Why your good business idea is going nowhere fast

An idea without action is worthless. But what if you’ve taken action, and it still hasn’t paid off? Maybe it’s one of these reasons…

17-minute read

As someone who’s been on the pointy end of ideas of both successful and disastrous ideas, I’ve learnt a thing or two about what makes a good idea work. HINT: It’s not just hard work!

Ideas that work, have something about them that attracts money….

Meaning that either funders, donors or customers are willing to fork over their hard earned cash to see your idea grow. I can tell you from first hand experience, that there is nothing more heartbreaking than putting lots of time, energy and effort into an idea only to see it fail – or die a slow death because you just can’t afford to focus on it.

But it’s not about the money. You just want to help people!

Yes. We agree. Your motivation may not be about the money. But the success or failure of your venture, kind of is! In the early stages of launching a project, a business or a social enterprise; all of us will put in extra blood, sweat and tears in order to see our idea take shape. But there is only so long that you can continue that sort of sacrifice. Particularly if money is a worry or an obstacle while pursuing your idea.

It’s difficult to change the world when you are worried about money.

The truth is, if money isn’t flowing to or through you idea – then it’s just not sustainable. Full stop. And if the thought of burning out in pursuit of your idea isn’t enough to scare, you then how about this… Your impact is directly proportional to your idea’s ability to sustain itself. So if your idea hasn’t yet got the traction you believe it should, the first thing to ask is…

Who do I need to invest in my idea?

Depending on the shape of what you are creating, you might need to look for funders, donors, customers – or all of the above. And you are going to start by finding them at a level that’s appropriate to the life stage of your idea. No matter how great your idea is, it’s never going to jump straight from idea in your head to being embraced by a mainstream audience. You need to first build traction, focusing on attracting, engaging and serving a small bunch of committed first followers.

There are a number of reasons why nobody is investing in your idea yet…  


People just don’t understand your idea, or how it helps them.
Think about all the ideas and messages that pass through your consciousness every day…. In order for someone to become a committed first follower for your idea, they need to not only quickly understand what your idea is, they need to see a direct and powerful benefit in it for them. You don’t want to be held up perfecting your idea to the nth degree before sharing it. But at the same time, mixed messages and sloppy presentation puts the onus on the person you are talking to, to connect the dots. Trust me… they won’t!


People have more important things to do than listen to you.
Your first follower might love your idea – if they hear about it on the right day, in the right place, while they have the right incentive. Any other time and they have more important things to focus on. If you haven’t made your idea convenient, accessible, and spot on to where they are right now – your message is just noise!


Most people need time to warm to an idea.
Think about the last commitment you made. Was it a spontaneous out of the blue type of thing? Or had you been considering it for a while? In order to make a commitment – be it purchasing a product or service, or dedicating time or energy to support a cause – people need to: a. feel some initial rapport with the person they are engaging with; and b. feel trust that that person can deliver what they say they can. The size of the investment you are asking them to make is going to directly influence how much rapport and trust they need. These things need to be nurtured before going in for the hard sell. Too many organisations try and skip the first date!


You failed to extend an invitation they couldn’t refuse.
Let’s be frank here… half of wannabe changemakers will skirt around the edges of implementing the idea, missing one crucial ingredient. Actually asking for the support they require. (This is particularly prevalent for socially motivated entrepreneurs… it’s as if we only want to give, and are embarrassed at the prospect of asking for something from someone else.) The other half will muster up the courage to ask, only to do it in a way that doesn’t make anyone actually want to take action. If someone has listened to your idea, and have got to the point where they are willing to listen to your invitation… you need to make it as easy as possible for them to take action on that invitation. As soon as you ask them to jump through hoops or ‘do it your way’ you’ve lost the momentum. If they’ve said ‘yes’ in their head, all they want from you then is for you to shut-up and take their money!


People bought into the idea, but failed to see any impact.
Now this is not to say that you haven’t made any impact. If it’s a great idea, it’s going to have impact. More often than not, it’s just that they didn’t notice that impact. Your idea is just one small part of their lives. They’ve got a million different inputs competing for their attention every day. It would have to be a committed soul to sit down and personally review their engagement with you and analyse what progress there has been since they signed up with you, and what specific impact that has had on their lives and the lives of others. It’s your job to connect the dots, and show them a return on their investment. To onboard them in a way that helps them understand where they are now, and to keep them updated along that journey so that they understand where and what has been achieved at any given point. At a start-up level this doesn’t have to be elaborate. It could consist of a conversation at the beginning, a mud-map of the journey ahead, and a semi-regular prompt or question to get them to stop and reflect on where they’ve come from. But something is ‘essential’ at this stage in order to help your first follower stay your loyal first follower, and not simply write you and your idea off as a mistake.


You haven’t made them feel part of something bigger.
People – particularly first followers! – need to feel like this is all going somewhere. Nobody wants to feel like they’ve brought into an organisation that is going nowhere, or is on its last legs. They want to feel like your idea / project / venture is cool, shiny and ‘really going places’. And by extension of adopting your idea / project / venture as their own, that they are ‘really going places’ too. This isn’t about you telling them how well YOU are doing. It’s about giving them ownership of the idea, and making sure they feel proud of how THEIR contribution is helping it grow.   What have you done to inspire them about where your idea is headed, how it’s growing, and what their continued role can be?

So what do you think?

Do you think I am full of it? Or did one or more of those reasons strike a note with you? Why not leave a comment below to let us know what you think is holding you back from getting your idea off the ground and making a bigger impact.
The Good Alliance, Cat Townsend

Cat Townsend

After more than a decade spent helping big brands sell more stuff, to people that didn’t need it; Cat set a simple intention: To do more work that made a positive difference in the world. And so The Good Alliance was born…


  1. Heather Fitton

    “Your impact is directly proportional to your idea’s ability to sustain itself. ” Blimey … that’ s gone in my scrapbook to be repeated to brain.It seems key.

    So I ‘m now thinking , how i can apply all this to coaching.Its like I am passionate about my product but I have not yet seen it from the outside and my soul is throwing a big cover over it so no-one can criticise…oh dear!

    Early days !!

  2. CatTownsend

    It’s the age old choice between a ‘safe’ and ‘passionate’ life… neither is easy. And whichever one we choose, we always desire the other. (Or is that just me!)

    The hardest thing to do in business, is make other people care.

    Viewed that way, criticism is simply a sign of success. And in my experience, you generally need to reach a significant amount of success before you make someone care enough to criticise!

  3. Ravi Singh

    I have try 2 times to start an online business, 1 time i just lost everything, no profit nothing. But on the second time, after doing all efforts, everything was going good. Thanks for this wonderful information, subscribed your blog.


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