Imperial Forces

Unlimited Options

You can always look outside your company for help. If you build your empire with aid from investors who take part ownership and continue providing capital, you may eventually take it public or sell it to a larger company. You could also merge with competitors, acquire smaller firms or form partnerships with other businesses. While a large payoff can result from these methods, by the time you grow really large, your ownership share and influence may be diluted.

If you have an invention or design that can be patented or copyrighted and commercialized, you can license it for royalties and a percentage of sales. Licensing is a smart choice if you want to concentrate on your core competency-invention, perhaps-and leave the rest to the pros. Manufacturing and marketing a product yourself can cost big bucks. Licensing serves as a cost-effective solution.

However you go about it-through franchising, establishing a chain, forming strategic partnerships, licensing or some other strategy-taking advantage of government and private-industry resources is a must. Being flexible, knowing when to wait and when to move, and building up your management team and systems infrastructure before you expand are all crucial. Weigh your options and then seize the moment. Someday, the sun may not set on your empire.

I Was Thinking . . .
The line between empire-building and mom 'n' pop mediocrity runs right through the way you think:

Mom 'n' Pop Mentality: Limited vision, unprepared for success, small thinkers
Empire-Builder: Big plans in detail from the start

Mom 'n' Pop: One-man show, my way or the highway, "I'm the owner around here"
Empire-Builder: Surrounded by strategic partners and people who compensate for weak areas

Mom 'n' Pop: Too busy putting out fires to network, afraid of contact with competitors, narrow understanding of larger market forces
Empire-Builder: Natural network marketer, makes the right people contacts, understands the industry, becomes a major player from the start

Mom 'n' Pop: Budget causes missed opportunities, "can't afford" to protect intellectual property
Empire-Builder: Willing to put cash into marketing, hires consultants, gets legal protection for proprietary ideas or innovation

Karen E. Klein's small-business articles have appeared in Business Week and the Los Angeles Times.

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This article was originally published in the March 2002 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Imperial Forces.

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