Developing your intellectual property into a viable business opportunity is a complex proposition! In this series of posts, Porticos co-founder and President, Greg Patterson shares his insights on navigating the process. First written ten years ago, these posts revisit (and update) Greg’s original content for a new decade of product development.
Read previous post: Evolutionary vs. Revolutionary
It should be obvious by now that taking an idea from concept to reality is a tough assignment. In this installment of our series the Business of Ideas, we will discuss the shortfalls of trying to successfully make that transition as a part-time activity.
As we’ve discussed before, many inventors are tinkerers at heart. They work normal jobs 40 hours a week, then spend their weekend in their workshop developing the next great invention. I personally think this is a great use of time. It exercises the creative side of your brain and typically builds on your strengths and interests. For the most part, the investment in materials is probably less than you would have spent on other frivolous activities. And who knows? It’s like the lottery; perhaps you might just come up with something revolutionary (or evolutionary).
If however, you do plan on building a business, you can’t rely on lottery odds. You need a solid plan that yields a real return on your investment. A plan that accounts for the resources required to develop not only the initial idea but the products that must follow shortly after.
Consider the amount of time you already have in conceptualizing and prototyping the idea. Now add time to patent, time to market, time to manage resources, and even the time just to put together the plan in the first place. This is more than a full-time job, it’s a full-time job for several people. Anything less isn’t working toward building a successful business, it’s just an interesting hobby.
To build a business you must be completely devoted to the endeavor. I’m not advocating ditching your current 40-hour-per-week-job with the intention of dreaming up profitable ideas. There can (and probably should) be some transition associated with your plan. Assuming you already have an idea and that you’ve considered some of the other topics in the Business of Ideas series, then the successful business plan will have some forthcoming transition from the “part-time” tinkering stage to “full-time” development and production.
If your current financial situation (or your own intestinal fortitude) isn’t conducive to making the transition cleanly, consider some alternate transition plans. For example, you may be able to lean on service-oriented revenue while you develop ideas that ultimately can be transitioned into a stand-alone business. Most people are not financially capable of going years without any personal income while an idea is developed, marketed, and brought into production. The service side of your business can be developed more easily, providing a recurring revenue stream, while allowing you to keep your skills current.
In summary, building a Business of Ideas is in many ways no different than building any other long-term profitable company. It cannot be maintained on a part-time basis, but rather requires planning and dedicated support to become successful. Anything less is really just a hobby. The sooner you come to terms with your situation in light of that argument, the easier it will be to know how to proceed, and the better you can sleep at night.
Next time we will discuss options to realize money for your ideas. Until then, remember it’s all or nothing when it comes to developing a Business of Ideas.