You tinker with a product invention in the garage. Then imagine your successful consulting career. Then consider leading action adventure vacations in exotic locations around the world. Or perhaps opening a bed and breakfast in Vermont. It's paralyzing to have multiple business ideas in your head, all vying for attention and energy.
Yet month after month, or sometimes year after year, you never move any of these ideas forward. This makes you want to tear your hair out. There are two root causes to this problem:
- You believe that when you choose one idea it will forever rule out the possibility of doing another. This feels restrictive and makes your inner entrepreneur want to rebel like a teenager.
- You have no decision criteria. All ideas feel like beloved children, and you cannot bear to give preference to one over the other.
Here is how to solve the problem:
- Brainstorm decision criteria, based on your current life and financial situation. For example, you may be laid off and lacking in savings. So a critical criterion would be, "quickest path to money". You might have spent twenty-five years trudging along in a corporate job you weren't passionate about, therefore‚ "make meaning in the world", is also important. Sample criteria can be:
- Quickest path to market
- Quickest path to money
- Greatest passion
- Easiest to implement
- Easiest to explain to your relatives
- Fewest resources to start
- Greatest chance for success
- Greatest impact on the world
- Choose the two or three critical criteria and run your ideas through them. Give a weighted score to each, and see how the numbers stack out. For example:
In my experience walking many clients through this exercise, removing the emotion from the decision and focusing on objective criteria is all it takes to shake one idea loose from the pack.
By choosing to move forward with a specific business idea, you do not rule out other business opportunities in the future. A healthy consulting practice could beef up your bank account so you could test out one of your action adventure tours. A successful product launch could fund the down payment on your bed and breakfast. It is hard to start many businesses at once, so by staggering your efforts, you give each idea a chance for success.
The only way to guarantee failure in business is to never move your ideas out of your head and into the real world. So get moving, and if one idea doesn't work, move on to the next.
Pamela Slim is a business coach and author of Escape from Cubicle Nation: From Corporate Prisoner to Thriving Entrepreneur (Penguin/Portfolio, May 2009)