incubation process, it becomes invincible. Very few businesses end up creating billions of dollars of value based on the initial idea – superstars such as Facebook, Apple, and Microsoft changed their business models many times before settling on a scalable solution.
-Karl Stark & Bill Stewart
Stark & Stewart go on to say that too many folks are afraid to share their idea with others for fear it will be stolen/copied. They are quick to point out that the true value lies “not in the idea, but in the execution.” Their approach is to share the idea broadly enough with others with different points of view, more experience, and who can offer healthy skepticism that will help you to re-work the idea. It is the supreme compliment to have your idea “stolen.” But, fear not–you still win the competition with superior execution. Three tips they offer for improving execution:
1. Stop perfecting the idea, and get out in front of customers.
The business you develop through a test and learn approach will be worth multiple times more than your original idea.
2. Don’t focus on things that don’t exist.
Instead, look at existing solutions and figure out ways to create more customer value than what those solutions offer.
3. Positively differentiate yourself from the competition.
Most products can’t be all things to all people. A differentiated product will attract a segment of customers that value different things. An innovative start-up is almost always advantaged when chipping away at a market leader if they can offer something different that appeals to a small group of customers.
What is needed, in the final analysis, is a process to create value. One process that I’ve observed to work is the Six Steps to Success program being used with mentees of EntreDot:
- Ideation – Determine if the idea has any commercial merit
- Conceptualization – Complete the concept development and determine market value
- Creation – Perform R&D and establish proof of concept
- Evaluation – Complete the business plan and determine business value
- Preparation – Prepare the launch plan for the business
- Commercialization – Commence business operations
As the business owner goes through the steps, sustainable customer and shareholder value is created. When the process is “complete,” it is, in fact, just beginning as entrepreneurs are encouraged to go back to the drawing board with the next idea. The commitment to executing idea after idea creates a strong market position that is hard to duplicate.