I’ve learned that maintaining a role in the production of one of your ideas post-licensing agreement is a great way to help ensure its success. Before you sign a contract, I want you to consider the following. How can you interact with the company you’re going to be signing an agreement with? How can you add value to the process? And how can you involve yourself without causing trouble and annoyance?
When I first began to license my ideas, I basically signed an agreement and became invisible. That was that. The companies I was working with made it pretty clear they didn’t want to talk to me, didn’t want to see me. Did I know if the product did well when it came out? No. I had played no role and had no responsibility. It felt like, we’ve paid you. Now leave. Needless to say, these products weren’t highly successful. I’ve always maintained that no one is going to care quite as much about your idea as you do. And that’s just realistic. The employees you’re working with have other projects and other priorities.
But I had a different experience when I worked with Disney. I was asked for input. I don’t know if my behavior had changed, if I had contributed something intelligent in a meeting or was simply more vocal. The gentlemen I was working with recognized that I had something to offer and I realized I could help manage the product from behind the scenes. The key words in that sentence are “help” and “behind the scenes”. It’s so important that you don’t step on any toes or try to do someone’s job for them. Let those who are managing the product take credit – never make them question that it is indeed their project. No one is going to work with you if they perceive that you are going to be pushy or difficult.
It’s possible to use your contract to ensure some involvement. Maybe you can put a couple clauses in about having approval over packaging. If it’s your brand and your image, you have at least some right to make sure it’s done in a certain way. Disney does a great job of maintaining control over their image. When I was a Disney licensee, I saw how specific they were and how they exercised control through the contract they created. It was important to them and it should be important to you.
But even if you aren’t able to put any clauses in your contract, it’s still very easy to get involved. See if the company is open to the idea. I was able to go to meetings others couldn’t attend and create a focus group. They didn’t have the time to cover all these “extra” bases, but I did. Let them know that you are trying to make their job easier – not take it from them.
Even when people have the best intentions, things slip. Don’t let your product be one of them.
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