Tuesday, November 26, 2013

From Inventor to Entrepreneur: Business Lessons You Have Already Learned

Content Provided by Melissa Deacon

Having a creative mind can benefit you not just when you are coming up with ideas and perfecting your inventions, but also when you want to find a market and start building up your own business. Although the world of business can be overwhelming, particularly when it comes to financial decisions and account keeping, it can help to recognize how certain elements of the inventive process have already prepared you to create a business out of your idea.

Innovative Entrepreneurship
It is a truth universally acknowledged in the business world that innovators do not make good entrepreneurs, but this belief is called into question by too many examples of inventors who have broken into the market and turned their ideas into successful companies. Business people who have spent years studying the works of the best minds in economics may want to believe that the logical course of action for an inventor is to take advantage of the resources of an established company rather than to build up a business of their own, but the evidence seems to suggest otherwise. Inventors can make excellent business owners, because they know their product and have the creativity to become truly innovative entrepreneurs. This doesn't mean that you can ignore the business textbooks and forget about learning how the business world works, but it does mean that you already have an important advantage that you should not overlook: your own natural skills and inventiveness.

SWOT Analysis
One of the tools that you will discover in many business and economics textbooks is the SWOT analysis. This simple technique provides a means of analyzing your business and coming up with new directions for future development, but as an inventor, you may recognize this mode of thinking from the way in which you developed your initial idea. Creativity often stems from recognizing existing problems and opportunities, while developing a successful product requires the ability to see both its strengths and its weaknesses. Your ability to spot the need for a new product and to come up with an invention that can fulfill this need will continue to prove useful as you build up your own business. It can even help you to write a successful business plan, when you formalize your ideas in the form of a SWOT analysis.

All that a SWOT analysis requires is that you use your proven ability to spot Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats to thinking about the future of your business, rather than to coming up with an invention. You can begin by listing every attribute of your business under one of the four headings. Having acquired a patent for your invention might be a strength, for example, but a lack of capital might be a weakness that needs to be tackled. Strengths and weaknesses are considered internal factors, relating to your own business, but you also need to consider the external factors, opportunities and threats posed by the current market. External factors can be harder to assess, but as an inventor, you will be used to recognizing opportunities and problems, although you will now need to tackle them with your business acumen rather than simple creativity. An opportunity could be a new technology that you can use to market your product online, while a threat could be a competitor with a similar product.

Once you have identified your SWOTs, you can move on to another acronym, USED, to plan your future moves by determining how strengths can be Utilized, weaknesses Stopped, Opportunities Exploited and threats Defended against. The strength of a patent could be utilized by licensing your invention to someone operating in a different area, for example, while the weakness of a lack of capital could be stopped by finding an investor or taking out a business loan. Similarly, the opportunity posed by online marketing could be exploited by joining the WomenInventorz Network and creating a webpage, while the threat of a competitor could be defended against by building a stronger brand identity through marketing.

By the end of the SWOT analysis, you will have a better idea of where your business stands now, and the changes that you will need to make in the future. You can use this understanding to direct your business plan and remain focused on the most important areas of your business.

Other Business Advantages for Inventors
SWOT analyses are one of the clearest opportunities for making use of the inventive mind in business, but the skills that enabled you to come up with a brand new invention will also help you in other ways. The close knowledge you have of your product will be a significant advantage when it comes to understanding your customers' needs and how they can be reached through marketing, while your experience of managing the production process and thinking about costs could prove useful when it comes to managing your business and accounts. Seeing how your skills as an inventor can be applied to your new role as entrepreneur can make the transition to the world of business much easier.

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