notepad and coffee

“How much is this cup of Abu Naji coffee?” My entrepreneurship professor asked our Small Business Management class as he held up a disposable cup filled with brew.

“1000 LL,” we chorused. We were all very familiar with Abu Naji’s sickly sweet Nescafe, as it was a staple of college life.

“Now, how much is the coffee worth if you add to it the world’s best idea?”

We thought about it for a while and soon numbers were shouted out. “$1,000!” “$100,000!” “$500??” Each answer assumed the idea would add value to the coffee.

“Wrong,” he replied, “the combination is still only worth 1000 LL. An idea is worth nothing until it’s actually executed.”

This sentiment was echoed in the CEO note of a client’s most recent corporate newsletter. In it he stated, “Focus on execution is key. Without execution, ideas aren’t worth much.” In the ten years between hearing that in my ENTM 221 class and hearing it now from a successful entrepreneur and CEO, it’s become an idea I strongly believe in.

Entrepreneurs are unbelievably protective of ideas, especially in this region. We work on them silently in our living rooms, not sharing them with anyone until they’re almost ready for launch. The fear of losing our ideas to others causes us to forget the immense value of feedback. And this lack of objective feedback in early planning stages can often lead to costly mistakes that may actually tank your business.

Ideas are cheap. That may be a hard thought to swallow considering we all believe we are sitting on million dollar business ideas, but it’s the truth. Ideas are hot air until someone puts in the sweat and tears to execute with excellence.

When a competitor enters the market with a similar product or service, many business owners obsess over what they see as their ideas being stolen. Instead of allowing yourself to become consumed with how your ideas may overlap, focus on blowing the competition out of the water with phenomenal execution. It’s the only thing that actually matters.