How can I monetize my business ideas without running a business myself?
August 6, 2019 9:38 AM   Subscribe

I have ADD, which certainly has its benefits - among them being the fact that I'm great at coming up with random ideas/frameworks for businesses which I think could really take off. Unfortunately, however, I have ADD which also has its drawbacks; I'm terrible at time management and keeping track of numbers, so I have zero confidence that any business I would hope to launch could succeed with me at the helm. Can I get some suggestions on how to monetize my business ideas while leaving daily operations to someone a bit more suited for the task?

I'm sure some of you will be reading this thinking "everyone gets good business ideas from time to time; this just sounds like someone who's looking to make a quick buck without putting in any hard work." And that's probably at least partially true, but hear me out:

First off - like I said, I've got what I consider to be relatively severe ADD, which I'm taking medication for. I'm the kind of person who wanders randomly into a room, only to realize after the fact that they have *no idea why they're there.* I also used to get teased by some of my more asshole-ish friends in college, who would say things like "hey CCC, there's a flickering lightbulb over there, maybe you should go check it out."

I think they saw (and probably still see) me as a creative, relatively intelligent person who also happens to be a bit of a ditz. I honestly think this description is pretty spot-on. I also would like to think I have a fair amount of empathy for others; a number of my business ideas have to do with brightening up people's lives, since I think a lot of people need it in these distressing times. (I came up with a lot of these after the 2016 election, go figure...)

BUT there's a silver lining to having ADD which makes me almost glad I have it - it's granted me the ability to come up with what I consider to be some gosh darn creative ideas! And it's not just me - I've been told by a number of different people throughout the years that many of my ideas are "freaking genius," so I'm relatively confident that I'm not overvaluing their potential. Close friends/family also inform me from time to time that I'm wasting my talents and am working in the wrong field, and that I'd be brilliant in advertising/marketing/etc. And I know that if I didn't at least *try* to get one of my better ideas up and running, then I'd regret it down the line.

Here's one example: I recently raised ~$2000 for my preferred Democratic Presidential candidate in the span of one day, all thanks to a silly word pun I came up with on the fly which I knew would probably catch on. That number is probably much higher right now; I haven't checked for a while since I'm trying to keep off social media.

Now back to the downsides of having ADD: I'm almost certain that any business I try to start myself would fail with flying colors, as I'm not left-brained in the slightest; I've dealt with my personal deficiencies long enough to know that consistency and keeping track of numbers/etc. are *not* my forte. I'm basically a frog trying to climb trees (or however that idiom goes) when it comes to organization and time management.

(I haven't given up on fixing these issues, mind you - I just know that something as massive as running a business is not in the cards at this point in time, and would more than likely just waste the precious little money I have saved up at the moment.)

TL;DR: Could anyone with some business/entrepreneurial experience give me some advice as to how I might go about monetizing my ideas + business frameworks, while leaving the daily operational work to non-ADD addled individuals who might be more competent in this area? (Please keep in mind that I know pretty much *nothing* about this sort of thing, and about starting businesses in general.)

Geez, this got pretty long. Thanks for reading to the end, and thanks so much in advance for the help my fellow MeFites! :)
posted by CottonCandyCapers to Work & Money (13 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
If you have legit good ideas, then you can pay someone to run your business for you or find investors. Unless you are wealthy, this is probably not an option.

You can also be a consultant, and people will pay you for your business ideas, but they generally need help with the accounting/financial/management stuff you say you aren't good at, and they generally require lots of experience or an impressive college degree.

Your only other option is to partner with a friend who has heard your ideas, believes in you, and can handle the money side.

You can also get a job in marketing or advertising for another company for a while, and then start a business marketing/consultancy based on that.
posted by The_Vegetables at 10:12 AM on August 6 [2 favorites]

You need a business partner to do what you can't.
posted by SemiSalt at 10:32 AM on August 6 [6 favorites]

In my small town in Vermont, there is an entrepreneurs group that meets regularly. Recently they held a local Shark Tank like event where locals could make a 60 second pitch to the group of their business ideas and perhaps find investors. This group advertised the event on LinkedIn and facebook. Perhaps there is a similar group in your area.
posted by Xurando at 10:36 AM on August 6 [2 favorites]

Fellow ADD person here. The vast majority of ideas I have don't make it out of my brain. The rest I bounce off of a trusted person before I start to invest my time and reputation capital on it.

