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Get Social Media Savvy via a free Ideas2Market Webinar

More Australian consumers are using social media to inform their purchasing decisions however businesses are not effectively engaging in these channels, according to the 2013 Yellow Social Media Report.

The report found that 65% of online Australians use social media such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, however only 30% of small businesses and 47% of medium sized businesses have a social media presence.

Queensland businesses can learn how to build relationships with consumers via social media through the Ideas2Market Web Strategies & Social Media Webinar being held by QMI Solutions on Friday 21 June.

Scott Visser, Collaboration & Consultancy Services Manager, from the Australian Institute for Commercialisation, a division of QMI Solutions, said businesses need to ensure they have a strategy so they can tap into social media users and turn them into consumers.

“If you are a start up or small business without a social media presence or strategy, then you are missing out on potential customers how use social media and that customer base is growing,” Visser said.

“With research showing that consumers are increasingly using social media to inform their purchasing decisions, it is crucial that businesses get on board with social media and turn users into customers.

“Designed for startups and small businesses, the interactive webinar will give participants an introduction to social media and web strategies as well as help refine existing social media activities,” said Visser.

The report stated that almost a third of businesses lacked a strategy to drive traffic to their social media sites and investment in social media had decreased over the year with small businesses spending on average $1,970 (down from $3,410 in 2012).

Furthermore, while discounts and giveaways were given as key reasons why consumers followed brands, less than a third of small businesses which have social media sites offer such incentives.

Webinar participants will hear from social media specialist and commentator, Selina Power, from Bluewire Media.

Power is a commentator for on the Top 20 Business Blogs in Australia and writer for Business2Community, Innovation Social, and American Blogs Mashable and Incentivize.  

Power will guide participants through the web and social media quagmire and introduce them to the basics, including the Social Media Planning Template which will help businesses to develop a social media strategy and publishing schedule.

The Ideas2Market webinar on Web Strategies & Social Media is free and will be held from 11:30am to 12:00pm on Friday 21 June. Click here to register for this webinar.

Top Ten Business Tips for a start-up business: Mark Paddenburg, CEO

Firstly, before you even start planning your business, spending valuable time you could otherwise use to catch up with friends, surf or earn a salary, make sure you have the motivation and passion. The tips below refer to creating a business, not creating a job for yourself. A business continues to earn money even when you are not active in it, while clearly a job does not. The following tips are general points, which will apply in most cases – treat the tips as a check list before you really commit, but there are exceptions to every rule:
1. Be professional from the get-go. You now represent a business – everything about you and the way you do business needs to let people know that you are a professional running a serious business. That means getting all the tools you need and then network early and often. Have a strong 2 minute business elevator pitch ready to help tell your story.
2. Begin with the end in mind. Write a winning business plan, even if it’s just 2 pages. The business plan will help clarify objectives and viability. A tip from Steven Covey’s Seven Habits: when you know where you want to be with a business in 5 years you can plan how to get there from day one and you have a real chance to get where you want to be. With no defined and documented goals, how will you track your performance, drive your business and know when you are on target to reach your goals or not? Do some research (check out competition, ABS figures, Dragon’s Den, Google widely, etc) and to help avoid sinking your time and money into starting a business that may not succeed. Don’t keep your plan top secret – ideas are cheap it is auctioning them that makes the difference. Plus if you never talk to anyone about the idea or business plan you may miss a serious flaw or opportunity that
someone else would be able to see.
3. Get customers and sales early. Do a lean, minimal viable product and test it out on potential customers and friends. Get customers, early adopters, cash in – your business just can’t survive without them. Cash is king because until you collect the cash, you have not made a sale. Without sales = no cash, without cash = no cash-flow = soon no business. Really define who you are targeting: age, education level, income group, understand purchase patterns and motives. Then define how they will benefit from using your product. Can the benefit be quantified in terms of a monetary value. Then look at positioning your product to maximize those benefits and price your product accordingly. In sales you sell to two key emotions FEAR and GREED.
4. Get the legal and tax issues right the first time. It’s much more difficult and expensive to
unsnarl a mess afterwards. Learn what your legal and tax responsibilities are before you
start your business and operate accordingly.
5. Get a business mentor or advisor – identify and contact people who have the skills that can help you through the different phases of your start up. You need expert advice from people you can trust (or see the Entrepreneur in Residence @ the Innovation Centre Sunshine Coast).
6. Time is a precious so get action oriented – you’re your own boss now, but you will need to be disciplined. Success will depend on your own merits. You’ll have to think for yourself. Take advice, but make your own decisions and quickly figure out the most efficient way to get your product or service to market. Be ready to pivot if you need to, have Plan B ready in case the worst scenario happens and expect the unexpected.
7. Hire the right people and don’t be a loan wolf. Know your strengths and weaknesses and surround yourself with the team you need to make the business a viable success. Great companies are built on great management teams so get a loyal partner or 2IC in each venture to share the load and ensure you can get some down time.
8. Get the money lined up early and dilute if you need to. Save up if you have to. Approach potential investors and lenders with your business plan. Figure out your financial fall-back plan too. If you need external money to grow your business, be prepared to share the risks and rewards that come with your business. Selling shares or equity in your business involves dilution and it is a fact of life that it will happen in business if you need access to capital. So if your capital provider wants more than you want to sell for his stake, but you have no realistic current alternative take the money – accept the dilution. A smaller percentage of something funded is worth a lot more than 100% of something that’s not.
9. Be prepared to aim high, defy logic and lose your social life (at least temporarily). Start-up businesses are often fun, but do not do them for a lifestyle change, at least not immediately. You will need to put in long hours and lots of them to make the business work. It is not 9 to 5 and related to this an probably the most important tip:
10. Be passionate, enjoy the journey – it obviously helps if you do what you love. You’re going to devote a lot of time and energy to starting a business and building it into a successful enterprise, so it’s really important that you truly enjoy what you do… for the medium term anyway.
Mark Paddenburg is the CEO of the Innovation Centre Sunshine Coast.

