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How to Not Go Broke on Your Million Dollar Idea

How to Not Go Broke on Your Million Dollar Idea
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    Before you bet the bank on your next million dollar idea, you should do a reality check to see if the idea is worth it. People often fall in love with their ideas and as a result can experience tremendous pain if it turns out the idea is a bad one.

    Developing ideas into commercial successes is generally difficult work since there are many steps involved and the odds of success are not very high. You need to approach this with a process orientation and come at it with sufficient leadership skills and abilities to carry it though. Thinking in terms of getting rich on a one shot idea or expecting someone else to take the leadership initiative while you sit back and wait for a million dollar check to come in the mail will not work. That is something that people with inventoritis do. They almost always meet with poverty and its close companion – misery. On the other hand, people with good leadership abilities and skills who are teachable and follow sound marketing processes have a much greater chance of enjoying positive financial and career-enhancing experiences. Persistence counts and people who can pull this off tend to do so repeatedly. Famous American inventor Thomas Alva Edison was a master of developing ideas into commercial successes and died a rich and powerful man after a long prolific life. He cranked out over 1000 patented ideas, many of which were commercially successful.

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    We have prepared a list of questions you can use as a way to perform a reality check on your idea. It is intended to help you determine whether or not you actually have an idea that is worth something. If you are in a company, you want to know whether this is a career builder or a sure fire way to have the security people escort you from the property and demagnetize your company identification card. No lunch, no watch. If you are an inventor or entrepreneur looking for the million dollar check, you want to know this too so that you or your spouse does not end up having to take a part time job at Wal-Mart to help cover the losses. Anyone with inventoritis should make special note of the following 10 questions that will help you determine if your idea is worth pursuing:

    1. Can you explain your idea to someone within 5 minutes using no more than a single sheet of paper and a crayon as visual aids?
    2. Can you define your marketing strategy in 5 words or less?
    3. Do you know your 6 best potential customers twice as well as they know themselves?
    4. If someone stole your idea today, would you be willing to proceed anyway?
    5. Are you willing to proceed if it costs twice as much and takes three times as long as your presumably reasonable estimates suggest?
    6. Are you willing to sell it door to door if required?
    7. Is your idea media worthy? – Have you asked?
    8. Do you have a network of credible and qualified advisors who can help you through the process and to help assess things at various stages of the process?
    9. If it fails, can you afford the losses?
    10. Do you believe any of the following statements?

      “The idea will sell itself.”
      “Everyone will need this.”
      “There is no competition.”
      “I don’t have a problem letting go.”
      “No one can copy it.”
      “No one has thought of this.”
      “The marketing is no big deal.”
      “‘Insert big company name’ will pay millions for this.”
      “It’s not about the money.”

    If you do believe any of the above statements derived from a list of common lies told by inventors who are the best known group of people trying to turn ideas into money, you likely have inventoritis. If you have inventoritis then stop right now. Do not bug your boss. Do not go to the bank, family or friends to borrow any money. Get the condition treated first or you will fail.

    Assuming your idea passes the above reality check, then before launching into a whole bunch of expensive technical work into turning the idea into reality, do more up front marketing work. If the idea is for a product, find an inexpensive way to prepare some samples or mock-ups then conduct further customer prospect interviews, focus group sessions, surveys, test marketing trials and so on while observing customer behavior and developing the business case for your idea. As the business case develops, apply reasonable resources in a reasonable way toward developing the market in a profitable way. Do this whether you are selling the idea to a single customer for a simple check or moving toward a full blown multi-million dollar product launch. The process should be roughly the same.

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    If your idea fails these above tests, then move on knowing you haven’t bet the bank, risked your job prematurely or unduly stressed your personal relationships. This is not the same thing as giving up on your ideas. It is much better to kill something that doesn’t make sense than to have it kill you.

    Peter Paul Roosen and Tatsuya Nakagawa are co-founders of Atomica Creative Group, a specialized strategic product marketing firm. Through leading edge insight and research, sound strategic planning and effective project management, Atomica helps companies achieve greater success in bringing new products to market and in improving their existing businesses. They have co-authored Overcoming Inventoritis: Happy About® Not flushing Away Your Innovation Dollars now available.

