Add Value to Your Idea with Execution

Your idea is great.  You came up with it one day and it’s so great, you can’t believe that nobody thought of it before.  It’s going to change the world, revolutionize an industry, or solve a problem for millions of people. It’s the best idea you’ve ever had.

So, what’s it worth?  Would you be shocked if I said your idea, even if it’s the best idea ever, was worth about $20 bucks.  And that’s if it’s brilliant.  If it’s just a great idea, maybe it’s worth $15.

That’s because it’s not worth much until you do something with it. A few years ago, Derek Sivers wrote a great short blog post about this called “Ideas are Just a Multiplier of Execution” where he describes his multiplier table for ideas and execution.  It’s a short summary of a complicated subject, and it boils it down nicely. Without working on your idea, it’s really not worth a whole lot. And even with the best idea, weak execution doesn’t add much.  To create an amazing and valuable business you have to focus on the execution. Here’s the multiplier tables Derek used.

Idea Multiplier
AWFUL IDEA -1
WEAK IDEA 1
SO-SO IDEA 5
GOOD IDEA 10
GREAT IDEA 15
BRILLIANT IDEA 20
Execution Value
NO EXECUTION $1
WEAK EXECUTION $1000
SO-SO EXECUTION $10,000
GOOD EXECUTION $100,000
GREAT EXECUTION $1,000,000
BRILLIANT EXECUTION $10,000,000

Even a mediocre idea with great execution can be very successful.  Look at the successful non-tech companies–they didn’t have a unique technical idea or technology, but they executed very well, and they’re profitable businesses.  Don’t focus on the idea; focus on your execution.

There’s a couple things to take away from the tables above. First, the only way to guarantee that you don’t succeed is to start with an awful idea. And even then, unless you’re very stubborn, you’ll likely change your idea as you execute your plan.  Second, if you only focus on your idea, poor execution can remove all the possible future value.  You can make successful and highly profitable companies with so-so ideas. And third, even a small amount of work can help add value to your brilliant idea. If it’s an amazing idea, take the time to protect it with a patent.

These tables also describe what investors are looking for when reviewing submitted business plans.  They may love the idea, but if they don’t think you can execute, they’ll never invest. Instead of focusing the business plan on the idea or technology, focus on how you’re going to create sales and revenue with that idea. Show them how you’re going to turn that idea into a growing business. They see hundreds of ideas a year and what they’re really looking for is execution.

Steve Cook