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Ideas that work to create wealth

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“Lack of money is no obstacle. Lack of an idea is an obstacle” — Ken Hakuta

There is no man that is poor; every man is rich in something. The rich are rich in ideas, while the poor are rich in ignorance.

There are two critical truths about ideas: The first one is that ideas rule the world and the second one is that not all ideas work. In life, real poverty is not the lack of money, but the lack of ideas. Some people are so poor, all they have is money. You are not poor until you are without ideas; real poverty is lack of ideas, and idea is real wealth.

James Garfield said: “An idea is the beginning of the process of all creations.” Every impact is a product of an idea. Mark Zuckerberg changed the social world with his idea of Facebook; Bill Gate changed the computer world with his idea of software and programming.

Gate has this to say about the power of an idea: “I failed in some subjects in exam, but my friend passed in all. Now, he is an engineer in Microsoft and I am the owner of Microsoft.” Steve Jobs, the late chief executive of Apple Inc. changed the world with a ‘mole’ of idea.

As an entrepreneurship coach and mentor on different platforms, I have pitiably watched people pitching ideas that cannot just work. They sound passionate about their ideas, but they fail to realise that their passion is only contagious to the extent that it can solve a problem or meet a need.

People are not loyal to your passion or idea until they see that it can meet their needs. If you can validate that a market wants or needs and is willing to pay for your product or service, you might have a viable startup idea.

I will like to share what I have designed over the years to foolproof your ideas. Not all ideas work. I call them the four “S” of an idea that works.

Is It Solving A Problem?
A business idea must be a solution, not the problem. An idea that cannot solve problems is a liability. The first thing to ask is:

What kind of problem is my idea solving?
Define your idea as a problem that needs to be solved. Ideas would always be relevant as long as they are solving a problem. If there are existing competitors that are already solving the same problem, you must be able to show how your own idea is solving the same problem differently (faster, cheaper, safer, etc.). Jobs said: “You’ve got to have a problem that you want to solve; a wrong that you want to right.”

Is It Sellable? Nearly half of all startups fail because there is no market need for what they are making. Many entrepreneurs understand their idea, but not the market that would accept or reject the idea. Your idea must be sellable in order to bring in revenue.

Do you have a first-hand knowledge of your market? What is the size of the market? These are some of the questions to sincerely ask ourselves to ascertain whether the idea is sellable.

Is It Scalable? Scaling up a business is an important strategic decision towards growth. As Entrepreneur.com puts it: “Scalability is one of the most important factors for entrepreneurs considering starting a new business or hoping to take a current business to the next level.

“Successful business growth depends on a scalable business model that will increase profits over time by growing revenue, while avoiding cost increases.”

Some ideas simply don’t even have the potential to scale. It is important to determine how big you want to become and assess whether your business can realistically flourish at this size. Investors would tell you that they love to put money into startups that are scalable and ready to scale. But what does that really mean? As Forbes puts it, scaling means “your business has the potential to multiply revenue with minimal incremental cost.”

Ready to scale is when you have a proven product and a proven business model about to expand to new geographies and markets. I have often realised that ideas that leverage on technology and automation are highly scalable.

The other thing that is utterly important for the business’ scalability is being online. If you are not online today, it is as if you do not exist. Embrace a growth mindset. Network aggressively and take part in pitch events, so that you can get out there in front of investors. Then, find mentors who can feed it; people who have been there and done that.

Is It Sustainable? There are four types of sustainability. One is environmentally-related, the second is profit-related, the third is people-related, while the last one is process-related.

There are ‘bad’ ideas! Any idea that generates another problem of great intensity in the process of solving one is a bad idea. A “good” idea, in theory, is one that solves a problem adeptly, with no major drawbacks. In some cases, the idea may even be good, but not cost-effective, thereby preventing you from generating a worthwhile profit.

Another aspect of sustainability is to find out the impact of the idea on the environment. Is it an environmentally-friendly business? Are the raw materials needed renewable? Can the products be recycled after usage? It is not all business ideas that are eco-friendly and green. Eco-friendly businesses deliver more than profits. But beyond the feel-good impact that comes with making the world a better place, environmentally-conscious businesses cater for a rapidly growing market.

It is good to have skills, but it is actually an idea that solves a problem. Walt Disney said: “I have always had men working for me whose skills were greater than my own; I am an idea man.” You cannot change the world until you get an idea.

Henry Seely met a ‘wrinkled’ world and gave us the electric pressing iron. Dennis Papin gave us the pressure cooker and Stephen Poplawski changed the face of household cooking with his famous blender. Fred Smith changed the way packages are delivered; he changed the face of ‘package delivery’ by giving us FedEx, an idea that his professors belittled as unworkable and he was given a mediocre score for this awesome initiative. That idea- to deliver time sensitive package overnight- eventually became FedEx.

George Biro changed the world with his idea of ballpoint pen; he gave the world the cheapest and fastest pen. Most people live their lives to leave an indelible mark, but George left an “Indelible Ink.” In honour of a life that brought change, the first ballpoint pen was named ‘Biro’ after the wonder boy.

The issue of young people running after money without any definite and concrete plans to add value to the world is appalling. I want to sincerely advice youths to stop their mad rush after money. Stop praying for money, start praying for ideas, because in the end, money always flows towards an idea. Instead of praying for N100, pray for 100 ideas.


In this article:
Gbenga Adebambo
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