There is one thing that invariably stands between an entrepreneur’s idea and their ultimate success.
And that thing is naysayers.
Naysayers are everywhere. All too ready to say that your idea won’t work. That nobody will buy your products and services. That it’ll never work in “the real world.”
We had that ourselves when we first started Growthink. Countless people told us (and still do) that they would never hire someone to write a business plan.
And consider this great passage from “Rework” written by entrepreneurs Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson:
“That would never work in the real world.” You hear it all the time when you tell people about a fresh idea.
This real world sounds like an awfully depressing place to live. It’s a place where new ideas, unfamiliar approaches, and foreign concepts always lose. The only things that win are what people already know and do, even if those things are flawed and inefficient.
Scratch the surface and you’ll find these “real world” inhabitants are filled with pessimism and despair. They expect fresh concepts to fail. They assume society isn’t ready for or capable of change.
Even worse, they want to drag others down into their tomb. If you’re hopeful and ambitious, they’ll try to convince you your ideas are impossible. They’ll say you’re wasting your time.
Don’t believe them. That world may be real for them, but it doesn’t mean you have to live in it.”
Naysayers predicted failure when the copy machine was invented in 1956. Yup, in 1956, John Dessauer developed the prototype for the first paper copy machine. He approached IBM with an offer to license it to them. After 18 months of study, IBM concluded there was no market for this product. The said there wasn’t enough copy volume. And that the xerography process was too expensive per copy as compared to the AB Dick mimeograph process which was being used at the time to make copies. I guess we can say that this was a pretty expensive naysayer mistake by IBM!
And exactly 40 years later, when Google launched in 1996, even one of the world’s top venture capitalists was a naysayer. David Cowan from Bessemer Venture Partners would not fund Google, thinking that there were already enough search engines in the market. Another incredibly costly naysayer mistake!
So what should you do if naysayers are telling you your ideas won’t work? Here are 3 strategies.
1. Don’t spend time with naysayers. If your friends are naysayers, then you have to make a choice – continue to hang out with them and give up your dream of becoming a successful entrepreneur, or get new friends.
2. Challenge naysayers. Explain to them the Xerox and Google stories above, and let them know that every new product or service has naysayers. And then get them to help you brainstorm new ideas. Ask them, “that being said [referring to the Xerox and Google stories], do you have any ideas that you think WOULD make this idea work?”
3. Surround yourself with optimistic entrepreneurs. It is often said that you are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with. If that’s true (which I believe it is), than shouldn’t you be hanging around most with 5 successful entrepreneurs? Of course you should!!! Surround yourself with successful and optimistic entrepreneurs who can support you and your ideas. One easy way to find these entrepreneurs is to go to http://www.meetup.com, type in “entrepreneur” in the “Topic or interest” box and then enter your zip code and click “Search.” You should find several local events where you can meet these entrepreneurs.