I am currently putting together a professional development programme for people who provide a range of ‘enterprise support services’.
I am trying to establish the challenges that they face and where professional or service development support might help. One of the commonest problems reported is that of helping the client to recognise when their business idea is just ‘not viable’.
The implication of this is that as ‘professionals’ we know whether a business idea can or cannot be made to work. We understand the financial dynamics of the business and the marketplace and we can foretell the future – absolutely. The challenge is how to get the client to recognise what we already know to be true.
- Do we just tell them that we know the business won’t work?
- Or do we carefully lead them to the same, ‘obviously right’, conclusion.
- Or do we recognise that our beliefs could be wrong and focus on helping the client to develop their own business idea free of any negative bias from us?
My guess is that there are many, many very successful businesses that would never of started trading had their adviser not carefully and skillfully pursued this third option.
For example there is this company that sells tumbleweed (‘I would just like to talk to you about an idea that I have for a business. You see all these weeds that are blowing across the prairie? I reckon I can sell them mail order over the Internet….’). Any takers for the first Dandelion Emporium or Himalayan Balsam Wholesaler?
- Then, closer to home there is this company that makes haute couture for ferrets.
- Then there are doggles (goggles for dogs),
- And a guy who will sell you a ‘pixel‘ on the Internet for a dollar (don’t laugh, he has sold them all and made his million!).
- Or this company who make plastic ‘wishbones’ so there are no more fights over who gets the wishbone (does anyone still do that?)
- Or this company who sell plastic balls to go on the end of your car aerial and make them look pretty!
- Or the pet rock company that started in 1975 and swept the planet!
The big lesson for me has to be that it is impossible for us to ‘know’ whether a business idea is viable or not.
Some real stinkers have made millions and even more really great ideas have bombed. Learning to recognise and set aside our own prejudices and beliefs so that we can help the entrepreneur to explore and develop their business idea and manage there own exposure to financial and psychological risk must be an important professional development goal for many of us.
There is a link here to my earlier post on barriers to enterprise. ‘Adviser negativity’ surely has to be added to the list!
Let me know your favourite ‘business ideas that should never of worked’ so we can grow the collection.