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Tips to pitch

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I’m not an expert. I’m just a guy who likes to think about stuff.

You filed a provisional application. The clock has officially started. You now have 1 year to file a utility application. You want to continue with the patent process, but the costs to proceed are staggering. What do you do? Get investors! Angel investors are typically those that fund early stage ventures. A great way to find them is to talk to others who have had angel investors. Joining trade organizations related to your invention is another way. If you eventually get a meeting with prospective angel investors, here are some tips on how to pitch your invention idea to them:

  1. Get the audience’s attention within the first minute. You typically have one minute to grab investors’ attention before they tune out. If you have an hour for the pitch, do it in 20 minutes, leaving the rest of the time for Q&A.
  2. Tell the audience a story. While investors need data to make an informed decision about your invention, couch that data in stories. Kids like stories. Adults do, too.
  3. Know your audience. The story that your audience wants to hear will vary. The technology-minded will want to hear a technology story. The business-minded? A business story. Find out beforehand who will be in the audience to tailor the story to the audience.
  4. Be honest about challenges. Don’t say that you don’t have any. There are always issues to overcome. Tell the investors what those issues are. The investors, if they choose to take you on, may be able to help.
  5. Focus on your strengths, not your competitors’ weaknesses. Don’t disparage your competition. Chances are that your audience knows your competitors and all their warts. Focus on the benefits of your invention and how it addresses the problem you’re solving.
  6. Don’t claim that you have no competitors. The audience will think either that you didn’t do your homework or you’re lying to make your invention seem more novel. Acknowledge the competition. Doing so makes you seem more knowledgeable of the market.
  7. Don’t oversell how successful the invention will be. Investors want you to tell them what their return on investment will be. 2-3 year financial projections are typically the best you can reasonably estimate. 10 years? 15 years? Not a chance.
  8. Be confident, not arrogant. There’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance. The line consists of listening. Confidence is quiet. Arrogance is loud. Listen to learn the audience’s needs. Accept feedback.
  9. Don’t try to get married on the first date! The purpose of an initial meeting with angel investors is to start a conversation, not end it. Investors don’t typically write a check at the end of a pitch. The pitch is to get you to the next phase of the investors’ selection process. Hopefully, closing the deal will come soon enough!

 

 

Beware of public disclosure

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I’m not an expert. I’m just a guy who likes to think about stuff.

You have an invention idea and you want to patent it. Trouble is you don’t have a lot of money. You think that if you present your idea to people willing to fund it, like angel investors, they’ll pay for the patent application. Sounds like a plan, right? Perhaps.

Oftentimes, inventors will pitch their invention idea to angel investors (or others with deep pockets) to fund their invention idea. Some of the money the inventors receive can be used to fund a patent application. A potential problem arises if the pitch to the investors is deemed a public disclosure. Essentially, if the inventors tell the investors what their invention is and how to make and use it, this information can be used by others to invalidate the patent.

After telling the investors about the invention, the inventors have a year to file for a patent application. If the inventors fail to file an application within that year, the meeting with the investors can be deemed a public disclosure. Here is an example to explain this concept.

You have an invention idea and have scheduled a pitch meeting with potential investors on August 1, 2016. The investors take many pitch meetings and never sign non-disclosure agreements, meaning that anything you tell the investors can be deemed a public disclosure. At the pitch meeting, you tell the investors what your invention is and how to make and use it. According to US Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) patent office rules, you have until August 1, 2017 (i.e. 1 year from the pitch meeting) to file a patent application. If you file a patent application after August 1, 2017, you’ve obviously taken more than 1 year to file the application. You submit the patent application on September 1, 2017 (more than a year after the pitch meeting) and eventually receive a patent for your application. If someone can prove that you made the public disclosure at the investors meeting on August 1, 2016, that person can invalidate your patent. You didn’t follow the rules! You took more than a year after the pitch meeting to file the patent application. You lose.

The investors in this hypothetical are typical. Most investors receive so many pitches, they refuse to sign non-disclosure agreements. To avoid having your patent invalidated, file a provisional patent application before meeting with investors. In the provisional application, explain what the invention is and how to make and use it in as much detail as possible. Once you file the provisional application, you can talk to potential investors about anything that is in the provisional application. If the investors decide to invest in your invention, you can use some of that money to continue the patent process (i.e. filing a utility application and paying the associated fees). Keep in mind that a provisional application expires a year after filing. To give yourself the best shot possible at securing investor funding before the year is up, my next post will focus on effective pitching techniques.

 

One visit. That’s it!

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I’m not an expert. I’m just a guy who likes to think about stuff.

