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Your Invention. Steps To The Finish Line

Engineers and fastidious people, have long been observed as the types that have wonderful ideas, but rarely do their ideas get to market. Why? It's because they need to make sure every aspect of the design, colour, style, etc. is perfect, before being satisfied that they have a product they feel they can release into the cruel world of criticism.

Often, the inordinate time taken between the idea and the final product has eroded any advantages they may have had if they had gone early. Marketers are the exact opposite. They want to get your ideas out there even before you've got it off the drawing board.

Clearly, there is a line where the product can be released and hold its own initially, then as criticism or constructive ideas for improvements come to light, the product can be re-designed or re-imagined. Sometimes the product you started out with becomes something completely different over its lifetime.

Sure there is a risk that putting out a product with potentially fatal flaws could see you get wiped out, but if you have done your research, you would have known that basically your offering is sound, so you jump in, hope that all goes to plan, and that you become a household name and make a killing.

Many times, a product is developed using borrowed or investors funds, placing great mental pressure on the developer to perform in a timely manner in order to reduce or pay off debt quickly. Under these conditions, it might be time to stop and think where this is leading (before you borrow) if it doesn't work out as expected. If you have plenty of money and you don't mind gambling some of it away, then go for it – but do all your homework first!

Take a look at Shark Tank or Dragons Den to see the underprepared, underfinanced, underdeveloped, underestimated, under-researched entrepreneurs who thought they had the keys to the investors wall safe, only to be shot down for not investing time in determining:

  • What is my market? Have you researched it, and found a genuine niche you can fill?
  • What is my USP (Unique Selling Proposition)? If you have no point of difference, then you are competing on price alone.
  • What price point will it occupy? Too cheap – lost profits. Too expensive – lost or reduced sales. If you are aiming to be the best in your field, are there enough customers willing to buy your product?
  • How many sales can I make? What is the market size and your estimated share of the market? Think of the minimum number of sales that will enable you to keep going – breaking even – and start from there. If it is not viable then stop right there. Go back to your day job and think of another good idea.
  • How will I market my product? Prepare to market on line, in a store of your own or through distributors (discounting by 20% at least). Are the expenses going to cripple you? If not then keep going.
  • How will I know if the product is any good? If you make repeat sales and the sales are growing – not diminishing, then you have a product with legs. If repeat sales are not there, then seriously consider cutting your losses.

As tailors say, measure twice – cut once! Do your homework until you are sure that the next step of committing yourself fully is justified. It's very easy to lose money. The quickest way to make a million in developing new products – is to start with two million.

Get professional help – people with a solid track record, and pay them. It will be cheaper than listening to your best friend or big talker. Pay for – or ask an expert - about all the stuff you don't know. It's cheaper than learning on the job.

Good luck and fair winds in your entrepreneurial endeavour. May you make a fortune – then help someone else to get ahead.

Ron Mileham. Managing Director. King Group. ron@kinggroup.com.au
Feel free to contact me if you think I can help you in your business or next endeavour.

Interview With Ron Mileham. King Group. For Industry Update

IU.  Ron, at 73 you were supposed to retire after selling King Materials Handling. You are now 76, what happened?

RM. Ever tried forcing yourself to relax? After half an hour I had the fidgets, besides my mind was working overtime on new ideas, so I started looking at solving industrial problems, which led me to investigate several new ideas.

IU. Can you elaborate, or are they on the secret list?

RM. The first one I wanted to put to bed was the EZILOADER Ground Level Loading Trailer. I was working in partnership with Design Engineer Perry Carter on a trailer that would allow any item with low ground clearance to be able to access a trailer without lifting the product up, so it became obvious that the deck of the trailer must lower to the ground. Perry's genius turned the idea and sketches into reality. We finished the trailer, then took it to Farm World in Warragul, where 60,000 people passed through, and where we got invaluable feedback from the rural community. Every day we find new uses for this versatile trailer.

