John had THE big idea.
He invented the Facebook for golf lovers, and he just KNOWS he’s on track to rake in millions of dollars in the next couple years.
All he needs are some investors and some beta users and a little buzz/word of mouth, right?
It sells itself.
So he starts on the next step – logo, of course. Then some business cards. Fancy title and fancy design are essential for serious players.
Then a personal website talking up his expertise.
Now some networking events to talk up the idea, make some connections (virtual, of course… we are living in coronatimes).
What’s wrong with this picture?
If you look around online for advice on “how to start a business”, you’ll find a lot of folks who would tell you he did everything right.
But has he actually BUILT the thing?
I’ll admit to that being a bit of a trick question – because I intentionally didn’t mention whether or not he was a programmer, or if he had a demo available.
If you picked up on that, bravo! In this scenario – he has nothing more than an idea.
And having ideas is a GREAT thing. But it’s hard to make money off JUST an idea.
Now… I made this situation up, but I’ve seen it happen so often, just like this. And I’m not judging this process – because until you’ve thought through how to generate revenue with your idea, I really don’t know how likely your success is. Ideas alone don’t count for much.
But I can tell you if he’s generating buzz before he’s built THE THING, he’s going about this the wrong way.
That’s not to say you can’t get paid to create a product, because you can.
But that’s after years of building a following, building relationships with people. It’s not something that happens when you wake up one morning with an idea and start trying to network.
I guess this is on my mind because recently I’ve had conversations with someone who keeps reaching out to ask me what kind of writing I do. When I tell him sales writing, he gets super excited and word-vomits all over me, over the top with excitement for this thing he built.
I asked him if he sold it.
The excited gushing around the product continued.
I told him I couldn’t help him without a product that has a market and is likely to sell.
Look, I’d love to believe I can sell anything, but I know people. If they don’t want (or don’t understand) something, nothing will convince them to get it…
So I always start with what people want – then build it – then attempt to sell it – THEN scale it (after I’ve got early proof of concept) with investments and partnerships and contractors who can help me grow.
Back to Gentleman John from the intro… generating buzz is the easy thing. Creating something that lives up to the hype is considerably harder.
And it’s soooooooooo tempting to get sucked into feeling like you’re really doing BIG THINGS when you’re getting a logo designed, having those super official looking business cards made, filing all the business paperwork, and networking. It gets you excited. It makes you feel like you’re onto something huge.
But here’s the thing – all that stuff is stuff he’s doing instead of the HARD things, namely building the thing and selling it to a hungry crowd.
What does this mean for you?
First, that building a business can be tough. Some people luck into it and see success right away, but for most of us, it’s a long road full of twists, hairpin turns, and potholes big enough to split a car in half.
Second, that the checklist-and-hype method “John” used is a trap. Here’s how I usually spot it… on paper they’ve accomplished a lot:
– filed paperwork for biz name and registration
– consulted with a lawyer
– drew up contracts
– printed business cards and built a website
– set up profiles online and updated LinkedIn
– did AGES of research on leads and networking events
– invested in logo design and maybe even tried to file trademark/patent paperwork to protect the big idea
Notice how all this stuff is costing you money instead of making it.
I’ve heard this compared to getting ready to put on a show… but never actually raising the curtain.
Because once the curtain goes up, you’re vulnerable. People might judge. They might ignore you. They might walk out. But as long as you’re preparing to go on stage, there’s that exciting promise of what a great show will feel like once you’ve walked off the stage.
But you’ve GOT to put on the show. You’ve got to get ready, then put yourself out there and chance rejection, or having to change directions.
Building and creating is painful and messy and people won’t always like what you made. But just the act of making it has taught you skills… and putting it out there for feedback taught you even more. Just doing THAT gives you the kind of data and knowledge you can’t get from going to school.
So you have an idea for a new business or product?
Put on the damn show. Built it. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Talk to the people who desperately need the thing you built – see if they want it.
THAT is where you start.
Don’t worry about it being perfect. Don’t worry about lining up all the ducks.
Do the hard work, put yourself out there, and rest easy knowing that you’re leagues ahead of everyone spinning their wheels on the easy stuff.