Michael D. Moberly March 11, 2009
There are many different views about what it takes for entrepreneurs to successfully launch their company’s or commercialize their ideas and innovations. For either, having commercializable innovation, a sound, practical, and focused business plan including superior marketing strategy, and, as always, sufficient capital to effectively execute represent some of the traditional ingredients.
In combination with those traditional ingredients which collectively serve to increase the odds of a successful launch, recogning (attaching) importance to sustaining (a.) control, (b.) use, (c.) ownership, and (d.) value of key innovation and competitive advantages, including brand, reputation, image, and goodwill, etc., should not be underestimated, nor merely relegated to outside counsel because of their presumed legal province.
It’s important for entrepreneurial decision makers to recognize that today, 65+% of most of their company’s value, sources of revenue, and foundations for future wealth creation (company sustainabiliy) lie in – are directly linked to intangible assets, intellectual property, and competitive advantages that have been developed. Ensuring control, use, ownership, and value of those assets are sustained for the duration of their respective functional – commercial (life) cycles constitute genuine ‘business (board, D&O, c-suite) decisions’ which, of course, can be supplemented – facilitated by the guidance and action of legal counsel. But they should not be merely delegated to outside counsel without continual oversight, stewardship, and management from the c-suite!
Sustaining control, use, ownership, and value of a company’s most valuable assets (as conveyed above) should be embedded in every entrepreneur’s strategic (business) plan! The path to achieve these essential-critical goals is, in my judgment, comprised of, among other things, equal parts (a.) education-awareness, (b.) procedure and practice, (c.) legal, (d.) respecting the realities of the globally predatorial business/competitor intelligence and data mining ‘industry’ to compromise and/or undermine the launch, and (e.) having the enterprise-wide presence of mind to recognize what things should be kept secret – proprietary!
Other essential, but, sometimes overlooked-neglected ingredients to successful launches are protecting the entrepreneurs’ knowledge (intellectual capital) on which the idea-innovation originated and taking affirmative steps to literally preserve the value of that know how and any subsequent (proprietary) competitive advantages which have a bearing on the launch and/or execution of the business plan.
Absent consistent monitoring of any of the above, a launch (business plan) can easily become mired in time consuming and costly (legal) challenges and disputes that stifle project-launch momentum and with absolutely no guarantees about achieving a favorable outcome, which of course includes ‘returning the company’s genie back in its bottle’!
When – if key innovation (the genie) gets out of the bottle prematurely, which unfortunately occurs with significant frequency, whether its the result of (a.) unethical or illegal conduct/acts, (b.) misplaced trust, or (c.) operational/procedural miscues, it’s important that the entrepreneur take quick and decisive steps to try to return the genie to its bottle intact as may be feasible.
Delays in realizing any compromise has occurred certainly can complicate and weaken an entrepreneurs’ (legal, economic, competitive advantage) position insofar as the probability of reaching any semblance of a favorable resolution. Regardless of how an entrepreneur and his or her investors ultimately decide to proceed, its becoming increasingly prudent (from a business perspective) for company’s, at its earliest stages, to conduct an ‘intangible asset – IP assessment’ (in advance) which can position (among other things) the entrepreneur to be better able to:
1. design a more effective business plan based on the intangible assets developed…
2. assess their circumstances, and prioritize the options relative to trying to sustain control, use, ownership, and value of their innovation, or re-obtain same if their genie gets out of the bottle, and if so,
3. identify plausible strategies to stop and mitigate any economic – competitive advantage hemorrhaging of the intellectual capital and competitive advantages (assets) that may have already occurred due to the compromise.
In this instance, an ‘intangible asset assessment’ is a respectful, thorough, and efficient procedure consisting of using specially designed (company-circumstance specific) protocols to sift through and unravel the often times complexities of entrepreneurism and examine the developmental history of the assets, i.e., innovation. The protocols (assessment) can also bring to light relevant issues that warrant immediate attention. Ultimately, a well conceived and executed assessment will ‘bring peace of mind to entrepreneures’ and allow them to focus their energies and resources on a successful and profitable launch!