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People in Ivory Towers shouldn't throw Glass Rocks

We've seen a baffling trend lately, something that is not new or specific to AV. It causes us a lot of concern and we hope that in the future these occurrences will not repeat. It happens in AV, it happens in the automotive industry, it happens in most every product type that is out there. But it all starts at one point, success. As we've seen so many times with rising stars (actors and musicians rush to mind) some people work so hard for success that once they achieve it, they seem lost. Sociologists have made careers on waxing poetic about this phenomenon but that is not what we are really here to discuss. In some cases a new product is brought to market by an individual, more often by a company. But for the purposes of this discussion, we'll refer to them both as a singular individual. We'll posit some theories on what happens to these individuals or companies when they do finally achieve success and suggest some alternatives. But before we discuss that, let's talk about what it takes to be successful.

Achieving Success

If you've ever met a person that is self made, that has taken an idea and turned it into a lucrative career, you'll probably have noticed a few things. First, they are almost always driven. Driven to push themselves, driven to succeed, driven to excel and everything they do. They've got the kind of drive that makes most people wonder how they get any sleep at night. They've got the kind of drive that makes you feel inadequate in their presence. They've also got the kind of drive that makes you think, Hey, I could do that too! But you probably won't (it's OK, you're in good company with most the rest of the world).

Of course, they also have to have the ability - in the case of inventing a new product that may mean years of schooling and/or work experience. Or it just may mean that they are willing to put in the time and research to learn the skills they need to do the job. I've got a friend that has an idea for a new climbing device. He's built things before but never something like this using these sorts of material. At first he worked on designs and outsourced the manufacturing to a local shop but that quickly got too expensive. Eventually, he taught himself how to do it and bought a few second-hand tools. His was more of a trial and error experience than using theory to design the product. Could someone with the requisite knowledge set have designed his device on paper or in CAD? Sure. But he didn't have those skills or really the impetus to learn them. Instead, he just built a prototype, tested it, modified it, retested it, over and over until he got a working model. Not necessarily the fastest method but it does work.

Coupled with their drive, a self made person has got a laser-like focus on their objective. They have an idea, the drive to see it through and the vision to know where they want to end up. This person doesn't see success as a nebulous ideal or a fuzzy future; they can tell you what it looks like. They can tell you how it tastes, how it feels, and all the different ways they'll be able to know when they've achieved it. In many cases, this focus is directed at the completion of a product. They can describe in detail how it will work and what it will do. Others have a more global perspective and view not only the finished product but also how it will fit into the marketplace and how it will be received. Regardless, they have a clear focus and vision for the future.

Last, and in my opinion most importantly, is that they have the will to bring all this to fruition. Ideas are a dime a dozen and plenty of people can envision how their ideas could possibly be transformed into a lucrative enterprise but very, very few have the will to see it through. Often, breaking into a market is more about persistence and good timing than anything else. I posit that persistence is 99% of it as if you are always there; the good timing moments won't slip by. Self made people have to deal with friends, family, colleagues, competitors, and just about everyone else telling them to give it up. They risk money, friendships, marriages, egos and more all in the pursuit of their goal. Success doesn't often come without a price. There is a lot of suffering involved by the person and their families. But once they succeed, it's all worth it, right?

Manufacturing a successful product isn't always about making the best. As many a manufacturer has discovered it is about making the best within a certain price bracket. Consumers (at least the ones that are savvy enough to do some research) are always on the lookout for quality but more importantly they want the MOST quality for the LEAST money. Sometimes that means that they are paying more than they would have expected but since their perceived value is so high, they don't mind forking over the extra dough. It is no mistake that marketers love to use lines like, Sound as good as products costing five times as much. Value resonates with people.

Most manufacturers will tell you that making a cost is no object high end anything (including chainsaws, sewing machines, and picture frames) is not really hard. All you need is a lot of money and a little technical know how. What is hard is putting together a product that not only performs well but can be sold at a reasonable price (reasonable mostly being determined by the market). When a product hits that sweet spot, it sends ripples out among consumers. It makes the news, people are talking about it over dinner, and the Internet is literally aflame with discussion. A product like that can take a relatively unknown company and turn them into a household name over night.

But now what? What's the next step? They've weathered the storm of orders. They've ramped up production to meet the needs. They've opened up accounts in the Cayman's to store their big piles of money. What next?

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