Intangible Assets: Why SME – SMM Management Teams Are Not Giving Them The Attention They Warrant?

Michael D. Moberly   February 23, 2010

Intangible assets are embedded in – integral to most every company, regardless of its size or industry sector!  And, presumably, readers of this blog believe the economic fact, like I do, that increasing percentages (65+%) of most company’s value, sources of revenue, ‘building blocks’ for future wealth creation, and sustainability evolve from – are embedded in internally produced and/or (externally) acquired intangible assets.  

But, why is it that significant numbers of SME, SMM, and early stage company management teams’ familiarity with, or even perhaps, interest in intangibles, i.e., (a.) what they are, how they’re produced, where they exist, and the different forms they take in their company, and (b.) how they can be effectively and profitably utilized, leveraged, and exploited, appears to be relatively low?  

What’s this attributable to?  Numerous studies, many referenced in this blog, consistently report senior executives in ‘fortune 1000’ types of companies, consider the management, utilization, and risks to intangibles a priority (top three) issue facing their company.  For various reasons though, again many discussed in this blog, there is little objective evidence and even fewer examples that these consistent, and seemingly convincing findings are (a.) reaching, (b.) resonating, or (c.) prompting SME, SMM, and early stage management – leadership teams and boards to action.

Perhaps, there lies the crux of the problem or challenge that intangible asset (management, monetization, risk, and protection) specialists should focus.   That is formulating a stronger and better articulated repertoire of business (plan) oriented messages directed to SMM, SME, and early stage management-leadership teams and boards, that (a.) bring clarity, (b.) stress universality, and (c.) describe efficient strategies to identify, manage, utilize, and exploit intangible assests, i.e., to actually enhance a company’s value, deliver new sources of revenue, and provide foundations (building blocks) for future wealth creation.  

Also, perhaps, part of the challenge lies in SME, SMM, and early stage management team attitudes toward intangibles.  That is, for many management teams in publicly traded companies, their initial exposure to intangibles was literally thrust upon them, sometimes in near ‘crisis-mode’, to rapidly comply with Sarbanes-Oxley mandates, FASB statements, and/or ISO standards in relatively narrow time frames, which routinely required extraordinary staff time, new procedures, additional resources, and costs.

In most instances, compliance was burdensome and, most respectfully, left little time, inclination, or curiosity to look (explore) beyond the compliance mandates to strategize about the potential benefits and options to utilize and exploit those already identified intangibles to enhance a company’s value, revenue, competitive advantage, and sustainability, etc.

Other reasons that contributed to management team reticence to pursue intangibles beyond meeting SOX, FASB, and ISO compliance minimums, include:

1.  there was no (regulatory) obligation to disclose (share, be particularly transparent with) information about intangibles to shareholders or other external groups. 

2. many managers have limited experience with intangibles and thus retain a tendency to rely on (their) intuition versus seeking and applying objective tools to quantify their contributions, value, and otherwise devise projective (return-on-investment) business plans to justify devoting resources to their utilization and exploitation. 


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