Episode Twenty Six features Alan Beckley Talking About His Invention The Wonder Wallet And His Podcast Inventors Helping Inventors!
My Key Takeaways:
Alan was a great guest and understood well the challenges faced by inventors.
Fun Fact: Alan is learnin...
Episode Twenty Six features Alan Beckley Talking About His Invention The Wonder Wallet And His Podcast Inventors Helping Inventors!
My Key Takeaways:
Alan was a great guest and understood well the challenges faced by inventors.
To learn more about Alan Beckley, his website is AlanBeckley.com and his podcast, Inventors Helping Inventors is available on all of the major podcast directories.
Now next week, we'll have on Dana Knowles talking about how she overcame addiction to straighten out her life and to invent the Shower Caddy as well as help other Inventors. Be sure to hit subscribe in your podcast app so that you don't miss it or any other episodes.
[00:00:00] Greg Mills: Our guest today is an entrepreneur and vendor and podcaster. He got a degree in aerospace engineering from Texas a and M, and worked for the Boeing company. He soon realized she liked aviation and airplanes, but not big companies and bureaucracy seeking role with more impact. He moved to the Dallas Fort worth area, gotten interested in telecom and became a project manager for a small company.
[00:00:25] Over the years that small company got gobbled up by large companies, Sunni found himself once again, back where he started working for large bureaucratic companies in 2002, he invented a thin, flexible wallet to carry twice as many cards. What was half as thick as most wallets and flex for comfort. He didn't quite know how to best proceed.
[00:00:50] So he created his crew prototype out of cardboard and plastic pockets, and he also found a local patent attorney and filed a patent on his invention. Now his invention felt real to him, like many inventors. He soon discovered that inventing was the easy part. Achieving commercial success was the hardest.
[00:01:12] Along this journey, his success, he manufactured, wallets and China sold to thousands of individuals at flea markets on military bases, VA hospitals, and even on QVC for two years, customers love the thin flexible wallets, but every time he attempted to license, the concept, there was only mild interest.
[00:01:33] Finally in 2015, after five years of purchasing. He licenses and mentioned now called the wonder wallet to all-star products, uh, largest seen on TV distributor, the wonder wall. It was a huge TV sales success stories. Selling an over 10,000 retail stores growing over 30 million in sales today, he continues to invent, but also focuses on helping other inventors to succeed.
[00:01:58] Providing a variety of resources felt. He has over five years of blog content on the inventing topics. He also provides weekly webinars for inventors called licensed your intervention for royalties. Additionally, he has a digital online course land your license deal. In January of 2019, he started a podcast and interviewing successful inventors, skull inventors, helping inventors.
[00:02:25] Today is weekly podcast is heard on all the major platforms in the U S Canada and 15 other countries. Listen notes ranks in the top one and a half percent of podcast worldwide. In October, 2020, he launched a bootcamp for inventors called the inventors bootcamp
[00:02:43] without further ado. Ellen Beckley.
[00:02:48] Alan Beckley: Good to be here. Thanks so much, Greg.
[00:02:50] Greg Mills: Well, thank you for being here now. Ellen, can you take a few moments and fill in the gaps from that intro and bring us up to speed with what's going on in your world today.
[00:02:59] Alan Beckley: Sure. I think the intro kind of covers the past history. In my dark days of all inventors face where every day you ask yourself, why the heck are you doing this? I said myself, if I ever achieved success, I'm going to reach out and help other inventors to succeed.
[00:03:15] And so when I achieve success via direct response TV, then I'd remembered that Val. And so part of that effort was to create the inventors, helping inventors podcast so that thousands of inventors could get a message of hope as well as also being informed from successful inventors and the tools, tips, and tactics they used.
[00:03:38] And then from there, then I branched out a bit and I do have the online course. You mentioned that is really a step-by-step how to license your product as well as the free webinar I do. And then the bootcamp for inventors called the inventors. And then last but not least, just in the last few months, I've started an inventors membership group also called inventors, helping inventors.
