Gut Versus Data

I have worked with a number of very successful entrepreneurs and the one thing that they all have in common is following their gut when it comes to taking risks and starting new businesses. In most cases the potential business they are entering is an overlooked sector or something people might not initially have data on.

When people ask for data before embarking on a new business venture, the motivation is often based on fear of failing versus a real need for the data to prove the viability of the business. Data is never going to give you all the answers unless you have six-figure research budget. So, what do most entrepreneurs do? They follow their gut and start tuning out the noise. This might not come easily, but over time successful entrepreneurs become mentally tough as nails.

So how do you tune out the noise? You start with a really clear vision. While every business consultant will tell you to write a detailed business plan, most successful entrepreneurs don’t write a word down in the traditional business plan sense, and they don’t conform to the textbook methods of starting a business. Yes, they all know that goes against every business planning book, but they also know that taking risks can lead to huge rewards. The backs of napkins are sometimes where the best ideas are born out. These entrepreneurs have such a distinct vision that it becomes a healthy obsession, one where no paper is needed to know what drives them towards their goals.

These risk takers are so excited by their project that they spend most of their days and nights thinking about their passion. And as they explore their idea they are also not the best at keeping ideas secret and are often spotted at social events testing their idea on anyone who will lend an ear. This is their form of data collection – real time conversations with people, not spreadsheets and algorithms. They are listening carefully for any nugget of input that can help refine their idea, and once they feel like their idea has legs, they get to protecting their IP.  Their vision gets honed over nights and weekends and they keep driving towards their goal.

As their idea unfolds they play with product or service development. The first go around is far from perfect, but they keep adapting and trusting their gut.  While there are naturally hiccups along the way, they do not get bogged down by those roadblocks. Powered by their goals and a project that they are passionate about, they always find a way to overcome the obstacles and eventually land at their destination. The route is nontraditional, but the result usually is beyond what they would have written down in their business plan. Now they can start to collect the data!

So, what do you if you have an idea? I would suggest following the model of so many successful entrepreneurs and start honing your idea or concept in real time – focus on what drives you, not what the data tells you should be your passion. At the end of the day, customers are what are critical and while research and data can be great, it can stop you from building out your vision and idea. Once you have honed that idea over weeks and months, it is time to start hiring experienced experts to help you protect and promote your product.