How Important is Execution in Business?
One of the big, abstract, philosophical debates is which is more valuable, the inspiration or the execution? Is Google an almost trillion dollar company because of the clever PageRank algorithm the founders came up with or because of the wise business decisions they’ve been making since? Was Harry Potter a global phenomena because J.K. Rowling thought of a clever idea or because of the blood, sweat and tears she put into writing the million words in the 7 books? Were Einstein’s flashes of inspiration his genius or was it developing his ideas about physics and convincing the scientific community to overturn centuries of Newtonian thinking?
Like nature vs. nurture or light as a particle or a wave, the obviously correct view is that each of these things are due to both of these factors and many other factors combined. It’s worthwhile to think about which is dominant, to assign credit for shared developments or to decide where to put our effort during future endeavors.
My Experience on Business Execution
I am wholehearted of the opinion that execution is far more important than inspiration. This blog article is in continuation of my last guide on how to start a business. In that article, I explained how you can create a small business in easy steps. I have been talking about creating great business plans lately. While business plans are necessary, a business must focus mostly on what makes a business thrive — execution. You can get inspired by the success stories of startups and all but at the end of the day — only hard work and proper execution are going to help you grow or bail you out.
I was in Delhi for 3 years and I saw everything. I planned a startup myself. A great business plan was made. A crazy talented team was assembled. Funds were collected. A whole lot of inspiration was involved. But we failed. Why? We couldn’t execute our ideas. Ideas are worthless if you don’t know how to implement those.
Next to this, I saw another idea of a brand named Medidoor in 2016. The ideas was to deliver medicine online to households. Again, a great idea. Many brands in India are now doing it successfully but Medidoor failed. Reason? No execution. The team was all about rants, chants and planning.
Motivation, situation, or whatever the reason is if you fail to execute your business idea — no way you are going to do your business properly.
I have seen products that on first look appear that they will fail. Anyone can draft a heavenly idea but not many think of implementing everything they think of. I was at a game conference in Bangalore and this guy came to me and showed his game. He hadn’t completed the full game yet — he was at 30-40% of what he was promising in future. Plus he told me how ambitious this game was and how he had worked for 2 years developing it. I knew right away that this game won’t complete, at least in next 5 years. The concept was simple and with a proper team you could finish it in 6 months if you had proper planning and execution strategy.
Why go this far? See the latest case of CDProjektRed. They were planning and working on Cyberpunk 2077 for last 7 years. But their execution went wrong. Cyberpunk 2077 is a horror on consoles and it’s giving CDPR a nightmare of their lives.
Don’t Execute Terrible Ideas
Someone feeling pedantic might at this point say “so you’re saying that a well executed business where you go around randomly handing out $20 bills to people is a good idea?!?” Of course not. However, “well executing” this concept might involve a pivot that turned it into a related, workable business.
Opening a restaurant is a pretty bad idea. Long hours, hard work, difficult customers and employees, high chance of failure and a low return on investment. That being said, if you offered me the choice between a well run restaurant and a great idea for a new app, I’d take the restaurant every time (and I’d probably immediately turn around and sell it – something I couldn’t do with the app idea).
The threshold for a workable inspiration is far, far lower than the threshold of execution. To make something of value, you need to be prepared to work very, very hard.
So What To Do With This?
Once you get over any lingering thoughts that ideas have much value, it actually clarifies the best path forward.
Pour as much time and energy into doing whatever it is that you’re planning to do as you can.
As Norris Mendenhall of MoneyBrighter says, outwork the competition by outworking their workstyle. I think this is true for businesses, artistic works (like books), academic research, or pretty much anything else I can think of.
Because ideas are worth so little, I think the concept of worrying about someone stealing your video game or business idea is silly.
Getting feedback on whether it’s actually a good idea or not is worth FAR more than potentially inspiring a competitor.
My experience has been that people want to work on their own idea – stealing yours is the last thing they’re going to do. I’ve had what I thought were great ideas for add ons to friends’ businesses and projects and typically when I’ve suggested them it’s been met with indifference.
Stealing someone else’s DEVELOPED idea is a great way to move forward! If you see it being executed successfully, definitely build on what they’re doing. Even though people are already doing it, if no one is doing it in your town why not be the first?
Google wasn’t the first search engine.
Facebook wasn’t the first social network.
Microsoft Windows wasn’t the first operating system.
Build On The Shoulders Of Giants
When something of value has been done before, learning how the other person did it and building on their work seems to be a no brainer to me. Why would you start an ecommerce site without studying Amazon?
If a store is successfully selling bubble tea, they don’t own the exclusive rights to sell bubble tea. You should certainly try to do a better job than them if you decide to start a competing store. You’d want to make sure there is a big enough market to both of you as well.
However, if you think you can do a better job and there’s enough business for you both, have at it!
I’d almost go so far as to say it’s foolish to start a business that is a totally new idea never before seen in the world. There are so many good business ideas that have evidence that they’re working, why take the extra risk of something totally novel?