Starting A Business – Ideas Matter Less Than You Think

February 14, 2007


I love Fortune Magazine – I’ve written about it before.

Here is a snippet (republished without consent) from the most recent issue – it’s email Q & A with Jim Collins:

Q: If you were to offer advice to a beginning entrepreneur, what would it be? – Franciso Romero, Alburquerque

A: First, don’t obsess on finding the “great idea”. In fact, our research shows a somewhat negative correlation between pioneering a great idea and building a great company. Many of the greatest started with either no great idea or even failed ideas. Sony started with a failed rice cooker. Marriott started as a single root beer stand. Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard’s great idea was simply to work together – two best friends who trusted each other – while their first four products failed to get the company out of the garage. They followed the “first who” approach to entrepreneurship: First figure out your partners, then figure out what ideas to pursue. The most important thing isn’t the market you target, the product you develop, or the financing, but the founding team. Starting a business is like scaling an unclimbed face – you don’t know what the mountain will throw at you, so you must pick the right partners, who share your values, on whom you can depend, and who can adapt.

In the past I have talked about how Fear of Failure gets in the way of many entrepreneurs. Analysis paralysis (“I’m waiting for that billion dollar idea…”) can be a manifestation of that fear. As Jim makes clear in his answer, a solid team is the foundation for success. Once you have that, almost every success story I know boils down to one secret formula – consistent excellence in execution.

If you are interested in business, I highly recommend reading Good to Great or Built to Last. Jim Collins is a co-author of both and they are two of the best business books of the last decade.


about the author

Co-Founder & CEO, FreshBooks Mike is the co-founder and CEO of FreshBooks, the world’s #1 cloud accounting software for self-employed professionals. Built in 2003 after he accidentally saved over an invoice, Mike spent 3.5 years growing FreshBooks from his parents’ basement. Since then, over 10 million people have used FreshBooks to save time billing, and collect billions of dollars. A lover of the outdoors, Mike has been bitten so many times it’s rumored he’s the first human to have developed immunity to mosquitoes.