General BusinessManagement

It’s Not the Idea, It’s the Execution

I seem to be running into more and more people who have fallen in love with their idea for a new or improved product or service.  That is, they appear to be so infatuated with it that they think it stands alone and deserves merit because of its strength and uniqueness.  That’s nice . . . and virtually meaningless in a business sense.  Truly great and unique ideas are wonderful things.  Contrary to what many people think, though, they’re just not a prerequisite to starting or running a great or successful company.  Most often, more money and success in the long haul have come from great implementations of ideas (sometimes groups of ideas) than from the ideas themselves.

In fact, many of the most successful products and companies have become successful because of their masterful implementation of the ideas of others.  Did Toyota invent the car?  Microsoft, the operating system?  GE, the jet engine?  Dell, the computer?  Merck, gene therapy (or even erectile dysfunction drugs)?  Apple, the cell phone?  You get the idea (no pun intended).

Your business will, of course, be based on an idea.  My point is that 1. it’s likely not the most important part of the business (unless you’ve found the cure for cancer and even then, it’s questionable as a guarantee of business success) and, 2. the idea doesn’t even have to be yours.  In the end, the idea your building your business on and all of the ideas you come up along the way associated with the actual execution of that business are subordinate to the quality of the execution of those ideas.

I’ll take it one step further.  I might be biased having only had about three unique ideas in my entire life, but I’ll go out on a limb and say that business success is singularly about execution.  I always ran my own companies driven by this belief.  I used to constantly frustrate sales people who worked for me.  They would do everything they could to hide our secret sauce from the competition at trade shows and at user sites.  My view was always to let ’em see what we were doing.  If we couldn’t execute our own ideas better and faster than someone else, then we wouldn’t survive in the first place.  Let’s face it, they’re gonna find out what your product does and they’re probably gonna figure out how it does it.  The important thing is that you can put it all together and deliver it better and faster than anyone else can.

Don’t get me wrong, good, independent ideas are part-and-parcel to great execution.  It’s not that unique ideas are bad things in any way.  It’s just that they’re not worthy as a standalone basis for a business.  They should be building blocks, not the entire foundation.

So, if you’re wondering why venture capitalists are fascinated in hearing you out, but then pass on the deal; why customers aren’t begging you for an audience based on your Powerpoint presentation; why your friends want to know who’s going to actually build this thing; why your mentors are asking you how all the time and not what anymore; it’s probably because you’ve spent too much time making mad, passionate love to your business idea and haven’t considered that in the end, execution is all that really matters.

If my podium was a fortune cookie instead of a blog post, I might say: Luck and fortune favor those who can execute.

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