Entrepreneurs and inventors have eternal optimism, which is contagious. They are animated, motivated, and have relentless energy when they are striving to their goals. They can be immensely fun (and frustrating) to be around. But are the goals the right goals for them?
I have countless video calls with entrepreneurs who are trying to ‘change the world.’ But often, they are trying to do too much – or focusing on things they can never achieve, from a practical sense.
One of my recent conversations was with an automotive accessory company. They wanted some investment money so that they could invent solutions to many of the (very legitimate) problems that they saw in the market. Because they were on the forefront of the problem space, they were in the best position to innovate.
The catch was that many of their innovations would have required fundamental, structural changes to the cars. In other words, the automobile manufacturers would have to change their cars for many of their innovations to work.
The problem was that they were an automotive accessory company, not a car manufacturer.
Even if they did come up with innovative solutions, they were not in a position to implement them. The implementation was outside the scope of their ability to implement.
Yes, the company could license their technology to the much larger, bureaucratic, monolithic car companies, but they did not have any experience in that kind of licensing. And there were no indications that this tiny company could get a big car company to pay a license.
They were trying to license to the same industry that put the intermittent windshield wiper into production without a license.
Entrepreneurship is Not About Creating – It is About Doing.
Invention and entrepreneurship is not just dreaming up new solutions to problems and labeling yourself as ‘creative.’ It is about getting things done.
The real entrepreneurs are not Steve Jobs standing on a stage making a presentation. They are toiling away in the back room making things work. They are too busy to come to meetups. They are 1% inventing (inspiration) and 99% grinding it out (perspiration).
Back when I was designing product at Hewlett Packard, I loved the 10-20% of my time that was designing the next new product, but I was getting increasingly frustrated with the 80-90% of my time that was assembling, debugging, testing, delivering, and supporting the product. Bringing new products to market was a huge grind.
Align Your Problem to Your Talent Stack
Everybody has a talent stack and set of resources. Make sure that you are going after an achievable goal.
The question should not be ‘is this goal achievable?’ The question should be ‘is this goal achievable for me?’
A wild, audacious goal can be inspiring, but can you and your company achieve the goal? Do you have the talent stack to do so?
Remember that talent stack is not just your personal skills, education, and experiences. It includes your capital, connections, network of people, and even the tools in your garage.
Sometimes you can see the vision of a better world where your innovations are implemented across billion-dollar industries. But maybe you are not the right person to implement those changes.
Do Something Achievable
My advice to many entrepreneurs is to consider resetting their goals.
Rather than try to invent something that you have no hope of ever implementing, reset those goals into something that you – personally – can achieve.
For example, rather than invent something that requires entire industries to change, invent something that can be sold direct to consumers.
There is an astronomical amount of sophisticated infrastructure for selling online, from payment processing to fulfillment. Anyone with $1000 can buy products from Alibaba, have it shipped to Amazon, and start selling.
Once you have revenue, you have a business. But more importantly, you have options.
You can choose to invest in new products, expand the existing one, or try new things. With revenue, you can choose where to invest – and you have a much deeper talent stack with which to invest.