Who You Are Matters as Much as Your Entrepreneurial Idea

“I have a great idea for a business,” said the entrepreneur.

I was in a conversation with a 24-year-old would-be entrepreneur.

“What is the business you are thinking about starting?” I asked.

“I have an idea for a new social media site,” he said.

Yikes, I thought.

“Tell me about it,” I responded.

The prospective entrepreneur launched into a description of the site. The need it would satisfy. Who would use it. Why they would use it. How they would use it. Why it would be unique. Why it would be wildly popular. There was no description of how it would make money or how the business would be sustainable.

Then he asked, “I want to raise money. What should be my next step?”

Uh-oh, I thought.

I said, “Your next step is to establish credibility.”

“What do you mean?” he asked.

“You need to answer the question: Why are you the person to make this idea a success? If you and the idea are not an obvious fit, people will write you off. You and the idea must be an intuitive fit,” I explained.

Experience Becomes Credibility

Richard and I were partners in his first startup. We sold software to CPAs. We built the company on the backs of an incredible salesforce, which was fed by great lead generation.

But something always haunted Richard. He believed we never had enough salesmen. The VP of Sales and Richard were always butting heads on this one. Richard believed the reps were “cherry picking” leads to make their numbers. He said the rest of the leads, which he called “our company gold,” was buried in the reps’ desk drawers.

He just couldn’t prove it. This frustration from an unwinnable argument birthed a new company, Brock Control Systems. He created a whole new category of software which he called Salesforce Automation.

His goal in creating this company was to do lead tracking and call activity by reps. This information would help managers like him ensure the money being spent in marketing and on a rep was money well spent and to ensure the company’s market was being covered properly.

That company created a whole new industry. The category broadened its reach and is now called marketing automation.

When Richard pitched this idea to anyone, it just made sense. He had the experience and stories to prove it. He had credibility.

Do, Go, Make, Repeat

“So how do I establish credibility with this idea?” asked the entrepreneur.

“Start now. Start creating and posting YouTube videos. Tweet and use Facebook to promote the videos. Create a simple site where people can interact and post their video responses. Create a following. Do. Go. Make. Repeat,” I said.

There was stunned silence for a moment.

“Stop planning and talking and start doing. Get experience. Show commitment,” I said, filling the silence.

Experience is the only path to credibility. Experience can only come from doing, not talking about doing. Once you gain experience by doing, you will realize credibility as a by-product. Then you and the idea will make perfect sense.

Now go and do. Get experience. Welcome to entrepreneurship!