Ideas all to often steal the show. Ideas, however, are like the shallow celeb on the red carpet. They look great from far away – successful, valuable, popular. Get near though, spending a few days with the shallow celeb, and you soon see that they’re grasping to their career, putting pieces together of an unenviable social life and sitting on empty bank accounts.
The shallow celeb lacks execution behind the scenes, but that’s not exciting is it?
Time and again I hear a friend joke that if only they’d had the idea for Twitter, Flappy Bird, even Selfie Sticks. But really, any of the countless seemingly simple and obvious, yet wildly succesful ideas out there.
“Why Didn’t I Think of That?!?”
Having been through it myself I can’t overemphasize how little value there is in an idea.
I can tell you, and I probably have, but for some reason it rarely sinks in.
I think part of it is the glamour that comes with an idea, much more alluring than the grind that comes with execution.
Grind vs Glamour
Here are a few reminders of the grind that happens behind the scenes of any successfully executed idea:
Well first, there’s never just 1 idea. It takes many ideas and pivots to find one where you hit product/market fit. Did you know that Twitter started as a podcasting company?
And of course you actually have to follow through on what often starts as a side project. This is incredibly difficult. After the adrenaline wears off, will you keep at it? Think about Kelly Slater, one of the best surfers ever. How great does it sound to surf for a living? Well imagine surfing every, single, day, day-in and day-out, for decades. The days you’re sick. The days it’s so cold you feel like you lost your wetsuit. The days your bones won’t stop aching. That’s what executing on an idea is.
Most great ideas go undiscovered. As of July 2014 there were over 2.5 million apps between the Apple & Google app stores. Yours will not magically float to the top. Great app store SEO, immaculate descriptions and screenshots, positive reviews from users and if you’re lucky a featured link in the app store might get you noticed. For a day. And then another dozen apps will push you back down. So you have to get back at it, spreading the word of your amazing idea.
(I will grant that the long-tail nature of the internet has made it possible for small single person businesses, but we’re talking life-changing ideas here.)
How many hats can you wear? When you start out you’ll be building your product, marketing it, searching for customers, balancing your books, managing supplies, hiring employees, finding an office and hopefully making money at some point too.
To scale, you’ll need to build a team.
Good Great people are hard to come by. Look within your current network – how many people do you know today that you think can help you execute on your idea? Maybe 5, 10 people if you’re lucky? Now you’re going to need to find another 50 smart, creative, motivated people that will add to your company culture. Where will you find them? They don’t just show up at your door, resume in hand. At least, when they do start to do that, you already have your team and no longer need their help.
Competitors will hunt you down. You might be riding the selfie stick fad and come to terms with how rapidly knock-offs can pop up. Or maybe you created an amazing compression algorithm and won Techcrunch Disrupt, but now Google is throwing it’s war chest of funds at you to try and take you down. Are you prepared?
You Can Keep Your Idea
I’m over 500 words but you get the idea here.
You can have your idea. I’ll sign your NDA. I honestly don’t really care. I’m personally more interested in the bad ideas, the bad ones that were still successful. Things like online garage sales or 24/7 news channels.
Terrible ideas at the time, but wonderfully executed. You can’t learn anything from a good idea, but you can learn a million lessons from a bad idea executed greatly. Because it’s the execution that matters.