Bringing New Products to Market

Otherwise known as the idea train, an entrepreneurs’ way if thinking is her biggest strength and, if not carefully managed, could be her biggest curse.

I probably have a new idea every day. And at the time I have it, I usually get so excited that I think it’s the next best thing. In mind, at that time, I have just made Steve Jobs look like an amateur.

Ok Dave – whatever…

But, at the same time, some of my ideas are pretty good. I wouldn’t have a successful business if they weren’t. And of course, some of my ideas are….let’s say, put on hold.

If I actually acted on all my ideas, my company would have imploded a long time ago. One can stretch a company too thin where it begins to lose focus. I started in this direction a few years ago. A member of my team made a comment to me that was very enlightening. She said, “I feel as though lately we are growing like a shrub instead of a tree.”

It was a very powerful statement and made me think about pruning the shrub so we can grow like a tree again. And we have.

Now when I have ideas, I present them to my managers first to flesh them out. This can be a frustrating experience because entrepreneurs and managers think differently, thank God. If he’s smart, the entrepreneur has surrounded himself with detailed managers who can say no to him when appropriate. Most entrepreneurs don’t like their ideas to be grilled and possibly put on hold or nixed for the benefit of the company. So, he will give his managers the right to set him straight if the idea is not the best for the company at that time; or needs to be altered/killed.

Of course, I can do whatever I want within my own company. But in my mind, it’s not my own company. If I don’t have the buy in from management and the rest of the team the idea will never take shape.

So here is my 10 step plan on how to entrepreneurs can deal with their ideas:

1) Marry well. Your spouse should be the first one to tell you if the idea has merit or if you’re smoking something. You can save your team a lot of time if your spouse can nix the idea first. My wife has a special talent to see through my special”forest” and if I am in “DaveLand” with one of my ideas, she’ll let me know. “DaveLand” is actually a great place! The sky is red and there is fun everywhere (and great food), but it’s not for everybody…

2) Hire well. It’s obvious, but some ego maniacs surround themselves with minion-like people. I have empowered my team to challenge me and let me know when I am getting off course. If I did not do this years ago, my idea train could have derailed the company.

3) Develop a process to discuss ideas with your management team. Form a R&D committee or just have a discussion at your weekly manager meeting

4) Explain the opportunity or problem to solve and see what they come up with first.

5) Present your thoughts at a very high level. Don’t get tactical yet. Just the 50,000 foot view.

6) Be calm. Don’t try to “sell” your idea. Stick to discussing the opportunity in a calm, rational way and let the conversation flow. If your managers feel they are being sold an idea, their BS meter may go off. This could really change the direction of the discussion.

7) Ask them to pitch the idea back to you. Then ask, “What does it look like when we, as a company, execute this idea really well and so that it doesn’t strain the company?”

8) On a white board, brainstorm all the reasons why you shouldn’t move forward with the idea. Then, list all the reason why it’s a good idea.

9) Listen half as much as you talk.

10) Be ready to walk away from the idea, or alter it.

It seems like a lot to go though, I know. Many entrepreneurs might be reading this and saying, “Bull! The reason I started a business is to do whatever I want, whenever I want!” That may work if you are a one man show. But if you have people working for you, you’d be smart to rely on their intelligence to guide you. Hopefully, that’s a big reason why you hired them.

Another big reason to go through this process is the actual execution of the idea. Traditionally, entrepreneurs are builders of ideas but not always great at seeing them through. You’ll need your team to embrace the idea if you expect them to execute it well.

Bottom line; make sure you allow really great passengers on your idea train who can help you drive.

Enjoy your ride.