Photography by Christopher Wahl Image by: Photography by Christopher Wahl
A bright idea tends to come as an "aha!" moment, out of the blue when you're going about your daily tasks. A good idea makes people stop and say, "That makes sense and I see how it can work" or, even better, "It's elegantly simple and so obvious."
I've heard good ideas delivered with hesitation, others with unbridled enthusiasm. How they are delivered is important and, when it comes to looking for investors, often critical. Not everyone is able to sell his or her idea. I see it all the time on Dragons' Den. For me, as an investor, listening is crucial, especially when the individual pitching the idea isn't a natural-born orator. Sometimes you need to listen really closely for the hidden gems.
For instance, back in the spring of 2012, an 83-year-old entrepreneur named Sam Koffski came on the show to pitch a modular sawhorse. My fellow Dragons passed on it, but as I listened intently to Sam's pitch, I began to envision a successful future for his unique and innovative invention. Today, the 3-D Multihorse is on retail shelves all across Canada—a business success story that's a direct result of listening attentively and honing in on all the details of who Sam was and what he was saying. It took more than three decades and a handful of false starts for Sam's entrepreneurial dream to come true. Does it pay to listen? Always.
To make a good idea great you have to gather a small group of people who can take it, flesh it out and turn it into a reality. Collaboration is key. The process of taking the seed of an idea and allowing it to flourish involves many skills, and they are never found in just one individual. At Venture (the communications firm where I started in the '80s and am now CEO) the aim is to take great ideas and make them better via input from a whole host of talented individuals: designers, strategists, writers, you name it. Plus, we use input and feedback from customers. Every great campaign we've ever launched has, at its heart, collaboration.
Recently, I came up with the idea for YouInc.com, an online lifestyle platform designed to help entrepreneurs succeed. It's based on everything I've learned during my 30 years of helping entrepreneurs as a marketer, the 30 years I spent building my own business and my seven seasons on Dragons' Den. It was obvious to me that there needed to be a community for entrepreneurs, one that really speaks to them in their own language, one that understands that being an entrepreneur is a lifestyle choice. That was the original idea, anyway. It became much more when I reached out for help to make it blossom. I spoke to many other entrepreneurs, their families, developers and CEOs of major tech organizations. Today, my idea has evolved and grown, and we are now looking to expand into global markets.
We all have good ideas. Every one of us. That's one thing I know for certain. Some ideas will be turned into great realities, while others will die on the cutting-room floor. The trick is to be brave enough to say them out loud. To be unafraid of input. To be willing to let your idea grow from good to great. But to do that, you first have to accept that you are capable of greatness.
Arlene Dickinson is one of Canada's most renowned independent marketing communications entrepreneurs, a venture capitalist on the CBC series Dragons' Den, and CEO of Venture Communications, Arlene Dickinson Enterprises and YouInc.com.
We have lots more stories on great Canadian talents, including comedian Martin Short.
|This story was originally titled "Thinking Big" in the April 2014 issue.
Subscribe to Canadian Living today and never miss an issue!