You spend months or years researching your hot idea, build prototypes, have endless brainstorming sessions (even if you are a lone ranger), and you have done exhaustive market research. The dream is taking shape, you go a step further to the necessary Intellectual property on your prototypes. You are passionate but you don’t have the finances, partners and credibility to take your product to mass production as you envisioned. What do you do?
The Financing Conundrum
Now you face a challenge beyond the idea: Execution. The world is not short of creative ideas but excellence in execution to bring those ideas to fruition. I know this first hand because in 2009 I opened a Company that was supplying Hides and skins to end users. I did my research and found out that the suppliers back then were not creative; they actually were ignorant. They were using the wrong salt to preserve hides which made them rot hence giving the end user bad leather.
Having worked in a Leather tanning Factory I knew how to be creative, the issue was I needed to raise $ 5,000 (five thousand dollars) in three months to make the idea work. My salary at a time was about ninety dollars a month. If I was ever going to succeed at getting the investors in i needed to be creative.
So I needed to know certain principles. These principles are not just from me but they represent thousands of successful innovation executions that I have been a part of or studied.
In my life as a Coach I listen to lots of ideas and see many prototypes that hardly make it to the market because the people behind these ideas lack the effective art of execution. I must say execution in innovation is an art so it will take different forms depending on the size of the idea and market in which one operates, however the principles are the same.
Here they are;
- Know thy Customer
I know what you are thinking when you read the first principle, “Sudesh I have heard that before I know my Customer” Wait a minute! If you know it why isn’t working for you? The customer I am referring to here is the investor or partner that you are going to approach for your idea to come to fruition. In my Leather business I had ninety days to raise five thousand dollars. As you can imagine I approached close to every bank with my business plan, they all turned me away, tried borrowing money from relatives and lots of other ways that were frustrating to say the least. With about fourteen days to go on my allowable time, I took a step further, reorganized myself and looked elsewhere, I managed to raise the five thousand dollars successfully. I asked myself different questions, you see questions determine focus and where focus goes energy and where energy goes you get results.
What do the investors care about?
Investors and partners don’t give a damn about your creative idea, I hate to be the one to tell you that but its truth. What they care about are innovation systems i.e. How are you going to creatively make money, protect and gain credibility in the market for the long-term? If you can answer that question you are destined for faster execution. In my case;
- I had signed agreements for supply from the factory we were going to supply to so the investor felt secure
- I also had creative systems of re-investing the five thousand dollars plus the investor got a stake in the business as exchange for their investment.
- My growth plan was shit proof.
What is their problem?
Their problem is not having “enough money”, Every investor needs to make more money. The desire is relative but it is the same.
How has the problem been solved before?
I found out that in the past my investor had invested blindly, so they needed a shit-proof plan and innovative system that they could get behind. Also, this investor had knowledge on how the Leather business works so get someone that knows the technicalities of the business, it will save you time.
Until you know what the investor cares about, their problem and some bit of history on the problem solving you will move in circles.
- The Power of Purpose
“People don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it”
(Simon Sinek has a great book on this titled “Start with Why”).
Execution in Innovation is an art so it takes different forms and therein are testations. The “WHY” will exude passion to stand out to your investors. No one will invest money in a half-hearted endeavor regardless of how good it looks. It (WHY) will also keep you going on days when it is tough to string two sentences together.
I got so many rejections when I was raising the five thousand dollars for my Leather business but I knew my purpose which was “to create a system that gave all its stakeholders handsome returns and fun” and because of the strong purpose I was relentless in pursuit of success. When Entrepreneurs come to me with ideas asking how to make them work, I spend a lot of time helping them discover their WHY because therein in lies what the investor is looking for which is; clarity of the idea, focus and inspiration.
- The Power of the Innovation Microphone.
Knowing your WHY will give you clarity, focus and inspiration but that is not all. Just because you are inspired does not make you a master communicator of your inspiration. Successful execution in innovation comes with a microphone called, communication. The reason Steve Jobs was successful wasn’t because he was inspired only no, he also knew how to effectively communicate his inspiration.
You need a system to communicate clarity, focus and inspiration. The system can be in the following;
- Business plans- Is your plan compelling and simple?
- Follow-up system- How do you follow up with the prospective investors before they sign up and after?
- Public speaking- how are you polishing your public speaking skills?
Remember you need to communicate effectively for the investor(s) to buy in. Today I am a great communicator of my ideas but it has been deliberate for years for me to develop the art. What are you doing today to develop your communication system because you will need it from time to time.
Execution in innovation is the difference maker between mediocrity and excellence. It gives you leverage to see your big dreams come to fruition. Execution is also based on principles, so study them, do the necessary practice therein and I have no doubt in my mind that you will finish well.