Skip to main content.

1 Creativity 2 Product Dev. 3 Process Dev. 4 Forecasting
5 Patents 6 Funding 7 Facility Design 8 Hiring
9 Staff Dev 10 Governance 11 Marketing 12 Grow, Spin Off


This section is dedicated to those who would change the world through their own creativity, inventiveness, and can-do spirit. Entrepreneurial spirit is cross-cultural. It knows no bounds. A primer, focusing on industrial infrastructure may be found below or on Entrepreneurship. . Infrastructure has a strong positive correlate with peacefulness, trading instead of raiding. Economic growth is everywhere driven by entrepreneurs or like minded firms--there are some.
If you want to grow your venture to maturity, challenges remain. In the early stages, growing is not much different from venturing. (Columns 5 - 11 are particularly relevant.) There are some differences. Ideally, in growth mode, you now have:

  • a manufacturing process that has stabilized;
  • a credit rating;
  • ability to forecast with improved accuracy and precision;
  • a governance and an organizational structure;
  • time for process and product improvement;
  • a small but significant share of the market;
  • some operating profits to report, and
  • relationships with lenders, customers, and suppliers.

The ten links forged to this point will all be for naught unless we have or can develop a market and sell our product. Actually, this chapter could have been first or second in line as it is foolish to reach this point not knowing if we have a market. So my best advice is to have a market in hand before spending a dime on anything beyond developing the concept. And the best way to do that is to have a co-founder who has marketing experience with the projected turf and who has contacts already lined up.

Our product preferably has a value advantage over what is out there now. Cost, quality, and on-time deliveries are perhaps the primary product value considerations. Even more important, relationships with suppliers and customers must be right. What more can be said?

Have you ever seen two organizations locked in a titanic battle? One is driven by the taskmaster who demands compliance. The other is led by a coach who mentors all on the common goal and who asks for feedback continuously. Which style is winning and why? These are my subjects for this chapter. By governance, I mean the style by which we manage our enterprise. Let me start with some groundwork.

Have you ever worked with a master mentor? Few of us have. I do not claim to be such a master, so hold on-what I think I know about mentoring came only after long experience and reflection. I had many mentors along the line, including Danny Field, a Paiute miner, who taught me a thing or two about welding. Staff development for a start-up begins with mentoring. But as a start-up grows, the emphasis naturally shifts toward group development.

Imagine a hot-shot who is brilliant and innovative, does pioneering work, revises our thinking, and makes great public presentations with a stage presence that has no bounds. What more could anyone ask?

Well-what if he irritates, scares or antagonizes co-workers, finds it hard to accept ideas not his own, is uncooperative, fails to deliver on his new project as promised, is unreliable, petulant, and demanding?
Have you ever toured the factory of a small company and wondered how anything gets made in this place? No smooth process or assembly lines, shipping and receiving is right in the middle of everything, and the shop telephone is in a noisy place. Maybe one end of a hall is full of junk. Everything looks jury-rigged. Well just maybe you visited a start-up of the boot-strap variety.
Our very life style and standard of living rest upon the shoulders of ideas, sometimes giant ones, like the bow and arrow, wheels, agriculture, animal husbandry, steam power, and home computers. Capital came into being in step with each such innovation. And so it is today. What follows comes from my own experiences with funding startup companies.

Let's assume that we have applied for a strong patent and that we want to embark on the cruise ship "Venturing" and stay the course. Let's assume also that our funds are sufficient to pay the admission, but not the fare, baggage, freight, and promotion for the voyage. For the typical inventor, the funding crunch begins at patent application time. Sometimes even before, at least in my experience.

How often have you read: "Nothing herein constitutes legal advice"? Well, read it again because you are reading the words of a layperson who has had to learn the hard way what it takes to survive, lessons too often lost on inventors, agents and lawyers alike. These issues come from my personal experience managing patent strategies over three decades, and are surely more anecdotal than typical.
Forecasting is the heart and soul of successful innovations. Such guidance for innovations is critical when one begins a venture, when it is vital to do the right thing by setting a viable price. It is also critical later when it is equally important to do things right when going after market share. A mentality shift is needed to cross that divide, but the same forecasting technique applies either way.

This issue contains a process development tool that is difficult to grasp and use, but it is so important that I feel I must explain it as simply as I can. The tool is so powerful that most industries have embedded it in their business methods. A few companies - Motorola, DuPont, General Electric, Boeing and Honeywell - have found this tool to be a great success enabler. We live in high tech times where some products have failure rates of less than one in a billion or even a trillion. This vital technique is one any venturer can adopt-after some practice.

Now that we have an idea on the table, what do we do next? This of course depends on our expectations as well as the idea itself. Licensing may be our best choice. For our purpose here, however, I assume we will venture a device all the way to market, that it will be around for awhile, and is something the typical handyman can conceive and make from scratch, given the tools and materials. It is also an apparatus that the owner will want to use and rely on for several years before replacing. Because of its long expected market life and vulnerability to competition, our device must be patented to secure and maintain a market. So how do we proceed?
Venturing a concept potentially carries rewards well beyond what licensing can ever return. The downside is that one must provide the creativity, energy, money, and drive to make a new business happen. Those who enjoy such a challenge would call these the upside. So this column is not for the faint-of-heart, it is dedicated to the tigers among us who would change the world-hopefully we will leave it better than we found it.

Done right, venturing is not easy and takes time. One would like to think every new idea would instantly hit it big. That usually doesn't happen. But if we plan and work for the long haul, we can be ready if lightning does strike--often a matter of luck and a niche market. When we think about it, creativity is the heart and soul of venturing.

I begin this first column with some thoughts about that fascinating process of creativity. It is also complex and multi-faceted.