A die-hard belief in one's business or product has been the key to the success of many entrepreneurs and inventors. Generally speaking, I'm a strong advocate for determination and action, and the press is filled with stories of successful entrepreneurs who refused to give up. Less well-publicized are the opportunities entrepreneurs decided to pass up. So how do you know when it's time to let go of an idea or invention?
Frankly, most inventions, and most new business ideas for that matter, should not "pass go"--not because the ideas are not creative, clever or innovative, but because there is no market to support them. I've met many inventors who have filed a patent and handed thousands of dollars to an invention promotion company only to wonder if the invention was worth the money and effort.
So inventors and new entrepreneurs should ask themselves if they are willing to change their minds if necessary. It's important to be willing to change your mind for two reasons. First, in today's economy, people who are seeking a new way to generate income cannot afford to waste time or money. Launching an invention can cost thousands of dollars and years of effort. If something is not going to work, it's best discovered early in the process.
Second, when you enter the process with a willingness to change your mind, once you have concluded that the idea is indeed worth pursuing, you can do so with all the more conviction.
Don't be afraid to find out that you should not pursue your new idea. Inventors and entrepreneurs are innovative by nature. If you need to dismiss one idea, there is probably another waiting in the wings of your mind for a chance to take the stage.
So how, you might ask, does one pursue an invention with conviction yet remain willing to abandon it at any time? The answer is research and planning.
Here are some tips I recommend for any new invention or business:
- Become a student of the industry you are going into. Visit the industry trade association website, identify the main trade publications and talk to people in the industry. Find out which products or companies are doing well and which are not. Ask about products that are similar to yours or companies that could be competitive, and identify prospective partners. It is amazing how quickly critical information can be learned and how with a casual conversation you can find out that there is little or no demand for your much-labored invention.
- Gather as much information you can about your product. This includes what similar products exist, issues around the materials that may be used, safety issues relevant to your invention, likely costs to produce the product, and related patents that have been issued.
- Identify your goals and limitations. Do you want to develop and sell your product yourself, or would you prefer to license it (i.e., selling your idea to a manufacturer)? If licensing is not an option, are you prepared to make and sell it yourself?
- Write a one-page business plan . It is possible to write a plan after the invention is launched. However, people buy products, not inventions, and selling products is a business. It should not be surprising that the most successful inventors have written business plans. This is because they have clearly articulated their goals, customers, strategies and action steps.
If you have gone through these steps and feel that the path is not clear, then you may decide to move on to your next idea. On the other hand, if the decision is to proceed, you will be doing so with tremendous confidence and the advantage this critical thinking has afforded you.