Ideas, Focus & Persistence
All Entrepreneurs need ideas to exploit commercially, whether their own or someone else’s, or a combination of ideas or concepts, ideas equal commerce. I think I am a more fortunate Entrepreneur as I have many ideas of my own and an ability to see a gap in the market and know what to do to exploit it, whether this is a service need or product that needs bringing to market. But ideas can come from anywhere, and some of the Entrepreneurs & Innovators I know have a slightly different ability, they excel at putting A + B together and getting C which they can sell. I do feel I am able to do this to an extent but freely admit that there are others that are far better at this ‘adaptation’ skill as I call it. Wherever the idea comes from, the starting point of a commercial pathway, ideas are the life blood of Entrepreneurs and it is the development of ideas that gets them up in the morning.
I do want to dispel one myth, that Entrepreneurs are better than other people or have some superhuman power compared to mere mortals, it’s nonsense of course. There are few Entrepreneurs I would put in charge of the long term operations of a company; it’s just not for them, whereas others excel at this important role, to plot a course for a company to follow long into the future. Different personality types, different skill sets, different experiences give people different paths in life and I do believe Entrepreneurs are a combination of these. I think the real difference is that some Entrepreneurs are willing to take risks and others want to know where their next pay-cheque is coming from. Again there is nothing wrong with wanting security, as all adults do to one degree or another, and this is where the true talents of an Entrepreneur comes in – selecting the right idea. This is not easy by any standards, so where you get the idea from becomes insignificant compared to which idea to take forward. From my own experience once cannot successfully take forward more than three projects at any time, there just would not be enough hours in the day.
Sometimes the challenge to take the idea forward into commercial success (hopefully) rests on the ability of the Entrepreneur to gather the right team, the right people together. Perhaps this is where experience comes into its own as this is not easy, and as the idea develops into commerce sometimes the skills mix you need changes. But the problem I have is that I have too many ideas, too many projects I want to take forward, too many drains on my time and energy. But mixed into this is the essential knowing when to walk away from an idea.
I don’t give up on a business idea unless I know that I have truly tried everything I can to breathe life into it, tried every avenue, tried every possible angle, only then do I resign an idea or concept to the file named ‘Another Time Perhaps’. The reality is that a good idea may just be that, a good idea, but unless someone gives it a monetary value and wants to purchase it then it remains no more than an idea. Sometimes the technology doesn’t exist yet to make it work, sometimes society is not ready to accept the idea, or sometimes there isn’t the funding to get it going. Whatever the reason one also has to accept that sometimes it will never be any more than an idea. This final point is often very hard for an Entrepreneur to accept but has usually come about by the person not being able to convince others, win them over, energise them in support of the idea, sell your vision to them. Ultimately it can just be that it is only an idea and will never be a product, service or other commercial venture. Hopefully one discovers this before one sinks a large amount of money into prototypes, samples, etc, and this is where I think experience alone can bring some the skills needed to avoid a monetary kick in the Netherlands.
Green are ideas or projects that will definitely be a success (well as definite as one can ever be) and will be quick to get up and running;
Amber are those ideas or projects that are more complicated, will need to involve others to bring it to life and will take some time;
Red are those ideas or projects that involve large amounts of investment, carries high risk and is extremely complex;
However, the irony is that sometimes the ideas and concepts that are classified by ‘Red’ are the ones that usually return the most in the form of profit and also benefit the most people from a philanthropic point of view. Regardless of this one needs a system and the ‘traffic lights’ system works for me and several other Entrepreneurs I know. Another way of looking at ideas and concepts is to assess the cost of each one, and if money is tight you go for the low cost quick hit project. So whether you use one system or prefer another, experience will count and there are a few rules to apply:
- Never ever invest more than you can comfortably afford to lose. Ideas and concepts are fine, they can make you money and be very fulfilling, but even the best ideas can fail and you can lose all you have invested. So only ever invest what you are okay with doing without;
- Never ever secure a business loan or investment on your home. You have to have somewhere to live and a safe place for your family so do NOT be tempted to put your home up as collateral, businesses can fail and to lose your home with it would be a tragedy that you and your family may not recover from;
- Be careful how much shareholding you give away to get an idea or concept up and running. You may find that you have given away so much ownership that in reality you are working for an investment based organisation and your own ownership of your idea is now minimal;
- Don’t fall in love with your idea as you lose all logic based judgement and cannot let go of it, resign it to ‘Another Time Perhaps’ when you really should;
- If you want an honest opinion about an idea, do not ask your family or friends, as they will not want to give you honest negative feedback in case they offend you, and they don’t want to do this. So find someone you work with or do a bit of market testing, just go out and ask people, etc. Find a way to get honest feedback before you invest money in an idea that you have convinced yourself will work;
This final point all Entrepreneurs need to be cautious of, even the most experienced person can convince themselves something will work, an idea will succeed, a concept will bring riches. It is so very hard to self-critique an idea of your own, so you must get feedback via market testing, only then will you know whether an idea is going to be the next Dyson, Amazon, Apple, Google, Face Book, etc. My rule of thumb is that if I cannot sell my vision to a stranger or potential purchaser then I have to think long and hard if I need to resign it to my infamous ‘Another Time Perhaps’. My final advice about potential commercial ideas, products or services is simple, just be honest with yourself, listen to that inner voice we all have, if you do this one generally doesn’t go wrong.
Smiling Cat Ventures and Innovations Group
Smiling Cat Ventures Ltd (www.smilingcatventures.org)
Innovative Minds At Work Ltd (www.innovativemindsatwork.org)
Moments in Time Ltd (www.momentsinmind.org)
Innovative Business Consultancy Ltd (www.ibcv.org.uk)
Systems of Equality Ltd
Passport to Care Ltd (Social Enterprise – Not For Profit)
Spiritual Inclusion (Social Enterprise – Not For Profit)
Disability In Business Centre (in development)
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