A little about me.

 
 

I want to make it clear that I am not a garage inventor.  My ideas did start way back when I was in high school.  My bicycle had a light that was powered by a generator that when placed against the tire produced the power.  I thought why couldn’t I produce power that same way in an automobile when it was moving.  If I placed enough generators and a electric motor, I may never have to buy gas.  Seemed logical.  I am not an engineer and I was young.  I just wanted a solution to the extremely high price of gasoline (back then, it was about to exceed $1.00 per gallon).  Without boring you with the details, I discovered the drag from the pressure of the generator used more energy than it produced.  So while I might extend the distance a automobile could travel while traveling downhill or braking (the modern hybrid), perpetual motion in this form was not possible.
 
I went on to college and a few years after graduation, I founded what would become my career for the next 25 years, my advertising agency.  I learned a lot about selling, marketing & advertising over the years but always had a desire to be in the product business.  I would refer to myself as a salesman without a product.
 
One of my areas of expertise was in the packaging industry.  We created the insert cards for those stubborn plastic clamshell packages.  The clamshell offered lots of advantages for the retailer.  The clamshell allowed the store to place valuable merchandise on the floor without the assistance of a sales clerk.  It dramatically cut down on shrinkage (theft) and as a bonus, the customer always knew that a sealed clamshell contained all the product’s parts and they were in good condition.  The dilemma… wrap rage!  Customers had trouble opening the clamshells.  Retailers weren’t willing to give up the magic of the clamshell however consumers kept complaining.  

Ahh!  The perfect opportunity to invent my first product.  A tool to open clamshell packages.  Over a year’s worth of development and more than $50,000.00 invested, OpenX was born.  If I only knew then what I know now!  We had started a category that now has over 15 competing products in it along with numerous direct knock-offs that infringe on my patents and names that infringe on our registered trademarks.  To our credit, we have sold millions of units and OpenX continues to sell well.

Was OpenX going to be my only success story?  Was it luck?  The simple answer is no.  Not because my ideas are better than others, but because I have taken all the knowledge I have gained along the way to evaluate future projects and avoid the mistakes of previous one. My regret, not having a mentor and not learning from the mistakes of others. And believe me, I have made and continue to make mistakes, every time just getting better.

I am frequently approached with ideas.  Some new and some I have heard countless times.  Some believe in their ideas and some just want me to make them lots of money.  Let me start by saying… if it were that easy, everyone would be doing it.  I also am frequented by those companies that advertise on late night television on how they are going to take your “idea” to industry.  I guess they consider me the “industry.”  They bring in portfolios hoping that out of the thousands of ideas maybe one might fly.  Besides, these companies are not in the business of finding the next “Big Idea” but rather finding willing inventors who, with nowhere to turn, believe they should pay these companies hoping that they will be discovered.
  
I have one thing to say… STOP.  At least don’t spend the money without being informed.  Spend some time reading the stories on this website, look honestly at your idea and then decide how to move forward. If you decide to call, I would be delighted to speak with you.
  
My goal with all of this is for you to have the tools to fully conceptualize your idea.  You must create a presentation that stimulates someone on how your idea benefits them and why they should act now.  You need to make them believe like you believe.  Having an idea is wonderful but if you really want to have a chance to make it successful, you need to truly understand that your idea is only the beginning.

Let’s brainstorm!

 
 

 

 
 

Are you a talker or a doer?

 
 

In my early years, many people said I didn't know what I was talking about. I finally decided to stop talking and start doing!

After all these years, I want to inspire the doers. The talkers challenge every comment with a reason why it doesn't work for them. The doers take a moment for the inspiration, smile and just keep doing!

I know all of you are thinking about doing... now is the time to start.

Ideas come in all shapes and sizes. Some are very grand and some are simple improvements to existing things. Can you make your idea a reality? Can you really see this through? Have you ever seen something and thought, that was my idea? Well stop talking about it and do something about it. Don't worry about making mistakes. Stop finding reasons to do something else. Stop procrastinating! Sit down NOW and figure out a way to make this happen. You can do it just as well as the next guy. You just have to want it more!

Some people just talk about it all day long and some make it happen! It is a lot more rewarding when you are the one that makes it happen. People will laugh at you. You should laugh at you! Keep working at it and you will be the one laughing all the way to the bank!!!

 
     
 

There is a solution. There is always a solution.

 
 

A problem is only an idea waiting to happen. Take full advantage of your surroundings. Listen carefully. Ask questions. Take a break. Look at it from different points of view.

Greatest path to success... don't give up!

 
     
 

This is going to be big! Or so I thought.

 
 

I have always been an idea person. Over 30 years ago upon graduation from college I moved to Southern California and started out to make my mark. For the first four months or so I worked in a photography studio. I quickly moved on to a higher paying job as a purchasing agent in a furniture company. A year into that I began to do freelance graphic design. One day I came home and said that I would rather starve than work for someone else. Today, I could stand to starve for a while. As my graphic design career added a printing company and then became a full service advertising agency, it seemed my job was to come up with ideas for everyone else. They had a product or service and they expected me to figure out a way to make it big.

