Entrepreneurship is About More Than Having a Good Idea
Did you know that the first person to make paper was a Ts’ai Lun, a Chinese court official, who mixed mulberry bark, hemp and rags with water, mashed it into pulp, pressed out the liquid, and hung the thin mat to dry in the sun. The paper that we have today is a result of centuries of technological innovation, difficult, skilled labor, and a desire to improve.
This is all to say that your so-called “million-dollar idea” likely isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on.
A great deal of entrepreneurship content focuses on the idea—the lightning strike of inspiration that is guaranteed to make you a millionaire. The problem is that it doesn’t work that way.
An idea without a plan is just a wish.
It’s not possible to simply dream something into existence. You need to work hard to make it a reality, and how competently you’re able to do that will determine your success. Execution will always win out over ideation.
That’s why I’m actually pretty open about sharing my ideas with others. Some people will tell you that it’s foolish to share your ideas, but I just don’t care. I don’t have the time or bandwidth to pursue every idea I have, so it doesn’t bother me if someone else beats me to the punch on a great business idea. They’re the ones who put in the work and had the skills needed to succeed. At the end of the day, that’s all that really matters.
Just because you’re the first mover doesn’t mean you’ll be the first to the finish line.
Questions Every Would-Be Entrepreneur Should Consider
Don’t get me wrong, a good idea is a great first step, but there’s no such thing as an “idea man” in entrepreneurship. Nothing materializes out of thin air. You need to do the work to bring it to life.
That’s why, once you have your “million dollar idea,” you need to ask yourself a few basic questions to start figuring out whether or not it’s actually feasible:
Is there a market for my product?
Even if you really have a “first-mover,” one-of-a-kind idea (which is rare), you’ll need to consider if the market is ready for your product. Is the time right for this innovation? Is there currently a demand for something of this nature?
What is the value proposition of my product?
The value proposition isn’t just about the actual product or service you’re selling. It’s the factor that solves a problem your competitors don’t. This applies to your entire business from customer service to the product itself. Basically, what’s your competitive edge? Why should people spend their money on your product over another?
Do I have the skills and resources needed to pull it off?
This is the big one: What makes you the right person to solve this problem? Just because you’ve thought of a solution doesn’t mean that you’re the right person to implement it. Maybe you don’t have the time or funding necessary to fully commit to this project. Maybe you don’t have the technical know-how. Either way, you’re going to flounder, and there’s a good chance you’ll end up fumbling on your way to the end zone and setting someone else up to score.
If you can successfully answer these three simple questions, then congrats! Your idea meets the bare minimum threshold for what could be a worthwhile entrepreneurial venture. However, that’s only just the beginning…
Get Ready for the Long Haul
“Out-of-the-box” thinking isn’t enough. You also need to refine the practical skills that go along with successfully running a business. Learn marketing. Learn finance. Learn sales. Even if you’re eventually able to bring more people onto your team to handle these specific aspects of the business, you should at least have a general understanding of how all the pieces work together and how you can implement some basic DIY solutions to problems that arise.
Entrepreneurs are renaissance (wo)men who know and can speak intelligently about every facet of their business. Without that knowledge of how the whole picture comes together, success is unlikely.
That’s why, in entrepreneurship, ideas are great, but action is better. It’s not enough to just have a great idea. You need to follow through on it.