We’ve all been there. We’ve had a new businesses idea taking shape in our minds, and not so shortly after that comes urge to keep the concepts ‘quiet’ until the moment it’s market-ready. It’s a logical instinct – why share with others an idea you’ve been thinking through for some time, especially when it’s in an early, not-yet-finalised and highly vulnerable stage. “Others could steal the idea” – right?
While it’s fair to point out that every start up situation is different, the above logic could be holding your start up idea from getting the early momentum it needs to make it a success (or, conversely, from failing more quickly than it should).
If you’re like most people, and want to keep your idea private until Launch Day, carefully and honestly consider your own reasons for doing so. Below are some reasons why, despite your initial reluctance, you’re likely better off to speak with as many people as possible about your idea – and NOW:
1) “If someone can so easily steal your idea … are you really all that safe anyway?”
Founders often site “protecting first mover advantage” as a common reason for early stage secrecy. Granted, this can provide start ups with a short-term window of opportunity to seize market share and establish themselves as the dominant brand in their space. Here is the reality: if you have a profitable business concept, and it’s something which can be copied or (worse yet) improved upon faster than you can adjust yourself, others will follow your lead the day you start promoting your launch and leapfrog you anyway. So what you need to weigh is the opportunity offered by this first mover period of time, compared with the advantages listed below which could strengthen your position from Day #1 and make you tougher to beat.
2) “There are lots of talkers out there, but few doers.”
We’ve all heard the talkers talking – “I had this idea XYZ a few years ago, now look at all these companies doing it. I would be a millionaire if I followed through.” The fact is that few people are in the financial position, have the skill sets, drive or passion to follow through on ideas. If you’re passionate about your business concept, others will hear it in your voice. Few would probably even know where to start replicating your idea, so don’t be intimidated. Be confident. Talk about your idea and get it out there.
3) “You need to validate your idea – NOW. So go get it.”
Much like music artists writing songs, they write lost of songs. Some will be big hits. Far more will be average at best. Even more, were bad ideas to begin with. This is comparable to business ideas – some are great ideas, some are ok … others will be an unprofitable waste of time, and should never see the light of day. Don’t wonder if your idea will be well received by the market – find out now by floating the idea by everyone you know. If the reaction is mostly negative, this might be telling you to move onto to your next (BETTER) idea and stop wasting your valuable time and resources.
4) “You never know who you’re talking to.”
This is true in many cases. Scenario #1: you’re at a hotel for drinks from some friends and friends-of-friends. You strike up a conversation with someone, have the usual get-to-know-you banter, move onto what you do for a living, and you take the opportunity to explain you’re a “budding entrepreneur” and have a start up concept. Little did you know – the person you’re speaking to is a software developer, is looking to get involved in a start up but was needing a co-founder to do all the operational stuff “they wouldn’t be good at”. Put yourself into target-rich networking environments where you’re more likely to meet helpful people.
5) “You never know who the person you’re talking to knows themselves … there’s only one way to find out.”
Now imagine Scenario #2: the same hotel drinks scenario above, you talk to the same person, only they’re not a software engineer. BUT you tell this person you’re looking for one … and conveniently, they know 5 of them who he went to uni with, are linked up to them on LinkedIn, and kindly offer to e-introduce you to discuss their interest in getting involved or providing you, regardless, with helpful ideas on how to approach your start up.
Remember: networking isn’t linear, it’s exponential! If 10 people in a room have 200 contacts each, that’s potentially 2,000 contacts available to you in the room alone. And those people know others as well. You can tap into these contacts, but only if you talk about your idea, and ask around.
6) “People love an underdog and may go out of their way to help you.”
It’s human nature to want underdogs to succeed – to beat the odds, see their passion come to life, and maybe (just maybe) be part of the journey which saw them win in the end. Let helpful people be helpful – share your passion for your idea, ask them what they think and how they could potentially help out!
7) Common excuse: “There are bigger companies in the market who could swallow me up until I’m bigger.”
If there’s a bigger fish than you in your market, and you think you have an idea that they haven’t considered or researched themselves, the likelihood is you’re probably wrong. Large companies don’t move quickly – even if you moved into the market, and started to have some early success, they likely wouldn’t take action anyway. So, use your small size and energy to get out there and carve our your own space in the market, and quickly.
Another way of looking at this objection is the following – if they’re so big, perhaps it’s better not to pursue that particular business idea … and instead, move onto another idea which have fewer dominant players. “If an elephant sits down, move out of the way”. This could be good advice to follow – if everyone you talk to about your idea agrees, that could tell you what you need to know.
8) “Speaking with people about your idea could give you the early positive feedback you need to feel more confident to take the plunge.”
It’s easy to dwell on an idea, and let it revolve around in your head aimlessly, not being sure if it’s a good idea or not. If you speak with 20 people about the idea, and all have the same reaction of “Wow, what a great idea! Nobody is doing that today. I’d buy that!” , this could give you the initial reinforcement you may need to take those first steps to market test the idea and get out there.
9) “You might find out about current / future competitors, or prior failures.”
As much as we would all like to think our idea is so incredibly unique that nobody has even thought of it before, the likelihood is someone has. And they either have failed (you’ll want to know why!), are currently doing what you’re thinking of yourself (how can you position yourself differently or learn from them?) or are preparing for something similar (are they a competitor? Or a potential partner in the making?). Regardless, market intel can come from the most random of conversations – give yourself the opportunity to find out as much as you can before you embark on your own journey.
10)“It’s great pitch practice!”
If you can’t explain you idea to others in a way that they can understand or get them excited, the likelihood is you’ll have similar lack of success conveying your business plan to prospective business partners, investors or customers. In the process, you may find out how much of a pitchmaster you are (or aren’t) – there’s only one way to find out. To talk about your idea and get others’ reactions.
11) “It will likely help you define your target audience.”
In the process of explaining your idea to others, you’ll start to see patterns of who gets excited by it. These may become your early adopters, if not your ongoing loyal customers. Others may not react so positively. These aren’t likely the ones who will define your future success. Market test your ideas through conversation before committing finances and other valuable resources through targeted conversation. You may be surprised who reacts to your idea.
12) “You may find your first business partner, mentor, or partnership alliance.”
You may even find your first (free!) intern needing work experience in exchange for a solid reference. There are lots of professionals with side projects, small business investments and interests who may be looking for go-getters just like you who are on the verge of something brilliant … but you can’t find them if they don’t know you have an idea bubbling to the surface. When sharing your idea, just be sure to ask for their feedback, followed by asking for how they could help out.
13) “Someone may have an add-on to your idea, or a ‘tweak’ you hadn’t yet considered.”
People from different cultures, professional backgrounds, and experiences, think differently. You may have a very clear idea in mind of what you intend to build – however, in speaking with someone cut from a different cloth, you may find out that you’ve been looking at the problem in the wrong way or (even better) there’s a broader opportunity or target market you hadn’t yet considered. Don’t be afraid to speak to people who you think might approach things differently than yourself – you could benefit from an ‘outside the box’ way of viewing your business which you hadn’t thought of.
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