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Idea vs. Opportunity?

One of the most important questions an entrepreneur should ask: Idea or Opportunity?

According to my mother-in-law, my wife invented the pet rock. As a child she would adopt a pebble and look after it, just like they did with those pet rocks a decade later. She had the idea before the inventor!

You have probably met someone with a story about how they had an idea, years ago, that someone else later turned into a successful product. If they genuinely think that they could have hit the big time they likely don’t know the difference between an opportunity and an idea.

Don’t get me wrong – ideas are important. They are the creative lifeblood of your business. People that generate lots of ideas are good at coming up with solutions to problems. However, an idea is not an opportunity. Here are just five of the differences:

1. Ideas are a dime a dozen. Opportunities have value.
2. Ideas just take inspiration. Opportunities need perspiration too.
3. You can work on lots of ideas at once but should focus on only one or two opportunities.
4. When dealing with ideas it’s OK to dream, to speculate. When dealing with opportunities get ready to measure, to use data.
5. Investors do not put their money into ideas. They back opportunities.

From Idea to Opportunity
Turning an idea into an opportunity is a process. It takes time, resources and hard work. It helps to think of it in terms of The Recipe for Business Success. You can take an idea, froma secret pickling recipe to space tourism, and use the five elements of The Recipe to start turn it into an idea.

1. Strategic Fit. To have an opportunity the market needs to want what you have and you need to be able to provide it.
2. Business Plan. The process of writing a business plan actually helps develop an idea into an opportunity. It forces you to ask and answer hard questions and explore your options.
3. Team. An idea rarely becomes an opportunity without a team. No individual has all the knowledge and skills necessary to make the transformation.
4. Leadership. Once you have a team, the right leadership is essential to guide the development from idea to opportunity.
5. Resources. The planning process will have given you a good idea of the resources that will be required to turn your idea into an opportunity.

Successful entrepreneurs are good at turning ideas into opportunities. They act. They execute. As things turned out my wife did not develop her love of pebbles into the Next Big Thing.

What about you – are you working on an idea or an opportunity?