I often read job search articles online. Not because I’m looking for a job, but because I’m fascinated with what people are willing to put up with during a job search. I’ve read about people returning to companies for third, fourth, even fifth round interviews. Why?

Interviewers typically want to meet during regular business hours.  For people who have jobs, it is difficult to get out of work to go interview. How are you supposed to explain to your boss that you need to leave work at 2 pm? If you need to go to multiple interviews, you have to come up with different excuses. Or just call in sick or go home sick multiple times. How sick can one person be? Plus, when you call in sick, you won’t get that sick day pay when you eventually quit.

When I was looking for a job while employed, I’d insist on meeting all the pertinent interviewers in one visit. I’d rather take one day off than call in sick or make excuses to leave work multiple times. I’d always schedule interviews for either Monday or Friday, so that my current employer would simply think that I wanted a long weekend. A company should be able to get a feel for your candidacy for a position in one visit. If it can’t, it may want to review its interviewing process!

Another thing – make sure to get an itinerary beforehand of the people who’ll interview you. Read their LinkedIn profiles. Learn something about them. People like to talk about themselves.

For those of you who are job searching, follow my example. It’ll save you time and headaches. If the interviewing company will not accommodate you, don’t interview there. That company obviously does not care about its employees (or prospective employees).

 

 

A sales job done poorly

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I’m not an expert. I’m just a guy who likes to think about stuff.

Since I started working for myself, I’ve attended seminars and workshops on…just about everything! Email marketing, cold calling, negotiation – you name it. One of the most impactful seminars I attended was one on sales. Sales is truly a science, and I saw the science in action a few weeks ago.

I attended a workshop on building a six figure professional speaking business. The presenter was a guy who came recommended by a member of my professional speaking group. The presentation started off with a video of testimonials about the presenter. My spidey sense kicked in immediately. Why was this guy trying to sell me already? I didn’t know these people on the screen. I’ve never spoken to them. Why should I believe them? Throughout the workshop, the presenter kept telling us attendees how others commented on how authentic he was. Why couldn’t he just let his authenticity shine through?

One of our biggest motivators to buy is fear of missing out. How can a seller ramp this fear up? By placing a time limit on an offer and highlighting the scarcity of the product or service. “I only have 10 seats available.” “This seminar will surely sell out.” I never really thought about this selling tactic until the end of the professional speaking business workshop.

Almost on cue, after speaking for a couple of hours, the presenter offered the audience a “deal.” A 2-day intensive workshop guaranteeing us a six million dollar professional speaking business for the low price of $10,000. After announcing the price, the speaker asked the audience who’d be interested in attending the 2-day workshop. Crickets. Maybe a handful of people put their hand up. I guess when he saw that most of us weren’t biting, he offered us “sponsorships.” He’d cut the price in half to $5000, but only for six people. He had registration forms ready for the six people. Seven people raised their hand. What about the people who were willing to pay $10,000? Did they feel deceived? The presenter handed registration forms to six of the seven people who raised their hand. One of these people wanted more time to think about registering. The presenter said that there was no time, since there was someone who raised her hand and didn’t get a form. The hard sell in action!

I saw selling at work – and I didn’t like it. Not the way the presenter did it, anyway. I suspect that he always wanted $5000 for the 2 day course, but he wanted to see if people were willing to pay double. Surely there must be a better way to sell to people.

Why not try honesty? Don’t promise that your 2 day seminar will give someone a million dollar business. You can’t possibly know that. And don’t put fake time limits on offers. It’s disingenuous. I buy when I trust the seller. I didn’t trust this presenter one bit.

As a seller, it’s important to build trust with buyers. It may take weeks. It may take months. But isn’t that a better sale? Buyers won’t feel like they’re just getting used for their money; they’ll feel your authenticity. They’re more likely to refer you to others, since they feel like you care about their success. The presenter didn’t know me long enough to possibly care about my success.

It was a pure sales job – one I saw coming a mile away.

Are quarterly emails for you?

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I’m not an expert. I’m just a guy who likes to think about stuff.

I recently had consultant Amy Rasdal of Rasdal Associates and Billable at the Beach on my podcast, Neil Thompson Speaks! A big issue for entrepreneurs is generating business. During the podcast, Amy shared a tip that works for her.

Once a quarter, she sends a mass email to her list to remind the list recipients of her services. I recently received her quarterly email. In the email, she lists out the services she provides and examples of how her services have saved companies time and/or money. She sent the email using Constant Contact (www.constantcontact.com), but there are many similar email marketing products out there (MailChimp, Vertical Response, GetResponse, etc.). Amy says that she always gets a few job offers from these emails.

