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Good Ideas Aren't Good Enough

Successful companies aren't built with good ideas, they're built with good execution.

Good Ideas Aren't Good Enough

Several years ago, I was introduced to an entrepreneur who had recently launched a business and was looking for investors to accelerate his growth. While the success of his venture hinged on the adoption of relatively new technology, the presence of established competitors afforded him an opportunity to differentiate himself and validated that there was a demand for his offering.

The crux of our conversation went something like this:

Me: Why will customers choose you instead of Big Established Competitor?

Him: We're going to be more affordable.

Me: It sounds like this is basically the same thing as Big Established Competitor, but less expensive.

Him: Exactly.

Me: So, if everything goes according to plan and you're able to use lower prices to grow your market share, what's stopping Big Established Competitor from initiating a price war that you can't win?

Him: ... I hadn't thought about that.

There are several lessons that I could pick out from this anecdote, but the most important is that good ideas aren't good enough. Successful companies aren't built with good ideas, they're built with good execution. And good execution begins by asking some fundamental questions, like:

Who is this for?

("Everyone" is a sure sign of lazy opportunism, not intelligent entrepreneurialism).

What problems will it solve?

(Most purchases are intended to solve more than one problem, and the intangible problems often get overlooked even though they are usually just as important as the functional ones).

Do your intended customers actually have these problem?

(Many aspiring entrepreneurs generalise from their own circumstances and experiences).

Do they know that they have them?

(Convincing someone that they have a problem that they aren't aware of is a tough sell).

Do they care enough to solve them?

(We all have problems that we don't care about, even though we should, because they aren't as aversive as the other problems that we do care about, even though we shouldn't).

Are they currently paying for a solution?

(It's not impossible to bring the very first paid solution to market, but the odds are stacked against you).

This isn't limited to startups. I've worked with plenty of business veterans who fell in love with an idea for a new product line, promotion, or something else that they then proceeded to execute poorly because they assumed everyone else would instantly fall in love with it as well.

At best, a good idea is a starting point. At worst, it's a mirage that distracts from the real work of building a great business.