The Truth Behind Business Success: 1% Idea, 99% Execution

Show me a person with a vision, the passion to win and the absolute will and desire to succeed and I’ll tell you that success is inevitable.

If you don’t read the entire article. Just remember one rule when it comes to business: 99 percent of the work is execution, 1 percent is only the idea. That’s the simple formula to success. Do the work, fight like a tiger and then you choose to make your own miracles. There are simply no shortcuts in life.

As a teenager, I became obsessed with CNBC, bonding with my father early in the morning as we watched the business news and picked stocks. He was an immigrant from India and worked at the Post Office. My mom was a nurse. It was a struggle to make ends meet. But my dad had discovered the exciting world of day trading — well, exciting when it seemed he could do no wrong. He treated me like an equal and together we learned everything we could about buying on margin, about options trading, and about puts and calls.

Our fortunes were soaring until the stock market crash of October 27, 1997. That was when our lives were shattered and we came close to losing everything. However, my entire family pulled together, worked extra jobs -- and we survived.

Meanwhile, I continued to be inspired by the entrepreneurs I saw on CNBC every day. At the age of 16, I knew that what I wanted to do was build a company from the ground up — a company that would be my own, a multi-million dollar company. I certainly didn’t want to become a doctor, which would have fulfilled my parents’ dreams.

At that same time, I was just as enthralled with the Internet, which was still in its embryonic, formative stages and an unexplored frontier that beckoned anyone with a pioneering spirit.

My first lesson — from business venture number one: Do your homework. Really, do your homework.

Here’s what happened. It became obvious to me that a lot of big companies had been slow to embrace the Web. So much so that they hadn’t even obtained domain names. I smelled opportunity. I went ahead and registered names such as and and then offered these guys the chance to acquire their own names for $10,000 each.

Needless to say they weren’t impressed with my offer. Within a couple of days, I received FedEx letters that were basically demands to cease-and-desist and surrender the names. One made mention of “trademark violations” and gave me only hours to correct the situation. I hadn’t a clue. I was just a high school kid thinking he was going to strike gold. I had jumped in and not really understood what I was doing. I promised myself: No shortcuts next time. Always do more research. Always do it right.

My next venture was buying refurbished printers from a flea market every week. I bought them for $50 and resold them on eBay for an unbeatable $200. That was my next lesson. It’s important to make a profit! But another lesson was that this really wasn’t a scalable business. I wasn’t going to build a multi-million dollar company buying and reselling refurbished printers.

What could I do and how quickly could I do it? I knew enough to know that I couldn’t expect instant success — so I gave myself a five-year deadline. The business: Internet advertising. Since the early days of watching CNBC, I’d been fascinated by Internet advertising and had watched the success of DoubleClick. It was the Big Kahuna but newer companies were focusing more on performance-based advertising and to me that seemed to be the future.

This time I did my homework and launched a business called ClickAgents. I called numerous companies and investigated the intricacies of pay-per-click advertising. I discovered what I needed to know — everything from the role of advertising agencies in placing ads to revenue-sharing agreements. Most importantly, I searched the Internet for the right kind of tracking software and found a one-man operation who agreed to change his program to meet my needs and sell it to me for $30,000, payable within 90 days.

I wrote the agreement myself (which later turned out to be an expensive mistake). Another lesson learned on the way from startup to million dollar company. But right then I was hungry and I didn’t have the money to pay an attorney. I certainly didn’t have the $30,000 to buy the program.

I began making phone calls all day, every day until I found an agency willing to give me a shot at producing 30,000 clicks at a dollar per click. I performed. I paid for the program and I was in business. I kept producing more clicks and for more clients and within six months was generating well over $100,000 a month. My startup had become a million dollar company. All from the bedroom I shared with my brother in a small house in an undesirable part of town and while still attending school.

I certainly didn’t originate performance-based advertising, but I knew how to outperform others. You don’t always have to be first to be a winner. But, you need to execute. An idea simply isn’t enough.

Two years later that company, ClickAgents, was sold for $40 million. My next company, BlueLithium, ultimately sold to Yahoo! for $300 million. And today my third real business, RadiumOne, is valued higher than both of those two put together and I hope it takes it to new heights.

So, there are vital lessons that bridged the divide from startup to achieving the first one million dollars that are just as valuable for me today, as well as for anyone launching a new endeavor. These are just a few of them.

Do thorough research. Make sure your business is legal, profitable and scalable. Get good advice when writing important agreements. Roll up your sleeves and put in the hours -- and you can win big by performing well in an established category.

1% is the mere idea. 99% is the sweat equity of execution you put into it.

Photo credit: Erik Johansson