My advice is to find that trusted person who loves and accepts you and cares enough about you to tell you to get over yourself and your wacky, half-cocked ideas. That person may be a business partner, but it can be a friend who has just enough domain knowledge about your ideas to evaluate them.
posted by cross_impact at 10:49 AM on August 6 [4 favorites]

As with writing a novel, the *idea* is not the hard part in starting a business. Even if your ideas are better than other people's, having a good notion but no ability to run a business--even if your notions are *especially* good--makes you no different than a lot of other people.

I don't know what you do for a living, or what kind of ideas you're talking about, but my suggestion would be to find a cause you believe in and put those ideas to work in favor of it. In my job history, the only ideas that would have been useful were very precise and technical, but I also volunteer for my local library, and any cool event I have an idea for might be turned into a fundraiser or a library program. As with your candidate, good ideas will hopefully come to you that fit the needs of your organization, and you can put them to use there.

With a proven track record like that, you might be able to turn that into a job (I don't know what kind of ideas we're talking about--maybe an event planner? working at a community center? T-shirt designer?). I do think, though, that to start from zero, you need to narrow your search and find an existing structure or organization that could use cool ideas.
posted by gideonfrog at 11:32 AM on August 6 [6 favorites]

I'm terrible at time management and keeping track of numbers, so I have zero confidence that any business I would hope to launch could succeed with me at the helm

This is actually true of a shocking number of small businesses, from my experience working for CPA firms that worked with small businesses. The reason it is usually a huge problem is that people don't recognize it's an issue, and they try to do everything themselves. The places that succeed without this don't have somebody else calling the shots; they have well-compensated assistants or office managers or both. This is a completely normal way of doing business. You get a CPA you trust and you give them access to the information you need and you accept that it costs a little money to do this because it frees you up to do the idea stuff.

All of this costs money, and I won't pretend it doesn't. But this isn't "how do you start a business with no money", it's "how do you start a business with significant ADD", and that's how. Let somebody else do it. Get good apps for the stuff another human can't do, but if another human is involved in part of the process, try to use what they want you to use--don't look for a "better" piece of bookkeeping or calendaring software than what your CPA or assistant likes. Trust the people who know what they're doing.

The trick here is that yes, you need cash if you want to do this from the beginning, but that is almost always true of starting a business. If you're brilliant at marketing and short on cash, do marketing for somebody else for awhile, and then you will have cash.
posted by Sequence at 11:58 AM on August 6 [3 favorites]

This is what business consultants are for. I've worked with many people in your position, and a good idea backed with financial commitment can really take off. A consultant can help you figure out if your ideas are viable and how to monetize them. A great consultant can also help you hire the right people to make your business a reality. If you have the wherewithal and confidence to finance this process you can succeed.

Sequence is correct, the solution to this problem is hiring people to do what you can't. And honestly, almost no one person has every skill needed to create a successful business. Smart (or well informed) entrepreneurs recognize this and hire talent. The ones who don't generally struggle a lot, with or without ADD. It's actually pretty common among people who want to start businesses, so dont feel like you're the only one dealing with this issue. It can be a real asset from a creative and innovation standpoint!

How are you with workbooks? If you do ok with them I suggest you look at Value Proposition Design. It will save you a lot of money and time to go through the exercises. If not, just hire a consultant to work through it with you. Best of luck!
posted by ananci at 12:25 PM on August 6 [3 favorites]

Ideas themselves have little value, it's the detail and work that make them valuable.

