Communication: Making Things Happen as a Business

Part of being a consultant is providing advice on the next steps to maintain momentum for making things happen. Often, clients are so focused on the product or technology side of the business (often the “fun side”) of what they are doing that they forget or neglect the business side of making things happen. Unfortunately, overlooking the business side, the practical side, the often “not so fun side” of things can be costly in the short term and especially in the long term. What you don’t pay attention to is rarely achieved and can become an obstacle to success. It can also result in losses of opportunities and resources, and even the ownership rights or protection for intellectual property with a patent or other mechanism, because your information has become public or someone else beats you to those not-so-fun practical tasks related to the business side of things.

Consultant, Not Cheerleader

I haven’t been a cheerleader with pom-poms since grade school. As a consultant, if all I do is tell clients how wonderful they are and allow them to focus on the past successes (the “fun stuff”), then they might as well spend the money on a cheerleader, or an entire squad of them. As a consultant, it is my job to help them focus on what must happen to develop the product and a viable business that can make money with that product, and make those things happen.

Giving hour-long presentations and having 100% focus on the product with nothing devoted to creating a business or protecting the product means you will have a great idea … for someone else to profit from. Great ideas rarely get to market without an ability to demonstrate you have them:

  1. Protected, either through patents or some other method;
  2. Supported by an ability to deliver the promised product with a business behind it or an ability to deliver the product through another means (e.g., licensing it to the customer, which requires the product it to be protected);
  3. Proven by demonstrating that demand and market exists for the product. Proof of concept and product development have taken place to the point that you can show your customer that they will have customers, and that they will have enough of them to make a profit.

Confusing Next Steps with Negativity

Inventors and first-time entrepreneurs frequently become frustrated by the emphasis placed on the business side. They love to celebrate the product and the successes of the product and technology that they are so passionate about and went into business to develop. Notice that I said, “Went into business.” It is hard to make the transition from being passionate about the product to being as passionate about the nuts and bolts of building a business that showcases the product. Any conversations that don’t begin and end with “How wonderful the product is and how wonderful all the progress on the product has been” translates in their minds to negativity. In reality it is just the opposite: Talking about building the business is a positive step toward getting the product to the market. It is saying, “Let’s make as much progress with the business and move as fast on the business side as you are on the product side, so that you can be ready when the product is.”

Paperwork and Details

As the old saying goes: “if I had a nickel for every time … ” It seems there are countless instances of inventors and entrepreneurs who skip the business steps and painfully learn the lessons of not tending to their actual business. By not setting up the business for legal and tax purposes in an optimal operating form (whether that is an LLC, C Corporation, or S Corporation); not filing patents; not executing non-disclosure agreements; not entering into formal agreements with consultants, contractors, employees, and so on, they end up with less than their full rights to intellectual property, or even sometimes no rights to their wonderful ideas. Why? Because they didn’t get things in writing and other people acted first, kept things in writing, and filed the paperwork showing they owned the ideas. Sometimes first to file is also first to own.

As a consultant, I’m not trying to hold clients or potential clients back when I’m telling them to have things in writing to protect their ability to patent. When I tell them to work with an attorney to get a legal agreement in place, it is because that is going to be a critical aspect of their business long term and mistakes can be costly. It is wonderful if you believe the people you are doing business with can be trusted to do business on a handshake. The question is: can the people they represent or the people who will buy their business or take their place tomorrow be trusted to honor that handshake? And will you remember two years from now when millions of dollars are at stake what the exact terms of that handshake deal were? If you get hit by a bus tomorrow, how will your family enforce the terms of a handshake? What rights will it give them? As much as we would like this to be the world of handshake deals, it isn’t … not anymore. The details matter, and the ones that matter most are the ones that are down on paper.

Communication to Make Things Happen Are Positively Required

Next time your consultant begins to tell you the next steps to move your project ahead and make your business happen, take that as a positive sign. Your business will be moving ahead because the next steps are toward the future and that is where you are headed!

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