Articles From Ross Shafer View Profile

Share this Article
  • Ideas Hatched in a Vacuum…Often Suck.

    Ross Shafer, Ideas Hatched in a Vacuum…Often Suck.

    We are all guilty of coming up with what we think is a brilliant idea and trying to run fast with it. We are so convinced that our idea is so “White Hot” that we don’t even bother to ask anyone if our idea has actual value. After all, others may not see the “vision” like we do, right? But when our brilliant idea fails (and most do) we seem disheartened. We may even be embarrassed and justify the failure by saying…

    “The idea didn’t fail. It was just ahead of its time.”

    “We didn’t have enough money to execute this properly.”

    “Timing was wrong. We should revisit this in the fall.”

    The true reason your idea was dead-on-arrival was because you launched your idea in a vacuum. You forgot your idea had to “click” with AN AUDIENCE. If there is no support (i.e. demand)the idea will always fail. If what you are selling isn’t better or different enough,the idea will fail. If the timing of your product or service is “off” for some reason…it will fail.If you are lucky, the failure is small enough that nobody will notice. If you’re UN-lucky, the failure can be an epic debacle and you will be famous for it.

    Right now, I am in Quebec City, Quebec.  I am sitting outside the stunning Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac Hotel. Montreal is 40 minutes away. My view is replete with lovely bistros and art alleys. The neighborhood looks and feels like Paris, France. No wonder. More than 80% of the residents proudly speak French as their first language. You’ve all heard that the province of Quebec has repeatedly tried to become it’s own sovereign country – separate from the rest of Canada. Why? Supporters of the separation movement want to prevent Anglophone assimilation and preserve the French language and the French Canadian culture. But since more than 90% of the other Canadian provinces are English speaking, the “separatists” are in the tiny minority. Since 1980, the separatists have lost six public referendums to break away from the rest of the country. Separation may have sounded like a good idea to a group of French loyalists…but it just didn’t fly. There was no audience for the idea and its ardent proponent, Rene Levesque, will forever be linked to it’s demise.

    Our 16th U.S. President, Abe Lincoln, heard a lot of “good ideas” that ultimately failed. Lincoln concluded, “With public sentiment nothing can fail. Without it, nothing can succeed.” Good ideas need fan support.

    The Nike “Air Jordan” shoe launched in 1984 and the NBA banned it because it featured “non-regulation” colors. Michael Jordan ignored the ban and wore the shoes anyway. Public sentiment was so vocally triumphant that the NBA reversed the ban.

    29 versions of the Air Jordan later, the shoe still accounts for over $2 billion of Nike’s sales each year.

    In my various TV and business careers I have been labeled a “Serial Re-inventor.” I seem to have an endless supply of curious notions. The successes seem to outweigh the failures. When I tried to change the Washington State Song to the rock hit “Louie, Louie” the public was with me.  The effort was rewarded with 288 days of press coverage and a Dubious Achievement Award from Esquire magazine. Yet, when I led a campaign to make “The Mutt” the National Dog of America, the National Kennel Club and the tens of millions of pure breed dog owners thought the idea was sacrilegious. “The Mutt” campaign withered in under two weeks. No fan support. Nobody remembers that campaign because I stopped the effort when it was obvious we couldn’t get traction.

    Today, software companies and App developers launch imperfect “Beta” versions because they know their first attempt probably isn’t totally ready. And we accept that. Developers encourage user feedback and will send usupdates; which is fine with us. Failure teaches you the lesson that you can’t (and don’t) know everything.

    So, if you have an idea you think will revolutionize your division or propel your company into the Fortune 100, here is how to launch your idea before your budgettakes off on a wild goose chase.

    1.  Turn your idea into a written proposal. To the best of your knowledge and research, explain why your idea makes sense. It would either make money or save money. A written proposal shows that you have spent time “thinking this through.”

    2.  Give your “proposal” to a handful of people you respect to give you honest feedback. This will give you the chance to hear objections you may not have considered.

    3.  If you still want to advance your idea, ask your peers if they would support your idea. The purpose of getting buy-in from peers is so that you can go to The Boss with, “I’ve got something to show you. I think we have an opportunity to make more/save money and  I’ve got the support of Lorraine in Accounting – and Sam in Sales.”

    4.  When you make your presentation to The Boss, be confident and enthusiastic. Show The Boss you really care about this. Do your homework and give The Boss a projected R.O.I. of such an idea. Avoid using hyperbole and fantasy numbers. Be realistic.

    5.  If  The Boss hedges with, “I just don’t see it.” Ask for a low cost/no cost trial run. Say, “Can we at least see what our audience thinks of this? I’ll make sure we stay under budget andI’ll bring the raw numbers back to you in real time.”

    It will be very hard for The Boss to turn down a low risk exploratory test like that. Better yet, you proved that you can perform your due diligence with wise analysis.

    From my experience, The Boss’s door is always open to someone who prepares.  You certainly have the edge over the dolt who tries to intercept The Boss in the parking garage with an unsupported, half-baked water cooler pitch.

Share this Article



  • Thanks to Richard and Jo for all the coordination. Another homerun from Executive Speakers Bureau!  
    Wisconsin Hospital Association
  • "Everyone loved Bob and he was so nice on site. Thank you for all you did. The process was so easy and we will definitely work with you again next yea...
  • "We loved our speakers. Thanks to you and your team for your outstanding service and thank you for your patience!"

