The Common Sense Entrepreneur

Sep 29, 2016 | Innovation Resources

Entrepreneurs are bombarded by messages that say success is defined as breaking the mold by being big, brash and

unafraid to take chances. No doubt entrepreneurship requires a willingness to take risks and at times be big and brash.

However, this romanticized reputation of entrepreneurs is not what really drives success. In fact it leads many pre-

preneurs and new startup business to make big, brash blunders they never needed to make. The bottom line for

entrepreneurial success does not hinge on learning from just the mistakes you make, but in learning from the mistakes

that others made before you. Some of the most common mistakes are easily avoidable in two ways: strategy and

common sense.


It’s a million dollar idea

Often the first people we show our ideas to are friends and family, and with great affection they tell you, “That is a

million dollar idea!” While friends and family are important to your success, these well intentioned statements are

inaccurate. I recently heard a successful local inventor, Scott Baumann, say “there are no million dollar ideas, only

million dollar executions.” I completely agree. The idea alone unfortunately has little value, only a properly executed

strategy will give you even a chance at that million dollars. So while you build your businesses with the goal of being one

of those who makes that million dollar mark, do not let opportunities that look like a short cut to getting there divert

you. Remember, “if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.” Create a solid strategy for building the business and

your odds of actually getting there will improve.


No one else is doing this

I often hear from new inventors, “I looked everywhere, no one else is doing this” or “I have no competition. I’m the

first.” Unfortunately, it is a very rare case that you are truly first, just like Columbus was not the first to discover

America, and Edison was not the first to invent a light bulb. They just told the most interesting story. Most inventions

are innovations on existing products. The fact that an individual can take existing items and see them working in new

ways for new markets is amazing, and a growing segment of our economy. In this case, move past your disappointed

ego and embrace the fact that you were smart enough to see something others had not.

The false narrative of no competitors extends to any new businesses, not just products. Assume at all times there are

competitors and be on the lookout for them. If you are not looking for them they will be looking for you. Spend some

time learning what those other people did wrong and your entrepreneurial success potential will grow.


It’s so good, it’s sells itself.

This is very similar to the “build it and they will come” concept. No product or service is that good, it just means that the

marketing strategy was so good you did not realize you were influenced to buy it. If you do not have a solid plan for

developing the idea, a strategy for marketing and managing the money, an entrepreneur will quickly find themselves out

of the last one. Having business experience is not necessary, but it means a strategic partner is needed. The common

mistake inventors and entrepreneurs make is in believing they’ll figure it out as they go or they follow more well-

meaning advice to; patent it, prototype it and/or market it without validating the idea first. Companies follow a product

development strategy and individual inventors and entrepreneurs should too.


In the rush of excitement that surrounds the “aha” moment of a new idea, the desire to capitalize on your spark of

creative genius leads to taking action based on a fear that someone will beat you to market. This is when it is important

to pause, exercise some entrepreneurial common sense and remember you are not the first with this million dollar idea

that will sell itself. Then start creating the strategy that will allow you to avoid any big, brash mistakes and instead reach

that million dollar goal.


*This piece originally appeared in the Bellingham Herald.

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