13 Feb 2013

This Ideas Thing is Hard

You never forget your first time. It’s exciting but awkward. You hope it’s going to go really well but it doesn’t take as long as you thought it would. You’re left wondering if that’s what all the fuss was about and if it gets better. At least, that’s how my first idea extraction call went; maybe it’ll be different for you.

Before I tell you about the call, I should back up a bit. I like being a developer and I like going to Crossfit. It seemed like a good idea to try and combine the two. Writing code while squatting didn’t work out so I decided a new approach was in order. But where was I supposed to start? I had a few ideas about what might be successful, but I wanted to build something that people would actually pay me to use. Why would I build something if I didn’t have anything more than a feeling that someone would use it? At Brydon‘s encouragement, I decided to try something called an “idea extraction call”. The concept is from Dane Maxwell and although his site is sketchy as hell, it seemed like a good idea. Armed with that, and some supplementary advice from Nathan Barry, I decided to start contacting some affiliates.

After emailing around 20 gyms one agreed to talk to me on the phone. This guy, I’ll call him Peter because that’s his name, didn’t think he had a problem. He told me so in his email. I wasn’t fazed though, why would I be? I was armed with my list of questions. What is the most important activity in your business? Is there any pain associated with that activity? What do you spend most of your time doing? How could I not uncover a profitable business idea with questions like this? Bring it on, Peter.

As I’m sure you’ve gathered already, I didn’t come out of this phone call with a successful business idea. It turns out that it’s actually really hard to get someone to talk to you about a problem that they don’t think exists.

I’m not as naïve as I’ve painted myself to be in this article. Outwardly, I didn’t expect to have wild success on my first call. Inwardly, I kinda thought that maybe I would. It was disappointing when I couldn’t identify anything Peter said as problems I could solve. It did seem on the surface that everything was fine, which is what he told me already over email. Despite asking questions designed to uncover problems in the way Peter was working, everything seemed fine on his end.

While moping around feeling sorry for myself after the call, I realized I had gained valuable information and not noticed it at the time. When I asked, “what do you spend most of your time doing?” he responded with “I don’t deal with much of the admin stuff, we have an administrator who handles all that”. Bingo. You wouldn’t hire an administrator for something you could do yourself. I doubt all gyms are busy enough that hiring an administrator is an option, which means they’re dealing with the pain themselves. It’s time to find some of those gyms and see what I can do.

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