Execution matters

Many entrepreneurs invest time contemplating great ideas, be it for building a better mouse trap or solving pernicious Information Technology issues, but the investment is often squandered. Put simply, ideas are a dime a dozen, while execution of ideas is a rarity. I draw inspiration from an excellent article in Business Pundit:

If you want to be an entrepreneur, stop believing that ideas matter. That isn't what entrepreneurship is about. Entrepreneurs aren't idea people, everybody and their brother has ideas. Entrepreneurs are people that exploit ideas by matching them to market needs, executing them despite scarce resources and designing a business model that makes the idea profitable.

But naturally ideas do matter, so it is worthwhile to make sure any business plan is reasonable. Take a quick glance around the Business Plan Archive, a repository of dot-com "plans", to see examples where execution couldn't possibly matter because of flimsy and overly optimistic plans.

Good ideas are everywhere around us, or waiting to be found. As an IT professional, how many times a week do you hear of someone expressing frustration with technology? How much of this frustration translates into lost revenue? If you can build a product or service to fill such a void, the importance of the "idea" will rapidly deteriorate as the value of your execution rises. The more you embrace this philosophy, the more relevant Gavin Bowman's (fellow codesniper) recent advice concerning idea secrecy becomes.

A quote I've carried with me for years summarizes it best, from an article in Forbes magazine in 1998. The interviewee, when asked about his source of success put it simply: "I'm a finisher in a society of starters."

Which are you?

I couldn't agree more

It's all about execution. SourceGear is successful and the idea of tools for source control weren't anything new when they started. FogCreek is successful and the idea of bug tracking was well established. Their execution enabled their success.

Lots of Ideas

I get contacted about 1-3 times/week about the "idea that will take down [Choose one: Google/Ebay/Amazon]".

Almost every single one of them consists of some non-technical person saying "oh, developing this should be easy" and they offer a % of revenue for doing all the work but offer no pay. And then they're marketing plans consist of basically nothing...

Very rarely will an idea catch fire and be sticky enough to attract others out of sheer "coolness". Google, Ebay, Flickr have all fit into this... but this is the exception rather than the rule.

Marketplaces also matter

Your reply brings up an interesting point about markets. Many people believe that you need to displace a competitor in order to be successful, but most good business leaders I've met avoid this scenario. It is *very* hard, in terms of time and money, to take away customers. Businesses with a growing market can tap into new customers, often unbeknownst to the competition. In my reading of _The Millionaire Mind_ many successful entrepreneurs found a niche that was overlooked by others.

Whenever I hear about the technology that will "kill x company" it makes we want to yawn. I like the unofficial slogan of Apple Computer: Going out of business for 25 years.

The devil is in the details...

That says it all for me. You can bet your head that execution matters foremost. The world is full of ideas, although most of them really not worth the paper they're written on (or the disk space they are stored in).
You have to be able to distinguish the good idea from the bunch of bad ideas, and then you are left with the dirty details of actually making the idea succeed.