More people want to become entrepreneurs than actually do. Often, that’s because people think that they can’t start a business until they have a ground-breaking, game-changing original idea that will shake up the market and make them overnight millionaires. So many people simply don’t get started because they think that the first step is to have some “eureka” moment. They wait for a product to occur to them that’s so good, it’ll sell itself.
And that’s nonsense. In my experience— both with my own businesses and in watching others— one thing has become very, very clear: It’s not about the idea. The quality of the idea isn’t the primary factor in determining the success of the company. I know that sounds counterintuitive, maybe even a little crazy, but anyone who’s been around the block a few times can attest to this. It’s not about the notion. It’s about the implementation.
Of course having an incredible, unprecedented great idea helps. But it’s not enough. Without the right marketing and execution, even the best ideas will fail to bear financial fruit. Rather than trying to draw some incredibly creative epiphany out of your head, it’s a smarter idea to simply listen. Listen for a problem that consumers have, and offer a solution. Identify a need that the market isn’t addressing, and let the product be guided by that. It’s that simple.
Be a problem-solver, not an inventor
The idea behind your business doesn’t have to be genius. It simply has to tackle a problem. The product itself doesn’t have to be flawless. It simply has to meet needs that aren’t being met elsewhere. History proves this. Some of the most successful startups stand as testament.
Instagram was purchased by Facebook for a billion dollars. And what is Instagram? A world-altering social media revolution? An unheard-of concept? A cure for some disease? It’s none of those things. It’s a photo sharing app. That’s not exactly the wheel or the light bulb. Photo-sharing and instant filtering were nothing new when Instagram started doing it. They simply made it user-friendly and fun for average people. Eventually, Zuckerberg came calling.
For another example, take Tesla. Elon Musk is undoubtedly an innovator and an entrepreneurial genius. But what is a Tesla? It’s an electric car. Electric cars have been around for as long as cars in general have been around. Musk is not the first person to try to sell them. His approach is what made the difference.
Rather than trying to build the “perfect” vehicle, Musk simply identified the problems that potential electric car buyers faced. Electric cars were slow. They were ugly. They had limited range. They were barely more than political statements on wheels. Musk made electric cars that addressed these issues. He made them quick. He made them practical. He dared to make them sexy, in the exact same way that makers of non-electric cars try to make theirs sexy. And it worked.
The Myth of Perfection
The Next Big Idea isn’t worth chasing. Everyone wants to invent the Pet Rock, while forgetting that the Pet Rock was just a rock. How many times have you seen a product and said to yourself, “I thought of something like that” or “I always wanted something that would take care of that”? The difference between would-be entrepreneurs and actual entrepreneurs is simply action and execution.
Rather than trying to perfect your idea before you launch your business, launch your business. Start addressing a need in the market, and “perfect” as you go along. Refine your idea and innovate your product after you start selling it, not before. Start lean, with an MVP (Minimum Viable Product), and modify it along the way. Let the customers be your guide.
There’s a phrase in the military: “Fire and adjust.” It refers to the act of pointing a weapon at a target and firing without the expectation of hitting the mark on the first try. You see where the shot landed, then adjust accordingly. You don’t try to ensure the direct hit beforehand, refusing to fire until you’re positive of success. You make your move. You go from there. Launching a business is a lot like that.
Hear The Idea
The best entrepreneurs in the business world aren’t geniuses with universe-altering ideas. They’re simply observant. They pay attention to the experience of customers in the market, and they figure out how to improve it. They don’t rely on the strength of ideas so much as they rely on their ability to be responsive to consumers. They don’t try to “crack the code” of success. They try to make people’s lives a little better, a little easier, or more fun.
Perfection doesn’t exist. Businesses should always be striving and innovating, and so should the entrepreneurs behind them. The entrepreneurial lifestyle isn’t about conjuring the ultimate idea and getting out of an unsatisfying job. Entrepreneurship doesn’t have an endgame. It’s the act of reevaluating, honing, and growing.
So don’t worry about concocting that “perfect” business idea. Solve a legitimate problem— no matter how many tries it takes— and people will pay you to keep doing so.