If You Build It, Will They Come?

If you have a “Big Idea” for a business, a product or a service, what’s the first thing you need to do?

Does your mind replay the old “Field of Dreams” mantra? “If you build it, they will come!”

In today’s economy, separating fact from fiction is the KEY to lasting success.  Don’t “build it” and expect “them” to just show up!

That only worked in the movie. And remember who showed up to play in that Field of Dreams? Dead people!  And whether we’re talking about reality or a silver screen fantasy, dead people are only good business for those dealing in wills, estate and funeral services.

If you have a “Big Idea” for a business, a product or a service, the first thing you need to do is determine if it really IS a “Big Idea.”  Because it could also be a whim, a hobby or a change of format masquerading as a “Big Idea.”

Is it REALLY a “Big Idea?”

How do you tell? If it’s more beneficial to you than it is to your customers, it’s likely not a “Big Idea” and will have to be checked out very carefully, or it could damage or destroy your current business.

FOR EXAMPLE:

Changing your in-person consulting work you to a telephone or online collaboration platform is NOT a “Big Idea.” It’s a change of format. And it may be wonderful for you. You won’t have to  race through airports and manage the logistics of delayed flights, lost luggage and stale hotel rooms. But it’s NOT necessarily a benefit to your clients. They will have to learn your new system (do more work) to get the same result or possibly, less than the same result if they enjoyed working with you face to face.

Is it YOUR “Big Idea?”

If you have decided that your concept really IS a “Big Idea,”ask yourself the following questions to find out if it’s YOUR “Big Idea.” Seriously!
It might belong to someone else!

Question #1

How does this “Big Idea” move me closer to my:

  • Personal Vision?
  • Tangible Goals?

You’ll actually have to look at the elements of your personal vision and tangible goals to answer this question.  Dig deep and ask yourself:

Will pursuing this “Big Idea” enable me to:
1. Achieve my revenue goals?
2. Use my strengths / talents?
3. Align with my values / ideals?
4. Involve me in activities I enjoy?
5. Connect me with people I like?
6. Allow me to use my most productive work-styles?
7. Fulfill my works-space and geographic preferences?
8. Support my family’s goals?

Once that’s clear – if it turns out that the “Big Idea” you’ve been contemplating DOES belong to you – tackle the next question to
assess the viability of your “Big Idea.”

Question #2

“Is there a need for my “Big Idea?” Does it have a viable market?”

Now, as “Big Ideas” are a dime a dozen, what you need to figure out next is whether or not your idea is viable. Does it offers a product or service that is needed by a specific market? In short, will it sell well?

There are few situations as discouraging as having taken the time, money and energy required to actually build your “field of dreams,” your “Big Idea,” only to realize that no-one has any interest in it.

“But my idea is totally unique!” You protest. “There’s no way to test such an original concept!”

The Good News & The Bad News

The good news, from a practical viewpoint, is that there are very, very, VERY few genuinely original ideas. This is also the bad news, from an ego based perspective. Sure, we’d all like to be the person who  invented the personal computer, or Post It Notes. But before we get too envious,  let’s look at what it takes to develop a totally original “Big Idea.”

Q: How Many Inventors Does it Take to Develop a Light Bulb?
A:  Seven Inventors + 110 Years.

  • 1800: Humphry Davy invented electric light
  • 1860: Sir Joseph Wilson Swan improved it
  • 1877: Charles Francis Brush advanced the concept
  • 1879: Thomas Edison’s bulb lasted for 1500 hour
  • 1881:  Lewis Latimer improved Edison’s bulb
  • 1903: Willis Whitney made another improvement
  • 1910: William Coolidge perfected it

In order to devote ourselves to developing totally original “Big Ideas,” we do best if we are unemployed and funded well enough to survive for many years without generating any revenue. Most of us don’t have that option. So the fact that virtually no “Big Ideas” are one hundred percent unique is a distinct advantage.

Your “Big Idea’s” Similarity to Proven Ideas Lets You “Look Before You Leap”

Validate your “Big Idea” by researching similar products and services.

1. What are their strengths?
2. What are their weaknesses?
3. What are their recurring challenges?
4. Who are their customers?
5. What do their customers complain about?
6. What do their customers rave about?
7. Is this market sector emerging, growing, flat or declining?
8. Is market-share available?
9. Why will their customers  choose you over them?
10. What’s your revenue potential?
11. What’s your downside risk?

When the concept for MIBOSO showed up as a “big idea”, back in 1997, I ran through these questions myself.

My assessment predicted that my “Big Idea” (running a full service brand agency) would move me closer to my personal vision and and tangible goals. And it has!

My “Big Idea:”

  • Positions me to generate more revenue than I did as an executive with a set salary
  • Allows me to do the work I enjoy most and do best, namely:
    Authentic Business Branding & Authentic Personal Branding
  • Frees me from tasks I don’t enjoy
  • Aligns with my values around authenticity, creativity, making a difference and delivering excellence
  • Fulfills my passion for guiding individuals and businesses to become “authentic” and leverage their strengths, passions, values, experience and talents in order to achieve their visions
  • Utilizes my creative, motivational, mentoring and problem solving  talents
  • Introduced me to thousands of wonderful clients, some of whom have since become good friends
  • Identified my most productive work-style: writing + talking + listening
  • Enables me to work from a home office where I am accessible to my daughter and my dog, not to mention my tea kettle! Yes, I am fueled by gallons of tea!
  • Gives me the opportunity to learn a lot about technology
  • Challenges me to expand my time and financial management skills

When I answered Question #2, I assessed other (Business) Brand Agencies on a number of levels and determined that there WAS a viable market need that MIBOSO could target and fill.

Riding Ahead of the Curve

Assessing the Authentic Personal Branding aspect of my business was more of a challenge, as in 1997, that truly was an emerging market! I learned (after the fact) that when you jump onto the leading edge – or ride slightly ahead of the curve – you need to be willing to do a LOT of teaching and explaining. And as in the world of institutional education, teaching is NOT a job that pays well.  A recent Business Week article by John Tozzi, Think Twice About Being First to Market,” explains why being ahead of the curve is not always an advantage.

This was a trend I continued when I founded Miboso Radio in 2002.  I was WAY ahead of the curve in pod-casting. Since 2005, I’ve made what I learned available to people who are considering getting into web or blog talk radio.

There is little that’s more truly satisfying than work that:

  • You love
  • You do well and easily
  • Aligns with your values
  • Satisfies your passions
  • Furthers your ideals
  • Achieves your vision
  • Connects you with people you enjoy
  • Enables you to fulfill your commitments
  • Meets your work-style, work-space and geographic requirements

So assess your “Big Idea” carefully, and if it checks out:  Work hard and prosper!

One thought on “If You Build It, Will They Come?”

  1. A really, really great blog post here. I find it extremely useful as a checklist for any new ideas that I may have.

    I am going to print this one off – perhaps you could add a print button with a plain CSS stylesheet to the bottom of every blog post 😛

    Thanks a bunch,

    Clément

    P.S. I was sent here by Joel Mackey aka @webaddict – he’s got a great feed.

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