#53: Stop Waiting For That Amazing Business Idea

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This is a podcast episode titled, #53: Stop Waiting For That Amazing Business Idea. The summary for this episode is: If you liked this episode, we bet that you’ll love our blog content. blog.drift.com/#subscribe Subscribe to never miss a post & join the 20,000+ other pros committed to getting better every day. --- People love to glamorize the idea of starting a business -- and how the ideas for successful companies seemingly just "hit" founders in the shower, talking down the street, etc. But you can't afford to wait around for that amazing business idea. So then how do you come up with that next breakthrough idea? That's what we're talking about on this episode of Seeking Wisdom. Ways to support Seeking Wisdom if you’re a fan of the show: 1. Subscribe. 2. Leave us a five-star review. Here's how: bit.ly/5-Stars-Only. 3. Follow David (twitter.com/dcancel) and Dave (twitter.com/davegerhardt) on Twitter. 4. Learn more about Drift at Drift.com.

Speaker 1: All right.

Dave: We're back.

Speaker 1: I'm recording.

Dave: Finally.

Speaker 1: Yeah, we're back. Dave's been slipping. Come on now.

Dave: We're back.

Speaker 1: Let's do it.

Dave: This is the real thing. So, we're back on Seeking Wisdom, and this is actually the first time that we have a video. You can see me right now. You won't see this till later but we're going to start doing videos with this podcast because it's a new channel, people want to see behind the scenes, and we'll do that.

Speaker 1: And our girl, Amy.

Dave: Amy's in the mix.

Speaker 1: She's in the house. You can't see her.

Dave: You can't see her.

Speaker 1: Yeah.

Dave: But do me a favor, just like you would subscribe, go subscribe to YouTube channel because we keep coming out with new channels for content and YouTube's where it's at right now.

Speaker 1: That's it.

Dave: All right, so here's what we're going to talk about. You sent me a voice note yesterday.

Speaker 1: Always a good sign.

Dave: Yeah. And, actually, maybe just tell the story. So, we're going to call this one it's the biggest lie that we tell ourselves about running... about starting a business.

Speaker 1: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Dave: The biggest lie. So, where does this come from? You were at MIT yesterday.

Speaker 1: Yeah. See, this is why I keep the vest I've got on.

Dave: I do, I did notice that.

Speaker 1: The people can see it now on video.

Dave: Show them that video. So, you walked in, they gave you a vest?

Speaker 1: Yeah. It says The Martin Trust Center for Entrepreneurship at MIT.

Dave: Did you go there?

Speaker 1: Hell, no. But I spoke to a group of about 150 executives from around the world who came... I think they're there for about a week. We were talking about lots of things. They did a fireside chat with Bill Aulet, who runs the center there and is a professor there and former entrepreneur, and we talked about a lot of things but one of the questions that someone had towards the end was... basically came down to this myth that we've talked about in the past but have never really drilled into, which is this myth about how do you get an idea. How do I know my idea is good, or how do I...

Dave: Is that the most common question you get when you talk to people about starting companies?

Speaker 1: Definitely, because most of them haven't yet started a company and so they're waiting, and if you ask them what they're waiting for, it's like, " I don't have an idea yet," and I said, " But you don't need an idea to start a business." And I think this is the myth, right, and I think it's an age old myth. It's the myth of the, " I had an idea in the shower and that idea became a giant success." And like I said before, that story has never been true ever. Never in history has that happened. But we tell ourselves that because that's a nice story that we like to tell ourselves, and if we look at that story it's actually a story that's existed throughout history in lots of different forms. Everything from Newton sitting under an apple tree and an apple hitting him in the head, to stories of Zeus coming down and giving divine powers to some lucky individual. This is all the same story. And basically it's you're waiting around and somehow you become chosen, and once you're chosen, then you become successful.

Dave: And so everybody... Saying this out loud, you know that's complete bullshit, but everyone continues to believe that that's how things go. Why do you think that is.

Speaker 1: They're waiting for divine inspiration to hit them on the head. Because, one, we've been told that story, and two, we glamorize this notion of the idea, and so we reinforce it.

Dave: All right. People want to make it sound like you were just walking down... you were walking on the beach one day and the idea from Drift just hit you, and then you went out and you were like, " You know what, let's go start this company."

Speaker 1: Absolutely, right. And it kind of... when you tell that story to other people, it kind of makes you feel special, right, because it makes you feel chosen. They didn't get it. You didn't walk down the street yesterday and it hit you>

Dave: Just had this idea.

Speaker 1: And you didn't just have that idea, but I did, and so therefore I'm special.

Dave: And on the other side it also... when you have that nice story to fall back on, you're like, " I couldn't have come up with the Instagram idea. Those guys, they thought of it and they did it, so it wasn't supposed to be me."

Speaker 1: They had this great idea.

Dave: But the story that we don't want to believe, behind the scenes, is how much fucking work that that actually takes, and that's not as cool of a story, and so it's easier to say, " They just had the idea. Right place, right time, had an idea, and they made it happen."

