THE BLOG

The Secret to a Successful Business Idea - It's Not What You Think

06/09/2015 05:37 pm ET | Updated Jun 08, 2016

There's something so alluring about being an inventor, being an innovator, being "first." As naturally competitive creatures, we're constantly attracted to the next big thing, the shiny idea, the glamour of the new and the thrill of the unknown.

But for a new entrepreneur? Those untested waters can hold more peril than promise.

Not all of us are cut out to be inventors. In fact, many more of us will excel at tried and true business models because it's more likely to fit with the lifestyle we want to have.

That may be a hard pill to swallow for the budding entrepreneur who believes in her heart she has to do something different, so I present you with 3 reasons your "boring" business idea may actually trump your sexy innovative one:

1. Most successful businesses are based on existing businesses.

Innovations are the outliers. We tend to hear more about them because a new business model -- like Airbnb or ZipCar -- is news, whereas another successful tax accountant isn't. But that doesn't lessen the success of the tax accountant!

Bookkeepers, graphic designers, yoga teachers, health coaches, and personal organizers.... They didn't invent anything crazy or new. What they did was choose a business model based on their own personal set of skills and the goals they have for their own lifestyle. CEOs of a big dollar startup may look like they're living the dream life when you see them profiled on CNN, but in most cases it took years of ramen noodles and all-nighters to get there.

2. Established business models eliminate a lot of the risk of doing business.

Shows like Shark Tank glamourize getting funding for new ideas, but doing something someone else has already done - and doing it better or injecting some innovation on how you do it - is going to have a much better chance of success.

GoCrossCampus is an almost legendary example of how even a great new idea can fail spectacularly. Five college guys started this Internet-based game around 2007, which pitted students from one college against another in the game, tapping into existing school rivalries. They racked up more than $1.6 million in venture capital and more than 100,000 users -- and still failed epically because they had no monetization strategy.

Melanie Duncan, on the other hand, took a decades (centuries?!?) old business model of monogramming things like linens and apparel, and brought it into the 21st century with modern, stylish designs and luxury materials all sold and marketed online. Her products are definitely not your grandmother's monogrammed towels! But she spoke to a new generation of women who want the traditional luxury of a monogram paired with their own style and aesthetic.

Would monograms have won funding from the Sharks over GoCrossCampus? Hard to say. But it proves that even "boring" businesses can be incredibly successful, while the "next big thing" is in no way guaranteed.

3. If what you sell is totally new, you must spend time and money explaining it.

In the world of bestselling novels and blockbuster movies, there's a tendency for agents and producers to pitch their newest projects in terms people can understand. "It's The Bachelor meets The Hunger Games." "It's Jaws - in space!"

There's a reason they do this: because getting people to understand something entirely new is hard work.

Think about the first time you heard about Twitter; most people's reactions were along the lines of, "140 characters? What good is that??"

Even innovative products from huge companies, like the much-anticipated Apple smart watch, face an uphill battle educating consumers about why they want such a thing.

The difference is that companies like Twitter and Apple can afford to spend millions in marketing and advertising to do just that.

Unless your operating budget includes that kind of marketing money, a brand-new idea is hard to sell and hard to make a household name, whereas everyone already understands what a monogrammed pillow is, what a coach does, and how an accountant can help them.

These problems are true with large companies and startups that acquire millions in venture capital, but they are also true in the micro business world where I operate. It's just as hard - if not harder - to create an entirely new business model as a solopreneur or micro business owner as it is when you've got a multi-billion dollar corporation backing you up.

For this reason, I coach people to find an established service-based business model that suits their personality, skills, talents and way of working. This enables people to start out on their own with the lowest possible risk.

It might be boring, but it's boring you can take to the bank.

Cat LeBlanc is a Business Strategist & Venture Catalyst. Which means she has an uncanny talent for turning your brilliance into a profitable (& liberating) business. When Cat's not guiding emerging entrepreneurs to their new business breakthrough, she's in the spa with her partner, sipping cider, surrounded by ferns, soaking in the sweet freedom she's created for herself (and wants for you). Find out more at catleblanc.com and pick up your FREE Business Idea Starter Kit here.