It was 1979 and I was thirteen. In seventh grade, I should have been focusing on getting a good grade in English and excelling at my first job washing dishes at Swensen’s Ice Cream Parlor, but I was too busy thinking about Mike Keller.
Ah, Mike Keller. Handsome, mysterious, with long feathered hair and a sly smile. I would swoon when he walked in the room, trying desperately to hide my flaming red cheeks and beating heart.
He was friends with my friend’s older brother, and I would occasionally be at their house when he stopped by to hang out. I would try to be calm and collected, but usually ended up saying something dorky, and kicking myself as soon as Mike left the room. I would have elaborate daydreams about the two of us jetting off to Paris, or hacking a path through the Amazon jungle.
Unfortunately, Mike Keller did not feel the same. I was a punky friend of his friend’s baby sister who giggled a lot and wore Dittos jeans.
Mike moved away, and my adolescent crushes moved on to other mysterious guys with feathered hair.
Is your business idea a Mike Keller?
I imagine that you have your own version of my story: a highly idealized vision of a perfect relationship, that was perfect only because it never made it from fantasy to reality.
I meet the same dreamy gaze when some people tell me about their business ideas.
“I am so passionate about this idea,” they say.
“Well then let’s try a little test in the market, shall we?” I nudge, explaining the many ways we could see if their idea is viable.
“Oh no, I am not ready yet,” they say. ” I think I need about six months more of research, then I have to nail my tagline, and get the right URL and all that. “
It also happens with dreamy business ideas that people have been testing for a while, sometimes years, but without proof of a viable business model.
“I see you have been working on this for four years,and have yet to break even. What exactly is the business model, and have you run the numbers to see if it ever will make a profit?” I say.
They look at me as if I had said that Mike Keller’s perfectly feathered hair was really a wig. Helping them move from fantasy to reality is surprisingly painful. They believe that by looking at hard numbers, limited resources and constraints that they will lose their dream, and that is worse than continuing to plug away at what is essentially a large hole in the ground that they fill with buckets of money.
So if you have been “crushing” on your business idea, it is time to get serious.
Mature business ideas invite scrutiny. They love market tests. They will not cower when put in front of a real customer who may not like every one of their features. By taking your idea into the market, you will get the biggest rush of all: Truth. It sets you free!
The happy ending
About nine years ago, I met Mike Keller at Oakland’s Lake Merritt Farmer’s Market. He was selling olive oil, and told me about his lovely farm and beautiful wife and family. He was peaceful and contented. Their company has gone on to win awards and produce an excellent product.
Mike never knew about my crush, so I am hoping he is too busy harvesting olives to check his Google alerts.