Setting up a list in an email marketing software product is quite easy. In MailChimp, it’s especially straightforward. I have an email list in MailChimp and I’m not computer savvy in the least! If I can do it, anyone can. Once you have the list, you can customize your email to give it a certain look. You can unsubscribe from these emails at any time. There’s really no risk.

Amy swears by her quarterly emails. Using email marketing software, she can reach out to more people in less time than if she emailed individually. Since the people on her list know her already, they’re less likely to view the email as spam, too. Seems like a win-win to me.

Have I convinced you to give quarterly emails a shot? Perhaps if you listen to the podcast with Amy, the success she’s had with them will do so. Listen in at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/neilthompsonspeaks/2016/11/14/neil-thompson-speaks–amy-rasdal.

 

Want to be an entrepreneur? Ask these 3 questions

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I’m not an expert. I’m just a guy who likes to think about stuff.

I recently had Gregg Ward of the Gregg Ward Group on my podcast. I asked him about his motivation to become self-employed after years or corporate life. He then revealed to me three questions reluctant entrepreneurs should ask themselves before jumping into entrepreneurship. These questions helped him make his decision to start his business.

  1. Can you do anything else besides entrepreneurship to be happy?

If you’re disgruntled at your job and don’t want to interview anywhere, perhaps entrepreneurship isn’t the best option for you. If you’d be happy working at another corporate job, brave the interviewing process to find that job.

  1. Do you have a passion to do something and put your life on hold to do it?

Entrepreneurship can be hard, especially at the beginning. You may not have many (or any clients) and cash will be tight. You have to be passionate about what you’re doing to weather the storm.

  1. Are you willing to lose sleep not knowing where the money is coming from?

Unlike at a corporate job, entrepreneurs typically don’t get paid consistently every other week. There’ll bust and boom times. If you’re anxious about this, the entrepreneur life is not for you.

Essentially, if your answer is yes to all three questions, entrepreneurship is to be avoided.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t present some thoughts to turn your “no” into a “yes”, though!

To the first question, how do you know that entrepreneurship wouldn’t make you happier than corporate life unless you take entrepreneurship for a test drive? Many people start their businesses part time while working a full time job. Why not try it to out to see where it goes? It may make you happier than your job, may make you a decent income so you can do it full time.

With the second question, people often put passion projects on the back burner because they don’t think they can make money doing them. If you’re able to see a progress, perhaps you’re more willing to put your life on hold to see it through.

The third question – this a tough one.  Money concerns keep a lot of people up at right – entrepreneurs and employees alike. Employees feel comfort in knowing when they get paid. But they can lose their jobs at any time – without notice. What am I getting at? You never know where the money is coming from. Don’t let that be a reason to forego entrepreneurship.

Have I convinced you? Perhaps if you listen to the podcast with Gregg Ward, the success he’s had with his business will do so. Listen in at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/neilthompsonspeaks/2016/11/07/neil-thompson-speaks–gregg-ward.

 

When the time is right…

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I’m not an expert. I’m just a guy who likes to think about stuff.

“The company offers great health insurance benefits and a 401(k) match.”

“I was planning on taking a vacation soon.”

“I need to pay off some bills first.”

Do any of you want to leave your job? Do any of the preceding statements apply to you, though? If so, sounds like you’re waiting for a better time to quit. But is there ever a good time?

I was working at a job for a few years and increasingly became disgruntled with it. I had so many ideas, but they’d be swiftly shot down after I proposed them. I even ended up doing some training on my own dime to benefit my exit strategy. But when it came time to quit, over and over again, I hesitated. I’d think to myself, “Yeah, I want to quit, but my dental insurance is top notch. My dentist even said so.” I have cavities on top of cavities, so dental is a big deal!

I’d say to myself, “Yeah, I want to leave this job right now, but there’s a kickass 401(k) match. That’s free money!” I was getting a dollar for dollar match. Hard to pass up.

I very rarely went on vacations. But even then, I’d say to myself, “If I change jobs now, I won’t get to take vacation until the probationary period is up.”

I was debt free, but I’d say to myself, “My car could break down at any moment. I need this job to pay the bill.”

I made all kinds of excuses. But here’s something I didn’t make…any sense.

The job I had wasn’t the only one that offered dental insurance. The job I had wasn’t the only one that offered a 401(k) match. I could negotiate with a new employer on my eligibility to take vacation days. And last time I checked, jobs offered money in exchange for doing work. I’d have money to pay for car repairs sooner or later. So now what am I left with?