[00:04:03] So for only $25 a month in vendors can connect with top tier and vendors, resources, et cetera. So that's a long winded part of what I'm doing, but those are the three key areas where I'm helping inventors to, uh, to have more success.
[00:04:17] Greg Mills: Okay. Now I didn't mention this in your bio. I understand that you're fluent in English and Spanish, which I can understand, but you're also fluent in Mandarin. How did that come about?
[00:04:30] Alan Beckley: Well, I wouldn't quite say fluent, but I've taken four years of Mandarin. Language is great for your brain. And as we get older, we think about that sort of thing a bit more. And so I've taken Mandarin for four years and I've been to China twice once was to actually see my product being manufactured.
[00:04:46] And I decided if I was going to take on a real challenge, then Mandarin is one of the hardest languages to learn out there, for sure. So that's where, that interest has come in.
[00:04:56] Greg Mills: Okay. Now, did you come from an entrepreneurial background or an inventors background at all?
[00:05:04] Alan Beckley: , my dad was a veterinarian. I'd say that I came from an adventurous background. My dad was in some ways, like in modern day, Indiana Jones. I live in Panama for about 10 years and was born there in the canal zone. And that's where, I got an interest in Spanish.
[00:05:20] Within my family, I'm the only one who's truly, I guess not the only one, who's truly an entrepreneur, but the main one who is my sister ran her own medical, business as a dermatologist. I guess that's a long-winded way of saying mostly no, except I came from an adventurous background, a travel background and entrepreneurship was not such a unique surprise that way.
[00:05:40] Greg Mills: Okay. Now, can you describe what you were doing in your job at the telecom before becoming an inventor?
[00:05:48] Alan Beckley: In telecom, I got into project management because that was the closest thing to being a consultant and being paid a paycheck every two weeks that I could find.
[00:05:56] So I got to be an entrepreneur, so to speak and do something different, wear different hats every day, which I really liked. As long as I was working for smaller companies, that was the experience. But of course it's a big company has gobbled up the small companies. I found myself as you just described back to square one.
[00:06:13] So again, a bit of a long-winded answer, but I was attracted to the aspect of being able to do a variety of different things and an as an employee and grow my skills and be a little bit more in the marketing side of things than the engineering side as much.
[00:06:30] Greg Mills: Okay. Now as a project manager, how many projects were you managing typically at the same time?
[00:06:36] Alan Beckley: So typically three or four in the sort of waning years, which, you know, it's the same story as a variety of corporations where. You know, they have too much work for too few people and you soon see that they're not going to be hiring more people. And so you realize you're going to be over tasked. And that frustrated me is one reason I was happy to leave ultimately was because I wanted to serve my customers.
[00:07:02] And when you're just floating with three or four, or even some of my colleagues had five different projects to run at once, you can't really serve your customers very well, but you know, there's not going to be any more hands on deck. So I. To be frustrating.
[00:07:16] Greg Mills: How did being a project manager help you at all? were there any transferable skills.
[00:07:22] Alan Beckley: There were a lot of transferable skills. You have to keep a schedule as a project manager. You have to look at a project and a start and end date, and you really working with customers and. Understanding what their needs are and matching it against what you can do.
[00:07:38] I think largely as an inventor, if you're going to achieve success, you need to look at it as a project also, and apply a discipline to what you're doing. So really, almost everything I did as a project manager was transferable to what I have done as an inventor as well.
[00:07:54] Greg Mills: Now, how did the wonder wallet come about? And at the time I realized you were calling it the savvy caddy.
[00:08:01] Alan Beckley: Right. Right. So, way back when in 2002, like so many things, I found a problem and that is most of us carry quite a few more cards than we would normally say. If somebody were to ask, you say, how many cars you carry? I don't know. And they open up a wallet and it's two inches thick and it's like, you're carrying more than four or five it's something in there.
