Want to Start a Company? Stay as Ignorant as Possible


Forget cramming to learn your new industry inside and out. When you’re starting up, ignorance makes you more creative, unique, and effective.

Maybe ignorance really is bliss. I talk with entrepreneurs all the time who started their businesses without a real understanding of what they were getting into. It sounds crazy, but I actually think it may have been their single greatest asset.

Here’s why it pays to know as little as possible.

You’re willing to take bigger risks, with bigger rewards.

A little knowledge can make you cautious–and hold you back. So often we’re told that something isn’t possible, that we won’t be successful or that our venture won’t work because others have failed. That’s daunting. When you go into something new without lots of knowledge about who was there before, you aren’t held back by the way it was approached before–by the standard way of doing things. That opens you up to greater possibilities.

When I first started User Insight, many in the research space told me that you “couldn’t sell fixed price research and there was no way to turn it into a process”–that it was too risky to approach research that way. But I did it anyway. I turned research into a repeatable process, enabling my company to bid business on a fixed price basis anywhere in the world.

You bring fresh eyes.

If you have no experience in a space, you create new approaches to a problem that others might not have considered. You may bring something from another industry or experience to your current situation that is more appropriate.

I listened a group of entrepreneurs speak at a panel discussion the other night–one of them shared the experience of bringing a product to market. She recalled the moment when she was on the verge of signing off on the purchase of several hundred thousand dollars worth of molds for a bottle to hold the product.

First, she decided to bring everyone involved in the product’s manufacturing process into one room and have them talk her through it, from inception to delivery in the consumer’s hands. During this meeting, where she openly admitted to being the least knowledgeable person in the room, they identified several breakpoints in the process that would require major modifications to the molds she was ordering. This half-day meeting saved her start-up hundreds of thousands of dollars in mistakes.

The amazing thing–these industry experts, each with about 25 years of experience, said it was the first such meeting they had ever attended that took such a holistic look at the process for a product. All because she was ignorant.

You ask stupid questions.

Entrepreneurs who are new to a space ask questions to try to understand it. By having this outsider view, they can see gaps and opportunities others “on the inside” don’t see. As newbies, they have permission to ask questions like “why do you do it that way?” and, “have you ever thought of doing it this way?”

If you have a staff, encourage them to ask the stupid questions when they first start with your company. If the person answering the question can’t provide a solid answer with a specific reason, something might be broken: It might be a process or procedure to reconsider. Those so-called stupid questions may end up lending you the unique opportunity to be creative and solve a problem in a new and market-changing way.



Learn to Network

Business Networking International (BNI) Sound Networking meets Each Wednesday 7:00 – 8:30 AM at Frog Ponds Cafe

Meet local business people and find out how networking is one of the most effective methods for marketing your business.
Visitors are always welcome, just call ahead to let us know you are coming 519-371-2622.

Business Enterprise Centre Workshops

Basics of Bookkeeping (Three part workshop)
Tuesday September 19th and 26th and Tuesday October 3rd, 6:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Business Enterprise Centre Training Room $95 (HST included)
Facilitator: Jane Gallagher
This three part Bookkeeping Workshop will allow you to use the tools and information to confidently understand your financial statements and your own books. Class size is limited to 8 to allow a hands-on, individual learning opportunity for everyone.

Business Enterprise Centre Workshops

How to “Really” Start a Business
Wednesday September 20th, 9:00 am – 11:30 am, Bayshore Community Centre
FREE – Pre-registration is required
Facilitator: Cliff Bilyea
Discover the basic steps involved in starting a business, evaluating your idea, determining your market and basic rules and regulations. Attending the is workshop is mandatory for anyone applying to the Starter Company Plus Program.

Business Enterprise Centre Workshops

Introduction to Quick Books (Two part workshop)
Tuesday October 17th and 24th, 6:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Business Enterprise Centre Training Room, $80 (HST Included)
Instructor: Jane Gallagher
The first session of Quick Books provides participants with an overview and access to a trial version of the program. The second session will be questions and answers to address specific issues. Knowledge of basic bookkeeping principles is required. Limited to 8, you must bring your own laptop. (This workshop does not cover the online version of Quick Books)


Phone: 519 371 7464
Fax: 519 371 4043
Site: gbbj.biz
Email: editor@gbbj.biz
Address: 1240 2nd Ave E
Owen Sound, ON N4K 2J3

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