This story appears in the September 2012 issue of Entrepreneur.
Ideas. They bubble up all day long, when we're sitting at stoplights or standing in line for our mocha-lotta-frappa-no-whip concoctions. And, I've noticed, the idea supply chain goes into overdrive after a few shots of tequila.
But ideas alone aren't worth squat.
To turn ideas from air into something of value, you first have to admit that you're not special.
I'm not special. It's probably the most difficult lesson I've had to learn as an entrepreneur. I'm fallible just like everyone else. The day I stopped thinking all my ideas were brilliant and my business practices above reproach was the day my company started to take off.
I realized that, in their infancy, my ideas are just things bouncing around in my noggin like the last three gumballs in a glass globe outside the grocery store. On the surface, I had nothing. Ideas that sit in your head are worthless for a few reasons:
They're idle. You haven't built anything people can take for a spin.
They're bulletproof. You haven't put them in front of anyone who can shoot them down.
They're invisible. If people don't know about your idea, they can't feel anything about it.
It's easy to pick up a copy of your favorite magazine (this one included) and marvel at the finished products. What we rarely think about is how those ideas got out of the inventors' heads and in front of other people--the only place where they have a chance for success.
So, a starting point for making that idea special: Find brains to bounce it off. We're not talking about Facebook blasts to family and friends. Instead, seek out:
Your target consumers to find out if they would buy what you plan on selling. Listen--really listen to them--and act on their feedback.
Some down-the-line potential backers to see how they react. (But be careful with this bunch. If you waste their time, they won't want to hear from you again. Be prepared, with a concise pitch and any questions you may have.)
Solo entrepreneurs who are on at least their second venture. You want to learn from their failures--and they'll be the most honest with you. They'll tell you, "Here are the challenges I see with that."
So instead of sitting around with your idea, thinking about how pretty it is and how much you love it, start thinking about the people who can help you add some weight to your thinking. The doing: That's the path toward special.