Welcome to this rap on entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship brings to life an idea or an opportunity, whether it is founded on intellectual property, a product or process innovation. New business ideas are born all the time, it seems especially so in an economic downturn.
This is a three minute elevator speech on entrepreneurship. It records my take gained as a specialist over 25 years in intellectual property, the law for innovations.
This is a rap on key elements for strengthening entrepreneurial ventures.
The first question is - what is your proposed offering? Is it a product, a service, or a combination of both? What market is there for the offering and how will you reach customers? Is what you'll offer sufficiently tested and ready to launch? Are there defined steps and procedures to market it, deliver it on payment, and provide backup services?
Dialogue and conversation are essential for entrepreneurship. Talk a lot about competition, and with everyone. The product, venture or opportunity can have the advantage of being unique, special or differentiated, but not forever. It's common, and dumb to only focus on your internal strengths. It's healthy to properly assess internal weaknesses, gaps and the real level of commitment to make the bet. Entrepreneurship is risky business. No risk, no gain.
It's best to be prepared. Competitors may sink the venture with marketing dollars, special features, legal threats, or a competing product which is better, cheaper or faster than yours. It's having an eye on existing or potential competition that helps design appropriate walls of protection. Your lawyers and consultants must also be enterprise architects.
Let's talk about intellectual property. For IT and technology, good intellectual property advisers should be futurists. Is there an intellectual property wall surrounding the crown jewels of your offering, perhaps a patent or a trade mark registration for a core brand?
Speaking of intellectual property, there is always some confidential know-how and copyright material in every venture. What are you doing to manage them? Another issue is whether they are held behind sufficiently strong walls of protection. Get advice.
With all intellectual property there is a need for auditing its ownership, control, licensing and taxation status. Weaknesses in them are cracks in the walls of protection. The quality of intellectual property protection can be improved if you work with lawyers and patent attorneys who understand your industry, sectors, and markets and moreover their evolutionary path or trajectory. Your advisers on IP should be futurists capable of seeing ahead with you.
Does your business structuring have the necessarsy level of sophistication? There are limits to what intellectual property and other law, regulation and compliance can achieve to give your offering a monopoly and protection. You must have a logic business structure, a legal shell for the owners (eg shareholders or partners) and controllers (eg directors, board or partners).
Further, beyond that legal shell, the fact is that the efficiency of your business operations, and quality of your organisational culture, finances, information systems and documented management procedures can form additional walls of protection and market strength against the stress of competition and everyday challenges. Together with legal mechanisms, they form a business structure capable of standing the test of time.
Take a breath. We've overviewed criteria for your offering, your need to get info on competition, and other needs. Now be humble and think of others.
Consider the people the venture should reward and how that might occur. List the immediate and indirect stakeholders in the venture. They may include an inventor/author/creator, creative contributors, investors, shareholders, executives and other participants. For each, consider their needs and expectations. Define their obligations, duties or responsibilities for the venture. Follow with a statement of their rights, equity, return, remuneration or share for performing as obliged. Business models are built on this foundation of information.
By now you'll be setting objectives, outcomes, metrics, key performance indicators and bottom lines. Proper measures are best set by team players who understand what is in the best interests of the enterprise overall. The metrics should be customised. They should not be selected for example by managers or advisers working with generic templates. Nor should they be set by self-interested inventors, investors, executives, managers, company directors or functional area tsars selecting what protects their turf or lines their pockets.
When you launch, maintain an ongoing focus on key elements for strengthening the entrepreneurial venture. I wish you good fortune.
I first stumbled on the word entrepreneur in the 1960s when I was about 11 years of age. In our garage I found my eldest brother's box of Fortune magazines. He was a serial entrepreneur, ie someone who has failed a lot. I learnt a huge amount about entrepreneurship from those failures and his successes as well.