People always ask me, “Steve, do you fly out and pitch to potential licensees in person?” And the honest answer is, sometimes yes and sometimes no. It’s very important to establish a relationship with a future licensee, especially at the beginning. This means talking on the phone and then maybe moving to e-mail. If you are able to (and can afford) to spend time with the people you’re going to be working with, that’s priceless. It’s not the most fiscally responsible choice, but looking someone in the eye? Understanding who they really are and putting faces to names? That’s of great value. And it’s also an investment. Because when you sign a contract, you don’t just walk away – you’re going to be working with these people for a long time. Their success is your success.
But timing is everything. Will I visit a company at the beginning of our relationship? No. My idea needs to stand on its own. It needs to have all the benefits they need. I like to work out all the issues before I arrange a visit. Can my product be manufactured? Do they really want it? Have they agreed to my term sheets? If all these kinks are worked out, I’ll go out and meet with them in person. I want to see their facilities and what they’re really all about. I need to determine if that company is really the best and right fit for me. If the situation is ideal and feels right, I sign a contract. It’s kind of like kicking the tires – you want to confirm exactly what you’re getting into. Once you’ve signed a contract, you’re partners. You may sometimes find yourself in a situation where you wish that wasn’t the case… Get to know who they are before that moment.
Stephen Key is a successful award-winning inventor who has licensed over 20 products in the past 25 years. Along with business partner Andrew Krauss, Stephen runs inventRight, a company dedicated to educating inventors about selling their ideas and the skills needed to succeed. You can ask questions and get advice on the inventRight forum, check out the resource center, and listen to the weekly radio show on inventing. Get In The News, list your invention to have media outlets find you for news stories.