Then I had my own first big idea! This was huge! I was going to be rich. I had to work through it completely and make it happen. I thought I had everything I needed to make it happen. Boy was I young and naive!

I called the idea "Bonus Bank" and began the process of making it happen. My idea came from the newly introduced airline reward programs. I thought they were a stroke of genius because they kept a customer loyal to a brand. I believed I could do that with a local group of merchants. I would issue a "Bonus Bank" card that a shopper would present at a participating retailer in town. A percentage of their purchase would be credited to their account. At any point after their account reached $5.00, they could request a "Bonus Bank" check that could be redeemed at any of the participating retailers. Everything else being equal, a shopper would frequent a store network to receive the rewards. (ie: earn Bonus Bank credit at the dry cleaners and redeem at the video rental store - video rental stores were big then!) The store benefited because customers consistently shopped in their establishment for the rewards; the customer benefited because it was like "cash back" (this was before the Discover Card and all the other credit card perks as well) to be used on things they already were purchasing; and I would benefit because I would collect a small fee on each transaction. This was going to be huge. I could feel it!

We had everything in place... or so I thought. The first problem came when I discovered I could not name the project "Bonus Bank." I wasn't allowed to incorporate the word bank in the name because technically I was not a bank. So we changed the name to "Bonus Plus." Didn't like the name as much but figured the idea was so good that it didn't really matter.

I didn't have a business plan or a budget, just a great idea! I was just spending money because this was going to be big! There were not that many expenses so far and thought I could easily take care of it.

We set an official launch date and it was now time to get out on the streets to introduce Bonus Plus to the local merchants. Selling is hard to begin with but selling a new idea is even harder! I didn't view it as selling, we were introducing a novel way for each merchant to increase their business and keep their local clientele loyal! Either way, you sure get a lot of rejection. Over the first few months, we did manage to sign up about thirty businesses to the project. We provided them in-store merchandising materials, a receipt system and everything they needed! The official launch was soon and we would begin waiting for the onslaught of customers.

Launch week. Our merchant members weren't signing up customers to the program. They didn't want to give the rewards (percentage of the sale) to their customers unless the customer demanded it. A customer can't demand something they don't know is available! This was troubling because the more people who signed up to the program, the greater the benefit would be to the entire group of merchants. Didn't they understand this? We certainly explained this with every presentation, every piece of literature, and every personal contact with them. The merchants, skeptical about the program, were focusing on the percentage of the sale they were giving back. They wanted the benefit of obtaining new customers along with keeping their existing clients loyal without having to contribute anything. We thought stores would want to sign up customers. It seemed to be a no-brainer! So became our next challenge: how are we going to get customers to sign on and use their Bonus Plus rewards card?

It was clear that we needed to sign up our own Bonus Plus members. The demand had to come from the consumer. Most of the stores would credit the Bonus Plus accounts if they were asked, however we there were a few that refused. One customer called in complaining that the only reason they went to this store was because they were going to earn cash to shop in another. If we only could have found a way to get our member stores to understand this. We spoke to the stores who signed up, agreed to the terms and then refused to participate. It was clear we were not going to make progress with them so they were dropped from the program. We were able to sign up consumers but not in the numbers we needed for a success. We issued incentives in the form of checks for randomly selected members to use. Very few were cashed. Maybe they forgot about Bonus Plus or didn't believe the check was real. Then we issued checks to customers who were regularly using their cards. Many of them were cashed but not in good enough numbers to keep the retailer enthusiastic.

This was such a great idea, a sound concept, and, what we thought was, a good execution. So why was it going nowhere?

My first big lesson! And this lesson, most people never learn so I was glad it happened to me early on. No matter how good your idea is, nobody cares about it as much as you. Very few people are going to help you with it and certainly very few are going to promote it for you unless they truly believe there is something in it for them. Unless the benefit is immediate or so substantial, most loose interest almost immediately. On a project of this magnitude, it must be advertised and promoted on a large scale even in a small demographic area. It was not our job to simply create the program (have the great idea). It was our job to have a plan and the money to implement the idea on a large enough scale to at least give it a chance of success. Ideas come and go. Making the idea successful is the hard part.

Within a few years of my big idea a new credit card company introduced a novel idea. A credit card with no annual fee and a "cash back" rewards program. They had enough money to promote the idea. Shoppers understood the rewards. Businesses wanted the shoppers so they accepted the card. Today it is hard to find a credit card without some sort of loyalty or rewards program attached to it.

I still believe my idea has merit but I am smarter now and realize I am probably not best suited to make it a success.

 
     
 

What's your story?

 
 

How are you going to grab me with your idea? If it's novel, will I understand what it is you have? Just because you understand what it is, doesn't mean your potential customer will. It is important that within seconds you are able to describe what it is, identify the problem, how your idea solves it, why it is superior and most importantly, why I need it. Two things are imperative. The first: your message must be clear and on point. Something someone might remember or identify with at least enough to keep their attention. The second: repetition. Your customer will probably need to see your idea or message many times before it sticks with them.

