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Guidelines for “R & D” (ripoff & duplicate)

Casey Woods by Casey Woods, Executive Director | September 2, 2022
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Looking for business ideas in other places is a good idea, if you know where to look!

Most entrepreneurs and organizations can find the ideation and decision making process overwhelming. Creativity isn’t something that you just turn on like a faucet, and a lot of ideas can sound good, but the actual implementation of the ideas can prove that they weren’t necessarily worthy of your time or effort. That’s when businesses turn to the age old concept of finding something that works and duplicating it. As easy as that sounds, know that there are some guidelines that can make R & D (ripoff and duplicate) more likely to succeed for your business or organization. Here are some things to consider:

  1. Follow professional groups that are specific to your business type.- Most individual professions have online professional forums where you can read/write about industry best practices, new ideas, vendors, events, and more. For Main Street directors, we have a few options (The PointDowntown Happy Hour, etc.). Find your forums, read through previous threads, mentor when possible, and use your group for R & D.
  2. Team up with your neighbor, but don’t copy them.- If your business wants to stand out, you shouldn’t copy your neighbor. Your can ask if you can partner with them on an activity, but expertise and history will almost always win out over a close copy (plus it can create bad blood). If you are going to ripoff and duplicate a concept, try and do it outside of your immediate region. If I copy an initiative from Wyoming there shouldn’t be much of an issue, but if I duplicated something from one town over it might cause problems.
  3. Scaling up is a whole lot easier than scaling down.- When looking outside of your region for ideas, make sure your understand the differences between communities. If I find something in a mountain resort town where the median household income is over $100K, there is a good chance the concept won’t translate well here. If there is a cool concept in the Dallas metro that appeals to my unique needs, it may not translate to rural Kansas. However, if I find concepts that are in similar (or smaller) communities with demographics like ours, I may have a concept I can replicate.
  4. Get advice from those with successful implementation backgrounds, not professional planners.- In the world of economic development, people usually size people up by asking “what is your background?”, and “what are some specific projects you have done?”. The goal within those questions is to determine if someone has ideas they communicate well, or if they have concepts with a history of successful implementation. Professional strategic or business planners without the requisite success history can be a waste of time and money. Make sure your idea people have experience or at least “skin in the game” (investment dollars). 
  5. Understand the unique demographics, geography, assets, and infrastructure within the area that allow you to “tweak” your R & D.- One of my favorite college event was Oktoberfest. My University town was rural (Emporia is rural), they had a DII University (ESU is a DII University). They had A LOT of Germans; we have some people with German ancestry, but fewer than the town in question. They had a homecoming that alumni and people around the region circled on their calendar; we are working on growing … Oktoberfest integrated with a homecoming here didn’t work. Sometimes businesses on Industrial Road want an event that “shuts down the street like downtown”, but their infrastructure doesn’t allow it. Some businesses want a “sidewalk dining experience” like “city X” without looking at the width of our sidewalks. There can be differences between communities that seem insignificant, but all R & D efforts require some adjustments to work in a different market.
  6. Test THEN grow.- Businesses, events, and organizations don’t start from ground zero and then instantly ascend into “the world’s largest”. Growth is a start and stop process that requires constant testing and adjustment. An R & D project isn’t a guarantee of success, and if you make too many adjustments all at once it may be hard for you to determine what is driving success or leading to a downturn. Start small, test, adjust, and then repeat.
  7. Form a “red team”.- For those of you not familiar with this concept, THIS IS IMPORTANT. A red team is a group of individuals whose job is to challenge ideas. Have you ever seen a cringe worthy advertisement, an incoherent market strategy or a product that makes you ask “what were they thinking”? Those groups probably lacked a “red team”. People tend to surround themselves with people they like, and sometimes that leads to the formation of an information bubble where people don’t tell you the truth because they don’t want to hurt your feelings or their perspective is so similar to yours they can’t see issues from another angle. When engaged in R & D, you need some people that will challenge you and tell you what you need to hear (not just what you want to hear). Yes, there are CAVE people (Citizens Against Virtually Everything), but even negative folks can offer a perspective that can enhance a new initiative.
  8. Set goals prior to an initiative, and then revisit post implementation.- The goal of any new initiative is to produce results. For a business, a new activity may seek to increase sales or margins. An event may have participation expectations. An organization may have a donation goal. If your stated goal is 250 supporters through a new volunteer drive, and you end up with 100, you might want to look closer at your R & D and make some adjustments to your activity. 
  9. Constantly scour for ideas (and encourage your staff to do the same).- Engage and reward your staff, customers, and volunteers for good ideas. Creating a culture that pushes the ideation process highlighted above can keep you growing. If your staff feels like they can’t approach you with new concepts, you just became responsible for all innovation within your organization (don’t do that to yourself).

There is a big network of people both inside your community (like Emporia Main Street) and throughout the nation in your industry that can provide assistance for ideas that lead to growth. You have help. You have resources. Take some time for R & D to lead you to a more successful future.

About the Author

Casey Woods, Executive Director

Before accepting the director position in March of 2009, Casey worked in both retail and agricultural jobs in the family businesses. A lifelong resident of the Emporia Area, Casey was a ten year volunteer for Emporia Main Street prior to his appointment as director. During that time he served as the board president and chair of the Economic Vitality Committee.

Casey also serves as a partner in PlaceMakers, LLC, a consulting firm that routinely works with both large and small communities, and their businesses, to promote sustainable economic growth through community and economic development practices. Casey consults with businesses, organizations and communities to understand their market capacity and fill vacant spaces. He has been involved in two projects that included crowdfunding as a part of their overall business funding strategies, Radius Brewing and Twin Rivers Winery & Gourmet Shoppe.

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