The Importance Of Being Earnest – With Your Business Ideas
by Gaye Crispin
New business startups are like baby sea turtles trying to make it to the ocean. Whether it be something as innocuous as a piece of driftwood, or lethal as a sand crab, everything in the path of a baby sea turtle has the potential to spell its demise.
So too, absolutely everything a new baby business hatchling encounters can be life-threatening to the idea or business plan.
No stage of business is more vulnerable than when the business idea is transitioning from being a safe twinkle in the entrepreneur’s eye on to the drawing board, or into the board room.
And this stage is especially dangerous for the idea if the entrepreneur doesn’t appreciate their idea’s potential future value, and secure it accordingly.
Timing Is Everything
Fledgling entrepreneurs need to understand the importance of taking time to research the most secure ways to go about sharing their business idea or business plan with others when it comes time to progress it.
This is a time that needs to be given serious consideration in advance. And the entrepreneur needs to decide who will be trusted with the idea or business plan, and when the right time will be.
Entrepreneurs be warned: a bad choice in people or timing will demand you have a good supply of aspirin handy.
“There’s Gold In Them Thar’ Hills”
Mark Twain immortalised those words by Dr. Matthew F. Stephenson in his book ‘The Guilded Age.’ But would anyone shout it if they really knew there was gold in them thar’ hiils?
Imagine a winning business idea as a vein of gold still in the ground, and the entrepreneur who brings the idea to life as a gold miner.
Do you think any seasoned gold miner would broadcast, “Hey, I’m going to dig over by that tree because the feasibility says that’s where the gold is.”? Of course not!
And especially not if they hadn’t secured the mining rights! And not until after they’d hired armed guards to protect their site…… usually from fellow miners.
I’d love a dollar for every story I’ve heard of an entrepreneur or new business owner who had their idea stolen by an unethical angel investor, business planner, business coach, networking group owner, or even some online business planning software provider they confided in.
There are many so-called ’professionals’ who make a living by stealing and on-selling ideas and business plans that come across their desk when they are consulting or speaking with inexperienced entrepreneurs. One of my rules of thumb is: if you don’t know ‘em, don’t show ‘em.
The Social Media Coach
You’re In Control Of What You Divulge
A client of mine recently engaged an online coach to help with the social media side of a new business venture. The coach was briefed with certain information about the business, including my client’s new business name and mission statement.
A few weeks later my client happened across a site where the coach had begun using my client’s mission statement as their own, and all without my client’s knowledge, permission or consent. Naturally, the situation turned quite ugly.
Not So Nice Networking
An acquaintance of mine joined his first business networking group last year. Over time he formed a business alliance with an established member of the group whose business was complimentary to his. The established member seemed credible, was a network meeting facilitator in the local chapter, and was personal friends with the network group owner.
What eventually transpired was an ugly but educational story where the other party extracted as much information as possible about my acquaintances business, and used that to add a new division to their own business. This new division wound up being competition for my acquaintances business.
It was hard not to see the whole thing as premeditated, but ultimately nobody knows for sure. The networking group owners were made aware of what took place and seemed quite indifferent, saying things like “that’s business,” and “business is survival of the fittest,” ”you will be better business person as a result,” or “you live and learn.”
Interestingly, there are many networking groups that encourage small business owners and entrepreneurs to share their business ideas with the group so the group can help them. Personally, I think this is a very naive and risky way to conduct business. My more experienced business owner clients have said they would never brainstorm a new business or marketing strategy at a Chamber of Commerce, Rotary or business networking meeting.
Business is a challenge, and that’s the fun part. There will be many times when you will need to share ideas with a wide range of people if the business is to advance. We need to understand this and also accept there’s never really any one sure-fire way of keeping our ideas 100% safe. Particularly as it gets closer to the day we start rolling our business out in the market place. But we can be wise and take certain precautions. I think we owe it to ourselves to play smart and do everything in our power to protect our ideas as best we can – because that idea may be ‘the one.’
Here are some basic tips that may get you thinking of ways to protect your business ideas.
1 - Remember we’re most vulnerable and exposed in business when we are a new business hatchling.
2 - Remember to be wise with who we share our idea with – the simplest idea may have serious dollar value to someone else’s business.
3 - Remember advisors, coaches and the professional services you engage are in business to make money, and some may be con men and women. Although not all highly charismatic and personable people are con men and women, most con men and women are charming, highly charismatic and personable.
4 - Remember marketing and business planners are paid to generate new ideas – make sure those ideas don’t come from you!
5 - Remember contracts and TOS won’t get your idea back once it’s out of the bag. And it takes a truckload of money to sue somebody. People who will take your ideas have usually already calculated in advance the risks of being sued by you.
6 - Don’t use free online business planning templates that promise you a free business plan if you submit your business idea information. Yes, many promise to email your plan through to you in a professionally structured format. But you don’t know who might be reading or copying your IP on the other side? It’s worth paying for business planning software. It’s very affordable and you’ll have peace of mind knowing the information is safely in your own computer until you’re ready to roll your idea out. Remember, just because someone offers something for free, it doesn’t mean it’s not going to cost you.
7 - When you have a new business idea, only share it with reputable people. Reputable people have skin in the game and something big to lose if they breach your confidence.
Have your Non-Disclosure and Non-Compete agreements signed and witnessed before you go into any great detail. If you think you have a multi-million dollar idea, and you are willing to back the idea with your own time and resources, you would want to be careful, wouldn’t you?
Be aware: contracts can’t always protect you, although it’s always better to have one signed than not.
Be wise and take precautions. In business we owe it to ourselves to play smart and do everything in our power to protect our ideas as best we can – because that next idea may be ‘the one.’
How do you protect your business or creative ideas?
Have you ever had any business, marketing or creative ideas stolen?
If so, how did that impact on you or your business?
The Importance Of Being Earnest – With Your Business Ideas
Copyright Gaye Crispin 2012
Gaye Crispin has a Debt Collection and Credit Management Agency in Sydney, Australia. Gaye hears many gruesome business stories from her clients, analyses them, tries to learn from them, and sometimes blogs about them.