[00:08:21] And so I was typically carrying maybe 12 or 14 different cards, and these are, aren't all credit cards, it just ID cards for work and this and that and the other, all the things we get store cards, anything, , Sam's club, all the rest of it. And I spent the better part of two years trying to solve the problem of a thick, bulky wallet.
[00:08:41] And sitting on this big thick deck. And one morning in the shower, I was thinking about why is it if I get a bi-fold or tri-fold, it always ends up being thick, just like a deck of cards. That was my thought process. And I thought, what if you could cut the deck? And so I got out of the shower and I'd laid four cards outside by side.
[00:08:59] And I thought if that would fold up and fit in the back pocket, it would be two stacks of cards, not one. And it would automatically be half as thick. And that was the beginning of the idea. And then it also turned out that the end result was flexible. So it flex between the cards. So it didn't hurt me.
[00:09:16] You sit on it. That's where the original idea for savvy caddy began. I just, I saw a real valuable product there that I was unwilling to let go, and I was going to see it through to success.
[00:09:28] Greg Mills: Now describe the prototyping process , what materials you used and how many iterations you went through.
[00:09:35] Alan Beckley: Well, that's a great question. I, you know, I went through a lot. This was an early prototype, as you can see, it doesn't look too exotic. I sewed it up myself with swatches of leather and upholstery needles. I went through. Probably a total of around nine or 10 different prototypes.
[00:09:52] And each one was a little bit more refined in terms of measurement and other things. Probably the first 2, 3, 4 were the ones that were fairly significant and changes until I felt like I, I had what I wanted, and the dimensions were right in everything. In terms of materials, again, it's, it's made of leather and I needed plastic inserts to be a little different than they are in most.
[00:10:15] I just went and got inserts in the store and I'd cut them up with scissors and tape them together and the way I want it and put the whole kitten caboodle together as a proof of concept. So I could know for a fact that it would work. And then I knew when it came to manufacturing, you could manufacture them however you wanted to manufactured.
[00:10:31] Greg Mills: What were your steps after doing that?
[00:10:34] Alan Beckley: So now you've got this prototype, so that's great. There's no money in that. So it's like, how do you market it? And the key thing I'll say to any inventor marketing is dramatically harder than even patenting, right? Because patenting is just a process, even prototyping. It's a process and marketing is two, but most of us creative people don't naturally think in a marketing sense.
[00:10:56] So the key was to find a way I wanted it to get it licensed to a large wallet manufacturer. And I spent three years, pitching to the wallet manufacturers before I realized I could be spending 10 more years, but one of them told me, look, your product has to be shown to be understood. Right? And so this is a spell on TV product.
[00:11:16] You should take it to QVC. So that ultimately changed my direction where I did go to QVC and I was there for two years. And when I had success on QVC, I became firmly committed that it really was a direct response TV product, a DRTV product. And I spent five years of persistence before I succeeded in getting it to all star products were turned out.
[00:11:40] It was very successful in DRTV
[00:11:42] Greg Mills: How did you get on to QVC? How did they discover you? Or how did you your pitch yourself?
[00:11:48] Alan Beckley: so the way that I got to QVC I found a gentleman that knew a QVC rep, just like any kind of product rep, that works with people who are coming onto the show and he knows what the buyers are buying, et cetera. And I reached out to him, he thought it looked interesting. We did some back and forth on it and he took it and presented it to a QVC buyer and she liked it. She ordered a few more than I thought she was going to order.
[00:12:13] So then I had to make a, let's say an adjustment, so to speak, but basically the path that I got to QVC.
[00:12:21] Greg Mills: Okay, let's talk a little bit more about QVC.
[00:12:24] Did you have to stockpile, product? From what I understand, you've only got a few minutes to actually pitch and then, it can be crickets or it could be gold.
[00:12:37] Alan Beckley: That is absolutely right. Give me a couple minutes. I'll kind of give you the clear picture of what QVC is like. I think it'd be helpful to listeners. QVC is a hundred percent risk because they're giving you the opportunity to be in front of roughly 92 million total potential viewers. There's not that many days at one time and you do have about four to five minutes on error and you don't actually have all that time.
