Small Business

Business Plans With Legs


Business plans with legs; the benefits of applying for a patent; entrepreneurial know-how for artists; Web postings for science types; and more

Business Plans Keep Working for Fast-Growing Companies

Chief executives of 53 fast-growing companies rated their business plans 4.3 out of a maximum six in helping them obtain outside funding, according to a recent study by two professors at Weber State University in Ogden, Utah. More significantly, the CEOs rated their plans 4.1 in helping them manage their companies. "This strong rating indicates that small successful companies continue to use their plan for more than funding," say the professors, Anthony Allred and H. Lon Addams, in an article published in the Journal of Small Business Strategy. (Its Web site is www.jsbs.org, but articles aren't posted online.)

The Hidden Benefits of Applying for a Patent

Despite the expense, typically $10,000 to $15,000 for legal bills, plus untold hours and energy, early-stage technology entrepreneurs say applying for patents is useful for seeking out venture capital and establishing a valuation for their companies. But according to Dean Cirielli, founder of Applied Search of Winchester, Mass., and "a closet inventor" who has been involved in filing four patents during his career, the most important benefit for entrepreneurs is "going through the process of trying to get a patent." Among other things, he says, the application process forces entrepreneurs "to learn about the competition, to identify potential partners, and to find pitfalls, like where you might infringe on someone else's patent." When all is said and done, "You learn how you fit into the market much better than you could otherwise."

A warning: While an expert attorney is essential, take care in trying to shortcut the applications and research process by hiring a service to handle everything (see BusinessWeek.com, 4/17/06, "Would I Lie to You? Five Cons Still Kicking"). "There are a lot of predator firms out there who take inventors for rides without making them any money," says Cirielli. "Worse still, many actually charge hefty amounts for their 'services,' or may demand large percentages of successful enterprises."

From Beethoven to Bob Dylan

"Every artist is an entrepreneur." So argues Dr. Elliot McGucken, a visiting professor at Pepperdine University, in an online video introduction to his course, Art Entrepreneurship & Technology 101, which has the professor lecturing from the shore of a small lake. Among his suggestions for artists who want to be more entrepreneurial: launch a blog (see BusinessWeek.com, 5/18/06, "The ABCs of Beginning Your Blog"), prepare a one-minute presentation on "your mission," write a 20-page business plan, and be prepared to work for a long time "for free." For information on courses in entrepreneurship geared toward artists, take a look at www.ae2n.net. It's still in its formative stages but eventually will feature reading lists and course evaluations.

A Different Kind of Web Posting, for Techies and Scientific Entrepreneurs

The original report of Benjamin Franklin's experiments with kites and electricity is now online. Once you get past the funny typesetting and writing style, you'll find an interesting discussion about potentially using electricity to restore hearing in the deaf and resuscitating a chicken hit by lightning so as to observe it had been blinded. A key conclusion: "The effects of lightning and electricity are very similar." For other scientific papers with important scientific implications, going back to 1665, check out the British Royal Society archives. (Tech news Web site The Register has a handy list here.) It's all free for two months.

Books: Miscellany for Small Businesses

There is something awkward about the Streetwise Small Business Book of Lists (Adams Media, September, 2006) edited by Gene Marks, and I suspect it's my sense that lists of suppliers, airlines, banks, and other such data in this day and age belong on the Internet. Yet there is also something engaging and handy about having the entire package bound up and available for browsing, the old-fashioned way. Certainly it includes useful data, such as lists of online customer survey firms and guidance on various startup issues from borrowing money to purchasing bar code scanners.

Unfortunately, there is too much mundane information, devoid of insider explanations—for example, lists of the largest airline mileage rewards programs, without info on the risks of expiring mileage and tips on the best strategies for redeeming the miles (see BusinessWeek.com, 9/11/06, "The Bootstrap Report"). Too much information on banks and finances comes from the U.S. Small Business Administration, and some is downright confusing, like including Vermont in its lists of both least expensive auto insurance and highest requirements for auto insurance. In all, a potentially useful reference guide for startup entrepreneurs who may be too lazy to hunt around the Internet.

David E. Gumpert covers business/health issues and also writes the biweekly What Entrepreneurs Need to Know column.

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