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Inventing Your Way Out of a Recession

(February 2011) posted on Thu Feb 03, 2011

Using research and development to thrive during economic downturns.

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By Craig Miller

Finally, consider: You have spent the time and money to develop a product or method that gives you a competitive advantage. But all of this does little good if a competitor can simply copy what you’re doing. This is the fourth risk, and it gets us into to the legal world of trade secrets, patents, copyrights, and trademarks. To protect your intellectual property you must draft the proper non-compete and non-disclosure contracts with your employees and colleagues, and file the applicable patent/copyright/trademark documents with the government. This process is time consuming and expensive, and even when this is done – and every “i” is dotted and every “t” is crossed – your contracts and filings are only as good as your willingness to pay attorneys to enforce them.

Reorganization, off-the-shelf, alliances, and more
To pursue R&D without sacrifices to your core business takes organization. When two ambitious R&D projects threatened to disrupt our business, the principals of our company chose to reorganize. One of my partners took over my role as company president and CEO so I could refocus some of my time. And, our production manager stepped up to general manager while other managers worked to better define their (and others’) roles in a manner consistent with all of our strengths and weaknesses. We’ve all delegated more, with a better outcome, and we’re all working harder and smarter.

There are ways to tame R&D’s HR and financial burdens on your company. One is to develop a new product or service by starting simple and avoiding significant in-house development costs. Some of our most successful creations have involved developing products using Commercial Off-the-Shelf (COTS) materials.