When you have a great idea, who can you trust it with?
I founded TeleBrands, the company behind “As Seen on TV” household products, more than 30 years ago. In those years, I’ve been deceived a few times. It comes with the territory of being a business leader.
In one case, when TeleBrands was just getting into the retail distribution channel, I sent a trusted employee to make a sales call at a major regional retail chain. He met with the CEO who was so intrigued by the business model that he offered my employee money to start a business selling exact copies of our products. The employee took the offer. That company remains a competitor today.
In any of these situations, it’s often the case that too much trust was granted or that an idea wasn’t protected enough. As human beings we are wired to trust. We are taught at an early age that most people are good, and that there are people whom we should trust implicitly — teachers, police officers, clergy, etc. All you have to do is read the news to see why we can’t hold all these truths to be self-evident.
I’ve found that many new entrepreneurs don’t understand the need to protect their business, and they put their faith into people without necessary safeguards.
Here are my top tips for securing your ideas and your business:
— Apply for patents, copyrights and other forms of intellectual property protection. Many of the early stages of filings are simple to complete and inexpensive.
— Invest in talented people to create an inner-circle of executives you can trust who are authentic with a strong work ethic.
— Make sure your people know that trust is earned – not granted — and they will be asked to prove themselves every day.
— Checks and balances – whether it is your accounting department or sales organization, have processes in place that highlight transparency and make it impossible for corporate charlatans to survive.
— Have a good lawyer, but rely on that person sparingly. Every entrepreneur needs a relationship with a good attorney who knows you, your company and your style. Litigation is expensive, but good counsel is priceless. Your attorney should be as adept at negotiating out settlements as they are going into court. You want a strategist, not necessarily a gladiator
If you still need to know who you can trust, I say trust the idea. In essence trust yourself. This will drive you to see the idea through as far as you can, maybe even to a business reality.
Trust your team. I have great employees whom I am dedicated to, and they to me. Many of them have been with me for years which is unusual for an industry that sees a lot of turnover in staff. My employees trust my judgement that an idea will work. In turn, I trust them to manufacture that idea into a physical product and make it a best-seller.
AJ Khubani is CEO of BulbHead, a site for innovative, fun products that solve common problems. He is also the founder and CEO of “As Seen On TV” products giant TeleBrands.