A common request I hear from aspiring entrepreneurs is for an assessment of their latest idea. I don’t even try to assess things at the idea level, since I can’t read minds. I can assess execution plans if you have one Yet, I believe that business success is more a function of the person than the idea or the plan, so the best idea is one that is the best fit for you, and only you can assess that.
The best new idea for any entrepreneur should first be based on their own personal interests, skills, and lifestyle, rather than the characteristics of a given market or technology. I found some great insights along these lines in the classic book “Find Your Balance Point,” by renowned executive business coach Brian Tracy, and work-life balance therapist Christina Stein.
They emphasize, and I agree, that true success and satisfaction are most likely to happen when all your actions and choices are guided by a profound adherence to your deepest personal values, vision, purpose, and goals. Here are seven key considerations for how you should make your own best entrepreneur business idea decision in this context:
- Pick something you really enjoy doing. If your passion is social change or sustainability, with financial value creation further down in priority, you should choose to be a social entrepreneur. Don’t pick a technology idea that someone else believes will make you rich and famous, or a business area you are not intimately familiar with.
- The idea or technology was easy for you to learn. If you feel an idea was born inside you without thought or effort, or you learned the details easily, it’s a great idea for you. The next step is to do homework on the business issues that are common to all ideas, such as market size, business models, and marketing. Then ask me about execution.
- You look forward to learning and contributing more. Every new idea is only the beginning of a long journey, and the actions you take along the way will determine your ultimate success and satisfaction. You need to enjoy the learning along the way, as well as the destination. If all you see ahead is stress and pain, look for another idea.
- When engrossed with this idea, the hours fly by. The best and most successful entrepreneurs, such as Elon Musk, known for PayPal, SpaceX, and Tesla Motors, routinely work hundred-hour weeks, but never complain about the hours, and don’t even think of their activities as work. He doesn’t need or ask anyone to assess his ideas.
- Working on this idea gives you renewed energy. Everyone develops a sense of what activities build their energy, and which ones drain energy from them. As an introvert, I lose energy quickly working a room full of people, while my extrovert friends come away from a social gathering more fully energized. Find ideas that energize you.
- You continually strive to sell and communicate the value. Smart entrepreneurs develop quick elevator pitches for their ideas, good product and business stories, and are eager for the opportunity to communicate and learn from feedback. As an investor, I’m not attracted to startups where the founder sends in a marketing person to do the talking.
- You love to associate with the top people in the business area. The best ideas are ones that get attention from experts and key constituents in relevant business areas. Part of the satisfaction of being an entrepreneur is being able to interact with and learn from the people you respect most. Test your ideas on them, and listen to the answers.
Finding the balance point in your life’s work is not an easy task, but it is critical to long-term success and happiness. Establishing the right professional identity and commensurate business is equal in importance to maintaining your health and finding the right personal relationships and family life. You can never satisfy everyone, so you need to start by satisfying yourself.
So before you poll the world on what they think of your next great idea, be sure you assess your own drivers along the lines listed here. If everything fits, build a plan to make it a business. If you can’t build a plan, or your advisors and investors find it unconvincing, it’s time to give that idea to someone else and try a new one. I see more than enough great ideas to match any entrepreneur.