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SOS (shiny object syndrome)

Are you familiar with SOS (Shiny Object Syndrome)? You may suffer from this if you own a business. Especially if you’re new in business or want to grow your business. SOS is the constant distraction of new ideas. New ways to make money. New products to bring to market. On the surface this just sounds like you’re a creative entrepreneur looking to do more things right? Sadly, it’s very seldom the case. As a matter of fact SOS has kept more businesses from growing than most anything.

Here’s the problem with Shiny Object Syndrome. Let’s say you have a business and you focus on one particular product and it’s beginning to get some traction in the marketplace. Great, that’s why you came up with this product, to sell it. Now all of a sudden you have another idea and it’s not completely related to your product but you see a lot of potential for it so you run with that one too.

Now you need to focus on this new product, again, not related to you’re other product. It takes resources and time away from your original product. You can’t give 100% to either product now. The original product starts to falter due to lack of attention from you. The new product is not quite to market stage yet. You seem more interested in the new product and developing it then you are the original product. The original product flat lines then begins to decrease in sales. You abandon the original product and put 100% into the new product.

Any capital you had made from the original product is now dumped into the new product. It then starts to get a foothold in the marketplace just like your last product. Right about this time is when you see another great opportunity that you know you can make huge. This is where the whole process starts over again. The problem with this is you never really make any sustainable money. You dump the last products small gains into the new one and it disappears into the development fund. You’re always at break even and never further, if you’re lucky. By the third or fourth SOS distraction you go belly up or realize you just can’t make money with these ideas.

The problem isn’t the ideas at all. The problem is not sticking with one thing. You need to stick with the first thing until it is fully developed and killing it in the marketplace. You need to develop the systems and people to run the operation before changing gears. Especially if you’re moving to non similar markets or products. They’re all great ideas but you must have the discipline to master one before the next one.

A different scenario would be if the other idea is related to your current product or business. Let’s call it an additional stream of income. These can be developed using similar resources as your original and can draw additional income from existing customers and create new ones without the threat of losing from your base of original customers. Think of it like spokes on a wheel and your main product is the hub. All spokes lead to and are attached to the hub. Without the hub the wheel collapses.

One thing that still remains the same is that original base product or service must be perfected and solid in the marketplace. Until that happens every other spoke is in danger of failing in its role of supporting the wheel.

I had a friend with an excellent and unique business that was growing well. He had an opportunity to dominate this space on a national level. The problem was he suffered of SOS in a big way. People would bring him ideas for products they had made and wanted him to build the business and marketing around it, and they were willing to give him a 75% stake in the business! You might be thinking ‘Wow 75% of the business that would be great.” The problem with that is, first, if they’re willing to give up that much equity they’re just lazy. Second they may have a great idea but I guarantee you they won’t even put in the 25% of work they’d be collecting for. Anyone willing to give away 75% of their company is either just plain stupid or as I said, lazy.

He would entertain all these ideas which was a problem in and of itself. The time alone spent listening to these people then researching the viability of the product was enough to ruin his existing business if he wasn’t careful. I warned him he has to say no to these opportunities. His main thing needed to be his main thing. He wasn’t looking hard enough at the real dollar earning potential of his own business on a national scale. All those other things would pale in comparison to his main thing dominating his marketspace.

As entrepreneurs we love to build a business. We get excited for others who share that passion. We often times think we can do it all too. Our problem is patience. We want to make things happen, quickly. We are the driving force behind our ideas and businesses, so many times, without us nothing happens. There’s nothing wrong with being the engine you just need to power one thing at a time with it.

It takes extreme discipline to avoid SOS. Create a checklist to quantify new ideas with. The list will look something like this: Does this directly benefit my existing business? Can I utilize similar resources to develop and manufacture it? How much real time will it take from my main thing? Is my main thing thriving or is it still in infant stage? What is the true return on investment from adding this to my business? Will this create confusion with my brand?

That’s a good start for a qualifying list when new ideas appear. This is really important to run these questions against those new ideas. It can save you time and headaches, not to mention possibly even save your business. I’ve seen way too many business owners get crushed under chasing the next big thing or great idea. It can be a delicate balance but usually the answer is pretty clear. Now that you’re aware of it, it’s probably even more obvious and you’ll be on the lookout for it. Hopefully you’ll see others that may suffer from SOS and you can help them handle it the right way.


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Escape the Owner Prison

Richard Walsh

rwalsh@escapetheownerprison.com

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