When it comes to business, I have loads of great ideas. You need to see my brain work when I’m thinking of a new business plan. I get all excited and think for hours. I’m also very good with my hand. I know how to design and make clothes. I can draw really well and I know how to make Jewelries (not that perfect though) and I learned professional makeup. Once something catches my attention I get really excited and will learn how to do it. The problem with me is that I never fully pursue these interests; I get bored easily and move on to the next shining object. To make matters worse, once I move on, I don’t look back.
Today I decided to reflect on why this happens so often. It’s time for me to be a business owner; an entrepreneur. I deserve to be one. I’m not the type that likes working for people. While reflecting on why I never pursued my business plans one thing became really obvious; I am genuinely scared of people stealing my ideas. This fear is heightened when I think about the fact that I don’t have the required capital to start it. So, while I’m telling people my plans with the hope of getting advice from them, they (who have capital) might steal the idea. Most people will probably be thinking about the likelihood of the business succeeding before venturing into it but I think about potential thieves. Funny right?
As ridiculous as it sounds, it is true. This became apparent to me after I informed a friend about my blog and I immediately started regretting ever mentioning it. I wondered if she would see how brilliant my idea was and start her own blog. I just couldn’t shake off the feeling. I was genuinely petrified. It was like having a mini panic attack.
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” – 2 Timothy 1:7
The funny thing is that some of my business ideas were gotten from other people’s ideas. I modify their business ideas by fixing potential errors and make it my own. Once I’ve perfected the idea, I get terrified of people stealing it regardless of the fact that I actually stole the initial idea from someone. It’s quite funny because the majority of new business plans stem from doing research on already existing businesses by finding a gap in the market. This is why I love being around business orientated people. Their ideas bring about more ideas.
My mentor once told me while I was in the fashion business that regardless of how many fashion designers are in your vicinity, you will always have your own customers. He constantly emphasised that no matter how bad a business is, there are customers who are loyal to it and I should never let that bother me. My business will have its own customers and it is up to be to put in all my effort to retain, maintain and attract new customers.
To help myself and others who think the way I do, here are some personal tips on how to look beyond our fears in developing our ideas and how to curb our inner anxieties.
1. Your personality, attitude, and passion make your ideas and business plan unique: Like my mentor said, there might be several people in your community with the same business plan but, having the right attitude and personality gives your business an edge that will make it unique. Don’t lose motivation on unrealistic things. If people steal your idea it’s because it is GOOD. Entrepreneurship is based on two factors; the exploitation of already existing opportunities or the creation of new distinctive opportunities. Being distinct will determine whether your resources; tangible or intangible are valuable, rare and inimitable for it to be effective and efficient. So, stop dwelling on the inevitable. If it’s an invention, trademark it to make it secure. You will need to have intellectual property to defend yourself against competitors. Think about it this way, if SnapChat wasn’t great, Instagram wouldn’t have copied it.
2. Act fast: Everyday a child is born and everyday people become wiser. Act fast on your plans before people start duplicating it. Think about the loopholes of your plans and if your idea was gotten from an already existing business, don’t just replicate it, modify it and make it yours. Add your personality to it. Remember the story of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg’s idea wasn’t unique at its inception. He modified it and added unique features to it. The truth is someone somewhere in the world is thinking of the same exact business plan so unless you are inventing a man-made rainbow, your idea might not be that unique. So don’t stress yourself too much about people stealing it.
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9
3. Do you have the required skills and stamina? I have been known to be a jack of all trades but, I have noticed that with some of my business ideas, I do not have the skills and stamina to follow through with it. I simply just love the idea of owning such a business and I end up daydreaming about it for days. When it comes to the reality of implementing my plans, I realise that I do not have the skills, time, money and effort for it. Skills are undeniably the most important factor when starting a business. If you think you can just hire people who have the skills to do it, you are so wrong. You need to have the skills yourself in order to effectively and efficiently direct your employees. There is no room for the blame game when things fall apart. Focus on building your personal staying power, maximise learning, improvements and stay focused. Being successful comes with responsibilities.
4. You need cash: No one really needs to tell you this but, just in case you did not know how important it is, let me say it in a subtle convincing way; YOU NEED MONEY!!! It is not about investing a large sum of money. If your business plan and execution are not well thought through from inception, no amount of money can turn it into a success. I will say invest reasonably. Don’t empty your bank account without prior knowledge of the business and its environment. Also, there are some businesses that don’t really require monetary investments at the inception but somewhere along the line; you will need to invest money.
5. Networking: In as much as I feel people are out to copy my great ideas, I know that I need people in order to develop my business. I need to tell people about it not just for business growth but for marketing and advice. You need to inform your family, friends, past and present colleagues and business contacts about your new business. This is really important. Your friends and family members can help you spread the word, and past business contacts can introduce your business to their professional contacts as well. This type of grassroots marketing can help introduce your business to a much larger audience. My mum used to say that the solution to your problems will come from the people you’re trying to hide it from. So get talking people.
6. Don’t give up: There are four stages of entrepreneurship process (Innovation, Business Plan, Implementation, and Growth). When I started my own clothing line (making custom T-shirts and Polos), I had successfully passed through the first to third stages by opening a small business and becoming a potential entrepreneur. Within a short period after opening, my motivational level gradually declined when the desired outcome of my business was not being met. Motivation can be a “push (necessity) or pull (opportunity) factors” which can either have a positive or a negative outcome on the overall business. The successful growth and survival of a business are critical to entrepreneurial success because it distinguishes entrepreneurial ventures from small businesses. You will need to push through all obstacles and remain positive.
The Self-Determination Theory by Ryan and Deci (2000) states that people tend to reject responsibility, development of skills and growth when their human spirit is crushed or diminished (I think I’m getting too academic here, lol). We should understand that significant events can also trigger a better understanding of business strategies and individual self-awareness.
What I’m trying to say is that perseverance is the key. Don’t give up. There will be times where it feels and looks like everything is falling apart. Trials and tribulations in businesses are difficult and no one is fully prepared for it. It’s normal and I’m sure successful business owners have a tale or two about how they almost gave up. The founder of KFC was at the verge of committing suicide from failing at everything before he created KFC. Also, don’t give up because someone started the business before you. Remember, your personality, attitude and passion make your ideas and business plans unique.
To sum this up, No one is stealing your idea. An individual’s trait determines the quality of an entrepreneur he or she will be and the more connected we are to the world through our ties; the more likely we are to gain more opportunities, receive important information, threats and ideas in time to respond to them. Spread the good word.
All I need to do now is remember what I have written and develop my blog.
RYAN, R. and DECI, E. (2000). Self-Determination Theory and the Facilitation of Intrinsic Motivation, Social Development, and Well-Being. American Psychologist, 55 (1), 68-78.