Do you want to know how to tell if you have a business idea that will succeed? You know what? I don’t know how you know that. And if I did, I’d be a venture capitalist, right? But I do know how you can tell if you have a business idea that is worth reorganizing your life to try.
Who knows if you have a good idea?? No one. Actually, in some cases some people can tell you for sure that your idea definitely sucks, but no one can tell you for sure that your idea is good. And, if nothing else, any for-sure good idea is already being pursued by ten people, or ten million, depending on how big the market is. Which makes it, again, not a for-sure good idea because maybe you won’t do it best.
So if you want to know if your idea is one that you should actually try, don’t spend time figuring out if your company will be the next Web 2.0 darling. Instead, figure out if it’s going to give you a life you want. The best way to figure this out is to look at how other entrepreneurs are living their life.
I did not do this. I purposely ignored what the lives of other entrepreneurs look like, because a gazillion studies show that entrepreneurs work longer hours than everyone else. And they are under more stress than other people.
I ignored this research because I told myself that a startup would be a good thing for my kids. I told myself that my blog was growing too fast and I couldn’t keep up, and if I spun part of it off into a startup then I would have people helping me. I am a great delegator. I imagined the list of things I could delegate to the slew of people who would go into business with me.
It is not uncommon for people founding startups to lie to themselves about how much work it will be. It’s similar to having a baby. Everyone tells you the baby will take over your whole life. Daniel Gilbert even tells you that kids will not make you any happier than you already are. You go ahead with it anyway. You tell yourself that the kid-time-crunch will not happen to you. You are the exception. Other people are incompetent time manager and you ‘re not. But if we didn’t lie to ourselves, who would have kids?
So, anyway, denial goes very far in both the birth of a child and the birth of a company. Which means it is should not be surprising to you that I have done things like let my son dump boxes of cereal all over the house so that I could be on a conference call, or that I hid in the broom closet at swimming lessons so I could do a radio interview with no background noise. (Please, don’t send me emails telling me I am a negligent parent. Negligent is relative. And why are you reading this column instead of playing Candy Land, huh? )
When you imagine your life doing your startup, do you imagine laying in bed at night worrying about money? Because no matter how great your idea is, you will worry about money at the beginning, in that terrible time between when you quit what you had been doing and you start drawing a salary form the startup. And you know what is worse than one person stressing about money? The two or three people who do the startup with you, all stressing about money together. At some point during the early time, it’s not even about the idea any more; it’s about just getting through the early, tough part.
Now, go back to your idea. Go back to the question of is it a good enough idea to try? Entrepreneurship is not about one, static idea that you implement. It’s about an idea that you go with, and mutate, and act on because you want to do a company so much that you are willing to delude yourself into thinking that maybe it won’t be so hard.
Are you there, to that point? Then you have an idea that’s good enough for starting a company.