Should You Share or Not Share Your Business Idea?

16-October-2012
16-October-2012 23:09
in Practical Small Business Advice
by Colin Smith

 I speak to people almost every day that are about to launch their small businesses upon an unsuspecting world.  A minority of them have clearly benefited from some outside perspective on their ideas before they come to me to help pull those ideas into a cohesive, finance ready plan.  However, it's painfully obvious that for many of them, this is the very first time that they have ever spoken out loud about their business idea. I'm happy to act as a sounding board for them but inevitably their ideas are significantly less well developed than those of their contemporaries that opened their mouths and sought feedback on their ideas from the earliest possible stage in the lefetime of their business idea.  I often wonder what happens to hundreds of thousands of small businesses that start each year without first refining their business idea through third party advice or feedback.

I'm convinced that the alarming small business failure rate could be dramatically reduced if these budding entrepreneur would just expose his ideas to people who could give meaningful feedback before they invest their life savings and years of their life into trying to start a business based upon a fatally flawed idea.  We can fulfil that function for our clients, however, it isn't always necessary to seek a professional opinion.  Logically, it makes sense for wannabe small business owners to iron out as many wrinkles as possible whilst their business is still on the drawing board.  It's far better to be disappointed at this stage than when you are stuck dealing with the devastating aftermath of a dead duck business.  The business owner is often so close to the opportunity that they cannot see some of the difficulties that they might face further down the line.  They have practiced and polished their pitch on themselves but neglected to go and try it out on anybody.

Often this is due to a fear of what these people might say.  This fear is not completely unfounded.  Alot of the feedback that budding entrepreneurs get when they share their ideas is negative.  Generally speaking, there are five types of feedback.  Anyone about to start a small business would do well to share their ideas with anyone that will listen and then categorize the feedback under one of the five following headings.  It may feel that you are panning for gold in a river of negativity, but there are two types of feedback that are golden nuggets of information for your prospective business.

1. Negative With No Good Reason   

This is exactly what the potential entrepreneur fears.  This kind of blanket negativity toward small business in general is sadly all too prevalent in our country.  The only thing to do with this kind of groundless negativity is to ignore it. 

2. Negative With Good Reason

This is the most useful feedback you can get at the pre-start up stage.  This is the only kind of feedback that will help you improve your business and avoid potential problems.  Thank these people and seriously consider the merits of what they have to say.  Do not slavishly follow their advice but please do not ignore what they say.  Carefully weigh up if you need to make adjustments to your plan before you launch in the light of this feedback.

3. Neutral

If you get a lot of people telling you that they can't think of any way to improve your business idea but are still not very excited about what you are doing, this could be a sign that this idea needs to be revisited.  It may well be a "me too" business that simply does exactly what everyone else is doing in your chosen marketplace.  If your friends and family are indifferent to your idea, you can be pretty certain that the general public will be too.

4. Positive With Good Reason

This kind of feedback is really useful as it tells you what your potential customers like about your business idea.  If there are a few different things that keep geting repeated by the people you speak to, you are probably onto a good thing.

5. Positive With No Good Reason

This is the kind of feedback that your grandparents might give you because they love you and would lap up anything that you where enthusiastic about.  This kind of feedback may feel good, but it is practically useless in helping you refine your business idea and in helping you eventually build a successful business.

In my experience, those that seek feedback always tweak their ideas and come to the table with something far stronger than those that don't.  That doesn't mean that you have to get washed away by a river of negativity that seems to face every wannabe entrepreneur in the pre-start up stage.  Take what is useful from the feedback you get and disregard the rest.  Feedback that is either positive or negative with good reason are the golden nuggets that you are panning for.  The fact that you need to wade through some groundless negativity or positivity to find them does not negate their value.  Here at Continuous Business Planning, we can help with this process of refining your business idea, but for the sake of the health of your small business, please do not keep these ideas to yourself.   

 

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