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Idea Overload

What to do when your entrepreneurial brain is working overtime


Q: My brain runs almost completely on creative thought--I see a need for many simple businesses that just don't exist (yet). I start most sentences with the words "Why hasn't someone." This may sound like no crisis to you, but it's making me crazy! Is there a place for me? Who exactly hires idea genies?

A: Your question created a funny picture in my head--I pictured you bottled away somewhere, just waiting for someone to come by and rub the magic lamp so you can unleash your ideas on the world and magically make them happen. Your question also leads me to believe that while you certainly have the entrepreneurial spirit--you have more ideas than you know what to do with--you also have a very big problem: You're waiting around for someone to rub the magic lamp instead of just crawling out of the lamp yourself and getting to work.

If I sound a bit cryptic, it's because the business of starting a business can often feel like a great mystery until you're actually up and running. When you have a ton of ideas and no real direction, it's tough to know where to begin, or even whether to begin.

That's the trouble--and the joy--of being an entrepreneur. You can have an idea a day, and only you can decide whether to pursue any of them. Aside from the select few large companies that foster the entrepreneurial spirit from within, you'd be hard-pressed to find a company that would hire you just to sit around and brainstorm all day long without ever doing anything with the ideas.

At the same time, you won't get very far entrepreneurially, either, if you don't ever pursue any of your ideas. It's all well and good to brainstorm, but until you actually take an idea, research it, finance it, market it and sell it, that's all it is: a brainstorm. Ideas are only good when they go somewhere. And you won't go anywhere with your ideas if you wait around for the world to take care of the dirty work.

That dirty work, of course, involves creating a business. So if you are serious about doing something with your ideas, you will first need to decide which idea to pursue. It will need to be something that both fills a need in a specific market and makes you happy to get out of bed in the morning. Perhaps it's clich�d, but starting a business is not unlike raising a child. So make sure the idea you pursue is something you can see yourself nurturing through every stage, from conception to birth to the toddler years to preteenhood to teenhood to adulthood--and even old age, should you ever decide to sell your business.

So it sounds as though you have two tasks: Do some soul-searching to determine which business idea is the most worthy of your time. Then learn all you can about that idea. Go to the library and check out every book on the topic. Search the Internet. Spend some time on to see what articles, if any, have been written on your business idea before. Then develop a step-by-step plan to make your idea happen.

And remember, the answer to the question "Why hasn't someone." is simple: because you haven't done it yet. So get to work.

Karen E. Spaeder is editor of and managing editor ofEntrepreneur magazine.

The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author, not of All answers are intended to be general in nature, without regard to specific geographical areas or circumstances, and should only be relied upon after consulting an appropriate expert, such as an attorney or accountant.

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