The Process of Killing an Idea

All through college I started alllllll sorts of random businesses and small websites.  With A LOT of work, some of them could’ve taken off, but they would be uphill battles.

At one point I had (no joke) TEN little businesses running at the same time.

This is on one hand GREAT for the creative side of me, and gave me GREAT practice actually executing ideas REALLY REALLY fast.

On the other hand, it would bog me down into businesses that weren’t solid as I initially thought, and constantly distracted me.

So over the years I’ve learned how to KILL “decent” ideas…you might be able to relate:

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So here’s what happens:

1.) I’ll randomly think of some idea or small little problem to solve.

2.) Get all excited about it and how big it can be.

3.) Start executing.

4.) Buy domain name, setup website, write content, make graphics, figure out technical aspects yadda yadda.

5.) Put a lot of work (not necessarily SMART work though) into it, get marginal results.

6.) It sits around.  Makes enough money not to pull the plug, but not enough to focus on it.

7.) Eventually lose interest.

8.) Sell it or pull the plug.

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What I SHOULD be doing before even THINKING of anything else is:

  • Analyzing who the target market will be.
  • Is this market big enough? Do these people pay lots of money for services/products?
  • Exactly what field is this in?
  • What product/service will I be offering them?
  • Is there competition, what are they doing wrong/right?
  • Will my product/service be better?  Marketed better?
  • all sorts of other analytical questions that kill the hype in your head.

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In the past, I’ve had a really tough time asking myself questions like the above…because it kills the mood!

But sometimes a good mood killer is the right medicine to cure the temporary hype you’ve built up in your head.

At least for people who execute any business idea really fast, I think it’s great to be optimistic about every idea, but it’s also nice to put that idea through a barrage of battering tests before it sees fruition (people who have issues executing should probably do the opposite).

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Now I’d like to take you through a real life example of a recent “Brain Hype” I’ve had…and how I killed the idea through rationality.  I’ll show you how I still get so excited about certain ideas that I need to run them by wise friends to kill them.

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I’ve been wrestling with the problem lately of my business House of Rave, and how I wanted to grow it to $1,000,000/year doing less work than I do on it now.  While it’s grown moderately, things like the economy have prevented fast growth (oh yea, and my own laziness and lack of marketing knowledge).

So I KNOW this goal is possible, I just wasn’t going about it the right way.

I noticed two things which might help:

  • When I publicly post a concrete goal on this blog and set a consequence if it doesn’t happen, I do it.
  • I work better in front of an audience (AKA I’m a showoff).

Thinking about those two things, I got the idea of publicly showing everything I do to quadruple HoR within one year.  In my head, I coined the project, “The Million Dollar Project.”

In my head I started getting REALLY hyped about this idea!

The wheels were spinning, and my Boogie Board was ablaze with scribbled ideas.

I started thinking about all the media outlets that would cover me, how people would diligently follow along, how they would ANTICIPATE EVERY POST I make, how people would scramble to copy what I was doing, how I would build a huge email list, how advertisers would pay huge money to sponsor my site, how I could sell “premium content” for detailed tours of the business, how people would signup for monthly subscriptions to the site.

I even started doing “fuzzy math” in my head: “Hmmm, if I get 6,000 people paying $20/month for a subscription, I’d make $120,000 a month!

Basically the “Hype Machine” has temporarily taken over!

I then started poking around to see if domain names were available.  I kept saying, “The Million Dollar Project” in my head, so I went with that.  RATS….it was taken! So I shot off a quick few phone calls and emails.  20 minutes later, the owner was willing to unload the domain for $250.

One more phone call and a swipe of the Visa, the domain TheMillionDollarProject.com was transfered to me.  PROGRESS!

I was getting giddy from all the excitement of doing “How HoR Runs” blog posts and live-recording my screen showing the inner workings of House of Rave, and how I’d soon be building The Million Dollar Project AND House of Rave at the exact same time.

THHHEEEENNNN I decided, “If this is such a good idea, let me run it past a few friends.”

My first target was a close friend who runs a big company and whose opinion I definitely respect.  I told him, “I’m going to make something called The Million Dollar Project where I openly talk about getting House Of Rave to a million dollars.

When I got done with my spiel, I remember his momentary pause which made me second-guess my entire idea (when you know someone pretty well, you can tell a lot from those small reactions).  I could tell his excitement wasn’t even close to mine.  He started asking some general questions and the conclusion was, “It’s an OK idea.

But it wasn’t a GREAT idea that got him excited.  And I knew it right then.

The problem with this idea, is that it’s actually decent…but it wasn’t well thought out.

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So I call another friend whose opinion I highly respect, and who has a natural risk-adversity….but is still a successful entrepreneur.   He’s often the perfect person to rip the beating heart out of a poorly thought-through idea….but does it very nicely :-)

So I enthusiastically spill my idea, and he comes back with:

Him: “Ok, who is the target market? Who will be your average visitor?  Will these visitors already own a business?  Will they be wanting to learn how to make a business?  Will these be eCommerce professionals? WHY are they coming to this site?”

Me: “Umm…I haven’t thought about that.”

And THERE inlays my problem: I didn’t think about all that stuff!

He then started to help me flesh out those answers.

It turns out I COULD do this project, but it would be better named something like “Quadruple My Business.”  Basically, some name that implies a benefit.

I could then tailor the site to current online business owners who want to increase their business, and then show them how I did it myself with a live example.

I could also tailor the site to people who want to start their first online business, and show them with a live example.

Basically, instead of telling a nice (yet useless) story about House of Rave, I could teach people (useful) marketing techniques to increase their ecommerce businesses.

All of a sudden I had a working idea, but it wasn’t sexy as what I imagined in my head.

Hmmphh….

I somehow only thought of all the benefits The Million Dollar Project would bring me, but left out how it would enrich OTHERS.  D’oh.

The excitement from the idea quickly faded, and I then recognized the amount of work that would go into it.  I don’t mind the work, but it should be moderately exciting to me so I focus on it and stick with it long enough to see it succeed.

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And so the legacy of The Million Dollar Project came and went without ever seeing the light of day (except the domain which I needlessly spent $250 on).

But perhaps this is a GOOD thing.

Instead of getting involved with a hardly-thought-out idea, I can spend my time focusing on more profitable things.

Learning how to slay the Hype Machine dragon has allowed me to focus on actual profitable projects rather than every hare-brained scheme that pops into my head.

Blog posted on: December 7, 2010

9 comments on “The Process of Killing an Idea

  1. Vladimir

    Hey Nev,
    Great post. I think a lot of us have all kinds of “awesome ideas!” and we fall in love with “how much money I’ll make” that we forget the main thing is to give value to others and thats how we’ll succeed.
    Side question: what are you thoughts on Fortune Brands split that was announced today? Would you mind emailing me your reply? I know I first heard about them when I was started browsing your blog (A LONG TIME AGO)
    Thanks,
    Vladimir

    Reply
  2. ideologist

    So many ideas come into mind but are withdrawn after some time… But at the same time reality can be a bit different from what you think it would be when planning. And the project you give up on before starting can actually turn out to be successful once implemented just because you can’t foresee everything…

    Reply
  3. Vas18

    Hey Nev, awesome post :) Agree with you 100%.

    I saw your blog just a week ago and find it very interesting. Nice easy writing. Keep doing good work ;)

    Reply
  4. Clair

    Hi, i think that i noticed you visited my site thus i got here to return the want?.I am trying to find issues to enhance my site!I suppose its ok to make use of a few of your ideas!!

    Reply

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