Speaker 1: It's not as easy to explain A to B, this and then that happened, when you're saying, " Well, it's incremental, it's a process, it happens over time, you can do this stuff to influence it but you really can't control it." And everyone wants to control it, right, and they want to say, " When this happens, when the apple hits me in the head, when the heavens part and someone touches me on the head, then that day I will become chosen."

Dave: Right. All right. So, here's... I pulled this nugget out of here. There's one big underlying important lesson in this whole thing, and it's that you have to take time to reflect.

Speaker 1: Mm- hmm( affirmative). And I think the shower... being in the shower and this idea hitting you, and sitting under the apple tree and having the apple hit you in the head, and I think the important lessons there are not to wait for something to happen to you; the important lesson there that most of us miss is that you need to take time to reflect. And what are you reflecting on? You're reflecting on the work and process that you've been putting in, and letting that ferment and giving yourself time away from that whatever it is that you were working on to let those ideas hit you. And I think Ogilvy, as you mentioned, had great quote here about-

Dave: Yeah. We just grabbed a coffee before this and I just mentioned to you that one of the things that David Ogilvy talked about for a few... His job was every week he had to come up with copy. He was paid to come up with creative ideas on the spot.

Speaker 1: That's a lot of apple trees.

Dave: Exactly. So how did he do that? He got hit by... He got hit in the heat a lot, right? No. He's like, " No. The key is you have to always be learning and stuffing your mind with information." Damn, that's pretty nice. You have to always be learning and stuffing your mind with information, and that's the reason you get ideas when you're in the shower, when you're at the gym. Because you stuff your mind with all this stuff, and then when you unplug, subconsciously you get those ideas.

Speaker 1: Mm-hmm (affirmative). You let them ferment and they come out. And so the important lesson here is do that work and that process but also take that time and reflect. Whatever your form of reflection is, it could be going for a walk, it could be that shower, it could be going to the gym, it could just be doing nothing. Give yourself that time, and it's in that time, it's in the gaps, it's in the spaces in between that the magic happens.

Dave: But also I think the other thing you were trying to get at is don't wait for that idea to happen.

Speaker 1: Never going to happen.

Dave: Get out there, start talking to people. We've talked about this so many times in these podcasts; it's literally never been easier to build something and so there's no excuse to sit around and wait for that idea.

Speaker 1: No. Work, iterate, and then take time to unplug, and let those ideas ferment and then magic happens. And remember that it's not a one time process, so it's not like one apple hits you in the head. Like Ogilvy, you need to do this over time, so even when you come up with that great concept from all of this work, you still have to go back to the beginning because you need to work on the next idea and the next idea and the next idea.

Dave: Yeah. All right. So, since I was slipping and it's been a minute...

Speaker 1: Big time slipping.

Dave: We were in New York last week, you had an interview with the New York Times.

Speaker 1: What's that?

Dave: You did.

Speaker 1: What?

Dave: And Fortune. That was pretty cool.

Speaker 1: That sounds big time.

Dave: We'll have to share about that. I got a bunch of listener questions, and we've never done this but I figured please put us on the spot with a couple of questions.

Speaker 1: Shout it out.

Dave: So, I don't have one... Okay, so I have a bunch of people but three, four people have asked this question and they want us to answer it. They want you to answer it.

Speaker 1: Oh.

Dave: How do you think about company culture and how do you scale that as a team continues to grow? It's tough to put you on the spot and think about that, but just talk about like... Okay, you obviously have an idea for what you want Drift to be in core values.

Speaker 1: Mm- hmm(affirmative).

Dave: How do you make sure that that goes from 10 to 100 to 1,000 people?

Speaker 1: I kind of think of it... let's see, what's a good way to express that? It's kind of like sculpting, right? You have an idea in mind of where you want to go, but in some ways the clay and the medium and whatever helps shape that and direct that and can change that idea, right? And the clay here is obviously all of us, the team, kind of shapes that over time so it never ends up being exactly what you envisioned in the beginning, it often becomes something better, much better. And so, the way to do that is the one thing that everybody talks about, it's the obvious thing. You have a set of values, you write those down, you try to hire against those values. Like we've said, the important part is not the hiring, it's also making sure that you're willing to live to those values. And living up to those values means that someone who may be a high performer in your team, who's doing great from a performance standpoint but is sucking from a values standpoint, that you would be willing to make the hard call to not have that person on your team any more, even though they're performing well from a... let's say from a sales standpoint, engineering standpoint, because you value culture more. And so that, to me, is the most important thing that you can do when trying to shape a culture because that is basically pruning. It's the most important thing because that's where everyone slips, that's where they turn a blind eye and they just say, " Well, this guy over here, he's performing well, he's a great sales rep. He fails every other test but he's still bringing in deals so let's overlook it." And you really have to take charge.

Dave: All right. This question is from our dude, Ricardo.

Speaker 1: What's up, Ricardo?

Dave: We'd love to hear advice and tactics on product design, thinking big but starting small. I answered this in my... I know what you're going to say, I answered it in my head.