Is there ever a good time to quit? I’d say yes. The best time to quit is when you’re unhappy with your job and you don’t see the situation changing. After you’ve exhausted every avenue to make things better for yourself, why stay? All the perks in the world aren’t going to mask over the fact that you want to leave. I had a former coworker who stayed at a job she eventually couldn’t stand. I recently heard from her, and she mentioned one of the reasons she stayed was because of the health insurance – as if her employer was the only one on the planet to offer it.

Believe in yourself. You will find another job – one that is worthy of your talents. Why waste away at a job you don’t like, denying yourself of happiness? Don’t delay your exit. Start looking for a job while you have one. Employers look favorably on employed job seekers. Don’t let vacation days or a car repair that hasn’t even happened yet keep you from quitting. You deserve what you want, after all.

Next week, another excuse to slash and burn. Stay tuned!

I love it!

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I’m not an expert. I’m just a guy who likes to think about stuff.

If you’ve read my previous posts, you may get the impression that I want everyone to quit their jobs. A friend actually emailed me after reading a couple of posts and said as much. I don’t want anyone to quit a fulfilling job. That’s something that everyone should aspire to. With that in mind, the next excuse for staying at a job is that you like it.

I’ve liked all my jobs…at first. Working at jobs I liked and eventually disliked made me learn what’s important in a job. I boiled it down to three things: the job must be stimulating, offer a fair wage, and have helpful colleagues. Without all three, you’ll be updating your resume and LinkedIn profile in no time!

When I finished school, it took me seven months to land my first job. I was so grateful to have a job, I didn’t care about anything else. Stimulating work? At least I have a job. At your first job, you can expect to perform some mundane tasks at first. You’re a new entity, after all. No one really knows what you’re capable of. But I think after a year, you should have proven yourself enough to take on more responsibility, or at least for others to listen to your ideas. If you’re years past your first job, that timeline should be even shorter. Maybe you noticed a process within the company could be more efficient. Your suggestion for improving it shouldn’t automatically be considered meritless because you’re a newbie at the job.

I just signed the employment letter for my first job. I didn’t care about pay. The pay was higher than the zero dollars and zero cents I was earning at the time. It turns out the pay was actually pretty good for a job coming out of school, but even if it was not, I would have accepted the job anyway. For subsequent jobs, though, I expected to be paid the going rate for my job title. However, if you’ve been unemployed for a few months, this requirement may go out the window. Don’t let it. If you take the job, it’ll always be a sore spot that you’re not being paid what you’re worth. You probably won’t make that money up if you stay in that job, either. Companies are going to pay you what you’re willing to accept. Why pay more?

During the interview process for my first job, I didn’t even sit down with my future coworkers. I only interviewed with my boss and some of his colleagues. Ever since, I have insisted on meeting with potential coworkers during an interview. At the very least, I contact them after the interview to ask about the company. The people you work with are so important in shaping your experience at a company. If you get along with them, your work life goes so much more smoothly. They’re willing to help you if you need it. You can bounce ideas off them without fear that they’ll claim them as their own. You can hang out with them after work, too.

If you have a job that has all three of these traits, keep it. If your job lacks any one of them, believe that you deserve better. It’s not too much to ask to require a job that stimulates you, pays you a fair salary, and has supportive coworkers.

Next week, another excuse. Stay tuned!

I can’t do any better…

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I’m not an expert. I’m just a guy who likes to think about stuff.

“I can’t do any better.”

“I can’t do any better.”

“I can’t do any better.”

If you’re contemplating leaving your job, does this sentence run through your mind? If so, you’re not alone. I believed I couldn’t do any better for a long time. But why would I let such a destructive and unproductive dialogue hold me back?

At my first job out of school, I thought I was doing great. I did whatever my boss told me to do. I thought I was the ideal worker. Then the day of my first performance review came around. My boss had never voiced displeasure at my work – until that day. Judging from my review, I was the worst employee who ever existed in life. “I didn’t show initiative” was the biggest criticism that I remember. I was completely blindsided, as I had no clue that my boss had any issues with my performance. I was so angry after the review, I thought about looking for another job. But then I thought to myself that if my boss thought I sucked, another boss would think so, too. I was lucky to have a job, I told myself. In other words, “I can’t do any better.”

At my longest tenured job, I started off great. The company was brand new, and there was a lot of work to be done, some of which I had never done before. After a couple years, though, I got stuck doing the same work over and over again. It made work a drag. I remember thinking that I wanted to find another job. But when I looked at job listings that interested me, I didn’t have many of the required skills. I had been doing the same thing for so long, and companies didn’t want the skills I had. Frankly, I didn’t think another company would want me. “I can’t do any better.”

