A gifted inventor calls me. He says: “Martin, you are a successful businessman. Can you please do the CEO for us and make my product idea successful?”
That happens every now and then, and this is why I am prepared.
I find out where in the 4×4 Innovation Strategy matrix he is. This matrix has become an essential assessment tool for me.
My Usual Evaluation Questions And The Result
My first question was: “At what Technology Readiness Level is your product?”
The answer was: “Prototype ready. Pre-series product arriving next month from China.”
My next question was: “What IP do you have?”
The answer was: “No patent has been filed. But we were told that we have Copyrights.”
My next question: “Any Freedom-to-Operate done? Prior Art Searches?”
My next question: “Did you do any market response tests? Do you have letters of intent of potential buyers?”
Answers: “No, we were afraid of showing our products because it still has so many bugs. That is why we wanted to wait for the product from China. This one has a much better quality.”
What I have done with my questions was to find out where he is in the 4×4 Innovation Strategy matrix. This is the result:
This is the “Gene” result pattern from my 4×4 Innovation Strategy book. All red alert lamps are put on. Please read my free book if you don’t understand why. And please watch this screencast lesson: The 4×4 Innovation Strategy Roadshow
So, I will in the following call that inventor simply “Gene”, in order to keep his true identity secret.
And No Budget
Then came my final question: “Is there a budget?”
The answer was: “The CEO that we are looking for should also bring in investors and then there will be a budget.”
My Quick Assessment
This is what went through my thoughts:
Oh man, you do not know what you are asking for.
This project is a full-time job if you want it to be successful. Not only would I have to whack you and the other people on the team through the 4×4 Innovation matrix.
I would have to set up a business environment that supports the 4×4 Innovation Strategy.
I would need some structure: I need teams for HR (very important!), for accounts billables, for accounts receivables, for purchasing, for IT, for marketing & sales, and of course for operations and for R&D.
These people also would need to understand that we are not building a kingdom where I am the king, but – to the contrary – we are even avoiding that. We need to build teams with responsibilities.
Each individual would have to wear several hats at the same time, and they would need to be smart enough to be able to balance their various responsibilities in these many different teams.
I would need the right people on the bus: some level 5 leader mindsets for fire-fighting and for being creative, and then some people with level 4 manager-technician mindsets for handling special situations, and enough level 3 technician mindsets that are going to do the grunt work.
These people also would have to realize what they are doing. There must be regular training, both from the business side as well as from the operational side.
Then I would need a cloud computing infrastructure with these 8 program functions: a central email system, a central CRM system, a central accounting system, a worktime measurement system, a central project management system, an electronic document management system, and a shared central data drive.
The team would need to be trained with these pieces of software.
Of course would I not tell Gene what I am thinking. That would be arrogant.
These Were My Assumptions Made
I assumed that Gene has a technician personality. He loves his invention.
His life shows that he does not know how to run a business. He is still an employee, at age 43.
I know that Gene has a daytime job. He cannot easily dedicate 20 hours per week to his project. We live in Asia and his employer keeps him on his toes.
Gene has probably depleted his resources. That is why he is desperately looking for help.
I Cannot Reasonably Help Gene
I know what needs to be done but this project has no reasonable chance of success.
I see only three ways of making Gene a successful innovator:
- to whack him through the process of becoming an entrepreneur, which is not realistic, or
- to help him to sell a license for his know-how to someone who wants to sell his product, which will probably require him to overcome a pre-conceived idea about the true value of his invention, or
- to take over the entire project – as he suggested himself – and to run it as my own business. But I have no intention whatsoever to partner with this client: that leads to a ton of potential conflicts of interest and he has no skin in the game. He will leave you when the going gets tough, and claim that you have stolen his product idea.
The problem here is that Gene has no wisdom in innovation. He has certainly not read my free book “The 4×4 Innovation Strategy”, he is probably not open to any warnings, and he will probably not read anything that could possibly help him.
If I take on that CEO job that he has offered to me, that would be comparable to the idiotic Captain Maier who played a major role in the Sendling´s Night of Murder insurgence near my hometown in Bavaria, about 300 years ago. An extensive masterpiece of a historical description of what happened during that slaughtering is kept here https://archive.org/details/sendlinger-mordweihnacht-1705. And this is the short summary:
Habsburg Austria fought a war in Italy at that time and my home region was situated along one of the major supply lines from Vienna (in Austria) to Milan (in Italy). The Austrian troops abducted all young Bavarians that they could get hold of and assimilated them into their troops, in order to become cannon fodder in their war in Italy. The Bavarian establishment in the nearby city of Munich cooperated with the Austrians. This resulted in an uprising of the local peasants and craftsmen, armed with sticks and scythes, and lead by a Captain Maier who was native Bavarian but who was also a retired Austrian army officer. That revolt was extinguished by an Austrian cavalry regiment, which ended with some 1,100 Bavarians being massacred (some speak of 3,000), and with only a few dozen casualties at the Austrian side.
Here is my question: how can an experienced army officer march 1,100 almost unarmed laymen into their secure death?
And no, I do not want to become the second Captain Maier and also do not want to become the second Smith of Kochel.
The safest way for me is to send Gene away.
But I have chosen differently.
This Is What I Have Told Gene
I have told him on the phone that I cannot do the CEO job for him.
Then I started to chat with him on a messenger app. Here is the dialogue[15:18, 2/22/2021] Martin Schweiger: do you read books?
[15:29, 2/23/2021] Gene: Seldom
[15:30, 2/23/2021] Gene: I hope i got time read
I sent him these two memes
[15:52, 2/23/2021] Gene: hahaha
[15:53, 2/23/2021] Gene: yeah i got the idea
[15:52, 2/23/2021] Gene: you books to recommend?
[15:53, 2/23/2021] Martin Schweiger: you need a change in mindset and not books
[15:53, 2/23/2021] Gene: correct
[15:53, 2/23/2021] Gene: i also believe the more you learn the more to decide better
[15:53, 2/23/2021] Martin Schweiger: a quarantine could be helpful for you
[15:54, 2/23/2021] Gene: correct
[15:55, 2/23/2021] Martin Schweiger: A quarantine is a good opportunity for a reset
I am recommending the Perry Marshall “30-days Reboot” course https://www.perrymarshall.com/products/#prod34
I have done that course during my last lock-down in May 2020. I guarantee that you will like it.
[15:55, 2/23/2021] Gene: thank ill check it out
[15:56, 2/23/2021] Martin Schweiger: come back when you have finished the course
[15:56, 2/23/2021] Gene: sure, thanks martin
And This Is The End Of The Story
This is what the Perry Marshall website currently says:
Gene never came back to me again. That shows me that he has even not tried to access the above page.
For whatever reason.
I hope that nobody will exploit him in the future.
Never again work for sole inventors before having carefully screened them.
That will make sure that you don’t waste your valuable time.
Working mostly for successful clients will also promote your own reputation.
Martin “Success” Schweiger