Being in academia, proposal development and grant writing to fund research is a BIG deal and a skill set that takes time to hone. In reflecting on the topics of innovation, creating, and growing a business for this blog, I drew on my background in strategic proposal development and time spent in private industry working as a Chamber of Commerce Executive. All roads point to the fact that It’s all about SELLING. Whether it be a product or service, you are the one with the idea or service and therefore need to sell it, along with your capabilities. You need to be able to articulate:
• What your product or service is
• What that product or service can do for me, the consumer or client
• What problem does this solve or what does it fix -- the “So What” factor
Let’s define the word problem in a broader sense, so it answers questions like “How do I fix _____,” “What do I get for my spouse’s birthday?” or “Who can help me with this (whatever it may be).” Having had the privilege to work with the CVEB Entrepreneurship Boot camp for Veterans, I have seen how the camp’s summer participants understand first-hand that developing a proposal that resonates with the audience is hard work -- almost as hard as it is to start up a business or company.
In working to develop and write a proposal, the funding organization’s guidelines should be read, re-read, and referred to often. Yet, once we start a business, how often is the business plan – our own guidelines -- taken out and reviewed? Do you schedule this action item on your calendar? If you have resources, such as mentors, who helped develop your concept, are you still meeting with them to advise you periodically? Basically, do you make the time to look at your plan and modify it for the changes that have occurred in whatever market you operate? If the answer is yes, then you are on track to move with market changes. If not, then perhaps you need to give thought to aligning your original plan with the current market situation. Society moves at a fast clip, and change is almost always inevitable, if not occurring daily.
Wikipedia, that on-line dictionary many of us didn’t grow up with, defines Innovation as the “development of new customer’s value through solutions that meet new needs…or old customer and market needs in value adding new ways.” Note how often “new” is mentioned… perhaps that is enough reason for looking at our business plan regularly in a new way, or with new eyes (ours, or those of our mentors or advisors) for current trends.
So think about pulling out the business plan you developed, and which investors may have funded. Take a good look at whether you can still answer the question “So what?” and SELL your idea as well today as when you began. If the answer is no, it may be time for a little refresher exercise or even some innovation on your part. Consider also that the Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship values your successes. This organization, and new veterans entering the program, could use your monetary and volunteer contributions to assist others much like they may have aided you with business ideas and development.
Special thanks to K. Kimball and K. Pilant for their recommendations and edits.