Speaker 1: I've got to come up with another answer, then. Product design, starting small.

Dave: Well, what's the biggest mistake that people make when they're building... If Ricardo's asking because he's trying to design a product?

Speaker 1: One, not involving the customer, whoever the customer is in your world, that you're building a product for. That's the number one mistake. Number two mistake is not iterating on that enough. In other words, spending time with the customer and then doing the big reveal, as we've talked about, and surprising that customer. Instead, you need to take an integrative process because, again, back to the ideas, you have to have multiple iterations so that the good ideas bubble up over time. And so I would focus on, like we talked about, and you can read Hypergrowth, new book available...

Dave: Man, that's right. What a great plug.

Speaker 1: ...about taking a customer driven approach and really focusing on those iterations and involving your customers throughout those iterations. That's how we think about it. And then the third, I'd say we always want to be learning and so we're always... We seek growth here at Drift, and so we're trying to get level up all the time. And so we do some product designs and we're always looking at it and saying, " How can we be better? How can we be remarkable? How can..." Like a thing I actually talked to Lise about was I want to be at the point that someone could look at our products, someone could look at anything that we produce, and we can take the logo off of it and they would still know that it's Drift.

Dave: I love that. Who are the brands that you feel that way about today?

Speaker 1: There's lots of them all over the place. We always talk about Slack and MailChimp, and Shopify and all of those kinds of people, and obviously there's Apple and there's Starbucks. You can... We have a Starbucks cup right here. But if I took that Starbucks... hide that Starbucks logo, you would still know that was a Starbucks cup.

Dave: I've got one more for you. I'm going to try to... I'm going to change this question a little bit because I think... So, this question's from Bob. He's asking about any suggestions for the very early days when you're reaching out to potential customers, but I want you to talk about why you actually hate selling to friends in early... Because you start something, you want to get your friends, " Hey, use it, give me feedback on it." You actually... You're not a big fan of that approach, and I want you to tell the people why.

Speaker 1: No, because they're not the... They're rarely going to be the real customer and they're rarely going to... they're never going to give you real feedback or raw feedback. And we talked about this at this MIT class this week, as well, which is you're seeking hate or love and you're trying to stay away from indifference, and your friends are always going to probably steer towards indifference or to false...

Dave: Which is like, " Well, yeah, it's cool."

Speaker 1: "It's awesome. No, it'scool, that's interesting. That's cool. It's awesome." So you want real feedback from a real customer.

Dave: It's hard to tell your friend, " I would never use this."

Speaker 1: Yeah. " This sucks. This is awful."

Speaker 1: Yeah. "

Speaker 1: What is it? I don't get it." And so, yeah, stay away from friends and family and actually test with whoever your target customer persona is going to be.

Dave: All right, that's it. We're out.

Speaker 1: That's not it.

Dave: Yeah. What have you got? You got more?

Speaker 1: Yeah.

Dave: Oh.

Speaker 1: Subscribe.

Dave: Wait.

Speaker 1: We're trying to climb the charts.

Dave: Wait.

Speaker 1: Five start ratings only.

Dave: That's right. Subscribe.

Speaker 1: Take care of the uncle. Five stars. Download Hypergrowth, www.drift.com/ hypergrowth. Hypergrowth is a book that we've written?

Dave: Can I tell you a fun fact? Can I tell you a fun fact?

Speaker 1: Yeah.

Dave: I just looked at this before we went in there. So, we made the book completely free, no forms.

Speaker 1: Yeah.

Dave: People who want it are like, " How are people going to get it?"

Speaker 1: Dude, how are you going to track that, man?

Dave: 3, 500 people downloaded the book yesterday.

Speaker 1: That's awesome. Thanks, everyone.

Dave: That's so cool.

Speaker 1: Let's go. Let's go to 10, 000 now. You know I'm never satisfied.

Dave: So, listen to this man because I'm sick of... Not sick of it, but he always send me, " Why don't we have 300 reviews? Why don't we have 500 reviews," so keep reviewing it and so I can get some...

Speaker 1: Subscribe.

Dave: Yeah, and get off my back a little.

Speaker 1: Yeah, when we're up to 3, 000 reviews, then we'll give him a break.

Dave: All right, that's it.

Speaker 1: See you.


If you liked this episode, we bet that you’ll love our blog content. blog.drift.com/#subscribe Subscribe to never miss a post & join the 20,000+ other pros committed to getting better every day. --- People love to glamorize the idea of starting a business -- and how the ideas for successful companies seemingly just "hit" founders in the shower, talking down the street, etc. But you can't afford to wait around for that amazing business idea. So then how do you come up with that next breakthrough idea? That's what we're talking about on this episode of Seeking Wisdom. Ways to support Seeking Wisdom if you’re a fan of the show: 1. Subscribe. 2. Leave us a five-star review. Here's how: bit.ly/5-Stars-Only. 3. Follow David (twitter.com/dcancel) and Dave (twitter.com/davegerhardt) on Twitter. 4. Learn more about Drift at Drift.com.