In honor of National Inventors' Day, and since it is a question we get asked a lot post-Shark Tank, we thought this would be the perfect time to share the tips we've followed on our path to making ZUP Boards a success.
ZUP Board Inventors, Glen Duff and Tim Zeckser, 2008
Find a problem that you are passionate about finding a solution to.Not only does this mean there are likely others out there who would like a solution to the same problem, but it will keep you focused and motivated towards solving that problem.
For ZUP Inventors, they were tired of seeing disappointed and frustrated faces on the boat. The kids who were unable to get up on waterskis or wakeboards, were ultimately left out of the fun everyone was wanting to have on the boat. Our inventors knew there had to be a solution that would allow everyBODY to getZUP. ;)
Once you have a plan, get started right away!
Overthinking your plan, or deciding to hold off until you have every question answered will hinder success, because you will never have it all figured out. Jumping in and taking challenges as they come is the only way to go, in our opinion!
Our first prototypes may have been made of wood, but that wasn't going to stop our inventors from working out the kinks through (painful) trial and error out on the water. Donning bike helmets as a precaution, they began to see what features made the boards easier to ride and which features made it more difficult. And luckily they began to evolve into other, lighter and more buoyant materials as they went! The industry calls this process 'rapid prototyping...' we called it 'three guys in a garage!'
Set a clear and realistic goal.This can be as simple as when you want to have your first prototype finished, but having a clear goal to work towards will help keep you motivated (even during the difficult times).
One of our initial goals (in addition to creating a fun and safe board that everyone could ride!) was to try to obtain utility patents, to see if we could obtain protection for our unique idea right from the start.
Know what you are good at (and what you aren't!)Play to your own strengths. Are you great at the creative side of the business but not so great at the business/technical side? Bring people in who balance out your strengths and weaknesses. If worrying about website analytics stresses you out, it will only slow down your excitement and progress.
Working as a team from the beginning allowed us to play to everyone's strengths. One of us was running a full-time design company, while others were working towards their MBAs, which created the perfect combination of skills. Over the years, we have grown our team to include even more perspectives and skill sets. It is a process that should continue to grow and evolve just as your business does.
TEAMWORK!Not only is it physically (and mentally!) impossible to do everything yourself, it also limits the perspective and collaboration that comes with working as a team. However small your team may be, bouncing ideas off each other, or simply learning from one another's experience and expertise can be invaluable to your success.
When we were in the early stages of our prototypes, everyone had a unique perspective that they brought to the design phase, the manufacturing phase, as well as the business phase. Even though everyone wasn't an expert in all of those areas, their opinions were invaluable and often exposed questions the 'experts' hadn't considered. Everyone's voice matters.
Always look for ways to help others achieve their goals, too!Maybe someone on your team has an interest in learning more about an area of the business they don't currently have experience with... consider bringing them in on the process and training around that area of interest. Helping them grow and learn more about areas they are interested in will only help boost your business as a whole.
Over the years, we have been fortunate to work with a wide variety of individuals with very unique and different skill sets. We have found that by including everyone in training and growth opportunities that the entire business is elevated as a result. Not only have you helped those individuals grow and learn and become more successful in a particular area, you have improved their impact on your business as well.
Be confident in your ability to confront challenges and connect with your team often.Challenges WILL happen, so knowing that you and your team are strong enough to tackle them is imperative. Not only will you be better able to manage stress that comes along with those obstacles, you will boost the morale of the team by showing that you have faith in their abilities during these times as well.
Connecting with your team often helps you to stay more aligned with your goals, and tracking progress to ensure that you accomplish those goals.
Again, this is an area where everyone's voice matters and you want your entire team to feel comfortable speaking up and voicing their ideas and opinions, because it might just be the one that helps you over that hurdle. When we were preparing for our appearance on Shark Tank, we pulled in the troops and made sure we were all a part of that behind the scenes process. And you know what? The people who don't interface with the back end of the website as often, were actually the most useful voices we had during that process. Their new perspective helped us consider other ideas and ultimately made our post-Shark Tank shopping experience the best that it could be.