We have all heard of Rose Colored Glasses and the Emperor’s New Clothes. It is easy for us to acknowledge the overly optimistic views that others might have while, at the same time, thinking that it does not apply to you. This problem is not limited to the young and inexperienced person just starting out without the scares and lessons that life teaches us. All of us can fall victim to the having unrealistic views of our own ideas and plans. It almost seems that there is a direct correlation between the potential of the idea and the size and scope of the blinders that we develop to allow us to see only what we want to see and to hear only what we want to hear.
Unfortunately, not seeing what we do not want to see or not hearing what we do not want to hear will not make the issues go away. Instead, they will only be “discovered” later when responses to them are more difficult to implement.
An entrepreneur thinking of starting a business or a company considering launching a new product needs to step back and consider a few factors before moving on. This is always a painful process, but it is far better to be subjected to it now as opposed to later after a non-replaceable resource has been expended. That resource is time - your personnel time and that of individuals around you. A few questions need to be asked. Of course, there are many more that should be asked later, but if the answers to these few questions are not positive then the answers to others may not matter.
- Is an actual problem or better solution being addressed with the proposed idea? Will others believe that the problem is worthwhile being addressed now or does it fall into the category of a “nice to have, someday” solution?
- Do you have a sustainable and relevant core competence, as seen by the customer, that can provide a long-term differentiator or can others quickly and easily duplicate your ground-breaking efforts? Can fast-followers quickly overtake you with their larger, more mature resources?
- Can you foresee a long-term predictable revenue stream to continue to fund your plan?
- Can the investment required to make your plan a reality be justified by the potential profitable revenue considering the risks that you will face?
- Have you correctly assessed the power of incumbency; the willingness for customers to embrace your proposed solution vis-à-vis what they are doing today within the time frame that you envision?
- Are you comparing what you are going to offer in the future to alternatives that are available today, assuming that your competitors are standing still and have no plans of improving their offering?
- Are you betting on the fact that you are “smarter” than others and given the time, resources, and focus others cannot do what you do?
- Have you thought about what it will take to make your idea a reality and how you will distribute and support the product or service though its life time?
- Do you have the necessary skill set to move your idea to the next level or are you willing to step aside and let others, with more and different capabilities, take over certain aspects of your business?
- Have you done enough research to be confident that your unique idea is truly unique and there are some valid reasons why others haven’t done what you propose to do before? Remember, there is always a reason for under-served markets.
There is no question that answering some of these questions will be depressing. In fact, if that is the case, you have probably removed your rose-colored glasses and are taking a realistic approach to your idea. You certainly do not need to be “ten for ten” in answering the ten questions listed above. There could be valid reasons for pursuing the idea if you have less than a perfect score. Some of the positive answers could be so positive that they make up for some of the obstacles listed above. If Steve Jobs had taken this test before the development of the iPhone, he probably never would have started. Apple had zero experience in building cell phones and the market was totally dominated by giant corporations that had decades of experience in the business. With the iPhone, Apple didn’t face reality, they changed it! You can too if you clearly and realistically understand the obstacles that you will face and develop plans to address them accordingly.