Six idea killers that sabotage dreams

You’re just about to start this small hustle that you’ve incubated for ages. You’re excited at the prospect of finally becoming your own boss.

But just before you roll out your business, you decide to bounce your idea off a few trusted friends, hoping for some extra inspiration.

Sadly, your small group of buddies turns out to be your worst nightmare. Rather than encourage your creativity, they make you question everything you thought was awesome about your business idea.

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They think going ahead with your dream would be the biggest mistake of your life. They remind you about all the things that could go wrong, and about that other friend you have who risked it all on entrepreneurship only to end up destitute and desperate. You wouldn’t want that now, would you?

Before you know it, you’re thinking that they may be right. You might have internalised the words of the American writer and philosopher, Elbert Green Hubbard – that the “greatest mistake you can ever make in life is to be continually fearing you will make one” – but it now looks like you may have been wrong.

But here’s the thing: you wouldn’t be the first to get up close and personal with idea killers. If you hear the following six phrases, especially from trusted friends, it may be time to evaluate whom you share your vision with.

1. Everybody is doing it

This is by far one of the most common idea killers. What you’re being told is that the market for the product or service you’re trying create is saturated, that there’s no more room for people like you.

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‘This product already exists’ is a common variation of the ‘everybody is doing it’ phrase. Reject that notion with the repugnance it requires.

Nick Oganda, a Nairobi businessman who started a small hustle hiring out public address systems, was almost stopped in his tracks by these phrases.

“I came to realise that it was one big lie. I had done my homework and seen a gap in the market. Most of the public address systems on offer were of poor quality. The fact that I got clients the first week I opened for business proves that there’s a place for anyone going into business,” he says.

According to Nick, those who use this line to kill others’ ideas should know that no business idea is completely new or exists in a vacuum.

“Each business idea only improves another or creates a variation of it.”

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Tip: Do something unique with your product or service to give yourself an edge over others.

2. You don’t have what it takes to start

If you wait to get all your ducks in a row, you’re not likely to get very far with your business idea.

The adage that Rome was not built in a day holds as true today as it did centuries ago. Mary Njoki, who wanted to start a small poultry business in her rural home, was told by well-meaning friends that she needed more capital so she could create a name for herself before launching the business. Some went on to suggest that she first print out flyers and build her brand.

“I was also told that getting trusted workers who understood my concept in the rural areas would be impossible. Yet, some of these people discouraging me were running businesses using labour from the same area. In any case, what branding do chickens need?” she asks.

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Mary came to find that the best way to learn about business is to just start. And that she would build her reputation one customer at a time, and these are the people who’d then recommend her to someone else.

Tip: Start small but don’t compromise on your promises. With growth, you can inject more capital and build better infrastructure. Just start – it’s unlikely that everything will align itself exactly like you need it to.

3. The market is not ready for your business

This is a fallacy. The market never waits for the indecisive ones; if it did, then Richard Branson would never have started an international airline.

In his late 20s, Branson wanted to visit his girlfriend in the Virgin Islands. However, his flight ended up being cancelled, and his only option was to charter a flight. He didn’t have the cash to do so, but he had an idea.

He picked up a small board and wrote on it: “Virgin Airlines $29” (Sh3,000 at current exchange rates).

He sold ‘tickets’ to people looking to go to the Virgin Islands, and used the money he got to pay for a chartered plane. That move led to the creation of Virgin Airlines, one of the largest airlines in the world – started without a single plane and by someone who knew little about aviation!

Tip: All ideas are feasible; it all boils down to execution.

4. It’s too risky

This is another idea killer that roams around, ready to pounce on the unwary. But one who decides to go into business has already counted the cost and is willing to pay the price, so let them be. After all, nothing good ever came to those who waited idly.

Tip: Every business you see around you is a risk. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. However, have a fallback plan to take care of the unexpected. 

5. You’re not in the ideal location

Your friends may feel that you must be in a particular address in an urban area if you’re to succeed. The location, they’ll tell you, acts as a status symbol and communicates how valuable your brand is.

However, location depends on the ease with which your prospective clients will access what you’re selling. For instance, an online start-up doesn’t need to be hosted in the tallest or fanciest building in town. In fact, the most ideal location could be your own sitting room.

Don’t let ego raise your overhead costs unnecessarily and ruin a good business idea.

Tip: The only considerations that matter are those of your prospective customers.

6. Give us free samples

This phrase cripples a small hustle even before it takes off. Linet Muguru started out baking cakes for weddings before deciding to branch out and open a bakery in her neighbourhood.

When she spoke to some of her neighbour friends about the idea, they asked for free samples first to determine if they’d become her customers.

“Do supermarkets do that with their customers when introducing a new toothpaste, for example? Some of these people were in business, yet they’d never offered me any of their goods or services for free,” she says.

Truly supportive friends and family should be looking to pay full price on whatever you’re selling, not asking for discounts. Separate the wheat from the chaff to protect the future of your company.

Tip: You’re in business, you’re not running a charity.

This list is by no means exhaustive – sadly, idea killers are not in short supply. What are some of the ones you’ve come across? Email us [email protected]

hustleStarting a businessEntrepreneurshipbusiness growth