What is an idea? It's just a thought in your head about potentially doing something in the future. It can be easy to get overly attached to our ideas at this early stage when they appear so perfectly formed in our mind. However, it's essential to remember that whilst they remain in the safety of your head they're completely worthless.
In the previous post, I covered that idea behind this blog, but I didn’t get to the idea behind the business that I’ll be launching. So what is it? It’s a rental reusable coffee cup service managed by an app, which will hopefully replace the need for single use takeaway coffee cups. Think Keepcup meets O-bikes. Basically, you’ll go to a cafe, get your coffee in this cup, scan your phone to check it out, when you’re done you drop it back at any cafe in our network and scan your phone to check it back in.
What do you think? I would actually like to know, so if you have any feedback please comment below. Whilst your opinion would be interesting to hear, for now, I’m reminding myself that other people’s opinions of this idea don’t actually matter. And at this early stage when exploring potential ideas the only person’s opinion that matters is my own.
Why your ideas don’t matter (to anyone else)
The first thing to keep in mind when discussing your business ideas with other people is that behaviour is far more important than opinions. Opinions come with no commitment or sacrifice and because most people just want to be nice they really don’t count for very much. Take this hypothetical conversation to understand why.
Me: “So my new idea is a rental Keepcup service managed by an app”
Someone: “Cool idea, that would be really useful.” (sharing an opinion)
Me: “Great, want to download the app. Here’s the link” (asking for some commitment)
Someone: “Cheers, but I actually don’t drink takeaway coffee so I don’t need it. But I’m sure heaps of people would use it!” (revealing that they’re not in the target market)
As you can see, if we just take people’s opinions we learn very little about the potential of an idea. By asking for some level of commitment we can quickly start to understand whether the opinion has any weight to it. It’s important to remember that whilst opinions don’t matter, real customer feedback is essential at this early stage. We’ll go into that topic in much more detail soon and if you want a more detailed explanation on this point, check out this short 4-minute animated video.
For now, just remember that you do want to be sharing your ideas whenever you can, however, you shouldn’t be placing too much weight on peoples opinion about them.
The second reason that our ideas aren’t worth anything at the moment is because they’re nothing without execution. To understand why this is the case consider another business idea. It’s for an electric car that drives like a Ferrari, only costs $2,000 and is powered by solar particles in the paint so it never needs to be recharged. What do you think?
I’m sure you’ll agree that this is a “great idea”, but if I asked you to invest some of your personal savings in the business I bet you’d want to know exactly how I planned I making the thing….
This highlights the importance of being able to execute on your ideas to turn them into reality, which is crucial in moving from a wantrepreneur (someone with ideas who never does anything with them) to an entrepreneur. It only helps explain why you shouldn’t be scared of anyone “stealing” your idea at the moment (because there is nothing for them to steal). This point leads nicely into explaining why your ideas are only important only for you right now.
Why you ideas do matter (for you)
At this early stage, you should be playing around with ideas to determine which are best suited to you and therefore worth your time. There are a few questions you can ask yourself to help with this process.
First of all, are you capable of executing this idea? when it comes to choosing an idea it’s important to pick something that you’re capable of getting into the market yourself. This doesn’t need to be the fully fledged final product, but you should be able to get something into the market on your own without spending much money or relying on other people to build it for you.
For instance, I have a strong feeling that the final product of my idea will need to be an app and I’m no app developer. However, I do think that I’ll be able to scrap together a rough prototype to test the market.
When I say test the market that doesn’t need to involve thousands of people using my rental Keepcup service. It means anything that will allow me to gather information about the potential of the concept. Off the top of my head, some examples of these tests could include:
- Asking for early registrations and payments from cafe owners: this would allow me to gather information on the business model of charging cafe owners for the service.
- Building a system for one cafe to use a rental Keepcup service: this would allow me to gather information on how people would use the service such as how many cups we would require and how long people would hold them before returning.
We’ll go into more detail on how you can run tests on your business without the need for investing too much time or resources later. So if you’re not a developer, don’t worry. It doesn’t mean you need to throw your tech ideas out the window. But you should have a preference for ideas that you’re skills and interests align to, which is why I’m not trying to build an electric car right now!
The next question to consider is, are you solving a problem you actually care about? This matters for your motivation. Fundamentally, all businesses revolve around solving some kind of problem for someone. It’s no secret that launching a business is hard so if the problem you’re solving actually matters to you’re more likely to persist at trying to solve it.
For me, this is a problem I care about solving. If you ask any of my friends they’ll tell you I’m pretty anal when it comes to recycling. In fact, I thanks all the information I’ve soaked up from the War on Waste and Before the Flood, I go to great lengths to reduce my environmental footprint. In fact, the other day I walked back from the shops holding a bunch of broccoli like a bouquet of flowers just to avoid using a plastic bag.
Another way to frame this question is why do you want to work on this business instead of all the other possible ideas out there? Understanding the “why” behind your business idea will be essential when the time comes for convincing other people to join your cause. For a crash course in the power of understanding the why, check out this TedTalk by Simon Sinek.
The final question to ask yourself at this stage is would you like to work for this business? this is an often overlooked point when assessing the idea. Considering you’re facing an uphill climb to get there, you’d want to know if the end result is worth the effort. To drive home that mountain metaphor ask yourself “is the mountain you’re about to climb going to be worth the view at the top?”
This is the beauty of creating your own business, you have the ability to construct the way you work within it. But that just doesn’t happen naturally, it needs to be a deliberate approach from you. If you’re someone that values time with your family, then you don’t want to build a business that requires 120-hour working weeks or frequent trips overseas.
I used a couple of exercises to help me with this stage. The first was a core values assessment, which helped me outline what are the key motivating factors for me. This exercise is important for selecting the ideas that you will be most motivated to work on.
The other exercise was a new business stocktake to outline the reasons why I want to start a business and to assess the capabilities that I have to do so. This exercise focused on five key areas, which are:
- Your guiding values
- Reason for wanting to start a business
- What success would look like at the end
- The entrepreneurial resources you have at your disposal
- Your time and money constraints
You can find a template for this exercise here, and I’ve added the one I completed below. Reviewing these factors allowed me to come up with some criteria for assessing my ideas. Essentially, these are the minimum criteria that any of your ideas would need to meet before you would pursue them. For me these were:
- Improves other peoples lives in some meaningful way
- Allows me to build new skills by tackling interesting problems
- I can prove the concept has potential without the need for large amounts of upfront capital
Retainr met all these criteria for me, so I decided to put some more work into exploring it’s potential. Coming up next, I’ll cover a more systematic process for generating new ideas as well as how to indentify the potential risks involve.
See you there!