Why the founder of a $17 billion company says the good ideas are the most dangerous

I built a terrace on the dune. It turned out. Not perfect – when you do the job you always see the little imperfections that nobody else notices – but overall I was satisfied.

“It looks great,” said a neighbor. “You could start a business building decks.”

hmm, I thought. I could:

  • Home improvement spending has skyrocketed due to higher home prices; Homeowners who may have moved up have instead chosen to upgrade their holdings.
  • It’s difficult to find people to do this work. 90 percent of home builders report a lack of carpenters.
  • There is definitely a market; A deck is a relatively inexpensive way to fulfill every homeowner’s stereotypical desire for “entertaining space” on an HGTV show.
  • No capital is required; I already have all the tools I need.

So yes. I could start a deck building business.

But that doesn’t mean I should.

When asked how he validates business ideas, HubSpot co-founder Dharmesh Shah replied:

The most dangerous ideas are not the bad ideas. You can easily dispose of these. The dangerous ideas are the ones that are good – but not great. yes it could work, and yes, me could do it – but that doesn’t mean I should do it.

It’s not about the failure rate – I actually agree with that. Good ideas eat up a lot of time/calories and leave little time for them Great ideas.

Why would starting a deck building business be such a dangerous idea? At face value it wouldn’t.

  • Product/market suitability? Check.
  • Capabilities/marketability? Check. While I’m no genius, I would be smart enough to stay away from projects beyond my skill level.
  • Reasonable profit potential? Check. Especially now; The supply and demand curves would definitely be my friend.

But that doesn’t mean I should do it. I enjoyed building my deck.

But I don’t want to build your deck. And I definitely don’t want to spend all day building decks every day.

That’s the other half of Shah’s could/should equation. Here is his simple framework for evaluating ideas:

  1. Potential: If it works, how big could it be?
  2. Probability: What are the chances that it will work?
  3. Proximity: How close is that to things I care about, know, or care about?

How you weight each category depends on your situation. Early on, Shah focused heavily on the probability of success; Risk is not your friend when your main goal is to put food on the table.

“Today,” says Shah, with a $17 billion company under his belt, “I mainly solve for numbers 1 and 3: what has great potential that excites me? (Even if I fail, I won’t regret it because I’ve cared enough).”

And that’s where the deck building business falls apart for me. The probability of success is high. growth potential? Sure – but scaling would require hiring and management and infrastructure and all those things that I wanted to stop doing when I left a job at the company.

That only adds to the proximity problem; Not only do I not want to manage dozens of people, I really don’t want to build decks every day. I like to build decks for me and mine. I wouldn’t like to build decks for other people.

And I’m fortunate to have other jobs that I enjoy more.

Are you trying to decide if starting a particular business makes sense for you? First, consider your situation. If you’re just starting out, the likelihood of making enough money to live on might be the most important factor; What you have to do is more important than what you enjoy doing. What you could and should do is put food on the table.

If probability is less of a factor, consider potential.

And how easily you can scale to unlock that potential. Unlike say SaaS, a deck building business is not easily scalable. No matter the size of the potential market, you must be able to service that market – and you want to build and operate the type of business that it takes to service that market.

Then consider whether you are interested in the business you are going to start. I could run a deck building business. I could run a successful deck building business.

What is the best way to define professional success? It doesn’t matter if you do a job that you enjoy. Work that makes you feel fulfilled, content, and happy. Work that allows you to determine your own destiny as much as possible.

The beauty of starting a business is that you are free to choose what type of business you run.

Not the business you could start, but the business you do should Beginning.

Because we all have to make a living.

But we also have to live.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own and not those of Inc.com.

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