Is your business an innovation statistic?

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Coming up with a new business idea is the easy part – it’s what you do with it that counts.

Almost 40% of Australian businesses reported introducing at least one type of innovation during the year ended 30 June 2011, according to the ABS report – Innovation in Australian Business, 2010-11. Most of these businesses were from the wholesale trade industry which recorded the highest proportion of innovating businesses (51%), followed by the retail trade industry (42%). However 6% of businesses reported abandoning at least one type of innovation activity during the same year.

Those looking to stay in the game and introduce innovation to their business can learn what it takes to do this by joining the Business Model Innovation Masterclass, held by QMI Solutions on 11 April at the Brisbane Powerhouse.

QMI Solutions CEO, David Harrison said organisations needed to change their business model to successfully accommodate and nurture their innovation into commercial reality. “Successful businesses are the ones that can take an innovation from the creation of a new idea all the way through to commercialisation.
“To achieve this, businesses need to evolve or change the way they do business,” said Harrison.

Presenter Dr John Kapeleris, General Manager of Australian Institute of Commercialisation (AIC), a division of QMI Solutions, said business model innovation is crucial as it is applied to the whole business, not just part of it. “It works by realigning the organisation with the demands of a constantly changing environment.
“This results in a business that is relevant, agile and supported by a culture that encourages new ideas and collaboration to meet market demands,” said Kapeleris.

The Business Model Innovation Masterclass is designed for senior management and those who are ready to make a difference in their organisation to gain competitive advantage. Participants will have access to presenters who are leading innovation experts who have successfully applied innovation to their own businesses as well as consulted to organisations to achieve innovation outcomes.

Presenter Dr John Kapeleris, a renowned innovation leader established the TechFast Program – Accelerating Technology Transfer and Diffusion into the SME market and has assisted numerous organisations and entrepreneurs achieve commercial outcomes from their ideas and opportunities.

Participants will also hear from Dr Tim Kastelle, a leading expert on innovation who lectures on Innovation Management at UQ Business School, will share his experience as a guest speaker. Kastelle has worked with a range of organisations including Brisbane City Council, Ergon Energy, Teys Australia, Fairfax Digital, Rio Tinto and Hatch Engineering on innovation projects.

The course develops existing commercialisation knowledge and will explore:

–        How to use strategy development techniques

–        Managing planning and resourcing within your business

–        How to assess commercial feasibility of innovative opportunities

–        Facilitating collaborative innovation

–        How to balance innovation with risk management.

The Business Model Innovation Masterclass will be held at the Brisbane Powerhouse on 11 April and costs $295 per person (incl. GST).

For more information visit www.qmisolutions.com.au/events/ or call 07 3364 0614.

What QMI Solutions can do for your business

QMI Solutions helps industry meet demand and opportunity in a global environment by; developing a skilled workforce, engaging staff in the business, improving productivity and reducing waste, identifying new markets and opportunities, applied innovation and bringing ideas to market. See case studies of how we have done this at www.qmisolutions.com.au  

PATENTS – THE ROAD TO RICHES OR RUIN?

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Patents maketh money.  Ideally.  Whilst this can be true if you’re lucky enough to hold exclusive rights to the next Post-It or Viagra, it will have others, such as Joe Battler – inventor and owner of a patent for a battery-powered “electrocution” mousetrap either rolling about in fits of laughter, or else wondering how it was that he got sucked into this veritable maze of paper, puffery, price and pain.
 
It’s a horrible analogy – but it’s true nonetheless – a patent is to the successful commercialisation of an invention what a lyric sheet is to a rock band.  It’s merely one piece – albeit a rather important piece – in a convoluted throng of microphones, amplifiers, guitars, drums and musicians.  Unfortunately, rock super-stardom depends on more than being lucky or talented enough to have penned the “right” song – you still need to pitch it to the right market and ensure that consumer demand is satisfied.  The analogy gets worse still, in that you’ve all got to be playing the same tune, and keeping perfect time or else the market will simply boo you off stage.  Further, there are tangibles and intangibles – how many records the tune itself sells versus how many your newfound fame sells for you.  Critically though, underpinning all of this is a basic intellectual property right that subsists from the first time you put pen to paper – the fact that nobody can rip off your song, perform it better and sell it cheaper.
 
