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06/07/2011

Your Idea Alone Has No Value

By Wil Schroter

Contrary to popular belief, great companies are not born from great ideas alone. We�d all love to think that if we could simply invent the next sticky-note, we could sit back and watch the cash tumble in.

But if great ideas don�t spawn great companies, what does?

The short answer is: you. The longer, and far more complicated, answer is how you specifically position yourself and your company to execute on an idea.

Anyone who overhears your idea, or has the same idea at the same time, or basically plans on doing anything similar is already on the same playing field as you are.

In order to differentiate yourself and your idea, you don�t need a patent or some proprietary method. You need a focused plan that allows you to execute above and beyond your competition every day of the week.

Think of your competition like your favorite professional sports league. There are dozens of teams which have talented players on them, but only one team is going to perform better than everyone else. Your goal is to build that team.

Focus On Execution

There is a massive chasm between having a great idea and executing flawlessly on a business model for a great idea. Lots of people have great ideas, but very few people ever execute well on them.

Execution isn�t just about showing up for work every day and punching a clock. For the team that wins, execution is about going above and beyond the call of duty each and every day.

It�s about reaching out to your customer when there are no problems just to see how they are doing. It�s about releasing a product feature faster than your competitor even when you�re already ahead.

It�s being the first car in the parking lot in the morning and the last one to leave at night. It�s doing what the guy next to you isn�t willing to do.

Service The Heck Out Of Your Customer

Even a product that�s a total commodity, like food, can take on an entirely new meaning when you compare the service that comes with it. In your city there may be a hundred places where you can order a filet mignon, but only a handful that are considered top notch. The difference is that the elite restaurants understand that in order to differentiate their product, they need to rely on better service.

They pay attention to every detail of your experience, from the greeting you get from the host/ess to whether you�re given a white or black napkin based on your pant color.

Exceptional service is by no means a commodity. It�s a rare and unusual thing that very few companies can deliver. Chances are your competition isn�t going to go the extra mile to service the heck out of your customer, which creates an incredibly powerful competitive advantage for you.

Determine Weak Spots

It�s not uncommon for a startup company to go toe-to-toe with a much larger company offering a very similar product. On its face, it looks like the startup is at a severe disadvantage. Surely the behemoth megacorp can provide better execution and better service with its vast resources than a scrappy little startup can.

If you were to try to compete against the behemoth on their own terms you�d get crushed. That�s why startups tend to look for the weak spots in larger companies and exploit them. You can easily differentiate your product from a larger company by focusing on stuff large companies tend to fall short on.

Unlike a large company, you can offer the personal service and attention your customers love that they�re probably missing from your bigger competitor.

You can leverage your speed by releasing new versions of your product faster and responding to market conditions more quickly. You can offer talented managers founder�s stock, while a big company can only offer another bonus plan.

Every weak spot that you can exploit is another way to add value to your idea. Once you�ve identified the points, the more pressure you put on those weak spots, the more value you�ll build for your own product.

Tying It Together

Outmaneuvering your competition isn�t about doing any one of these things � it�s about doing all of them consistently. If your idea is great and novel, the only guarantee is that it will be copied. If it�s not, you have to wonder how great of an idea it really is.

When your idea does get copied, the only thing you�ll be able to rely on is your team and your execution. All of the points about going above and beyond the call of duty, servicing your customer, and exploiting the weak spots will soon be used against you.

The only defense against the next up-and-comer, and the only way to consistently create value around your idea is to stick to fundamental execution. Nothing else has value.

(Wil Schroter is founder and CEO of the Go BIG Network, the largest network of startup companies and entrepreneurs at goBIGnetwork.com. He is also the author of the book Go BIG or Go HOME.)


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