After I quit one of my jobs, it took me 8 months to land another one. When I first quit, I thought I’d be out of work for a month – two months tops. But one month turned into two, which turned into the entire summer, which turned into the holiday shopping season. I ended up taking the first job offer I received. It was a contract job at a small company. Even though the contract was supposed to last for a year, the company let me go after five months. It took me 8 months to find the contract job. What made me think that I’d get my next job any sooner? I was leery to look for my next job. After all, “I can’t do any better.”

“I can’t do any better” is an absolute growth killer. It keeps us in situations that don’t benefit us. Rid yourself of the “I can’t do any better” dialogue. Sure, my first boss thought I was a poor employee, but so what? My next boss liked my work so much that I ended up joining him at a company he founded. Once I got over the fact that I was doing the same work at one of my jobs, I took it upon myself to make myself more marketable by taking courses after work. In fact, it was one of my certifications that piqued the interest of the company that hired me for the contract job. After I finally got over the fact that I was without a job again after the contract job, I decided to work for myself so that I’d never be let go again. And believe me, working for myself has definitely been better!

The excuses keep on coming. Stay tuned!

What do you want from life?

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I’m not an expert. I’m just a guy who likes to think about stuff.

I’m going to start every blog post with the preceding sentence. You know why? Because it gets to the core of who I am. I’m not much of a talker. I spend most of my time in my head thinking about…life! What we want from our lives should always be on our minds. Hence, this post.

This is my first post on my first website! I must admit that I was intimidated creating the website by myself. I had never built a website before. I reached out to professional website designers. They wanted to charge me $1000-$2000. No thanks! I contacted others whose websites I admired. Many of them advised me that they built their websites themselves. They said that there are many companies, like WordPress, Wix, and Squarespace, which have website builders that are easy to follow. I’m a caveman when it comes to technology. I text with one finger, stabbing at my phone like a bird does its prey. I still check voicemails. I even looked into getting a fax number. Who still faxes? Don’t judge me… Anyway, I ended up using Wix, but I’m sure any of the other companies would have done just as good a job. Email me and let me know what you think of the site. I welcome feedback…of the constructive type.

What made me so scared to build a website? Fear of the unknown. For years, I worked as a product development engineer. I knew that job well. Start with an idea and develop it while testing it along the way. To be frank, I was on autopilot for years before I was forced to make changes. I was working at a small medical device company on a 1 year contract. No problem. About 5 months into the contract, the CEO called me into his office. The CTO and COO were already there. The CEO told me that the company wanted to focus more on sales and that that day would be my last day. What was I going to do next?

I had to make a decision. Was I going to look for another job, or go it alone? If I thought building a website was scary, deciding to become an independent worker was terrifying! What made me make the decision to go solo?

I had to decide what I wanted in life. I also had to decide that I deserved what I wanted in life. Up until that unceremonious dismissal, I had never been let go before. Sure, it was a blow to my ego, but it was also a wakeup call. I wasn’t really happy with the work I was doing, but I kept doing it because I didn’t think I deserved better. I didn’t believe I had options. I’d say to myself, “yeah, I don’t care for the job, but at least money is coming into my bank account every other week.” My mentality was all wrong. I had to decide what I value. And you know what that was? To never again be in a position for someone to tell me to hit the bricks! I realized that, as an employee of a company, I’d always be in that position. Most US states offer at-will employment, meaning that a company can fire you with no warning and no cause. I was adamant about shielding myself from such conditions.

How to do it, though? Work for myself, of course! In my case, I’m a registered patent agent. A patent agent writes and files patent applications for inventors. Have an invention idea? Talk to a patent agent. I realized that companies without intellectual property staff would need such a service. Companies invent things all the time and want to keep their competitors from stealing their technology. Individual inventors can also benefit from patent agents, since they may not know the process for applying for a patent. I was addressing a need, and I didn’t need to be an employee to do so. I could be in charge of everything. How I did the work. How I got new clients. How much I charged. EVERYTHING! What’s not to like? I’ve never been happier.

Ultimately, you just have to ask yourself: “do I deserve to do the work that I want?” Or more broadly, “do I deserve to live the life I want?” For me, the answer to both questions was a resounding YES! And now here I am, writing this blog post. No one is ever going to call me into an office again. Unless it’s to talk about doing business, of course!

Do you have a great invention idea and want to keep others from ripping it off?

If so, I'm sure you must have questions about the patent application process.

 

Download this primer on the patent application process to get off to the right start!

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