[00:13:00] You've got about two minutes really to make your. So at that time, I think it's still true. A typical QVC buyer. If he or she liked the product would order somewhere between, I'd say, 40 to $60,000 where the retail product right now, that's not your wholesale costs. Mine was about 3000 wallets that I needed to get manufactured, get ready to go get them shipped to QVC.
[00:13:25] They had to be in QVC warehouse on a particular. And that was quite a logistics chain from China through the Panama canal to New York, et cetera. They help you a lot. They have you come to QVC, you do some practice, you do some training, you know what it's like to be in front of the camera.
[00:13:40] They want you to be successful. But the key thing is when you go on air, as we just described in your segment, you'll have four to five minutes and it could be any time of the day or night whenever. Scheduled you and your success or failure is all about dollars per minute, whatever your sales rate is compared to everyone else in that segment, you should be in about the top one third, ideally, and you'll be invited back.
[00:14:07] In other words, if you do well enough and you sell well enough and you still have some inventory, then they will have you back for another airing, which is what happened on the first year in the second year. I got through one airing. And then in the end, I got return of the remaining inventory to me.
[00:14:24] Greg Mills: Did you ever pre-sell or get people lined up to call in?
[00:14:28] Alan Beckley: I actually didn't do that. I imagine there's people who do. , I mean, you could tell your friends when you're going to be on and encourage them to buy, but in general, QVC doesn't particularly encourage that. But even with that, there's millions of people who are going to be watching and only a tiny fraction are going to order, but that's still enough to be quite successful.
[00:14:48] So it's really about creating a compelling pitch that somebody watching the show will say, oh my gosh, I want one of those, that's the.
[00:14:59] Greg Mills: I just remember watching the movie joy and having Jennifer Lawrence was the part of joy pitch and there were crickets and then our good friend calls up and orders one and raves about it.
[00:15:12] Alan Beckley: My, QVC rep was telling me, cause he was sitting in the green room watching on the various. Pitch, which has always one, you don't know exactly how it's going to go. And he said he was just seeing it flat line, you know? And then I did the first demo, it went bang and I did another demo.
[00:15:25] I went bang and it did another demo. And so after we got done with that, and it was generally successful, he says, Alan, you need to focus on demos. He said, the next time get right to the demos because that's when you're getting your sales pitch yourselves,
[00:15:38] Greg Mills: Why do you think that people were so. Loath to license it, it seems like it'd be a no brainer, especially after it appeared on QVC.
[00:15:50] Alan Beckley: Well, I can actually tell you specifically why, and it's something unique to the product. And that is the wallet itself is physically a little larger than other wallet types, and it does fit in all pockets. But most people's experience. Most men's experiences. They buy a wallet in the store and it looks quite small and they think, oh, that's good.
[00:16:10] And they load it up with cards and become fit. So they project, what they see in the store is going to come fat when they put their cards in it. So if what they see in the store looks thicker to begin with, they don't get that it's going to flex, so it will be comfortable. And that this accurate 24 cards incredibly thin for the amount of volume, so it had to have a story told so to speak, to be successful. So that's why QVC was a success. So then why in the world would do well in stores after DRTV well, 5,000 commercials, right?
[00:16:42] Or thereabouts, and all these people have heard wonder wallet somewhere in the back of the mind. And they go to a Walmart store and they say, oh, there's that wonder wall? I heard that was good. They don't even know where they heard it, but they, it clicks. And they say, yeah, I'm going to give that a try.
[00:16:57] Whereas if it just said, wonder wall and they'd never heard of it. That's, that's interesting. And they'd move on to the next thing.
[00:17:03] Greg Mills: I hate the way you just explained that because I totally can identify with that. And I would like to think that I'm smarter than that.
[00:17:12] Alan Beckley: Don't take offense in the sense that we're all like that when you look at it, and that is throughout any product in retail store, the average person looks at about six seconds before they make a buying decision. So they're looking at the toothpaste and they're looking at well, this is a nice real white teeth.
