Hiding Your Great Ideas

by Dan on February 11, 2010

“So what kind of internet marketing do you do?”  Brian, the 22 year old college student said to me at the coffee shop.

I told him I did pay per click, SEO, affiliate management, the works.  He said “I’m starting up this project…” and was hoping for some advice.

I really don’t mind when people ask me this stuff.  At a bar or party, I really don’t like to talk business, but if I’m someplace casual and someone has a question, I’m happy to help out.

He told me it was a subscription website.

Fair enough.  I asked what kind.

“Umm…. It’s exports.”  That sounded a little odd.

“What kind of exports?”

“Umm…. pinto beans.”  Ok, that confirmed it.

“It’s porn, isn’t it.”

He nodded with a sheepish cringe.

I was going to say “Why didn’t you just tell me?” but the answer is obvious.  He was embarassed.  He thought I’d disapprove of his idea and think he’s a sleazy bastard for making a living posting videos of women of people engaged in X-rated behavior.

Whether I would judge him or not, is besides the point.  By holding back what he intends to be his business, he creates two very big problems for himself.

First of all, if I think he’s running a bean export membership site (is that even possible??), what kind of advice do you think I’m going to give him?  Tips on finding good bean clients, etc.

Even if he dressed it up a little better and said he was running a comedy video membership site, there would be some huge differences in my marketing advice.  The search engines (Google, Yahoo), advertising networks, and general population treat pornography very different from G-rated businesses, so his strategy would have be handled differently.

If you’re going to talk to people about your business, especially when seeking advice, you have to be very specific in explaining what you’re trying to accomplish.  A lot of people try to guard their business idea from being stolen, and that results in them getting either overly-general or outright bad advice.  While good ideas are copied from time to time, there are very few people who will go through the trouble of trying to build your business idea.  The promise of money is a great motivator but it’s not enough to make someone go through the struggles and hassles of creating a business from the ground up.  You need the passion behind it to see it to the end, and if someone hears your whole plan and says “Wow, why didn’t I think of that?” there’s little chance they’ll drop everything and spend the next 3-5 years copying your idea.

(EXCEPTION: If you have a domain name idea, don’t tell anyone but your closest friends, because that just takes $10 dollars to register)

But back to the main issue… his embarrassment discussing his porn site.

It’s not only that hiding the true nature of the site kept me from giving proper advice (which in this case, was to let him know I didn’t know the specifics of the industry).

What does it say about your belief in your business if you find your project embarrassing?  If you think your business provides value for your customers, is ethically run, and is a successful piece of work, then there’s no reason why you should hesitate to proudly say what you do for a living.

There is room for discretion, of course, as the very mention of some professions can be inappropriate for a social event.  If you’re a rape victim counselor and at a wedding, you’re probably better off just saying you’re a therapist.  If you run a porn site and are at a church, it may make sense to talk about something else.

However, among bars, coffee shops, and informal social gatherings, your should let your entrepreneurial light shine.  If someone doesn’t like what you do, that’s fine, and you don’t need to discuss your business with someone who cringes at the very mention of it.  However, there’s no reason to hide what you do for a living if it’s legal, ethical, and provides value.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 Stephen February 13, 2010 at 11:00 am


Oh, Dan (and you know my real name), you’re alright, you really are. You have COMMON SENSE!

You understand what my Father often told me, as he learned from his father, who learned it in turn from his father who was a shrewd businessman (and inventor) from Yorkshire, England:

“You can’t turn a pig’s ear into a silk purse!”

Dan, I think some of your forefathers might say the same thing to you, and they’d be proud of you for writing as you do about COMMON SENSE!

And I’ll close with a Yorkshire proverb that one of my grandfather’s brothers used to tell me his father told him: “Ye get nowt fer nowt!” (“You get nothing for nothing.”) Meaning, that if you don’t produce anything of REAL SUBSTANTIAL value, then in the long run you will deserve (and get) nothing. As many American “investment bankers” will discover to their chagrin, in the next few years, and so will many other Americans who believed they could “earn” something by creating nothing of lasting value, only abstractions….

…and PORNOGRAPHY IS AN ABSTRACTION! But it’s not the only kind of abstraction. Most of what goes on in Wall Street today, is abstract, and therefore it’s pornography. Hmm… ;-)

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