I am going to relate this true story out of a sense of frustration. Hopefully, my experience, and disappointment at seeing a wonderful opportunity torched by sloppiness, will enlighten others to maximize the chance to succeed in their chosen endeavor. Great ideas need to be properly fertilized, cultured and harvested. Taking shortcuts always results in failure.

My consulting firm reviews hundreds of new product ideas, inventions and small business projects each and every year. We have been doing so for over two decades. Very few of the deals we review ever become commercial realities. However, many more of these have real, exciting, but unrealized potential. That is the real shame.

Recently I received a new invention submission. The inventor was exceedingly secretive and I gave him a secrecy agreement to protect all parties involved in the review. As a signatory to the non-disclosure agreement, I can not reveal specific details of the invention. Broadly stated, the product involved a method of projecting scent into the interior of a home, office or business.

My firm has extensive experience in the home fragrance, potpourri, pomander and candle category. We immediately recognized the tremendous upside for this project. The invention we were reviewing was truly novel. It offered a truly identifiable Unique Selling Proposition, a requisite for marketplace success, and, in a huge market category. Our product review was overwhelmingly positive. In short, this was a product that had the potential to be placed in every home in the world.

As excited as we were, we simultaneously became aware that the product would never make it to the marketplace. Why would such an exciting opportunity fail to proceed to a successful result? The inventor was never going to allow it to happen. He was, is and will always be the immovable object in the way of potential success.
The owner advised that he had a “really good, professional business plan”. I looked forward with great anticipation to receiving and reviewing the document.

Once in hand, the first page of the plan was so telling and disappointing. The crucial Executive Summary was a fiction with no basis in reality. The plan was sophomoric. The assumptions upon which the strategy was built consisted of wild guesses and hopes. No market, demographic, competitive research had been conducted. The financials had been created from whole cloth.

As disappointing as the presentation was, we still held out hope that the owner could be directed in a more professional approach to moving ahead. We met and addressed each aspect of the product and the process that would be required to bring the product to market. All options were discussed. As our discussion progressed it became apparent to all that the owner was delusional. Even worse, he made every attempt to justify the non-professional shortcuts he was adamant would lead him to success.

I made Mr. Inventor a bet. I would buy him a hot fudge sundae if he had made any progress in the next six months. This is a bet that I will never have to pay. Mr. Inventor is convinced that he has a $300,000,000 business. He believes the venture capital and funding market is populated by fools who can’t recognize brilliance when confronted by it.

When we advised that the business plan needed to be as exciting as the product, his retort was “business plans are overrated”. C’est la vie. The market craves new, innovative products offering real, innovative features and benefits. Mr. Inventor really has such a product concept. However, the market has a built in mechanism to eliminate products that are not exceedingly well supported with research, detail and documentation. Submitting a product that has not been exhaustively vetted results in an immediate cancellation of consideration.

As a post-script, a few weeks after we parted ways with Mr. Inventor, I was reading a Venture Capital trade journal. Mr. Inventor had taken it upon himself to write the publication a Letter to the Editor. The letter detailed his
anger, his frustration and his detailed criticism of the very marketplace he was trying to approach for funding consideration. The letter content was vapid and shrill: hardly a reason to consider him as a funding possibility.

There are many ways to achieve success. Taking shortcuts is not one of them. If you have an exciting product or business opportunity, why in the world would you not want to spend the time, energy and reasonable monies necessary to present the invention in the best possible light. You only get one chance to make a great first impression.

Unfortunately Mr. Inventor and his home fragrance concept is not unusual in our sphere of interest. We meet hundreds of dreamers every year. It is rare, however, that we see the necessary combination of passion, commitment and diligence required for the attainment of commercial success. Successful entrepreneur’s start with a dream but push through all barriers placed in their way. They seek assistance when they tread in unfamiliar waters. They recognize that taking shortcuts will only accelerate their pace to failure.

Author's Bio: 

Geoff Ficke has been a serial entrepreneur for almost 50 years. As a small boy, earning his spending money doing odd jobs in the neighborhood, he learned the value of selling himself, offering service and value for money.

After putting himself through the University of Kentucky (B.A. Broadcast Journalism, 1969) and serving in the United States Marine Corp, Mr. Ficke commenced a career in the cosmetic industry. After rising to National Sales Manager for Vidal Sassoon Hair Care at age 28, he then launched a number of ventures, including Rubigo Cosmetics, Parfums Pierre Wulff Paris, Le Bain Couture and Fashion Fragrance.

Geoff Ficke and his consulting firm, Duquesa Marketing, Inc. (www.duquesamarketing.com) has assisted businesses large and small, domestic and international, entrepreneurs, inventors and students in new product development, capital formation, licensing, marketing, sales and business plans and successful implementation of his customized strategies. He is a Senior Fellow at the Page Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, Business School, Miami University, Oxford, Ohio.