[00:17:25] That's what it looks like. I used to buy crest. I mean that's, that's why it tends to go. There's a real brand identification that drives a lot.
[00:17:37] Greg Mills: Going back to the direct response TV model. Can you talk a little bit more about the direct response TV
[00:17:43] Alan Beckley: you mean how it's different for example, than, QVC or how it works?
[00:17:48] Greg Mills: yeah, a little of both
[00:17:49] Alan Beckley: So one way to think of QVC or HSN. Is, the product will be on occasionally. If you're very successful, you're like a Lori Grenier, you might have a product on once a month or something like that, but across a year, you're not going to see it tons and tons of time for most people.
[00:18:06] So it's still good, but it's nowhere near the exposure of something that is on DRTV because it's, I described there's thousands of commercials and when they drive it into retail stores, The sales, there are something like seven to 12 times as much as the sales that they have, through the portal, where people see it in order, from TV.
[00:18:28] So the key thing about the success within DRTV is people still do watch television commercials as part of it. And they don't do just TV. They social media and online, et cetera as well. But the key is to drive all these commercials, create a huge awareness.
[00:18:45] And then when it drives into retail stores, that's where the money is made and also online, et cetera. And so that's really the model and it is very close to meritocracy. And by that, I mean their specific metrics for any product, they look at, the average cost per sale, the average sales. Call and if those metrics aren't where they need to be, it's not going to get a green light, it'll get a red light and it'll never go a step further.
[00:19:11] And that's why probably 90% of the products that are taken to DRTV no matter how good they look, if they don't make the metrics, they're not going to put, millions of dollars behind doing a big push behind it.
[00:19:23] Greg Mills: Do you still have an agreement with the all-star products?
[00:19:26] Alan Beckley: Well, I don't. One of the things about that is a huge sign wave, and it typically lasts about two years and then it begins to sell right. Begins to go down and they move it out of the market. So it's mostly out of the market now in terms of DRG.
[00:19:39] Greg Mills: What inspired you to start your own podcast and vendors helping inventors?
[00:19:44] Alan Beckley: So as a result of having achieved some successes and inventor and realizing that 95% of all inventors never make a profit from their product. And there's some specific reasons why this is so. I really wanted to reach out and create a message to thousands of inventors, a message of encouragement on the one hand, but also a message of reality on the other.
[00:20:07] And then I thought it would be exciting to have. Successful interesting inventors on each week. So I've had people like Aaron Kraus from shark tank and the scrub daddy and some pretty amazing people like that. Plus just lots and lots of inventors, with different kinds of products. I feel like it's serving a really good mission and that was my mission was.
[00:20:29] Provide encouragement information and inspiration to inventors everywhere. And in a format that I didn't see at that time was out there so much. And I'm still not so much even now, but it was a little different format than some others,
[00:20:46] Greg Mills: There's some other invention podcasts, but I think yours by far, it gives a lot of good information
[00:20:53] Alan Beckley: Well, thanks for that. Yeah. And I will say there are some other good podcasts out there now.
[00:20:58] I'm good friends with Jim better, and I was just on his podcast. They have a good podcast as well for infant.
[00:21:06] Greg Mills: Do you have any other invention products of your own that are currently ongoing or ideas in the background?
[00:21:12] Alan Beckley: I then working on my little flashy disco, like cat toy for an embarrassing number of years. And when I say working on I've been so busy at these other things that I'm doing, it's not getting the attention it should, but I think it has some potential. And I have a few other ideas, but again, the things that I'm doing as I described to you do take up a lot of time, but also they help other inventors.
[00:21:34] So I'm kind of on that mission for a while.
[00:21:37] Greg Mills: Yeah, I can understand that. And plus, do we really need cats that and disco dance,
[00:21:42] We might actually.
