David Didn't Beat Goliath with a Whiteboard

by Patrick Lefler

David Didn't Beat Goliath with a WhiteboardTim Ferris, best-selling author of The 4-Hour Workweek has written a great essay that is featured in the entrepreneurial TechStars book Do More Faster talking about the value of ideas. Titled Trust Me, Your Idea is Worthless, Tim’s point is that “earth shattering and world-changing ideas are a dime a dozen. In fact, that’s being too generous.”

Ferris feels that for most start-ups, overvaluing the idea is an investment red flag when he is evaluating the financial potential for most start-ups.

“One popular startup dictum worth remembering is “one can steal ideas, but no one can steal execution or passion.” Put in another light: there is no market for ideas. Think about it for a second: have you tried to sell an idea lately? where would you go to sell it? Who would buy it? When there is no market, it is usually a very good sign that there is no value.

Almost anyone can (and has!) come up with a great idea, but only a skilled entrepreneur can execute it. Skilled in this case doesn’t mean experienced: it means flexible and action-oriented, someone who recognizes that mistakes can often be corrected, but time lost postponing a decision is lost forever. Ideas, however necessary, are not sufficient. They are just an entry ticket to play the game.

Focus on where most people balk and delay: exposing it [your idea] to the real world. If you’re cut out for the ride, this is also where all the rewards and excitement live…

David didn’t beat Goliath with a whiteboard…”

The point here is that when entrepreneurs overvalue ideas, they typically undervalue execution. And execution is the real determinate for success or failure for most start-ups.

Here’s the takeaway: For all brilliant ideas out there today, less than one percent will translate into a successful venture. And the most significant determinate as to which of the few will succeed versus the rest that will fail is execution!


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Patrick LeflerPatrick Lefler is the founder of The Spruance Group – a management consultancy that helps growing companies grow faster. He is a former Marine Corps officer; a graduate of both Annapolis and The Wharton School, and has over twenty years of industry expertise.

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