It is common for entrepreneurs to protect their business ideas for fear that someone will copy all or parts of them. This is natural since the entrepreneurial spark is largely ignited by the almost religious experience of having a business idea. We feel that we see and know something that others do not see and that this is our competitive advantage that we must protect. However, the prevailing view with serial entrepreneurs is that there is more to lose than gain by not sharing your ideas, and in fact, you should share them as soon as possible with as many as you can. Here are five reasons why you shouldn’t be afraid to share your idea, and how you can win by doing so.
1. Personal biases
Ideas do not fall from the sky, but are the result of your own experiences, learning and ideas. There is a special reason why you come up with an idea and not your neighbor or competitor. Your personal biases can be your weaknesses as well as your strengths, but either way, your individual journey of learning and understanding are your main competitive factors, even as an entrepreneur, as opposed to a single idea.
2. Ideas cannot be protected but they can be improved
No idea is protectable, no matter how much you want it. As soon as you start your business, almost anyone can copy you. But you’d be surprised how few ideas get copied, and the reason is that we’re human. We all have our own lives and ideas that we think are great. And everyone is right, as there is a personal reason why we have the ideas that we have. Since you can’t protect an idea, you have to work harder than your competitors to improve it by getting first-hand feedback from your peers and potential customers.
3. No idea survives the first contact with a client
A business idea is the entrepreneur’s perspective of offering something to customers and usually also summarizes the entrepreneur’s personal biases. Customers, however, are not interested in new ideas or innovations, but in acquiring concrete value. Communicating value to customers so they understand it is the hardest thing in business. The winner is not the entrepreneur who has the best idea, but the one who best understands the customer’s problem and turns customers into fans in the process.
4. Only the execution matters
Each business idea has at least a thousand strategies and alternative business models. Therefore, success lies not in what you do but in how you do it. The smartest entrepreneurs usually end up changing their business idea as their knowledge and understanding of customers and markets grow. If you have two teams with the same idea, you always get two different results. Forget about the business idea and focus on forming the best team to carry it out.
The smart way to start a business is to seek validation from potential customers. The only way to do that is to talk openly and systematically with people. If you talk to a competitor who is overly interested in your idea, treat it as partial validation that you’re onto something. Since you can’t protect your idea, you have to fully focus on being the best candidate to succeed with it.
The list could go on and on, but I hope this is enough to dispel any naive beliefs or fears you may have about the uniqueness or importance of business ideas. True entrepreneurship is a million times harder than coming up with an idea, and the real battles you have to win are fought elsewhere.