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Key Idea: Buy an Unexploited Idea

Most inventors are not business people and most business people are not inventors.

Key Question:


Gary saw the technology he now uses while he was making a sales call for the first company he owned. He struck a deal with the inventor and with vision and sweat equity, he now dominates the marketplace. There are two ways to look at the word, "owns." You can own something in the legal sense meaning you have the patent or copyright to a product or idea which entitles you to use the courts to stop others from profiting from your invention. Another way to look at this word is in the light of the marketplace. If the marketplace thinks of you when they think of a product or service, you "own" it.

Q: What steps did Gary take to "own" what we now see happening at FASTSIGNS?

A: FASTSIGNS started out with the legal right to use the technology because the inventor only wanted to use it in his one location. Gary wanted to take the idea international. If you see a good idea that is not being fully exploited by the inventor, you can do a deal to get access. There are mutiple ways to do this. You could end up paying a fee for usage, you could make the inventor a part owner of the company or you could buy out the inventor at the outset. Inventors can be difficult because they think that the idea is everything and they are so wrong. Veteran entrepreneur, Bill Tobin, told us that the idea is 2% of the success of a business.

Sure you need the right idea at the right time but to exploit the idea, to deliver it to customers who are happy to pay for it, you have to have what Gary brought to FASTSIGNS. You have to have vision, money and the drive to do sales and marketing. When we studied UroCor, we discovered that the inventor of a prostate detection process had failed to make his company profitable. When the venture capitalists who had invested millions in the business demanded improvement, a new CEO was brought in and the inventor stepped aside.

When the inventor of a technology which allows computers to "talk to" a screen and mouse remotely finally perfected his invention, he hired a banker to be president of his company. Our point here is that there are probably inventors who need a business person to exploit their inventions and if you need a new idea to grow your business, there are probably inventors right now working on the perfect idea.

Gary not only "owns" the technology he uses, he also "owns" the mindshare of consumers. When you think of buying a temporary, high quality sign, you think of FASTSIGNS. You have to own an idea legally to grow a business. Even better if you can own the business from the marketplace point of view, as does Gary.

 Study these other stories about how people acquired a business.

Think about it

Is someone developing a product you could grow your business with if you owned it? Are there inventors out there you should know about?

Clip from: FastSigns: A study of Franchisor & Franchisee

Carrollton, Texas: This business began on the back of a paper napkin around a discussion over breakfast. That was 1985 .  Gary Salomon saw how a computer could make high-quality signs in hours instead of days. He jumped at the opportunity to build a business offering this service internationally. Today his company, FastSigns, is America’s leading sign company with over 500 locations worldwide.

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Gary Salomon, Founder, CEO

2550 Midway Road
Carrollton, TX 75006

Visit our web site:

Office: 9724470777

Business Classification:

Year Founded: 1985

Buy an Unexploited Idea

The Lightbulb in the Studio

HATTIE: You don't have to invent a product to own it. Gary saw the technology. By striking a deal with the inventor, he learned how to use it, and, with vision and sweat equity, he became a leader in his market. You don't have to be the inventor to be the owner.

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