This post brings out what stops many inventors.
I've had product successes. Those successes have been like winning a lottery...and yet, there's been many more let-downs. Both extremes were partly based on company decisions and then too, my own bad decisions. If I had made better choices in choosing business partnerships, who knows how different things could be? Being an inventor means wearing many hats, but only a select few have had enough savvy to be good at creating the idea
, solving a certain problem, understanding business, then realizing a profit from it. Most of us assume we'll be good at all of the above when in fact, we're not. Ego can kill a good product idea faster than a CFO can say "thanks, but no thanks!"
In the past, where I did all the conceptual stuff, the product development & design, and the problem solving, my business partner(s) were supposedly representing the product to the trade
. It was their job to know the market,
and respond to it. What became evident however, was having partners who relied solely on their company contacts and not necessarily what was really
happening in the wider business
. Opening new doors (cold calls) are much harder than calling on someone who will always return your calls. That's a very narrow field to play in. Getting in the fast lane is also way-harder than staying on the path of least resistance
. I realized way too late [that] my future was being held-down by partners that stayed on the path...only. I was going to only do as well as my business partner was willing to work at presenting....!
Not all trades operate in the same manner, but one common denominator is that all businesses depend on buyers
. The buyer stands between the company you may be licensing to and success. If you're avoiding the middlemen and licensing, your skin better be very thick, you have a trust fund, and you've got tons of time to spare.
In developing and presenting new products, I follow one philosophy:
1% of something is better than 100% of nothing!
Bad partnerships are a dime-a-dozen, where good ones are rare. That was the past. My present partner and myself are...well...I wished it had jived this good a long time ago!
In the beginning, my product models
were more thought-out than the business model
I depended on. My previous partners didn't have a business plan. This fact stymied my success. This "representation" issue was my own undoing, no one else's. No one forced me to trust the wrong guy. Choosing a reliable partnership is far harder than finding product solutions. One so-called "rep firm" I worked with, actually placed a product with a company in chapter 11...and never mentioned it to me. But we had a licensing contract. In fact, we had four contracts, each netting NOTHING. What the hell were they thinking? Answer: They weren't and I had legal grounds to sue them for false contract
. I kissed-off two years of work due to false representation and working with fools. My fault. When a good
product is placed with a bad
company, it begins to demoralize the inventor. Two years of work is a terrible loss and a heavy strain on a marriage. Been there, got the t-shirt, the hat, etc. Instead of quitting, learn from the mistake, move on.
Instead of blaming the so-called partnership
, which was easy and valid, step back, examine this. Who chose this partnership?
Ahh...that would be...me
. So I was 50% of my own problem. I chose unwisely. This I can change...and I did. Instead of the AON (All Or Nothing) view, I chose better. It worked.
Spent my entire adult life pursuing and applying creative skills and made a career out of it.
I've worked for Fortune 500's, big corps, small corps (private & public,) been in management, free-lanced, and ran my own industrial design business for over 15 years. I've worked inside and outside some major US companies. I wish I had someone like me [helping me] when I needed it.
One thing I've come to learn is not said here insult anyone. Most creative souls have no clue about how "business" functions. Understanding marketing, promotion, branding, etc. That's the bad news. The good news however, is where business people
cannot do what you do...(!) ...you can learn and do what they do! This gives you an edge, an advantage. And if you choose to be out there in the business world, you need know what you're talking about...or you're toast! It's not a skill set common to everyone, so know your own limits...and drop the ego.
The best advice any inventor could be given, is learn as much as you can about the buisness
you're entering. Know the ropes before
climb. After may be too late! Look at who your competition is, look at who the players are. Know that it may take time to produce your product, perhaps a year+, so what will the trend be by then?Disseminate what business [is] to your product and where it fits? Your invention, though potentially very profitable, may not be at the profit level that a major company is seeking. They want an immediate and massive profit. This is one reality stemming from the model of BIG businesses. If your idea, patented or not, doesn't forecast-out to earning say $50M first year, don't bring it to 3M. They'll dismiss you. A $10M product can sustain a small to medium sized corp, but is pocket change for the big guys. And the problem that remains, even with all the NDA's, they've seen it. And as people move from one job to another, who knows who'll say what...about what they've seen at the prior job? Sad-but-true, so choose wisely and do use NDA's.
Begin the process first by knowing your market
. Then develop a plan that will tailor your product to fit in it for a low-low cost. Do include "The KISS principle": Keep It Simple Stupid!
Inventors have a tendency to over-develop an idea. If I just add one more thing...it will have sizzle! Don't do it. Simplify your idea. By reducing everything to basics, you'll reduce potential costs. Cost has killed more good ideas than RAID has bugs! In the long run, once your product has been costed-out by the company and they want it
, allow them
to embellish it. Cost is easy to add, hard to remove. You want to get in the door
with your idea...and you +/- 30 seconds to grab their attention, so use the time wisely. If you can afford a costing engineer, by all means use them.
The best advice for inventors. Use Google! Spend time doing a patent search. Why work on something that's been done? Learn whether a potentially contender-patent has run out? This would classify it as being "public domain" and no longer viable. Know that products that were previous patented or non-patented can have baring on your idea. If either reached the market they are then considered "prior art" and can eliminate any hope of your reaching a patent.
A sad reality. When and if an inventor, whose invested say $20K in his/her patent, then discovers that as they receive their patent...an Asian company has just flooded the US with a non-patented product that functions like yours it's deemed "prior art
". This cancels you out. You cannot claim rights nor sue. Not only have you just lost $20K, your patent is meaningless. However, the patent attorney still gets paid. Inventing is gambling, minus the casino.
Get past your idea. Learn the market. Research similar products and research patents. Google-Google-then Google again! Search and research the business you want to be in. And LBNL, talk to other inventors. There's plenty of opportunities out there, but getting them to fruition takes a thick skin, patience, and knowing what not to do. If only there were a GPN for inventors...hey...hmmm?