[00:21:44] Alan Beckley: it just, the flashy little lights and all that. Pet toys are a particularly good place to invent because. People buy such things and good economies, bad economies, and especially a cat toy. If they buy a toy for their little cat and the cat, like they're not likely to rush back to the store and demand, you know, refund because cat probably goes for about half of what they get, you know, so that's a good product to be selling, right?
[00:22:06] Because the bar is set pretty low.
[00:22:09] Greg Mills: Yeah, we had an elderly dog and I bought an embarrassing amount of, stuff that I thought would help him that, never really worked like I thought it would, it never got used, but it's not like I returned it.
[00:22:25] Alan Beckley: I had my cat for 20 years, but I'm gonna need to get me another one. He was a great cat and really missed him when he is gone. But I certainly bought a variety of things for him. Made me feel good and it seemed to work for him. So it's all good.
[00:22:37] Greg Mills: If you'd like, if you get me your shipping information after the show, I'll get you ours.
[00:22:42] Alan Beckley: No, I don't think I'll take, I won't take you up on that deal, but yeah.
[00:22:47] Greg Mills: How should somebody validate their idea both to make sure that it's viable as well as to make sure that it's not already out there.
[00:22:54] Alan Beckley: Such a great question and very near and dear to my heart and it, to do a little commercial, it's one of the key parts of the bootcamp for inventors that we do about once a month. How do you validate your product? Well, one of the first things that you should do. Is to compare it against other successful products.
[00:23:11] There's seven key parameters that you can use, and it's not just inventive products. And some of them are pretty much common sense, like is the market for it? There are millions of people would buy it potentially. You don't want a niche product, ideally.
[00:23:25] And can it be. Three X to five X markup. That's a super crucial it, your cost should be about 20% of the retail sales price, or it will not be successful. Does it solve some kind of a problem or something that will make people feel like it's compelling and they want to buy it. So doing that due diligence to compare it that way.
[00:23:47] And then secondarily doing a lot of research to see if it already is out there or it already exists. And very frequently it does. There's 11 million issued patents, most of which have never seen the light of day. And if you're going to license it, you very likely will need to have a patent on it.
[00:24:08] And if something from 30 years ago is sitting there in the patent office, that's quite similar to yours. You probably won't get a patent for it. So doing that due diligence, , seeing that really is a genuine. Where it's a product that would solve a problem in a way that would be enticing and interesting to people and somewhat compelling and that it can be made and manufactured a price that is profitable for everybody would be some of the key steps to validating the product that makes.
[00:24:35] Greg Mills: okay. So like maybe describing your product on Google and then, going to the images, taking a look that way.
[00:24:43] Alan Beckley: That's a good one. That's a good place to start. I always say that the two A's plus plus Google, I say, Amazon, Alibaba and Google and Google images is a great place to get stuff. Because you will find lots and lots of things there, even qvc.com and hsn.com because every month they debut products that haven't been seen anywhere else.
[00:25:05] But it's frustrating to, inventors to go through this research process, but it's one of the best things they will ever do because otherwise they could spend thousands of dollars on a product that two, three years down the road they find. They're not gonna get a patent for, and if they'd done some due diligence in the beginning, they could have saved themselves a lot of money.
[00:25:25] Greg Mills: What actually is the life of a patent. If you were to find something that had, We'll say for example, had been out 30 years or had been patented 30 years ago, has that necessarily expired?
[00:25:38] Alan Beckley: Yeah, it has actually it's 20 years from the filing date. That the maximum time you can get for a patent.
[00:25:45] Greg Mills: You couldn't obviously patented against. But you could conceivably create the product yourself and market it, manufacture it yourself and sell it there. Probably you probably couldn't, licensed it to
[00:25:58] Alan Beckley: Yeah. And it's not quite that cut and dry because there are things that do license that aren't even patented. And there's lots of things in the marketplace selling that aren't patented for one, like you just described, it's a crowded marketplace and you couldn't get a patent on it, but still it's unique enough to sell. The thing to think about is it's not just whether or not it's patented it's if there's something in the public domain anywhere, then that would make it unpatentable. If the patent examiner says, oh, well this product exists in the public domain, even if it's not a patented product. So the bar is kind of high on pending.
