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Not every good idea works – but don’t stop trying

We’re all full of good ideas. Not necessarily ‘get rich quick’ schemes but ideas for new income streams or business models. Some of these will even pass a cursory sanity check and get to the point where you start looking at feasibility.

I was chatting with a friend a while ago who had an idea for a small business he wanted to run as a way of generating some extra income, to supplement his full-time job. The idea was to do online tech support. The plan was to charge on a sliding scale depending on the difficulty of the problem. Quick problems would cost just $5 to solve with more complex ones being charged at something like $30.

Let’s break this down.

Does your good idea service a need?

Clearly, there are lots of people who need help with their computers and peripherals. For a little while, I did some home-visit support for friends of friends for a fee. And given the number of people posting random questions on message boards, email lists and other places there’s a need.

Is a market enough for your good idea?

It’s all well and good to know there’s a market for the services you plan to deliver but you need more than that for a business to be viable.

You need time, a business model that delivers a viable income stream, expertise and myriad other details need to be sorted out.

My friend with the idea to launch an online tech support business lacked almost everything his idea really needed. He would be working for relatively low pay rates (in Australian terms) and he’d need to work long hours once his full-time work day was over.

Revise the good idea or move on

When he asked me about it, I mentioned that the pay rate was very low. Using my method for calculating pay rates he’d need to work extremely long hours in order to generate an income that he could live from.

However, we discussed how to refine the idea to make it potentially work. And, that was a real challenge for him. He was looking for a sure-fire idea that would work. Unfortunately, in business, there’s almost no such thing as a guaranteed winning idea.

For an idea to make the transition from thought to viable business it takes time, perseverance, effort and perhaps even some good fortune.

The Silicon Valley Culture and Good Ideas

I’ve been fortunate to have had the opportunity to visit Silicon Valley and talk with people who have started their own companies and made significant sums of money. What stood out in those discussions was that most risked a lot to be successful. Almost universally, they had a significant failure. And all of them had a never say die attitude and mountains of self-confidence.

There are plenty of inspiring examples of people who have worked on ideas that didn’t come to fruition, but that provided them with valuable experience and insight. While a project might fail, they were able to extract what they’d learned and apply it to other projects.

Just because that project failed, it didn’t mean it was a waste.

Don’t Stop Trying

If you yearn to create your own business, but it doesn’t work out – that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t persist. What it means is that you now have a bunch of new data that you can apply to your next project. Perhaps there is a pivot, a seed of an idea buried within an original plan, that will succeed.

When I worked in IT on large projects, we always carried out a post implementation review to look at what we did well and what we could improve on. If you start a business and it doesn’t work out, do the same thing and use the knowledge to guide you on your next endeavour.

If your dream is to work for yourself – never give up.

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