The first things I see in any new environment are problems and opportunities. I try very hard to ignore many of them, and it is still a struggle for me today. My idea book is full of business ideas that cannot be executed in one lifetime. If there was a place where ideas were sold, I might have been contending for bestseller status.
I have built an organization that exists to create solutions to problems using technology, and sometimes I honestly feel sorry for my team. They have no idea the next thing I will spin around. Of course, from experience, we have learned to kill good ideas ourselves and execute only the great ones, but recently, I started changing the filter for determining what ideas to pursue.
For most entrepreneurs, the measure of a good idea is profit. How much money can we make with this and how big can we scale it to. These are the questions most investors are also asking before investing in businesses and startups, but lately, I find myself filtering ideas through a different set of filters; I guess your personal values and principles end up determining how these things work.
At our company Daveshoope Inc., we suddenly started asking the question of “how many people’s lives would be better if we pursue this idea?” Would building this app or creating this product improve the quality of people’s lives? Would it help some key people make better decisions that better the lives of others? Would it bring ease to people’s lives so that they can have time to pursue other things that matter? We realized that there are some ideas that are not worth spending your life on. Once we can tie impact to a problem, it redefines the problem for us, and we have a new burst of energy with which to pursue the idea. It is also slowly becoming a yardstick for choosing the kind of clients we work with. I find myself unconsciously asking “is what this client doing impactful enough for us to spend time working with them or building a solution for them?”. What would be the ripple effect of success for this client on the lives of others? We suddenly found ourselves turning down clients. Yeah, it doesn’t make business sense I know, but maybe I’m not a regular entrepreneur. Maybe I was not meant to be one.
On the idea board in my office, I have lots of scribbles. Many of them make good business sense, but somehow I have not gotten the push to pursue them. Maybe the time is not ripe, maybe it was not meant for us to pursue, or maybe there’s even something else altogether that we are supposed to do with these ideas. I don’t yet know. Sometimes, after many months, I tear it off.
The last 18 – 24 months at Daveshoope Inc. have been very interesting. From the outside, people wonder what we are even doing, but for us on the inside, there’s been major activity, growth and re-alignment that will soon start being seen from the outside.
This journey of awkward entrepreneurship comes with its own odd feelings. The feeling of being misunderstood, the feeling of disconnection when you try to connect with other entrepreneurs who don’t share the same values or principles as you, and the feeling of constantly being in a state of flux or disruption. There are periodic “Aha” moments when a few dots suddenly connect and you see some sense in your strange decisions, but then there are still many dots waiting to be joined. Every once in a while though, you find someone else like you and you’re encouraged to keep moving.
I have always known that there is a bigger purpose for business and that God is as interested in the business as He is in the entrepreneur and the consumers and users of the entrepreneurs’ creations. Maybe I am still on my own journey to discover where it all crescendos into.
Okay, I’m sorry to disappoint you that there’s no grand closing or conclusion for this post. I was just writing down my thoughts and musings. It was all random and spontaneous. I didn’t even plan to write, but maybe I would continue, and if I do, I might want to call it “Musings of an awkward entrepreneur”.
Thanks for coming to my Ted Talk today.
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