I found Guy Kawasaki’s book The Art of the Start to be one of the catalysts for the epiphany I had that I needed to leave iTipArtists. At some point he mentions how, in comparison to creating a company that survives, the idea part, (the spark that starts everything in motion), is easy.
If I had not been in the throes of starting a company I would have thought this was utter nonsense. Ideas, they are the most integral part of success, aren’t they? Or so I thought. Then my mind started to wrap around the fact that every made-for-tv or made-for-silver-screen success story that I’d ever watched made a major impression on me. I realized that a lot of my values when it came to business were based on ideas from story-telling media. And guess how realistic a source that is?
I’d formed the concept that the IDEA was what made the main character a GENIUS or at least AWESOME and SEXY and COOL. After the character has that IDEA, the sheer AWESOMENESS of the IDEA just compels him or her to become a fearless leader, unstoppable, amazing, as if the company was MEANT TO BE. And it would be irresponsible of him or her NOT to follow this idea as they might not have another one this good, ever AGAIN. Everything just falls into place. Millions of dollars, yachts, cover of Forbes. Right?
Just like some people have a talent for singing beautifully with absolutely no voice training (grrr!), there are a few people with a special knack for starting businesses. But I think that’s pretty rare. In my opinion, I think it is a tough skill to learn and one that makes most sense when learned “on the job”. Starting a business isn’t something that most first time entrepreneurs just sail through doing.
As a quick summary and example, the many parts one must think about when starting a business (from the short education I have so far) are:
– the product itself and its development (the IDEA made real!)
– finding the right people to be in the company (oh wait, its not going to be just ME doing all the work?)
– the machinery of running a company: legal agreements, accounting, financial forecasting, taxes, scheduling, meetings, fixing the copier, etc. (oh yeah, all that stuff that I took for granted when working for someone else!)
– promoting the company’s products (it doesn’t just sell itself magically? But my product is awesome!)
– raising money (oh come on, how much do I really need anyway? Really? That much?)
And all of these things are very important. Yes, you can prioritize them based on how the company is growing. But you can’t get away with being half-assed about any of these things.
So, after attempting to tackle all of these aspects when building iTipArtists, I came to the conclusion that YES, having a great idea is much easier.
And when I thought of it, I’ve had a great idea maybe once every three to four years or so. Sometimes for art, music or a story. And sometimes for a business! I hadn’t had the opportunity till now to test a business idea before last year. I am very glad I did – it may never have happened without an event like Startup Tucson.
Thus, my lesson learned was that the IDEA is NOT paramount. Having the mental and emotional space in one’s life for starting a company IS paramount.
And one of the few times in my life that I cannot personally compromise clearing out mental and emotional space is right now, while I raise my little kids.