[00:26:29] Greg Mills: Yeah, I think I remember watching the shark tank episode with the reader arrest, where the guy had the little magnetic clip on his shirt and he put glasses in and I thought, yeah,
[00:26:40] See using that. And then I thought, a pen would be good.
[00:26:44] Alan Beckley: yeah,
[00:26:45] Greg Mills: And I went on and I think I looked on patents dot, google.com and lo and behold, I think Charles Krauthammer had patented
[00:26:55] The former political pundit
[00:26:58] Alan Beckley: Oh, how interesting.
[00:26:59] Greg Mills: , I think he had a, quite a few actually, but, that was my moment in the sun that lasted all of like, I think three and a half minutes.
[00:27:09] Alan Beckley: Even a Michael Jackson had a patent on an item that would sort of nail into the floor that could connect with his shoes. So he could lean back at an impossible angle. This is where he came up with this for one of his videos where he leans way far back or wait, I think it was way far from.
[00:27:27] And the heels of the shoe we're being held tightly to the floor. So he could do this seemingly impossible task. So there was a patent in his name for that.
[00:27:38] Greg Mills: So going back to, I have this great idea for a product and, assuming I hadn't already found it, can you walk us through the steps to commercializing it?
[00:27:48] Alan Beckley: Sure. after you've done, as we talked about earlier, your due diligence and your validation where you feel like you've really got something and that's not just talking to your friends and family, ideally, show it to. Somebody at a store that would be a potential buyer and ask them their opinion.
[00:28:03] Do you think this might sell in your store, et cetera, but then once you think you've got something, then you would at least file probably a provisional patent application, which just gives you one year of being able to say that you're patent pending and it doesn't cost you. And then the next thing is to start doing some research on what kind of companies might buy it here.
[00:28:23] I'm recommending the idea of licensing as opposed to building a business around it. You can do that, but I've done both, but venturing can be very expensive. Licensing means somebody else takes the product on for you and pays you a royalty. So doing some research and see what companies have. Maybe similar product lines and, where your product would be of a benefit to them and give them an additional bite at the apple or something, that's a value.
[00:28:51] And then, the process of getting in touch with them, which most inventors don't enjoy doing, it's trial and error, et cetera. And then seeing if you get a chance to pitch it to them in a short meeting and show them why it might be a great product for them and see where it goes.
[00:29:07] Greg Mills: Are there any instances where it's advisable not to get a patent or just not necessary?
[00:29:15] Alan Beckley: You may not be able to make a broad blanket statement. But what I would say is lots of toys are not patented for a simple reason. And that is, it typically takes about three years for a patented. And the lifetime of probably 90% of new toys in the marketplace is less than three years. In other words, it flies and it dies inside of three years.
[00:29:37] So why would you spend thousands of dollars to get a patent for something that by the time your pen issues it's, it's already done so to speak. That's what I've heard as to reason why a lot of toys, there are some that are patented, but a lot of toys are not patented for that reason. Roger Brown is an actual.
[00:29:54] Mandy's had a lot of success and he doesn't patent anything, but his approach is he does do a provisional patent, you know, just while he's introducing it to them. And he makes them a deal and says, look, if you want to license my product, then I will let you take on the utility patent. In other words, you can file and pay for the utility patent and it will be in your name in other words, as long as.
[00:30:18] Selling my product. Right. But if, and when the, the deal terminates, then the patent would then be assigned back to me. And he's done that for probably 20 years and had quite a bit of success with it. So that's a creative way, where he wouldn't take on the expense of patenting.
[00:30:35] Greg Mills: How would you go about finding a partner to, to license with today?
[00:30:41] Alan Beckley: So, what I would do is kind of similar. What we just described is I would say, okay, what is my product? Let's say it's a travel related product. That's another area that's often good people doing air travel or what have you. And then I would say, so. What is the unique or compelling sales point of this product and what kinds of companies might be interested in having that?