I too have ADD and have great! ideas! all! the! time!!!1!!!
  • 99% of those never survive long enough for me to write them down, let alone create a one-page outline.
  • A business idea has to help someone (apart from you) in addressing a need that the market's currently not covering.
  • You need to explain all of the above with enough verve and detail that someone else thinks it's a really good idea too.
Business ideas without the above are rather like a restless leg: it gets you nowhere and annoys people around you.
posted by scruss at 12:25 PM on August 6 [4 favorites]

I wouldn't hitch your wagon to friends and relatives telling you that your ideas are great. The world is full of ideas, you have to actually do something about them. I'm sorry, there's not better advice than work. I have ADD as well, I'm learning to program Python and SQL so I can go to school again, get a certificate and then a masters and have the job I want. I have great ideas about what statistical analysis can be done to improve things in people's lives, but they mean absolutely nothing until I can implement them (or if I got someone else to do so).

If you're asking about monetizing because the bad outcome job loss happened from one of your earlier questions where you stopped taking your medication, then no, this is not a reasonable plan of action for you to earn a living. I understand the sort of mania you're feeling, but you need to manage and control your ADD and not use it as an excuse.

I regret if this sounds overly harsh, but you have to manage and control it. My great ideas didn't vanish now that I'm medicated. I can actually implement them now. Anyway, if this is secretly a job question you just don't want to admit then you can find work as a creative person. I work for an ad agency and it isn't as creative as you might be thinking though. Not at all. It's a lot of actual drudge work involving campaign structuring, scheduling, targeting, copywriting, design, etc. Not just saying an idea to someone.

Similarly business is not GREAT IDEA it is idea then a billion other things. The only way someone will pay for your idea is if it's actually patented and a company needs it. I've done freelance creative work and it's tough. It's a lot more than just an idea. You could listen to the podcast season 1 of Startup where he founds a podcast company from his own idea. But notice how each episode is the insane amount of work he's doing talking to investors, finding his ideal business partner, etc. and that's before he even starts the company.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 12:44 PM on August 6 [5 favorites]

You cannot make a profit on JUST an idea. People who will donate $2k to a political organization because of a pun you made are not necessarily going to part with their money if it's going *to you*.

That's the bad news.

The good news is, there's plenty that a right-brained ADD person can do which is of value to a startup and which people will be happy to pay for.

Step 1: Write out detailed business plans that include your plan for hiring others to do the left-brained work such as administration, management, accounting, etc.

Step 2: Persuade left-brained buddies or contacts to sign on for your project

Step 3: Get the whole team of co-founders (including yourself) to go pitch your business plan to potential investors and venture capitalists

Step 4: Profit
posted by MiraK at 12:48 PM on August 6 [2 favorites]

TL;DR: Could anyone with some business/entrepreneurial experience give me some advice as to how I might go about monetizing my ideas + business frameworks, while leaving the daily operational work to non-ADD addled individuals who might be more competent in this area?

I think you should understand that ultimately what you're asking for is someone to invest both their time and money in your ideas, so you're going to either need to be one hell of a sales person to sell them on it or your idea is just going to have to be so obviously a no-brainier investment that people will beat down your door. If people (strangers really, not friends and family) tell your idea is great but they won't invest money in it, understand that they are just being nice. Consider that many investors are looking for 'execution' and not 'ideas'.

I also think you should consider that banking on the idea that people with ADD can't run a business or _you_ cannot run a business _because_ you have ADD, is a harmful stereotype and will hold you back. Plenty of people with ADD run businesses and do 'left brain' oriented tasks like payroll and business strategy and other boring things that pay the bills.
posted by Fidel Cashflow at 2:19 PM on August 6 [3 favorites]

There are sites for selling businesses. People tend to pay, I forget the rule of thumb, I think it's generally around like 2x annual revenues (net). So if you could get that business off ground to earning anything, you might be able to sell it that way??
posted by salvia at 8:32 PM on August 6

You can put your ideas in blog posts and monetize the blog. You may find that the ratio of work to reward is unsatisfying, but it might feel good just to get your ideas out there.
posted by Former Congressional Representative Lenny Lemming at 4:19 AM on August 8

« Older Unusual circulation / body temperature after...   |   Immigrant/Refugee Library Programs in light of El... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments