Sunday 10 August 2008

The big idea!

Where are all the good business ideas in the world these days? Wait a minute. Maybe the first good idea is to find good people. In a time when the world is a giant pressure cooker I hope we finally getting back to the most important fundamental, which is people. Ideas don’t move mountains, people do. People inspire us, not things. And that’s where ideas come from; they come from people.

I spent a lot of time each month with young entrepreneurs who come to me with various business ideas. I am always amazed at their spirit and their enthusiasm. But I often get frustrated when I leave a room thinking, “Those guys just don’t get it.” This is just my opinion here, and I could be wrong, but to me business is not about a great idea, or great enthusiasm, or great business plans. Sure, that is important, but business is more about heart and soul. If you were hiring someone and you had the choice between someone who was very smart and full of ideas or someone who had a great attitude, then which one would you chose. In today’s society we tend to look at someone’s CV from the point of view of how much experience they have, and how many degrees they have, and how many awards they have won, etc. But imagine hiring the smartest guy in town with the worst attitude. I would rather have a team of humble people who don’t moan and complain, who aren’t arrogant, and who have the ability to listen, than a bunch of know-it-alls who think they are doing you a favour. A person with a good attitude can come up with good ideas if encouraged and trusted.

The point I am trying to get across this fine Sunday is that good people will have good ideas. But good ideas might not necessarily mean good people. Put attitude before aptitude. Some of the true visionary companies were all about people. The ideas came later once the fundamentals were in place. We are talking about companies like Disney, Sony, Coca-Cola, and IBM. Companies we all know and love.

In one of the most inspired books, Built To Last, the authors take us on a journey of discovery when they compare the habits of the world’s most visionary companies. In their research they share with us the 12 shattered myths of business. The first and most important myth that the authors describe goes as follows: It takes a great idea to start a great company. They then go on to explain the reality: Starting a company with a “great idea” might be a bad idea. Few of the visionary companies began life with a great idea. In fact, some began life without any specific idea and a few even began with outright failures. Furthermore, regardless of the founding concept, the visionary companies were significantly less likely to have early entrepreneurial success than the comparison companies in our study. Like the parable of the tortoise and the hare, visionary companies often get off to a slow start, but win the long race.

I meet so many people who talk about money and money and more money. And there big idea is generally about how to make it, money that is. And this always leaves me feeling quite uninspired. There is no easy money in this world. Nothing easy is good. And don’t forget the old saying: easy come, easy go. Those people who have some suspicious sounding idea of how everyone is gonna rich fast always seem to land up on their ass before no time at all. Come on, start working on relationships. Start working on the things that truly count. Do that and the rewards will follow. As will the ideas. We all have a sense of humour. We all have imagination. We are all an “ideas man”. But we aren’t all good listeners or leaders. Let’s focus on people. The ideas will follow.

Posted by Ronnie Apteker