Just about everyone I’ve ever known has had great ideas. And, growing up, most of us are taught that a great idea can make you wealthy. And while this can sometimes be true, I’ve seen a lot of great ideas crash and burn, and even more often, suffer a long slow suffocation.
An early lesson in business I got through the school of hard knocks is that it’s better to fail quickly. It’s fairly common for most entrepreneurs to fail in several businesses before they succeed. In my own case, I started an advertising agency as a first business. It did will initially, but I rapidly learned a sobering rule.
When the going is good, you need to be marketing. I got off to a great start, with a solid client and a great contract. Advertising is a service industry, and so it can be difficult to scale without hiring or outsourcing. And, without that, you are limited to taking on only as much as you can actually work. In that way, service companies are basically just buying yourself a job. And when you are limited to the amount of work you can do (only so many hours in the day) it’s very easy to put all of your eggs in one basket. But when a client pulls the plug, you have no more income!
Another thing I see often is a tendency toward perfectionism. A great idea dies because too much time is spent perfecting it, and most of the seed money gets consumed with product development rather than marketing and advertising. It is far better to research the market, launch a speculative marketing campaign to determine market interest, and then take orders prior to launching. This solves the cash flow problem so many businesses encounter when they first start out. And it prevents expecting a “build it and they will come” disappointment. One trick pony ideas are often met with a premature demise. It’s far better to develop multiple ideas, and test each to see what the market is willing to pay for. They call it the “bleeding edge” for a reason. Often, businesses that improve on an idea just 5 or 10% will quickly over take any novel ideas.
In coaching, I’ve also met quite a few clients that thought they had a great idea, and perhaps it was, but the depth of the idea itself wasn’t thought through enough to have the substance necessary to fully expand it out. This is so often the case with “information” businesses. When the pressure of “making it” weighs down, many people find they have far less to say about their topic than they thought they did. I highly recommend doing writing far in advance just to see if you actually do know the subject you want to sell information about. This isn’t to suggest you have to be an “expert” (though it would be better if you were), but that you’ve at least researched the topic enough to be an “authority” that can do more than 5 emails, or a single eBook.
Finally, perhaps the most obvious but little thought about cause of business failure, is too much emphasis on looking successful before the profits reflect a successful reality. What I’m talking about here is the tendency to purchase expensive business cards, a new desk and/or computer, leasing a fancy car, or buying new “business attire” to look like a powerful CEO. In the beginning, it’s far wiser to spend that money on advertising and remain modest and conservative. Save the look of success for after you’ve crossed the finish line.
Put plainly, you can’t skip the work or the investment. There is nothing more liberating, nothing more able to create great wealth for you than having a successful business. But the promises of over night success, effortless million dollar right out of the box quick fix solutions are nothing more than devious marketing to create the wealth of charlatans.