North X East
Ideas are cheap, action is what counts

Ideas are cheap, action is what counts

I have heard quite a few business ideas in my time and I have had more than my fair share. Through it all I have realised one thing. Ideas are cheap. In fact they are a dime a dozen. Everyone has ideas and I would even say at various points everyone has some pretty darn good ideas. The thing is without executing the idea, it’s pretty worthless. Ideas are cheap, action is expensive.

The odd thing is oftentimes people are overly protective of their ideas or seem to think that having an idea for a business is the hard part out of the way. For example on more than a few occasions people have said to me something along the lines of: “I have a fantastc idea, you execute it and we’ll be partners”. This sort of thinking is so upside down. I have yet to hear an idea where such a scenario would have been even remotely worthwhile.

One of my favourite books, which I highly recommend you read is Getting Real by 37Signals and it’s available online to read for free. In it they quote various people and my absolute favourite quote is this one from Derek Sivers, president and programmer, CD Baby and HostBaby:

It’s so funny when I hear people being so protective of ideas. (People who want me to sign an nda to tell me the simplest idea.)

To me, ideas are worth nothing unless executed. They are just a multiplier. Execution is worth millions.


  • Awful idea = -1
  • Weak idea = 1
  • So-so idea = 5
  • Good idea = 10
  • Great idea = 15
  • Brilliant idea = 20
  • No execution = $1
  • Weak execution = $1000
  • So-so execution = $10,000
  • Good execution = $100,000
  • Great execution = $1,000,000
  • Brilliant execution = $10,000,000

To make a business, you need to multiply the two.

The most brilliant idea, with no execution, is worth $20. The most brilliant idea takes great execution to be worth $20,000,000.
—Derek Sivers, president and programmer, CD Baby and HostBaby in Getting Real

Derek sums up perfectly my point. Action is everything, how you execute development, marketing, branding, PR and the myriad other aspects of business are the main determinants of success, not a single idea – no matter how barn stormingly good it is.

Liam Cavanagh

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