Most people overvalue ideas and being first. You don’t have to be first to have a good business, and you don’t have to be unique. Far more important than being the first is just the simple foundation of giving your customers good value. Give good value for every dollar spent, and that will build return business, and word-of-mouth advertising, and a good business.

Instead of asking yourself whether you’re the first, ask yourself can you get customers? Can you get enough of them to make it work? Will they recommend you, and come back for more? If you can answer yes to these questions, then you can build a business even if you aren’t the first.

Relatively few successful start-ups depend on the ideas or uniqueness. What matters is doing it, starting it up, getting it done. For example, when Apple Computer started in 1976, thousands of people had the same idea. Altair and MIPS were already producing. Every hobbyist club in the country talked about it in their meetings. Jobs and Wozniak, however, did it. They found the resources, contracted people, took the risks and started up.

There are plenty of good examples. Was Federal Express patentable? No, but they did it. Look at; it was a good idea, but easily copied. In that case they knew they had to move fast and gain visibility very quick, to pre-empt competition. McDonald’s? By the time you’ve had a good idea, so have hundreds or thousands of others. Build some advantage first, develop the idea and work with it, bear down and make it work.

Tim BerryTim Berry

Tim Berry is the founder and chairman of Palo Alto Software and Follow him on Twitter @Timberry.