Ever dreamed of developing your own products based around some ideas you thought up, with the romantic notion to set up your own business to promote and sell them, but didn’t have a clue how to get started?
Leicestershire serial inventor turned entrepreneur, Graham Harris, who succeeded in creating world-class, print related products from his garage before selling them world-wide, believes the tough lessons he learned along the way gave him the knowledge and insight to help any creative person with passion and desire to forge a similar path.
It’s a fact that the invention itself equates to only 10% of what is needed to get it sold, the other 90% is down to other more important factors, like implementing marketing and sales techniques to get it in front of the right people. And with 80 patents already to his name and hundreds of products selling through global channels, here’s Graham’s top tips on how you too can make your idea the 1 in 5,000 that actually makes money.
Find a powerful reason to get started in order to sustain your passion throughout the journey
If the thought of developing one of your own ideas and seeing the end product sitting on the store shelves sounds exciting, you must hold that vision or something similar. It will sustain your passion to succeed throughout the journey, especially when the going gets tough, as it certainly will do.
Harris’ says: ‘I loved my day job but had ambitions to start my own business, one day I had this vision of the grey haired version of me still working for my boss in 20 years time, and it was enough to drain the colour from my face. I was so determined not to go back to the factory floor that I worked day and night to make sure my dreams stayed alive, even when I hit the lows.’
Think up a simple idea that your customers will pay a premium to own
If you haven’t already thought up an idea Harris’ advice is to look around in an environment that is familiar to you and where you have some experience or knowledge, at work, at home, in the garden, or out walking your dog etc. This may sound clichéd, but you then have to say to yourself, if I could solve that problem it would make me a millionaire!
It’s true, the best ideas in the world are the most simple, and part of the reason so many inventors fail to make money is because they create the most complicated products that only they understand.
‘Inventing can be an undeniably expensive process, and anything you can do that will lead to higher profit margin will help you pay your way through the journey, and keep the dream alive. This is why it is essential that you keep your product simple, looking slick, and as easy to use as possible.’ Harris tells YCB.
Adopt a business mindset
This tip is absolutely key. If you truly believe your idea might turn into the next best thing, it is critical that you adopt a business mindset and become professional in your approach to everything you do.
Unfortunately, inventors usually adopt an inventors mindset, one that tells us that we are only the “ideas people,” and it is someone else’s job to work out how to sell what we created.
‘Believe me, even if you unearth a multi-million pound idea, no one will be queuing at your door to make you rich. You need to do everything within your own resources to add value to your invention before you pursue customers or that elusive investor, and that will involve many disciplines, including costing of materials, packaging, creating a “brochure,” building in benefits/features and figuring out some marketing strategies.’ Harris explains.
He continues: ‘I am absolutely certain that one of the main reasons those odds of success opened up for me was based around my decision to set up a business and take myself seriously from day one.’
Keep things secret – don’t seek evaluation or praise
‘I’ve lost count of the amount of times people I have met who tell me about fantastic idea they thought up but were put off from proceeding with it because a friend or someone else they confided in thought it was crazy.
‘The most vulnerable time for any would-be inventor is at the initial stage of idea conception and proto-typing, this is where the temptation to seek approval, praise and even adulation is at its most potent level, don’t do it!’
If you’re doing things professionally, you would have carried out more than a basic amount of research to develop your solution to some big problem you encountered, and also worked out what it could mean to your future customers.
So why seek affirmation from those closest to you who don’t have the same degree of insight. Many of us have already been in this situation and so has Harris. ‘In one case a friend told me he thought I was delusional with a certain idea I wanted to develop, thankfully (although he nearly convinced me to give up) I got back on track and my solution turned into a best seller.’
Another reason for keeping things secret is to limit the chances of your invention being invalidated further down the line because someone laid claim to ownership of some ideas you put out there in the public domain before you registered your patent.
Beat the 12 month patent clock
It’s a sad fact that so many incredible inventions never get to see the light of day simply because the majority of inventors fail to monetise their idea within the first year.
Harris explains: ‘Applying for a patent can cost anywhere from £3,000 – £6,000, which gives you 12 months to prove your idea is unique and can generate cash before you look to protect it world-wide, which equates to £1,000’s more.
‘When I set out on my journey to invent, I knew I had only one year to develop my proto-type, find a company to produce some products, before knocking on doors to sell a few so I could pay my ongoing manufacturing costs and patent fees. My business mindset helped me to adhere to this strict time frame and avoid the possibility of borrowing again and going into debt.’
Graham Harris is founder and Managing Director of Tech-ni-Fold Ltd and Creasestream LLP, global leaders in print creasing technology. His invention has saved customers over £8billion to date. His book Against the Grain is available now on Amazon!