The Idea

Over the next several weeks we will be publishing extracts from:

Take The Plunge – 101 things you need to know before starting your own business

by Michael Carter

 This week: The idea

It was Albert Einstein who once said ‘ideas are a dime a dozen’. If you are not acquainted with ourUScousins, a dime is ten cents. In Einstein’s time the exchange rate was $4 = £1, so ideas came in at 2.5p in our money – and that’s for all twelve!

It is true. Most people have a monstrous number of business start-up ideas even on a daily basis. It is always worth writing them down – firstly as a way of not forgetting them, secondly to see if there is any obvious trend forming and thirdly to make your audience laugh when you later write your autobiography and recite all the career choices you could have made…and didn’t.

One notion is to keep a note book and pencil beside the bed for scribbling conscious thought that occurs in the middle of the night. By writing something down it takes away the nagging effect of trying to keep the thought until morning and allows restful sleep. However in our experience on more than one occasion the following morning, the preserved thought is at best indecipherable and, at worst, a restatement of the bloody obvious.

We think your choices of business idea is probably drawn from one of these:

  • You have an invention – a new product or service – you want to exploit
  • You have particular skills and wish to ‘set up on your own’ alone or with others
  • You want to buy an existing business – but please not a book shop or tea room – everyone thinks of those
  • You want to take on a franchise – our personal advice is don’t.

Each of these is so important we are going to give each its own chapter. But first let us disabuse you of your creative powers. There is very little that’s new in the world. If you invent something, then before sharing it with anyone you should consider applying for a patent. A patent agent can tell you much each leg of that journey is likely to cost. Before you’ve gone far however, the ‘search’ phase will most likely find others have been before you.

Illustratively, a friend invented a handy dust-collection device for use when drilling holes in walls. He rushed to the patent agent as nothing like this was available in any of the big do-it-yourself retailers. First stage, the search, revealed patents for one identical and two very similar devices. So costs saved on going any further along the lengthy (and can be costly) patent route, and the lasting question: ‘why isn’t it in the shops?’

Top tip: If you invent something, make an appointment with a patent agent, who will often give you a free first meeting and alert you to the cost of each stage of an application (given you can stop at any stage).

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