    National Association of the Blind
  • "OMG Richard! As always you make me look like a rock star. Every single speaker we selected hit it out of the park. Thank you again. Can't even say wh...
    Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Assn.
  • The event was EASY Cake! and it went over very very well.  Thank you so much for the help and organization, it made my life very easy. 
    Boys & Girls Club
  • "Let me just say again, what a pleasure it is to work with you and ESB. You really make it harder for others to reach the bar."
  • "WOW, is all I have to say and thank you!  Our event was a huge success and you never steer me wrong, both David Cottrell and Ryan Estis were exc...
  • "Thanks to you and Jo for all your efforts.  Connie Podesta and Roger Dow were great!"   
    National Apartment Association
  • We truly appreciate the excellent support and attention to detail we have received from Executive Speakers Bureau.  They have provided us with so...
  • I want to thank you for all of your assistance you and Jenny were wonderful. If it had not been for you sending me suggestions I would not have found ...
    West Virginia Tourism
  • "Thank you so much for all your help in putting this together on such short notice. I will definitely use your services again in the future."
    Applied Materials
  • We could not have done it without you.  Thank you for the outstanding suggestions.  The speakers were by far the best we have ever had.
  • "It was a great pleasure to work with you in making this event a success. Your professionalism, attention to detail and response to all my questions a...
    Fellowship of Christian Athletes
  • "As I mentioned before, your engagement model was incredibly easy to work with, and I know we came to you on short notice!  I would highly recomm...
    Capitol One
  • "This year’s speaker line-up at our Summer Meeting was the best yet. We knocked it out of the park. Thanks for all your help securing such excel...
    North Carolina Hospital Association
  • You ladies really are the BEST!  After this event I am going to be on the hunt for keynote speakers in May.  I really want to work with you ...
  • Our bank has held an annual business and economic conference for the past 9 years.  We have worked with Executive Speakers every year and I have ...
    First Midwest Bank
  • "We not only went 3 for 3 but I'd say they were all home runs! Thanks for your help on the speakers. It was a key and very positive component of our c...
  • "I want to thank you for helping with our Principals Day event. Marshall Goldsmith was excellent. Not only is Marshall the consummate professional, be...
    Burns & McDonnell
  • "Richard, Your ability to put me in front of just the right group again and again, is nothing short of amazing. You work your tail off, you sweat the ...
    Alan Hobson
  • "My mind was very much at ease knowing that Jack Uldrich was so well prepped.  I will definitely use your agency again."  
  • I’ve used the services of a number of speakers bureaus in the past. However, my current experience working with the Executive Speakers Bureau ha...
  • As always, you deliver excellent service. Thanks!
    Camden National Bank
  • "Let me tell you that the ESB team and Christine's responsiveness, follow up, proactivity, industry knowledge, and overall customer service was phenom...
    Clear Link
  • Bridgeworks was awesome!!! Great feedback from all!! Thanks for all of your collaboration and positive we'll use you in the future.  
    Johnson & Johnson
  • Everything went really well and we really enjoyed having Jack Uldrich as our speaker!  He was entertaining and funny and provided great examples....
    Novo Nordisk
  • "I wanted to share with you feedback of my experience in working with Executive Speakers Bureau.. Very responsive and detail oriented.  When I wa...
  • Thank you to both of you for everything surrounding Mr. Will as our special guest. I suspect, soon, I will be in touch regarding our next event. 
    Oxford Financial
  • "Your tenacity and persistence in staying in touch with us is a model example of good salesmanship and partnering.  I will be using you as an exa...
    Schneider Electric
  • "I LOVE this list that you sent me! I emailed several different places on Tuesday an...
  • Thanks to you, Jo and the rest of your team.  You are the BEST.  Knowing you are behind a speaker allows us the luxury of concentrating on o...
    Ohio Hospital Association
  • The Nebraska Hospital Association along with numerous other state hospital associations have enjoyed a long-standing relationship with Executive Speak...
    The Nebraska Hospital Association
  • "The group that I work with to obtain all of my keynote speakers is Executive Speakers Bureau and I can tell you that I don’t like working with ...
    Indiana Youth Institute
  • "I shared with Kaplan [Mobray] that I had never had this type of experience with ANY vendor I have worked with in the past. Your responsiveness to urg...
    Gates Corp.
  • "My entire team has enjoyed the experience of working with you and ESB more than words can express. Everything was handled in a professional and timel...
    Cregger Company
  • "You made my job so much easier! You are the only bureau I will use."     
    Sigma Systems
  • "I appreciate your recommendations.  In addition, you are always a pleasure to work with and understand the pains of an over worked meeting plann...
  • "I will be sure that all involved know what a wonderful resource you have been. The universe smiled on me when I discovered Executive Speakers and you...
    Ocala Eye
  • “Thank you guys it was a pleasure working with you.... You made the whole process easy. Thanks again”
Need Suggestions? Have Questions?

Need Suggestions? Have Questions?

Call us to discuss how we can help find the right speaker for your organization.

Get Ideas in 2 Hours or Less

Please fill in information below

Executive Speakers Bureau consistently receives praises about our speed and efficiency. From the beginning of your event planning, our extensive online speaker database and resourceful staff allow us to quickly equip you with the best speaker for your event.

Need a last minute speaker? No worries. Our speed and efficiency help us give you ideas for speakers in two hours or less.

Privacy by SafeSubscribeSM