The entrepreneurial life is all about ideas. When our family runs into obstacles in life, we immediately snap into entrepreneurial mode: How will we respond? What should we do with this? Is there a solution that isn’t so obvious?
Eventually, the entrepreneur comes up with a solution that leads to the question, “Could we make some money off this idea?”
I’ve come across so-called entrepreneurs who don’t give their ideas much more thought than this, and they dive into all sorts of things. I admire their enthusiasm, but sometimes I’m left shaking my head at their, er (how should I say this?) — stupidity. That’s not such an inappropriate term: some entrepreneurs dive into their ideas without giving the idea careful thought or planning. That is, by definition, stupid.
On the other hand, I’ve met people with such great ideas, yet they never get started. They seem almost afraid to get their product or service out there, scared of what people might think, shuttering at the possibility of failure. While this isn’t necessarily stupid (the ones I’m thinking of are some of the smartest people I know), I would call this fearful.
I’m not sure which is worse, stupid or fearful. The stupid entrepreneur will eventually land on something that sticks, though they’ll implement it sloppily. If the fearful finally gets going on something, they’re so late to market that the opportunity is mostly gone. It sometimes works out when the fearful hires the stupid; the latter takes the risks (and makes good money) and the former enjoys the fruition of their idea (in the safe background).
Before I get all high-and-mighty, I have to confess: I have a good history of stupidity and fear. Neither are healthy entrepreneurial places to grow or business models that can turn a profit. I’ve learned to balance the two with the following fundamental questions about my “brilliant” ideas:
For the Stupid Entrepreneur:
- Has anyone else thought of your brilliant idea? Do a web search and market study to see.
- If no one has your idea, ask yourself, “Why not?” Perhaps it’s because it won’t work. Give it some careful thought.
- Is this a million dollar idea? Pause on that thought. Instead ask, “Will people want this idea?” That’s really the question to answer.
For the Fearful Entrepreneur:
- Have you tested your idea on a smaller group of people? Try it out and study their response.
- Change your perspective of criticism. It is not a sign of failure, it is a list of suggestions for adjustments.
- Set deadlines. Like, drop dead deadlines. It’s going to market in all its imperfections by such-and-such a date. Period.
Really, entrepreneurs are both stupid and fearful, but in a healthy sense. “Stupid” meaning they’re a bit wild, adventurous, “why not?” kind of thinkers. “Fearful,” perhaps, but they keep fear in its place, in a corner, listening and aware of fear but never letting it have genuine power in the idea process.
With these healthy perspectives, an entrepreneur’s brilliant ideas are on the road to success.