When Great Ideas Fail

By Tom McDermott

Great ideas are the catalyst for propelling a businesses to success. The evolution of an idea is concept, planning, buyin, implementation, assess, follow up and modification. How often does it happen when you or your team comes up with a great idea for something that will add profit to the bottom line and for whatever reason, it fails to get traction and eventually fails? It happens a lot. Many times the idea gets to the execution phase, everyone is excited to see the results and a few weeks later, the idea is forgotten and thigs are as they were. The idea was executed but it only happened one time in a row. Something was amiss, the idea failed because one of the components of what was thought to be a good idea, failed or was missed.

Each component is equally as important as the other. During the concept phase, the idea is talked about and defined. Planning is when the idea is scheduled for implementation. Buy-in is when all of the stakeholders are presented with the idea and the benefits of the idea are communicated. Implementation is when the idea is put into action. Assess is analyzing the impact of the idea. Follow up is when management makes sure the new idea is implemented correctly and is consistent among the stakeholders. Modification is if the idea needs some tweaking to be more successful. If any one of these components fail, the idea fails. It is crucial that management follows up on all new ideas. It’s human nature to reject new concepts until the new concept becomes routine. Follow up, follow up, follow up!

New ideas are not easy to implement in an established business compared to a new business. In a new business, all of the ideas are new and employees are eager to conform. In an established business, employees and management are set in their ways and tend to resist change.

New ideas affect both employees and customers. When a new idea creates a policy change, both customers and employees can easily become confused. Some ideas are created to prevent certain things from happening and are based on quick reactions. Before you implement a new idea based on a reaction, be very cautious, don’t do it as a knee jerk reaction to something that happened. Analyze the impact first. I suggest you read my writing “What Type of Thinker Are You” to understand this. Other ideas are designed to enhance the business, such as new products or services or marketing campaigns. Whatever the reason is for the new idea, without fail, follow the steps.

For example, some merchants have started charging an extra fee for using a credit card in order to make up for the fee the credit card companies charge for their services. I’ve overheard employees explaining the policy to irritated customers and usually the explanation doesn’t resolve the customers irritability.

Did the merchant think thru the entire process? Did the merchant take into account that customers would become irritated and potentially defect? Probably not. Suppose you are the owner of a restaurant and you realize that the credit card company takes 2% of your revenue when customers use a credit card. You add up the charges and make a quick decision to make the customer pay by charging them a fee for using their card. Your new idea becomes a new policy. You didn’t consider the effect of the new policy, you do it because you’re irritated that the fees are cutting into your profit. Your staff now has to justify to customers why they are being charged.

Let’s do the math. If the average check at that restaurant is $30 and the owner is charging a 2% fee for using a credit card, the customer has to pay an additional .60 to cover the fee. I’m sure the owner thought, “it’s no big deal, customers can afford it”. That may be true but the owner didn’t consider the intrinsic effect.

Another way to cover the credit card charge is to raise your prices by 1.75%, basing that on the fact that not all customers use a credit card. If a cheeseburger costs $15.00, it would raise the price by .26. Doing it this way keeps the cost invisible to the customer and eliminates all of the unnecessary discussions between staff and patrons as well as eliminating the irritation factor. In my opinion, the idea of penalizing the customer is a failure.

To insure that your new idea is successful, follow each step carefully. Consider all of the impacts your new idea or policy will have on customers and employees. Make sure your team has complete buy in and you and your management team is accountable.

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