Since then we have received an order for an 1800mm wide x 4500mm long Eziloader that has a truck style body, fully covered in with a roller shutter door. Very exciting to develop this trailer to its full potential.

I have also got a special battery operated All Terrain Pallet Truck, that was made just for the Eziloader. It will enable the operator to pick up a pallet load, run it onto the trailer, then deliver the pallet to your front door, without any stress on the operator. So I'm thinking pallets of bark mulch, or large trees in pots, could be just two instances where the Eziloader and the ATPT will change the way we deliver things.

We won the WorkSafe Invention of the Year Award for Eziloader. My thanks to the WorkSafe family for doing a wonderful job of keeping us safe, and for hosting the awards that are to encourage us all to find ways to work safer, smarter, to look after each other, and to recognize and deal with work related stresses and illnesses.

The second idea I'm working on is related to 200 Ltr drum pick up and decanting. It is in its final stages of testing after three iterations. It promises to be a real game changer. I think it will be made under licence around the world.

The third one threatens to replace an existing product that sells for $140,000.00, for around $40,000.00 – and do more. It also changes the client relationship from master with no client rights, to an equal footing, where the client knows as much (or more, if we get the wish list right), than the supplier. It will save every person shipping pallets of goods, thousands of dollars per year, whilst also supplying storable information for tracking purposes.

IU. As great as these projects are, you still have had to put food on the table whilst you follow these dreams. What have you been doing to make a crust?

RM. I started a new company called Pack King. It supplies all manner of packaging supplies and equipment. Products include stretch and shrink film, stretch wrap machines and much more. Strapping, tools and machines, indeed everything you might need to make your warehouse ready to ship out goods.

We sell products directly to the end user, so our prices are good, along with our amazing service.

IU. So what is on the horizon for the King Group?

RM. I have been looking at the market place and have identified two niches that I want to play in. The first is the humble strapping machine. You know, for poly strapping cartons, bundles etc. We approached a reputable manufacturer in China, who supplies us with a safe and very well made, semi-auto machine and 12mm strapping, so we are looking to dominate this market with extreme value deals.

I have also designed a Wire Mesh Stillage, that folds, stacks, nests, racks, can be mobile, be lined for product protection and security, has an optional security lid, has tow hitches to turn the stillages into a train, along with a tow tug to move them. They will all be available later this year.

A brand new design for our Rapid Wrapper has now been completed and supplies are in stock. There is a version  for the USA and Canada also

IU. So no signs of slowing down then?

RM. No, and before we finish up, I would like to invite any person or organization that has any ideas or products, that they would like an independent assessment of, to submit them to me. I would be happy to perform that task for them and write a report - for free.

I see so much talent in Australia. I also see so many people stifled for want of direction or advice. It's not easy starting your own business, or promoting a new idea or product, so if I can help, send me an e-mail to ron@kinggroup.com.au. Who knows, if they are good enough, I might be tempted to invest in them myself.

IU. Lastly, what annoys you, and what hope do you see?

RM. Very good questions! Grays On Line had auctions for around ten to twelve car component companies that have gone bust. One of the employees told me that Chinese companies were able to provide a finished car part for less than the cost of the steel to make it here.

We needed to get smart a long time ago. To be able to transition earlier. Easy to say- hard to do, but we are a clever nation. I hope those expensive robots were able to help other industries make things cheaper and faster in Australia.

We need to be clever at making things that are not mass produced. We are good at expensive and large niches. We must however have a government backed pathway for Apprentice training, with good wages for those who make it through the ranks.

I see hope everywhere. There are many success stories, you just have to get past the news headlines of doom and gloom. It's just a shame that bad news sells. Maybe we just need to send a message of hope to those who can change the world, then to offer them assistance in promoting their dreams.

Ron Mileham. Director. Pack King. ron@kinggroup.com.au. Tel: 03.9720.0425

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