Ever had the spark of a new idea, a blazing new insight, or a burning desire to follow a dream? My passion has always been small business and it can flare up when least expected. Whatever produces the fire in your life, you must tend the fire.

Big ideas, big dreams, and even big businesses all started out small. A little spark of inspiration can be the beginnings of a bonfire; however, the danger in being small is that it takes very little to extinguish the flame. A big idea can be crushed by an off-hand negative response or self imposed constraints.

Sometimes innovative ideas are rejected because they are simply ahead of their time, or because they defy the status quo…which is exactly why they should be pursued. However, as we seek opinions from those around us on these new ideas, truly good and trusted people won’t always see what you see. They may not have the experience you have, or maybe they are simply afraid for you, so they may try to blow out your flame. Don’t let them do it! Only you are allowed to blow out the flame of your new idea if it turns out to be less than perfect.

As entrepreneurs, protecting the flames of innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship is an ongoing process but a necessary one. On one hand, not all my ideas prove to be good ones. (just ask my wife!). Some proved downright laughable, and I am so thankful I did not pursue them. However, I also see businesses every day that are making money from ideas that I discarded long ago! So, how do you separate the good ones from the bad ones, without extinguishing your creative flame?

Today, when I get an idea for a new enterprise, I can’t resist “testing” the idea on everyone around me and explaining why I’m excited about it. That process provides vital input and perspectives that I truly want and need. However, I am much better at avoiding those people who would criticize a cure for cancer for being late! I’ve learned to seek out people who are open minded, creative and experienced to share my vision and ideas. While they might not see my vision or understand my enthusiasm, they will provide a fair review and then will give me honest feedback. It took some time, but now I have an informal group of advisors that I can trust with my fledgling ideas, and it has made all the difference. Today, some my small idea sparks are moving toward the bonfire stage, while others have been extinguished because they were destined to burn me.

I contend that honest feedback and proper planning are vital for business success, however, without protecting the small flame of our new ideas and tending the creative fires within us, potential opportunities might just go up in smoke.

Until next time…

This article was written by Jerry Ross is a life-long entrepreneur who currently serves as the Executive Director of the National Entrepreneur Center in Orlando Florida. He is a nationally recognized speaker on small business and recently released his first book entitled Business Shorts.