My first foray into the world of small business was with invisible fencing. At the time, in the early 1980’s, it was a new product in a whole new category of electronic pet containment systems. We were covered by a patent so no other company could sell a product like ours. It used a transmitter to send a radio signal along a wire you ran around your yard and a compact receiver on a pet’s collar. The collar administered a tone and vibration, to be followed by a mild shock if the pet didn’t retreat from his position toward the center of the yard.
Millions of Americans owned dogs, the principal pet contained by the system, and the product made sense on so many levels. It had no maintenance, was scalable to very large properties with little additional cost, etc. No one else could sell a similar product, so competitive pricing was not an issue. A dream come true, right? Most people would agree. However, for me, it was not the case. First, I have to admit I was new to the world of small business and made lots of mistakes. The fact was I had to spend 99% of my time educating people about what an electronic fence was, as they often confused it with an electric fence.
The word “invisible” also created a roadblock to selling, since many people dismissed the product as a hoax. In the end, I learned that having a new and novel product like no other, while it may look very appealing from the inside, represents a business that will take lots of energy to get any traction at all. As pointed out in the book “Techno-Trends”, by author Daniel Burrus, the fluorescent light took eighty-two years from invention to wide application. Even the ballpoint pen took over fifty years to gain any traction. If you think that having a great idea for a new product in a new category will bring you fame and fortune, guess again. New technologies take time to reach the point where they pop.
Do you have the financial resources to wait it out?
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