Building a small business and developing an invention take different skills. I was reminded of this when I read David McCullough’s book, “The Wright Brothers.”
Inventors are interested in the development of the idea. They are not put off by trial and error.
Business owners are focused on solving a consumer’s problem and doing so at a price where a profit can be made. They want to know who the market is and how to best get their product in front of that group of potential buyers.
A good example of these differences was the inventor of the glue found on the 3M Post-It Note®. When the new product didn’t perform as expected, it got pushed to the side. It was a second employee who found the commercial value of the product.
Another example often used is Microsoft and Bill Gates. Bill was viewed as being creative but his creative capacity and passion was in understanding the market as opposed to the development of the product itself.
During my career, I have worked with people who have perfected an idea and paid to have a substantial inventory built only to find there was no market. I also have worked with the focused business owner who developed but didn’t keep working on the product and tried to go to the market too early.
You can be both, an inventor and a business owner. You need to understand though that the skills are different. You also need to know when you need to switch hats. Each of the Wright brothers had both business skills and were passionate inventors.
Yet the Wright brothers also understood that having the skills didn’t necessarily mean that they excelled in an area or that they enjoyed using certain skills. Wilbur considered his brother, Orville, as having the business mind. Wilbur was restless one, wanting to always continue development. He was the networker, easily able to connect with new people.
So why is this important?
First, a person needs to understand what drives them, what makes one’s eyes light up. Then, you can work on ways to keep that spark burning.
Second, as the Wright brothers did, you can capitalize on your own skills and find a way to bring the other skills you need into the mix. You may be good or even very good at certain skills, but if they are not a priority for you or could be done better by someone else, your business would be stronger if, when possible, you can find someone who brings the skill set and the desire to use those skills into the operation.
Lastly, having different skills makes it possible to challenge each other as you move forward developing your product and your business. Yes, it may be frustrating to have someone who doesn’t see the world as you do, but the result of such conversations is a stronger company.
The bottom line is to know yourself and what makes you tick.
Are you the person who loves to build an idea, launch it and then turn it over to someone else? Or is it at that point, you get excited about the opportunities. Or maybe you are one who has quality skills and desires in each area. Then you need to ask if you have the time to handle both sides.
Recognizing your skills can go a long way in developing your successful business.
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Glenn Muske is an independent expert on rural small business, working as GM Consulting – Your partner in achieving small business success. He provides consulting, and writes articles for county extension agents and newspapers across North Dakota. Previously, he was the Rural and Agribusiness Enterprise Development Specialist at the North Dakota State University Extension Service – Center for Community Vitality.