We asked Carl, our terrific guest blogger from Inventive Rants to write about some of the critical elements to success in inventing.
This week, he chose to write on the Inventor's Toolkit as his special posting for American Inventor Spot readers.
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When I invented my product, I read every book I could find on success, invention and making money. Looking back, I don't think that any one book put it all together for me, but here is a list of things that did help me.
1) Where I worked, I managed to get myself introduced to the Director of Sales & Marketing. This was actually my first partner situation that taught me a great deal about the value of networking. Nothing about sales and Marketing though. The partnership was a disaster, and it lead to my first long term relationship with a law firm. Although my first experience was bad, I knew how future relationships would be structured. I also remembered the value of a good network.
2) In University, I introduced myself to a professor of fluid mechanics. My invention was offered as a fourth year engineering theses and eligible for government funding. By networking effectively, I managed to get my first stage testing done for free. Test results on a product add credibility. You may find that testing can be done by a local college, university or high school. This is not limited to performance testing. Perhaps you just need a market study done on a business idea. If you find an institution willing to do this, try and get it funded by a government agency. Most research and development funding can be handled directly, or through consultants that specialize in finding grants for your kind of project.
3) Mentors. A local paper did an article on a businessman and discussed his invention and sales success. Since he was close-by, I sent him a letter asking for some advice. He invited me to his office and told me me how he had taken his idea to market. In fact, he loved talking about it. I never called on him more than a few times over the next several years, and I think this was appreciated. I have had a few mentors. Why fail over and over, when someone has already done it? The book Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill is probably the original self help book about the methods of duplicating success. Failing is actually part of the success roadmap, but keeping it to a minimum is probably a good thing. I guess the expression, "no pain, no gain", has significance, but it is possible to reduce the pain by following the footsteps of others. These days, the Internet provides some great forums for these kinds of interactions. Still, you can't do better than a face to face with someone who has done it already.
4) Let go. Most inventors are terrible business people. It's better to own a small piece of a very successful venture than 100 percent of a great idea that never launches.
5) Smart money. This is related to 4. I became good at raising money, but it took time to learn that there were different kinds of money for innovative ventures. It's better to raise money from people who have something else to offer. Investors that have the network you need, sales skills or manufacturing capability. Smart money is better.
6) Journal. The best thing you can do is keep a journal of your venture. Most people won't and that is a shame. This tool is probably one of your best teachers. There is nothing like learning from your mistakes and knowing exactly how they happened. It is also useful when bad things happen. For example, my first bad experience with the sales and marketing guy that I mentioned at the beginning? When my lawyer gave him a copy, he just signed off and walked away. He didn't even realize how badly he had behaved. I wonder if he writes stuff down now?
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You can check out his other great articles at Inventive Rants.
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