Now that you have your idea, start thinking about why I need it. When you figure out why I need it, make me understand that in one photo or just a sentence. Have I been waiting for this idea my whole life? Practice your pitch. If you are not having success, work on the pitch. That may be more of your problem than the idea. At a recent street fair, I came upon an item I thought was cool. They were so busy trying to sell and talk about how great their product was that they lost track of why I might want it. If they simply created the interest and excitement about it's benefit to me, they wouldn't have had to sell so hard.

So, get your story straight! Practice it. Update it. Make me want it, show me the benefit I will receive by owning it and don't force it on me. Most importantly, don't give up!

 
     
 

A Major Store is interested... I am going to be RICH!!!

 
 

In the beginning, every time a major retailer was interested in our products, I thought, wow, this is going to be great.  I am going to be rich!  Then they started with all the vendor forms that were necessary to sell to them.  The insurance verification. The chargebacks, returns, advertising allowances, distribution shipping, labeling and more.  Then they wanted a guaranteed sale.  Our products were terrific.  If I could only get them on the shelf of a major retailer, I would have my start.  Then the first major retailer purchased and it wasn’t on a guaranteed sale.  We did everything necessary.  We were concerned we might have cut ourselves a little thin on margin but they kept working us on price.  It never occurred to me that working us on price was their job.  We had been promised a good location in the store.  A few weeks after shipping we gleefully drove to our local store in search of our product.  We were sure it was going to be right up by the cash register with everybody in the store talking about it.  To our dismay, our product was buried in the tool department.  I quickly called the buyer and pleaded that women purchase our product and that we don’t think many women are going to casually walk down the tool aisle.  ”Not my problem” said the buyer.  We gave you the space, it better sell or else we are going to pull it.  The good news is we were getting lots of press coverage on our first product as it solved a major dilemma.  We were featured on the Today Show, The Early Show, Good Morning America and many local television and radio shows.  Most everyone even went so far as to say it was available at this major retailer.  We began to get calls from customers who said they went to the store and couldn’t find it and could they purchase it from us directly.  Then it happened.  We got a call from a manager of one of the stores.  He complained that he had been having so many customers come into the store that day demanding our product.  He had never heard of it and said the customer would become angry.  He went on to say that if we didn’t stop saying that our product was available at his store, he was going to turn it over to their legal department.  I quickly responded that they carry the product and what the SKU number was.  He looked it up and found he had 12 units in stock and exactly where they were in the store.  Later that day we called the store and they were sold out.  We contacted the buyer and explained the situation.  We said customers don’t know what a SKU number and their system doesn’t allow them to look up a product by name.  Again, he said it “wasn’t his problem” and our product wasn’t performing as well as they had expected.  We examined our numbers and realized that over the past several weeks since we had shipped them, we had sold more directly on our website from people who indicated they unsuccessfully tried to purchase at this retailer, than we had sold to this entire chain having more than 1,500 retail locations.  We were eventually pulled out of the store.  Since that time we have gotten much better at playing the game!

I ask better questions of the buyers.  I don’t just agree to their terms.  Sometimes that is difficult because even with all our wonderful success stories, we are still a tiny company and those large retailers know they can manipulate us.  Plus, let’s be honest, a large order is very tempting.  It is kind of like a diet.  One scoop of ice cream is not going to hurt but resisting that temptation is much better in the long run if your goal is to loose weight.  I would rather have my product in the correct section of the store than have it not sell.  A failure makes it all that much harder to get in the chain again.  Sometimes a guaranteed sale is better if it offers you better placement in a store.  I know it is obvious but if your demographic can visually see your product when they are in the store, your chances that they will purchase it go up dramatically.  Otherwise you are only selling to the customer who is seeking out your product.

 
     
 

If you are going to ask... be sure to listen to the answer!

 
 

For everyday shipments I use the two most common companies. I use one significantly more than the other. Both are similar in price, both deliver mostly on time, both allow you to track your shipments, and both have friendly drivers. So why did I pick one over the other and why, when given the choice, do I continually ship with one rather than the other? Recently I was called by the company I don't use so much with a survey. I value my time but I would hope that someone would tell me why I'm not meeting their expectations so I decided to spend the time and answer the questions. The questions were vague like how many packages do I send a week, do I use other carriers, do I believe they deliver on time, etc. My favorite question was what percentage of packages do I ship with them. My answer was "as few as possible." Taken off guard by the answer, the agent stated that my answer was not one of the options. So, to move on, I was forced to make up a number. At the end of the survey she asked if I wanted to add anything. I asked if she wanted to know why I didn't use them and she replied yes. As I told her the one issue that is holding me back, she narrowed my response to simply "price." which isn't the issue at all. I had done what I could, I was getting nowhere and it really didn't make a difference to me anyway. I thought to myself, this is exactly the problem. Nobody is listening!

While I understand that my shipments are not going to make or break either one of these companies, why waste my time and their money to ask if you aren't going to listen to the answers.

 
     
   
     
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