Many entrepreneurs are over protective of their new business idea when, in fact, collaborating and/or discussing it would prove extremely invaluable for them.
The reason for their reluctance is usually that they fear whoever they are speaking to will reveal the idea to other people who will then steal it and make millions with it themselves. Sure, this has happened in the past, but to be honest, so rarely. It’s not that easy to steal a business idea if truth be told. If I wanted to steal yours, for instance, I’d have to take the following seven lengthy steps:
- Get to know both you and your idea
I’d probably have to spend months getting to know you on a friendship level first. Then I’d have to convince you that (a) I’m interested in your idea and (b) that I’m trustworthy enough to hear it without going off and doing it myself. Success is really down to execution, so I would really have to understand the nuts and bolts of your idea – not just the overall vision.
- Stop you getting legal protection
If you were a close friend or a colleague and I had some degree of influence over your actions – or managed to persuade you I was some kind of legal expert – I would have to spend a long time encouraging you not to legally register your idea.
Depending on whether this idea was an invention, product, design, a marketing logo or piece of artwork, it could be protected by the following respectively – a patent, registered design, trade-mark or copyright (actually copyright is automatic and doesn’t need to be registered if you can prove you are the original creator).
If I didn’t manage to persuade you not to register and protect your rights and still fancied stealing your trade mark/company name for myself, then I’d have to remember when your re-registration date is (usually every 10 years) and do it myself.
- Become one of your ‘insider’ employees
If you had an existing company – or were just starting up – then I’d have to persuade you to let me join your company as an employee (or, better still, a partner) in order to give me inroads into what you were planning.
I’d then have to persuade other individuals (who have probably been sworn to secrecy by you) to tell me about their part in your overall plan so that I could understand how you were planning on going about your idea.
- Make it difficult for you to execute your idea
Once I discovered who your suppliers were (in the case of a physical product or service) I would have to go and haggle with them, without you finding out or, I’d have to spend months finding my own suppliers to rival yours. I’d then probably have to spend a lot of time attempting to pinch a couple of your staff as well, hoping that this would cause you to delay your launch through lack of ‘bodies on the shop floor.’
- Keep my own plans secret
Even though by this point I would probably be spending quite a bit of time with you (i.e. as your potential partner, employee, close friend or investor) I’d have to spend weeks on ‘time out’ planning my own business (of your stolen idea).
This would mean constantly looking over my shoulder to ensure you didn’t realise what I was up to (and which would probably make me a bit paranoid myself).
- Launch the idea first and brand you a ‘copycat’
I’d have to organise the publicity for the produce/service before you did in order to attract interest from potential customers and make your company seem like a copycat. I’d then have to convince everyone that you had stolen my idea because no doubt you would launch a credibility attack on me.
- Access your email and destroy your files
As an investor all those emails you sent me to get me to invest in your product contain details of your business idea and show how much I knew. Presumably you will have kept my responses too. If you wanted to prove I had stolen your idea then this paper trail, as well as other written evidence you’ve kept about our communications, would be invaluable in a court-room. I would have to gain access to your property/office and find out your passwords so that I could get rid of the evidence.
In other words, it’s incredibly difficult to steal someone’s business idea – that’s if it’s worth stealing in the first place. Really, it’s so much more satisfying (and far less effort) to come up with your own.