Subscribe to Inc. magazine

Why Execution (Not Ideas) Will Bring You Success

The reason so many would-be entrepreneurs fails is because they get too hung up on their ideas.

You know that brilliant idea you have for a new website/smartphone app? The one you're convinced is your ticket to professional and financial glory. The concept that's so special, so profound, you've limited yourself to divulging it to only a tight-knit group of confidants–the secrecy being necessary to prevent muggles from defacing, defiling, or (even more improbably) stealing your earth-shattering brain nugget.

Sound like you, or someone you know? It has certainly described me at various points in my entrepreneurial development. But here's an even bigger secret than the one you're hoarding: big, powerful ideas are everywhere and the vast majority will go nowhere. So keeping your big idea in stealth mode will likely make no difference to your ultimate success.

Think back for a moment to the people you've known in your life who achieved great entrepreneurial success and ask yourself how they reached their professional zenith. Yes, some of you may be fortunate enough to know individuals whose conceptual prowess was their ticket to ride. But for most high-achievers, success comes in places that are decidedly more mundane–the doctor who built a thriving practice over time, for example.

So the logical question becomes, why is that? Why do so few of the people working on the 'next big thing' or at the very least 'a big thing,' ultimately fail to make waves? As it turns out, there is a distinguishing characteristic that unites the high achievers, but it's far less conceptual than practical, namely, brilliance in execution. "Execution" is a broad term; and ultimately, crediting success on it is a bit like saying the key to good business is sell more than you spend: accurate, but not very helpful.

My point here is not to define 'execution', but rather to encourage you to redefine your definition of "business." Instead of thinking of business as an abstract noun, try thinking of it as a verb. When we think of a noun, say "car," we create meaning for that term by thinking of the qualities or attributes that we associate with it. There's a make, a model, a color, a shape, a top speed, etc. Note that these are all fixed, or static, attributes. But when we think of a verb, like "driving," our mental map focuses more on actions and procedures. There's stepping on the gas pedal; steering the wheel; arriving from point A to B.  These are not fixed attributes, but rather dynamic processes that ultimately determine the speed and manner with which we will travel. So if we could only start thinking of business less like a noun and more like a verb, we'd place less emphasis on the static attributes, of which the concept is but one, and more emphasis on the dynamic processes which will be more closely correlated with overall achievement.

Sounds simple, right? And it is. It's also liberating. Many people have had the experience of sharing a new idea only to be told "someone's already done that." Often, this type of moment is deflating, and can serve to dissuade an aspiring entrepreneur from taking the plunge. Don't let that be you! After all, Pepsi existed long before Coke; Hipstamatic preceded Instagram; and who remembers a site called Friendster? In all these cases, entrepreneurs found ways to break through into the consumer mainstream despite the fact that their 'idea' had already been done. Fortunately, their particular mode of execution hadn't. The lesson here is that no idea is good enough to secure the future of a business, and no idea (or at least very few) are bad enough to doom an enterprise to failure from the outset.

So go forth young (and old) entrepreneurs with your hustle; your drive; your faith, and your boring concepts. Should anyone ask you to share the idea you're working on, tell them. Or, if you prefer, say that the big idea that's keeping you up at night is to build a business that simply executes better than anyone else. Then watch that person sulk away in search of another big concept, while the deeper business wisdom just flies straight over their head. If only there was a product to help them understand when they were staring the truth right in the face. Which gives me an idea...

Last updated: Apr 24, 2012

RON LESHEM | Columnist | Founding Parner, Prodege

Ron Leshem is a founding partner and the Chief Marketing Officer of Prodégé, which offers "virtual currency" to its users, in exchange for their registration.

The opinions expressed here by columnists are their own, not those of

Register on today to get full access to:
All articles  |  Magazine archives | Livestream events | Comments

Or sign up using: