If you’re an “entrepreneur” you’ve been there. Sitting at a dicey coffee shop with overrated tacky coffee paraphernalia on the walls and very committed hippies/hipsters with their apples, sun-glasses, and checkered scarfs. You most likely ordered something ‘interesting’ to not make it seem like you’re using the café only for a neutral meet-up location; the drink is your legitimacy. Your purpose for being there of course is focused on developing a business plan with your potential partners or investors. The conversations range in velocity and intensity fluctuating simultaneously with the surges in caffeine rushing around your bodies. Some in your small group have all the answers, others have all the questions, and someone there, either in part, or partly in everyone, is the ‘no-man’. Technically this is the person who will find every reason why something will not work. You, however, just want to see some type of progress. You’re beyond the grand scale of imaginations and are focused on practical applications of every idea.
– You say you want to manufacture furniture? Great, who do we have who is connected to manufacturers so we can get some consulting? – That type of stuff.
Instead, you quickly see another anticipated breakthrough sink into the embryonic stage. The stage where you talk about the great things you will do before the process of actually giving ‘birth’ (essentially, when talk becomes cheap and money is the only solution). Real world environment requires you to be well-dressed, well-fed, well-educated and well-equipped. Words cannot accomplish this, especially if this is your 100th weekly meeting at that tacky coffee shop.
The problem with grand thinkers, notice I did not say ‘great’ thinkers, but grand thinkers, is that they quickly unwind and lose touch with reality. Business is a field of action. If you sleep in, you lose a sale. If you spend too much today, you’re bankrupt tomorrow. There is no yellow brick road leading you home. It’s more like trying to walk on water, essentially because a lot of development can only occur after initial interactions occurs between your service or product and the market.
A Quick Note: this is also why traditional product development cycles are not entirely efficient, where months go into developing and research only to hope that the final stage, testing, shows something positive (a secondary side note: you can check out Atrium and Scrum systems being used in full force for software development projects).
You can literally waste years developing only to realize that your entire premise was flawed. And for some, finding that flaw could happen within the first transaction. The knowledge you gain from the real world environment trumps the knowledge you get from theoretical applications, as much as it’s convenient to sit in Starbucks and sip expensive coffee as though you have already made it (you know who you are).
However I only mentioned a symptom of sorts. Real world experience is the result of another, core function of business: SALES. This is where grand thinkers quickly shrivel up and disappear, becoming philosophers for life. Sales is a word that for some, strikes genuine fear, because it is the process where everything you had assumed about your idea and product is going to be shown for what it is. It’s important to understand that sales is a rather large field, so I wouldn’t limit your paradigm to see sales as a typical associate standing next to an over-sized TV hoping he can break commission. Sales is a relationship built on trust and expectations. Before you sell a product, you must build a relationship. This means that you may let people down and fail to deliver on your promises, dealing with the aftermath of angry clients and a shattered concept of self-worth. This herein lays the biggest crucible for those who want to start their business and achieve their goals.
If you cannot sell, you will fail.
This isn’t something that is visible during that typical coffee meeting, who can actually go and sell the idea. Who can get money to flow in your direction? And money decides everything. Another big mistake by beginning entrepreneurs is discounting the necessity to make profit because your idea is great on its own and will naturally blow up (if you mean like the Hindenburg then sure).
Therefore, my belief is that before ‘grand’ ideas are developed, you must go out and get your feet wet, beat up, shattered, erased, and rebuilt to create ‘great’ ideas. Next time you find your conversations drifting towards streets of gold and yachts, stop wasting your time. Refocus on the practical side of things, who do we go to to sell, today. Who can I call, right now. How much money can I spend on getting a few steps accomplished this week? Start your conversations with real names, real numbers, and real actions. You will quickly see how your ideas and concepts change and your focus becomes clearer. You will also see how ‘grand’ thinkers will not deliver on their own ideas when it comes to following through.
The ability to make sales is what generates great ideas, and great ideas lead to sales, until this cycle runs on its own inertia and momentum.