So You've Got Your Million Dollar Design Idea - Now What?
By Tom Hasker, Associate Partner & Mentorship Coach, Lighthouse International
Imagine for a moment a 'gifted' engineer. He has a dream and an idea that he's developed over many months that is just waiting to happen! Like a coiled spring, he is bursting to get moving and change the world for the better! He has the plans, the technical drawings, the models, even the plans for production, all underpinned by an abundant desire to see it all through.
So what is holding our budding future captain of industry back? What is stopping him from 'just doing it?'
The Entrepreneurial Seizure
Our future global entrepreneur would do very well to learn about 'The Entrepreneurial Seizure' as described by Michael E Gerber in this interview with Management Consulting News, and in his book 'The E-Myth' or 'Entrepreneurial Myth';
"The E-Myth view is that people who go into business for themselves are not the entrepreneurs we think they are. Rather, they are what I call technicians suffering from entrepreneurial seizures.
The consultant creates a consultancy, the accountant sets up an accountancy, and the attorney starts a legal firm. They all get to work doing what they know how to do. Would-be entrepreneurs believe in what I call the fatal assumption: that knowing how to do the technical work means you know how to build a business.
But it doesn’t work because they spend their time working in the business rather doing what entrepreneurs do, which is to work on the business.
They fail to see the business as a product as an entrepreneur would. Instead, they see the business as a job. Obviously, it’s a job they were trained to do and, no doubt, are passionate about. But, unfortunately, there are many other functions a business owner has to master, and they just don’t do those well."
What happens is that if we are good at baking cakes, we think we can open a bakery. Our well-meaning engineer thinks that because he has a complete, or nearly complete product ready for manufacture, that this is the right time to invest his house, savings, and time away from his girlfriend, for example. 🙂 All his energy and time goes into making it work!
What he doesn't realise is that he is gripped by the entrepreneurial seizure! That is exactly what it does - it gives someone the false confidence to 'just go for it'. What actually needs to happen, is a process of learning, growing and developing himself as a leader.
Entrepreneurs are leaders. Our engineer must now learn how to build a business around the idea. The entrepreneurial side is responsible for finding the resources that the idea needs to flourish. For example, if you are building boats, you'll need a supplier of propellers, engines, wood, steel, finance, legal help, accounting...you get the idea! For each one of these resources, there is a person our engineer will need to know and know well.
That requires building relationships and leading other people. Our man now needs a complete set of interpersonal leadership skills, in order to find, and then work with the right people, thus making the whole business come to life. Without the entrepreneurial ability to complement the product idea, our hero is one wing short of the whole aeroplane.
When we learn from legends it's easy to think that everything 'just fell into place' for them. Sometimes they even say words to that effect themselves;
"In about 1990 I suddenly thought 'Virgin Galactic' sounds like a good name. So having registered the company - I had to do something about it!"
This is a quote from Richard Branson about 30 seconds into this video about Virgin Galactic. The space tourism company that he set up.
He is able to bring the right people together at the right time to make Virgin Galactic work. For example, it was his relationship with Burt Rutan that meant Virgin Galactic uses the 'SpaceShip Two' and 'WhiteKnight Two' vehicles for its space tourism business. These things were a resource that Mr Branson needed and Burt Rutan was the person behind that resource.
Does Our Story Have A Happy Ending?
For 95% of people who set out on the journey to build their own company or launch their product - with every positive and upbuilding intention to add great value to the world - only about 5% make it into their 5th year of existence. The reason is that most of the effort has gone into working in the business (as the engineer, baker etc) and not working on the business as the entrepreneur.
Knowing the difference between the two and knowing where to invest further resources in time, money and effort is crucial to any success.