Several years ago, there was a sales rep named Will who would come and visit me at my office. In the course of our conversation over a cup of coffee, he would elaborate on several ideas about how to fix the world’s problems.
"All we need to do to end world hunger is get the rotting food currently in storage to the hungry people around the world", he would explain...
"If we just eliminated all of the government wasteful spending and corrupting, our taxes wouldn’t need to be so high", was another idea of his.
I would never argue with him but rather think quietly to myself...very easy answers for a very simple mind.
Big global problems involving millions of people scattered around the world rarely involve easy one sentence answers.
I generally would ask him follow-up questions such as, "how would you begin to implement the food distribution idea?" or "which wasteful government was corrupt and needed to be eliminated?"
His reply was somewhat comical, "well...I just have the good ideas...I’ll let someone else figure out all the pesky details..." His goal was to get hired by some non-governmental "think tank" to come up with these great new ideas...
Now you might think that I just made up this story to illustrate a point, but rest assured, this is a very true story...but let me use the above story to relate another "true life" example of another example that is quite a bit more prevalent in my life.
One of my other businesses (beyond OptiFuse) involves helping customers to develop new products to sell into the marketplace. Typically these products are simply extensions of the customer’s current product line or perhaps a slight deviation into a new potential market.
My other company, Basic Power Engineering & Manufacturing (BPEM), doesn’t maintain a staff of engineers or have large scale manufacturing capabilities but rather acts more or less like a general contractor building a house. The larger project is typically broken down into smaller tasks which are disseminated to various contract engineering professionals and manufacturers to produce the desired new product. Basic Power is essentially the project manager.
Since several of my friends, relatives and acquaintances are aware of this company, you can imagine how many phone calls or meetings that I field that start with the words, "hey Jim, I have a great idea for a revolutionary new product!."
Typically, I’ll politely listen to their "great idea" and ask them several questions along the way like "who is your typical customer for this item?"..."why will they buy it?"..."how do you plan to let the market know that this product exists?"..."are you willing to spend the time and money necessary to create and market this new product?..."do you have a business plan drafted up so I can look it over?"
The responses are generally along the same lines, "gee...I was just hoping to sell this great new idea to someone else for a "piece of the action" down the road"...or more typically "I was hoping that your company could develop the product AND sell it for me as well..."
Basic Power’s customers are existing businesses. They sell similar products to their existing customer base (or plan on expanding their base with this new product). Their distribution channels are currently in place. They also have the deep pockets to make the investment in the product development and future marketing of the product.
Now I’m not here to pour water in the flames of the entrepreneurial spirit. However creating a new product and introducing it to the market is not an easy task...ESPECIALLY if there is no particular customer in clear sight
Of course with that said, there have been thousands of people who had good ideas, managed to bring those good ideas to market...and have been fortunate enough to have the right product at the right time to reap the riches of success.
Good ideas (and bad ideas) are a dime a dozen...
...but what differentiates the successful entrepreneur from the "idea man" is ACTION.
Action is hard work... dedication... persistence... resources... timing... and a bit of good luck...
Yes...of course...there are exceptions to the rule...Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, wrote a business plan in 1994 while traveling in a car across the country. The company was launched in Bezos’s garage in 1995 and went public just two years later with a market capitalization of over $500M on the first day of trading. Not bad for a company with no profits and relatively miniscule sales...
Amazon won the lottery...whereas most of the "overnight" success stories are fraught with years of dedicated hard work...
If the main aspect to your business plan is to win the lottery...have Oprah recommend your product or service...or win American Idol...then it isn’t much of a business plan...
If it were easy...everyone would do it...but that doesn’t mean you can’t try... it just takes a good idea and action...
Something to ponder on a Friday afternoon...
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