Why ideas aren’t enough

I've got a great idea for a business. I can't tell you what it is, because I still think it could make millions one day.

It’s all sketched out and I’ve shared it with a couple of trusted friends, who all think it could work. None of us has actually run a business before, but we’re planning to go into partnership. With this idea, we can’t fail.

The above sounds laughable, or at least highly dubious. And yet our business culture celebrates ideas at the expense of execution. It’s always “how did you get the idea?” And by the way, the answer is rarely that interesting.

Ideas are brilliant because they actually can’t fail – until you execute them, of course. It’s like the novel you never wrote that could have been a bestseller, or the love of your life that you were never brave enough to actually ask on a date.

A great business, a classic novel, a rewarding relationship are all about blood, sweat and tears. Eureka moments have their place, but if you’re not careful you just end up running around the street naked and not quite being able to make anyone else understand.

What is execution? It’s the millions of tiny decisions you make as you turn that initial germ of an idea into a business. It’s the way your front-line staff smile at a customer. It’s the motivational speech or pat on the back you offer your team in tough times. It’s getting things wrong again and again until you get them right.

Shakespeare pinched most of the stories for his plays. Darwin is remembered for his big ideas, but his real achievement was the years of painstaking research that led to them. There is nothing particularly original about the ideas behind most of the world’s most successful businesses: they just do what they do a bit better than everyone else.

So I’ll keep my idea to myself. At least until I can find an investor.

Nick Britton

Lexus Ernser

Nick was the Managing Editor for growthbusiness.co.uk when it was owned by Vitesse Media, before moving on to become Head of Investment Group and Editor at What Investment and thence to Head of Intermediary...

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