In 2007 I received a life and business changing call from a quiet, soft-spoken man asking for help in designing a pop-valve for CPAP. Ten years later the man on the phone, Neotech President Craig McCrary (who I now refer to as the peaceful warrior), and Neotech owners Arnold Heyman and the late Tom Thornbury, have become an integral part of what Zewski Corporation is and how we do business with everyone. But the growth and process by which our businesses have grown is far from normal. This is because, out of over 100 corporate businesses and 200 entrepreneurial clients Zewski has serviced in product design, Neotech is the only company we have found that offers a direct route for inventors to take a product from idea to production, and accomplishes it in a way where everyone wins.
From the outside, this may not seem possible. But as a product designer with 25 years in product development, and having worked with inventors and companies alike, although this is certainly unusual, it is also certainly possible. And in a world always leaning to the big guy, it comes almost fully in favor of the inventor in terms of risk and investment. How can they do this?
Understanding the Process
Understanding the authenticity of this claim first starts with understanding the process to taking a product to market. Generally, an idea begins, and then is put through a series of stages to get to production. The first few are generally low risk and low cost: Determining if the idea is valid; who might want it; whether or not it can be made for a profit. However, once you have determined these things, you now get to the costlier and technical part of developing a product: Issuing of a patent; designing the product for consumer or medical use; validation and finally production. Production being the highest cost, considering, to keep cost low enough to make a profit, you generally have to buy very large numbers.
Those steps, don’t seem that tough, until you consider the network of people you would need to assemble to make this happen? To begin with, inventors, with not only any idea, but one that fits the mold necessary for success. Then add, Lawyers, Engineers, Clinicians, Regulation professionals, Business Sales and Marketing staff (who, I might add, understand that particular product market). Lastly, a method to manage and support all those roles financially and with guidance.
I guess if you had fallen into a large sum of money you could hire all those individuals, drive from office to office coordinating as you write checks to each professional. Generally, those of you in this situation may have found yourself taken advantage of quickly. In the end, you still haven’t a way to market or sell the idea. For most of us, we are actually using our paycheck to fund the idea, and are more likely to be persuaded by late night television. At which point we will spend ten thousand dollars to get a drawing and a provisional patent. Which l will add, will expire in a year, because we don’t have an actual design or plan (which is different than an idea) not to mention the funds to produce it.
I distinctly remember one client telling me that once we provided them a design, they would have no problem getting a promise order from a big box. With which, they would order from China, paying China net 30 terms, when the store paid them. Sorry to break the bad news to all you inventors out there, but to start with, nothing leaves China without payment in full – and big box stores don’t buy from sources not already stocking and distributing product.
Back in reality – Clearly, to reduce the cost of development companies that are successful generally build expertise around one or two product groups, this reduces the number of experts they need and opportunities they can provide for inventions. They have also learned that they will have to listen to 50 inventions to get one worth pursuing, and applying fundamental math, the profits lost listening, are greater than the profits to be made considering all risks. Therefore, they are not likely to look at many ideas from the outside and less likely to partner in one. Finally, many have resorted to doing business overseas, reducing their cost, but also reducing control and flexibility in regard to R&D and speed to market with new ideas. As for the invent houses, it is the same, they also specialize, but only in providing an inventor a warm fuzzy about their idea, not so much on how to make it a reality.
Quoting Lori Greiner (Shark Tank), “A brilliant idea doesn’t guarantee a successful invention...”
So now I have crushed your dreams, what is the point, you might ask? The original question was, how is it, in spite of these challenges, has Neotech somehow managed to provide a method for inventors to succeed with very little effort and risk of their own, past a brilliant idea – and still remain profitable to both Neotech and the inventor?
Honesty, Integrity & Perseverance
Believe it or not, the answer is not routed on a foundation of a single perfect product, staff experts or tons of money. Instead, primarily on the three words, written on the walls of our local Dojo: honesty, Integrity and perseverance.
Neotech has become experts at building strong and close relationships. Working only with U.S. suppliers, they proved to their suppliers they were not after the best deal but the best resources. As a result, those suppliers learned Neotech’s way of doing things as well as what Neotech needs from them to succeed. In turn assuring the suppliers own successes. At the same time, they applied the same standards to the clinicians around the world, and developed a powerful resource network to provide valuable feedback at almost low cost relative to its strength. Then, they opened the doors of communication to those clinicians asking for their ideas in return for a percentage of any sales made from the idea.
By building these two key pillars from which to construct their businesses (Clinicians bringing the ideas and product knowledge, and Suppliers bringing the know how) they have been able to be the conduit of invention success for a multitude of invention ideas. Especially in the area of Class I and II medical products that fill the NICU. Only limiting themselves by the client base they are most inspired to serve: NICU and Pediatrics.
Today Neotech has grown to be a lighthouse to clinician inventors. Although they have to pass on many ideas, clinician inventor still has a far higher likelihood of success with Neotech than any other company I have ever come across or going at it on their own.
The model for Neotech is rare and should be considered in other industries but only by those who love and have passion for what they do. For I am positive, if it was not for the love and passion they have for their client patients, their success would not have been as great.