When Steve jobs started out in a garage trying to build a personal computer that he could put into nearly everyone’s hands, he knew the basics about PC boards, electronics and computer programming. In fact, I remember seeing somewhere that he read Popular Electronics, a do-it-yourself approach magazine that covered the new field of electronics in the 1970s. But what was important was when he came up with an idea of how to make his own personal computer Apple that things started to happen.
What was the crucial difference for Steve jobs and other entrepreneurs trying to start something to make an income for themselves? Was it Steve jobs competencies in the electronics or was it the idea that he had to come up with a personal computer?
Some modern-day entrepreneur coaching gurus are saying that competency is more important than a new or novel idea. It’s easy to trash the importance of a new idea but how many businesses would have got off the ground if it wasn’t for an idea? I’m not talking here about ideas that are so brilliant and unique that they need patents, copyright and other intellectual property protection. I’m talking about starting a business or coming up with a new product or service from a basic idea, perhaps something that’s already in the marketplace, or that is a combination of existing ideas.
What do you think? What do you think is more important? Is it the competency that you have or is it a new business idea?
Yes, competency is important. How are you going to start a fruit canning business if you don’t have competency in the basics of preserving food? How are you going to start an Italian-start restaurant if you know nothing about running a restaurant and can’t hire a chef who is an expert in Italian-style foods?
Competency is important in many fields and if you don’t have it you may not be able to start any sort of business in that arena. You’re not really going to be able to start a music store unless you have competency in music and different musical instruments. But if you open a CD store, you probably don’t have to be a musician but really only have a basic general knowledge of different genres of music and way to source CDs for potential customers. But still, you not going to open a music shop or a CD store unless you have a new business idea. In these fields, in particular, if you think you are just going to open a run-of the-mill music or CD store these days you’re heading for trouble. You probably need to come up with something that’s different or is a clever combination that will meet the changing needs of consumers who can now buy musical instruments online as well as music.
If you have the advantage of competence as many people do in hundreds of fields, you have a distinct competitive upper hand. But it’s unlikely that you are going to become an entrepreneur unless you are able to identify market opportunities and have an appetite for risk as well as know how to manage risk. Listen to clever gurus if you want but remember that all new small businesses are started on an idea, a concept or creative vision.