From Idea to Reality

One of my favorite parts about running my own business is the creative freedom. In school and at my job, the rules were set by other people.  The majority of the creative thinking I did was trying to figure out how to alter the rules in my favor. For the most part though, once you get out on your own, you have total creative reigns: if you can think of it, you can try to make it happen.

I can remember the day in 2004 when I first thought about SportsLizard. I remember the day at work when a co-worker and I jokingly said that the workplace needed iPrioritize to organize tasks. I remember that Friday afternoon when I was pissed that I couldn’t find a way to get notified of album releases and Music Alerts was born a few days later.

And I remember back in January when we made it our goal to rebuild our e-commerce platform. At that time we had nothing but a set of ideas, a bunch of data from our existing platform, and a ton of notes from what we thought were the best shopping sites on the web.

Then I remember how disappointed I was six weeks later when nothing had gotten done yet because the weather was horrible, we were all sick, we all took vacations, and Greg and I had jury duty. I was overwhelmed with all of the work ahead. But then we rallied, one small goal at a time.

I remember how excited I was to get the first functional style-less version of the registration page done, and how pumped we all were to look at Mike’s original Photoshop mock-up of the design. And only a few months later we’ve released it to the world. We made concessions: there are still plenty of features to be added and plenty that need more work, but the bottom line is that we turned our idea into a reality in just a few short months while our sales continued to reach all-time highs.

Never mind the varying degrees of success these projects have had. It’s the most satisfying and exhilarating thing in the world to me to be able to have an idea, something that’s essentially worthless, and turn it into something tangible, something that people will find value in.

Very few jobs can offer you that.

7 comments on From Idea to Reality

  1. nethy says:

    (slight tangent)


    Did you learn to program since breaking out or at some point before this?

    BTW, you did an outstanding job on the front end design. A lot of the things you added in are the type of subtle touches that really hard to get in a first iteration. I really like the potential for all sorts of data driven improvement. Your ajax is actually, which is novel. It doesn’t screw up your SEO, which is also nice. I especially like the little yellow flicker to point out something. Very google-like. Come to think of it, the reviews are very amazon-like & I don’t know where the add-to-cart is pinched from, but it does a good job of reminding where the checkout button is.

    You clearly have an advantage on this front to any small to medium competitors. Even 95% of big boys would have a hard time producing this.

    *Not sure if this is because I am viewing from Australia, but it’s a little bit slow for me. Nothing terrible, but not as snappy as some.

  2. Dale says:

    What, we get that in the corporate world too!


    Thanks for the inspiring post!

  3. Adam McFarland says:

    Thanks Dale.

    @Nethy –

    I think I’ll make my next post about how I got started in programming since it’s a bit of a story 🙂

    Thank you for the comments about the cart. That’s exactly what we’re going for. The add-to-cart drop down was originally based on Altrec, but since then I’ve noticed it on Old Navy/Gap/Banana Republic.

    The speed thing is definitely a concern of ours. I’d say it was my #1 concern about launching the site when we did. I knew it all worked for the most part, but I was worried that on slower connections it would lag. We’ve also noticed some occasional slowdown on super fast connections (and had a few customer remarks over the past several months, all pertaining to the old site though), so we’re going to do a major server hardware upgrade and of course double back over how we have everything set up to make sure it’s done as efficient as possible. Now that everything is in place, it’s much easier to go back over everything and assess our needs for now and for the future.


  4. @JoshHurlock says:

    Ideas become reality with action. To me nothing matters unless something actually happens. As an entrepreneur, work hard and stay determined, your goals will be achieved (persevere).

  5. nethy says:

    Do you go at of your way to shop online from different stores to get ideas?

  6. Adam McFarland says:

    Good question Nethy.

    Mike does a really good job of keeping his pulse on what other online stores are doing. He subscribes to a TON of newsletters and alerts. At first, this was just to study their email marketing for ideas (and to learn about how often they send newsletters and what time of day they send them). But once we decided to seriously work on a new platform, he started clicking through to all of the sites jotting down notes on anything he saw that he liked.

    Around that time the holidays were also approaching, which coincidentally timed out well for us because we all do a ton of online shopping at stores we don’t normally buy from. All four of us took down notes of any feature we loved, from browsing products to follow-up emails and everything in between. For example, George discovered that Altrec site when shopping for snow boarding goggles.

    We never actually purchased something for the sole purpose of testing because we buy often enough online that we were able to get a look at every site we wanted to from our normal shopping habits.

    I suppose that having a team of people who constantly online shop helped us out quite a bit 🙂


  7. […] left a comment the other day on my From Idea to Reality post where he asked how I got my start in programming. I thought about it, and figured it was […]

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