I like the article by Jack and Suzy Welch that graces the back page of each issue of Business Week magazine. These articles are available on-line as podcasts that are wonderful to listen to (main page here.)
Recently, the Welches responded to the question:
“What are the instincts of leadership required to start a venture?”
In his response, Jack Welch talks about having “a great idea” as the engine of startup success.
Which got me thinking – is having “a great idea” really the engine of a successful business?
Prerequisites like the willingness to risk, the ability to execute, leadership and communication abilities, the ability to innovate, those are all aspects that I agree are important for entrepreneurial success.
But what about franchisees? Network marketers? Independent salespeople, realtors, agents, are they “really” entrepreneurs? If I’m selling somebody else’s products, am I still an entrepreneur?
I would say that what’s required is more than just a “great idea”. I think what’s really required is a “great vision”.
The distinction between “idea” and “vision” for me is this:
- idea: a concept of an end result
- vision: a concept of an end shift, along with the experience of passion (creative tension) to make it happen
Great ideas are a dime a dozen. For me, hardly a day goes by when I notice a need or an opportunity that could be filled. But do I really want to take action to fill that need? That’s why vision is so important: beyond just seeing an end result, a vision captures a shift, a change, a win-win impact for the receiver (client) and the sender (entrepreneur).
An idea is one-dimensional, while a vision is multi-dimensional, because it combines the idea with an creative tension that moves to action. Vision also moves along the dimension of mission, the deep-down personal values which define the end experience that the client receives.
With this distinction, then franchisees, network marketers, independent salespeople, realtors, and others are also true entrepreneurs if they are motivated by something beyond an end result of a transaction, when they are propelled by a vision to make the world around them a better place through what they do in that world.
In my work, I see lots of entrepreneurs with great ideas, and an obvious demand for what they are offering, however they suffer because there is no spark in them, no passion, nothing driving them beyond mere survival. So having a great idea, while necessary, is not sufficient. On the other hand, I’ve seen entrepreneurs with banal, ordinary products and services do extremely well because they are passion-driven, exuding a personal energy that goes beyond what they do, transforming them into people that are fun and empowering to be with. That’s the difference between “idea” and “vision”.
The entrepreneurs that I admire, small, medium or large, all have a passion to make a change in the world, a “great vision” that becomes a “magnificent obsession“. And that’s what I believe is the true engine of success.
(I highly recommend that you listen to the podcast here)