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    Last Updated on April 8, 2019

    22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

    22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

    Unless you’re infinitely rich or prepared to rack up major debt, you need to budget your income. Setting limits on how much you are willing to spend helps control expenses. But what about your time? Do you budget your time or spend it carelessly?

    Deadlines are the chronological equivalent of a budget. By setting aside a portion of time to complete a task, goal or project in advance you avoid over-spending. Deadlines can be helpful but they can also be a source of frustration if set improperly. Here are some tips for making deadlines work:

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    1. Use Parkinson’s Law – Parkinson’s Law states that tasks expand to fill the time given to them. By setting a strict deadline in advance you can cut off this expansion and focus on what is most important.
    2. Timebox – Set small deadlines of 60-90 minutes to work on a specific task. After the time is up you finish. This cuts procrastinating and forces you to use your time wisely.
    3. 80/20 – The Pareto Principle suggests that 80% of the value is contained in 20% of the input. Apply this rule to projects to focus on that critical 20% first and fill out the other 80% if you still have time.
    4. Project VS Deadline – The more flexible your project, the stricter your deadline. If a task has relatively little flexibility in completion a softer deadline will keep you sane. If the task can grow easily, keep a tight deadline to prevent waste.
    5. Break it Down – Any deadline over one day should be broken down into smaller units. Long deadlines fail to motivate if they aren’t applied to manageable units.
    6. Hofstadter’s Law – Basically this law states that it always takes longer than you think. A rule I’ve heard in software development is to double the time you think you need. Then add six months. Be patient and give yourself ample time for complex projects.
    7. Backwards Planning – Set the deadline first and then decide how you will achieve it. This approach is great when choices are abundant and projects could go on indefinitely.
    8. Prototype – If you are attempting something new, test out smaller versions of a project to help you decide on a final deadline. Write a 10 page e-book before your 300 page novel or try to increase your income by 10% before aiming to double it.
    9. Find the Weak Link – Figure out what could ruin your plans and accomplish it first. Knowing the unknown can help you format your deadlines.
    10. No Robot Deadlines – Robots can work without sleep, relaxation or distractions. You aren’t a robot. Don’t schedule your deadline with the expectation you can work sixteen hour days to complete it. Deathmarches aren’t healthy.
    11. Get Feedback – Get a realistic picture from people working with you. Giving impossible deadlines to contractors or employees will only build resentment.
    12. Continuous Planning – If you use a backwards planning model, you need to constantly be updating plans to fit your deadline. This means making cuts, additions or refinements so the project will fit into the expected timeframe.
    13. Mark Excess Baggage – Identify areas of a task or project that will be ignored if time grows short. What e-mails will you have to delete if it takes too long to empty your inbox? What features will your product lack if you need a rapid finish?
    14. Review – For deadlines over a month long take a weekly review to track your progress. This will help you identify methods you can use to speed up work and help you plan more efficiently for the future.
    15. Find Shortcuts – Almost any task or project has shortcuts you can use to save time. Is there a premade library you can use instead of building your own functions? An autoresponder to answer similar e-mails? An expert you can call to help solve a problem?
    16. Churn then Polish – Set a strict deadline for basic completion and then set a more comfortable deadline to enhance and polish afterwards. Often churning out the basics of a task quickly will require no more polishing afterwards than doing it slowly.
    17. Reminders – Post reminders of your deadlines everywhere. Creating a sense of urgency with your deadlines is necessary to keep them from getting pushed aside by distractions.
    18. Forward Planning – Not mutually exclusive with backwards planning, this involves planning the details of a project out before setting a deadline. Great for achieving clarity about what you are trying to accomplish before making arbitrary time limits.
    19. Set a Timer – Get one that beeps. Somehow the countdown of a timer appears more realistic for a ninety minute timebox than just glancing at your clock.
    20. Write them Down – Any deadline over a few hours needs to be written down. Otherwise it is an inclination not a goal. Having written deadlines makes them more tangible than internal decisions alone.
    21. Cheap/Fast/Good – Ben Casnocha in My Start Up Life mentions that you can have only have two of the three. Pick two of the cheap/fast/good dimensions before starting a project to help you prioritize.
    22. Be Patient – Using a deadline may seem to be the complete opposite of patience. But being patient with inflexible tasks is necessary to focus on their completion. The paradox is that the more patient you are, the more you can focus. The more you can focus the quicker the results will come!

    Featured photo credit: Estée Janssens via unsplash.com

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