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Test Or Guess? How The Legendary Entrepreneurs Do It



Out of the millions of entrepreneurs in the world, only a very, very few are truly great entrepreneurs whose ideas have changed our lives in previously unimaginable ways.

What puts someone in that one percent category of entrepreneurial legends? What differentiates them from everyone else?

No guessing.

The truly great entrepreneurs don’t guess when it comes to their prospective customers. They don’t take a chance on not knowing whether their clientele will find their new idea useful enough to buy it.

They test. In fact, they’re always testing. And this is where the difference between them and the great majority of entrepreneurs becomes clear. When they have a new idea they’re trying to get to market, they don’t keep their idea a secret; to start, they’ll collaborate with the right people within their company.

But they don’t hold back their ideas to prepare them, package them, and possibly test them with focus groups. They get their idea out to their potential customers as soon as they can, as soon as it’s “ready enough.”

Potential clients as creative partners.

What these entrepreneurs are really doing in this testing process is using their potential clients as creative partners. They’re turning their marketplace into their own creative team. They’re getting everything they need to make their new idea an outstanding success from the people they know are their future customers, the people who will actually write them a check for it.

The first meeting with a potential customer might start with a rough diagram of their idea to give the other person a visual they can grab onto. They might start the conversation something like this: “This is the idea I’ve been working on, and I wonder whether it would be valuable to you.”

They explain the idea in more detail. They ask questions. “How would you find it valuable? How would this be bigger, better, and different from anything you’re doing now?”

Then they take the diagram along with the feedback, and refine it further. Then back into the marketplace to talk with one, two, maybe ten more people, all the while gathering more information. And then back to the drawing board.

The separating factor: courage.

I’d say that 99 percent of entrepreneurs aren’t brave enough to do a “rough idea” meeting with a top potential client. Why?

  • They think a rough diagram isn’t finished enough to present: “Who would want to talk to me about my hand-drawn diagram?”
  • They worry that it might be such a great idea that someone would actually steal it: “I’ll lose my new idea.”
  • It doesn’t look professional enough: “If it’s a really important idea, it should be packaged correctly.”

These worries discourage them from going out into the marketplace and making it their creative partner.

I’m not saying that the 99 percent aren’t successful entrepreneurs. The great failing, though, is that they lack the courage to go out and talk to the people who will give them the best feedback they could hope for—their top potential customers. That’s who they need to create partnerships with. That’s who they need on their creative team!

The best sounding board for your new idea is a potential customer.

Anyone can do this.

The funny thing about it is that anyone can do this. It doesn’t require a huge budget, which can often be an issue. It could be a lunch or a dinner or even a morning coffee meeting that gives you the opportunity to engage in a conversation about a new idea.

Some of the most successful businesses in the world started as a sketch, which led to an ongoing back-and-forth dialogue between the entrepreneur and potential customers to grow the entrepreneur’s fledgling idea. Your potential customers are the people who will help you produce your very best ideas, perhaps even game-changing ideas.

“Test your ideas only on check-writers.” #DanSullivan #Entrepreneur
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The most useful, most constructive feedback.

As much as your spouse, brother, business partner, or best friend wants the best for you, chances are, each one will quash your idea. Only the people who find value in your idea and will pay you for it can be counted on to give you the most useful, constructive feedback that will grow and improve your new idea.

There’s a reason the top one percent of entrepreneurs in the world—the legendary household names who transform our thinking and the way we live—take their ideas out into the marketplace quickly and to the right people.

The next time you come up with a great idea that really excites you, my best advice would always be: Test your ideas only on check-writers.


About the Author

Dan Sullivan is the world’s foremost expert on entrepreneurship in action. He is the founder of The Strategic Coach Inc. and creator of The Strategic Coach® Program. Visionary, creative, wise, playful, and generous, he is a true champion of entrepreneurs worldwide.

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