As a funeral industry consultant, I hear regularly from people who have a great idea for a product but are unwilling to share the information with other people to find out if it’s viable.

These folks suffer from idea over-valuation.

Truth is, ideas are pretty cheap.  And while it seems like everyone is looking for the “next big idea”, the people who get ahead are the ones with the nerve and patience to create the product AND do the hard work to actually sell it.

A few years ago, I met a man who had an interesting idea for a funeral-related product.  He decided to make it because his family liked it.  When pressed to get a funeral industry perspective, he visited his friend, a licensed director.

Do you think his friend was completely honest with him? 

Based upon his family’s encouragement and the (misplaced) kindness of his funeral director friend, he booked a booth at the NFDA show that year.

Yes, based upon the advice of twelve family members and one funeral directing friend, he dropped a few thousand dollars to attend a trade show.  And he made the biggest show of them all his very first true foray into the industry.

Last I heard, he packed up after show and went home in disgust.  I don’t know if he’s still selling, but he hasn’t exhibited at any other trade shows and I don’t expect to see him on the circuit again.

Why did this happen?  Because he was so intent on sharing his amazing idea (what was it?  Doesn’t matter; this stories been told numerous times with many different products) before anyone could “steal” it, he skipped the most important steps.

Having an “amazing new idea” is not new.  In fact, in happens to us humans on a regular basis.  Often, the idea is nothing special and we forget about it.  Other times, we come up with something truly revolutionary that makes a job easier or people happier.

Still, no matter how amazing, you still have to do the work of creating and selling it. 

When I started making quilted cot covers, there were already two people flogging a similar idea.  In fact, I think their early cot covers were better than mine. 

But I worked it and worked it and, yes, worked it until our covers became the amazing product they are today.  No matter how good the idea (a cover that looks like a quilt, not a body bag!), you still have to improve it and find out how it helps your consumer.  We did that, and now we are, arguably, the biggest maker of quilted cot covers anywhere!

Oh, and just to be clear:  we’re still working it.  All the time.  Because I don’t want someone else to work harder than me and take over the #1 spot.  And because I love what we do.

But don’t think, for even a second, that my competitors can’t or won’t study my product and borrow some of my ideas.  After we started offering our amazing FluidBlocker lining ( Introduces New Lining!), I predicted that we had six months to a year before we’d see our competitors offering a similar feature.  The post, Our Competitor, Quilted First-Call Covers, is Catching Up!, showed that we only realistically had 4 months head start.

Now, I’m not accusing any of my competitors of buying one of covers and figuring out what fabric we’re using (even Ferno isn’t copying it exactly), but what would have stopped them?  Not me!

Making a decent quilted cot cover is not difficult.  Consistently making them the right way and providing excellent customer service?  That’s a lot harder.

So I say you should share your ideas with lots of people.  Show them your great product (how else will you sell it?) and talk about what could make it better.  Encourage past customers and future customers to tell you how to make your product meet their needs.

Ideas have to be in the marketplace to thrive. 

(This post was partially inspired by the photo below.  And while there’s not a correlation between a freely-shared idea and this bicycle, I still think trying to lock up your ideas provides the same false sense of security that this bike’s owner had after slapping a chain on his Huffy and walking into Best Buy.)

fail owned pwned pictures