One of the first, most daunting tasks that I had to tackle was writing a Business Case. I am not an MBA and have never taken a business class in my life. However, when I worked at the IP Portfolio Management start-up, we talked about a lot of business-y things and it turns out some of those business-y things were parts and pieces of business cases.
Some people say that business cases/plans are a waste of time. Others will tell you that they are essential (just do a Google search).
Why did I do them?
I have found, as a lawyer helping business owners, that the whole business case process is a great exercise for most business owners – especially if you are a newbie business owner. It shows potential investors (which, as a Lawyer-Human – I think of myself as an “investor” in your business in many ways because…well, even though you’re paying me, I’m investing my time in helping you with your business) that you have actually given your business some thought and it’s not simply a whim. Should you spend months writing up a detailed business case? Probably not. Unless you are entering some sort of business case competition, of course.
What that dude in the article said – it’s probably true – no worthwhile adventure follows a plan and there’s no substitute for doing. However, there’s a difference between veering off the path because there’s a fallen tree on the trail and wandering lost through the forest with no idea where you’ve come from and where you’re headed to. My business case had a cursory sketch of a plan. However, the main purpose was to answer these questions:
What space in the marketplace does my idea fill?
What similar things exist?
How is my idea better and/or different?
What are all the different ways that I can make money off of this idea?
How much money could be made?
What could go wrong?
How do I plan to get rid of the idea/Who will take it off of my hands?
I told the story of my idea clearly and CONCISELY (with real numbers and references to where I got those numbers). With tables and graphs, my business case was under 10 pages. Then, as I started talking to real people about what I was selling, I got new ideas and found that there were areas that my numbers weren’t 100% accurate. You know what I did with that information? I made a note of it somewhere and did not bother trying to rework my business case.
I’m not entering a business case competition. I’m trying to help my client make some money off of his idea. If it turns out that we need to send a business case to some venture capitalists in order to get an investment? I’ll spend a day or so prettying it up at that point. For now, I’m going to keep talking to as many people in the market as possible. The business case helped me to define who I want to talk to and what I would want to talk to them about – which I will talk about that process (how to get meetings and who to get meetings with) in the next post.
Hopefully this was helpful. If you’re still feeling rather clueless about the whole thing – I don’t blame you. I stared at my computer screen for about a week typing business-y sounding words and then deleting them. I finally just sat down and made myself put something together. It took me about a week and once I stopped trying to sound smart, it came together pretty well.
As Chuck Close said, “The advice I like to give young artists, or really anybody who’ll listen to me, is not to wait around for inspiration. Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work…”
To help you get to work, we have some pretty awesome resources for people just starting out – shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll send you our “business resource” sheet. If I had had those resources 3 months ago when I was going through this, I probably would have had a much easier time.
Please remember that this is just a documentation of my own journey. There are different ways to do things and nothing in here is legal OR business advice. If you think you have a better way – I’m always open to ideas.
I want to add that I don’t plan on this being patent-centric. Look at the NFL – they make tons of money off of licensing trademarks/brands. Intellectual property is not just limited to patents – but includes trademarks, trade secrets, and copyrights. For copyrights, think of sampling older songs – sampling can be a form a licensing.