Although my lamentable analogy relates to copyright protection, a patent is “same same but different” insofar as patent rights are not given away, they have to be earned.  A patent is really just an undertaking by the government to protect, for instance, the new and inventive mousetrap in return for Joe Battler teaching the public how he uses it to zap mice, so that they can either apply the teaching elsewhere, or make it themselves once the patent expires and dear old Joe has long since retired to the Caribbean.  The basic premise of the patent system is that it encourages people to be creative and innovative.  After all, if others could simply clone the electrocution mousetrap and do it cheaper (they would have no R&D costs to recoup), then where is the incentive to invent in the first place?

Just as with the rock band doubtless appreciating the overall value of copyright, there are tangibles and intangibles associated with owning a patent.  The tangibles are easy to pick: sales revenue, licensing revenue, etc.  The intangibles aren’t: the dollar value in having the marketplace all to yourself, and that of your reputation.

A patent is a “negative” right – it doesn’t entitle you to do anything (that is, you can still infringe someone else’s patent by working your own!) – all it allows you to do is exclude others.  However, as part of an overall business strategy including right-to-market searches and the like, a patent can cordon off a market and allow you to have a monopoly.  But a monopoly does not of itself guarantee success – you need manufacturers, marketers, salespeople, commercialisation experts, advertisers, capital investors – and above all, some good old-fashioned “smarts”.

And the best bit is that when all these things are aligned, optimised and working in unison, then there’s no reason why the electrocution mousetrap, probably to the patent world what “Achy Breaky Heart” is to a song sheet, can’t do for Joe Battler what Viagra, the relative “Stairway to Heaven”, did for Pfizer.

The take-home message here is that despite the hurly-burly and seemingly never-ending minefield of IP and commercial decisions you face as a patentee, you are not alone – help is out there.  They say that doing your own patent work is like performing surgery on yourself – possible, but not recommended!  For the obtention, licensing and enforcement of patent rights, a specialist IP or patent attorney firm is the place to go.  For commercialisation, capital and marketing advice, there are plenty of experts out there who can point you in the right direction – and many specialist IP firms now have their own commercialisation wings.  

Although the cost of underpinning your future success can be steep, the good news is that you might not have to take out a second mortgage.  The government consistently champion innovation as “the way forward” – and actually put their money where their mouth is in making available grants and other practical assistance for precisely this sort of thing.   

The harsh commercial reality is that Joe Battler cannot expect to simply wave his mousetrap patent in the air and have riches heaped upon him.  A patent is merely a tool – some may say a necessary evil.  They don’t guarantee commercial success, but they sure help.  In the hope that the rock band was the low point, I’ll end with one further analogy – a patent is like the centrepiece of a jigsaw puzzle in that all pieces must fit around it.  The road to riches usually begins from a patent; the road to ruin generally takes a detour.
Contributed by Gareth Dixon, Senior Associate, Shelston IP

Characteristics of an Entrepreneur: Do you have what it takes?

ImageEntrepreneurship is defined as the process by which a new venture is created when an entrepreneur identifies a new opportunity in the market to create economic products and services. An entrepreneur is therefore someone who is willing and able to convert a new idea or invention into a successful innovation in the market. The innovation could be in the form of a product, a service, or a novel business concept or model.

The typical characteristics of an entrepreneur include:

  1. An enthusiastic person with a vision
  2. The ability to identify new opportunities
  3. Calculated risk-taking
  4. Responsible in decision-making
  5. Overwhelming urge to succeed
  6. Discipline and persistence
  7. Confident and persuasive communicators
  8. Driven by the sense of accomplishment
  9. The ability to coordinate and manage scarce resources (time, money and people)

Studies according to Arthur Cole (1959) have identified four types of entrepreneurs:

  1. The innovator
  2. The calculating inventor
  3. The over optimistic promoter
  4. The organisation builder

Entrepreneurship is a very difficult undertaking, where many new businesses fail. Only a very small percentage (approximately 1%) of people who go into business succeed. Entrepreneurial activities range from solo businesses, many now being created online, to establishing large businesses, such as mining, employing large numbers of people. Entrepreneurs can also exist within existing organisations who identify new opportunities able to grow the existing organisation or alternatively are involved in spinning out new businesses. These entrepreneurs are referred to as intrapreneurs. An innovative high performing organisation should nurture and support the development of intrapreneurs as this activity can create significant growth for the organisation, either through the internal development and commercialisation of new ideas or through the creation of subsidiary businesses. If organisations do not identify, nurture and support intrapreneurs then many will leave the organisation and create their own businesses.

Entrepreneurship has been identified by many economists, including Joseph Shumpeter, as a driving factor that creates value in the economy through the following benefits:

  • Creating new jobs
  • Expanding new markets
  • New products and services
  • Satisfying domestic consumption
  • Developing new and existing industries
  • Income generation and economic growth
  • Healthy competition creating higher quality products
  • Supporting the existence of government and their budgets

This article has been contributed by Dr John Kapeleris, General Manager of the Australian Institute for Commercialisation. To view his blog about innovation, personal development and inspiration, click here.