Horrible: Your Business Idea

by Matthew on September 14, 2011

I love the scene in the movie Office Space where Tom shares his secret idea for a product that will make him rich: the infamous “Jump To Conclusions” Mat. His co-workers aren’t impressed.

Lots of folks have commented that ideas themselves are worthless; In business it matters most if someone will pay you money for something.

I’ve been reading Jason Cohen’s blog for a while, and he has recently had a couple podcast episodes where he let people call in and gives them advice about their business. Actually, he asks them the hard questions, challenges some of their assumptions, cuts to the chase and offers some advice based on the little he quickly learns about their business. Episode 2 is here, and you should listen to both this one and the previous one. You can ask yourself the same hard questions about your business. I’ve noticed a pattern to Jason’s inquiries and am trying really hard to implement the same line of thinking to my own pursuits.

Top questions I’ve jotted down from listening to Jason that any company should have quick, accurate answers for:

  1. What does your product do? (Note: If this takes more than a sentence to answer, the answer needs work.)
  2. What problem are you solving? (Note: See note for Question 1)
  3. How many people have said they will pay you for solving this problem?
    1. Even better, how many people have already written you a check? (Yes, even if you haven’t started solving the problem.)

Answers to questions 1 and 2 generally just need some work so you have good, succinct answers when asked.

Question 3 is the money question (literally). Work on making the answer to that number as high as possible and you’re generally on the right track. Get this number north of 30 and you’ll have run the gauntlet farther than any candidate I recall hearing so far.

I’m thinking of actually trying to get this number to 30 and then trying to call in to one of these and see how things go from there. Or maybe you can beat me to it. :) Of course, if you find yourself enough customers, you then have a different set of challenges because you now have a functioning business.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Jason Cohen September 15, 2011 at 11:27 am

Nice observations. :-)

Yep, the patterns that are emerging might even result in a flowchart, sort of like this: http://www.gabrielweinberg.com/blog/2011/03/codified-advice.html

We’ll try to do the show more regularly so it’s easier to get a time slot. Also I might need to lay off at least a LITTLE, since it’s a little crappy (on my part) that you feel you can’t call in unless you get all the way to a certain point.

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Matthew September 15, 2011 at 11:53 am

Jason,
Thanks for link to the flowchart; that’s great. I’ll definitely be referring to that.

The people who have called in have gotten great advice even if they aren’t all at the same point, but I feel that the next steps for me are pretty much summed up in the advice already given. This stuff is hard work and I’m covering somewhat familiar territory, so I know the next steps are for me to go and do that hard work for now. Then I’ll call in. :)

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