Ever give free advice?
Me too. Sometimes without being asked – I can’t help myself – but often often in spite of my better judgement.
Like a lot of people who run their own business, I get asked for advice on how to do the same. It’s usually by acquaintances or friends of friends (seldom friends or family).
Listen up – they have a killer idea for a business. It’s going to be HUGE – and they want to hear what I think.
Let me clarify: they think they want to know what I think…
There’s almost always three common riffs. Number one, it’s usually in a sector I know little or nothing about…
“We’re going to sell XXXXXXXX… but on the internet”
Secondly, they are super secretive about THE BIG IDEA, as if they’re working on the The Manhattan Project.
“It’s an online marketplace. But I can’t say any more than that without an NDA in place”.
They won’t tell me any specifics. Think Darwin went around talking about evolution before he’d got “On The Origin of the Species” all typed up, huh? (Hint: yes – he did).
Or – worse – they want me to sign a confidentiality agreement, agreeing to millions of dollars in contractual liabilities before I can advice them for free.
Three, there’s usually an internet angle, because the barriers to entry are low, they know I run web-based businesses and because nobody wants to build railways in 2013.
“It’s like [$1B company] meets [$1B company]”
I protest that there are others far better qualified to advise. But they always insist, and I’m faced with the quintessential British problem: how to be honest without sounding rude.
Why? Because 99% don’t *really* want to hear that. They want me to tell them that they have a great idea – and that’s all it takes in this town, kiddo!
Not so, natch.
Don’t get me wrong – I love ideas, especially big ideas. I devoured dozens of books on the subject (like this, this and this) plus more magazines and blog posts than I can remember (like James Altucher’s here and here ).
But we live in a world full of good ideas, and good execution is far more scarce. And that continent-sized gap between “good idea” and “good execution” is where opportunity lies for people who, y’know, get stuff done.
Wish.co.uk was not the result of A GREAT IDEA. It was the result of being able to find an angle to work that competitors were overlooking.
‘The Sopranos’ creator David Chase got it right in this GQ profile of James Gandolfini:
“We can all sit around and decide we want to make a Louis XIV table, but eventually somebody has to do the carving.”