[00:31:03] So it could be somebody like, American tourist or somebody that makes baggage and things like that. Would it be something that would be something nice for them to have, and then, do some research and try to think broadly, what are a variety of different companies that it might be worth approaching that would see some benefit in it?
[00:31:21] Yeah. Then it's just kind of a trial and error and thing saying what works and where there's interest. If that makes sense.
[00:31:29] Greg Mills: Yeah, that does. I can imagine where LinkedIn. Good. Come in very handy with that.
[00:31:35] Alan Beckley: It is in fact, Stephen Key has written a book about specifically using LinkedIn. I don't remember the title of it, but it using LinkedIn as a resource for one to find company names and who, some of the company officers. So that's, that's actually quite a good resource to get you started down that way as well.
[00:31:52] Greg Mills: Okay. Now, you're in negotiations with the company. What's a fair royalty deal. You know, we talking to like 60%, 70% for me, or which sounds pretty good, but I'm also thinking I might be overreaching.
[00:32:08] Alan Beckley: You are way overreaching but I'll explain why there is no such thing as an absolute typical royalty. So there's kind of a range and it's small. In other words, in DRTV a royalty can be two or 3% of gross sales, all the way up to maybe 7% for certain kinds of things. And at first it seems like, well, that's not fair.
[00:32:28] That's hardly anything. Well, if you look at it in the right way, a company that's successful all-star products is a great example. At the end of the day, for all the things they do, they make about a 10% net profit margin on all their sales. So if they're paying you a 2% royalty effectively for every, $10 coming in and profit to them, they're giving you two of them.
[00:32:51] So that's not such a bad deal. Right? But a lot of inventors are very shortsighted and they get too greedy and, they tell a company, they want to say 5% royalty. Sometimes people say that's an average royalty and it's the standard deviation is too high, but let's just say it's an average royalty.
[00:33:08] And the company comes back and says, well, we never pay more than 4%. And the inventor is like, oh, well, thanks. They're trying to rip them off. And they walk away with no deal when they could've had a great deal with a 4% royalty . It was a whole lot better than. So that pride is very expensive.
[00:33:24] I call it in vendor greed, get the best deal you can and then move on because that deal may be much better than you thought it was.
[00:33:31] Greg Mills: yeah, that sounds like it would be a very good deal
[00:33:34] Alan Beckley: we have very good deal, actually. The other, the other one , while I'm on the subject is if there's two parts that give you an idea, to the extent that the royalty is a good deal.
[00:33:46] It's what I call the footprint. How many stores are they going to get it into times the royalty? So when you say DRTV only pays maybe 2%, sometimes you think, well, that's a river. Oh my gosh, all these other people paying 5%. But if it goes in 10,000 stores, that 2%, and this other manufacturer would have it in 3000 stores at 5%, I'm thinking you're coming out and in a pretty good deal with that 2% royalty afterwards after.
[00:34:12] So you really have to look at the whole picture, to make a decision.
[00:34:16] Greg Mills: Okay. Now after It's licensed, after you've got a royalty deal and maybe the first couple of checks have come in. What typically did they require you? Cause I could see where it'd be in all parties. Best interests for you to maybe do a promotional commercial or.
[00:34:34] Do , some sort of promotions like, an ad campaign or , podcasts? Is that typical?
[00:34:41] Alan Beckley: It's not typical, but here's where I'll tell you is that every company is a little different and they will generally not discourage you. If you're going to do something that promotes it. Right. But they are going to treat it as their own product once they take it on. And indeed for the most part, it will be because they'll be doing all these things, packaging, manufacturing, they're taking all those headaches off your plate, and they're much better at it than you are anyways.
[00:35:06] You would want to get their permission to see if they're okay with you doing that. But in general, they're usually somewhat hands-off. In other words, once a company has taken it on and you've reached an agreement and moving forward, they've got their own ways, their own sales channels.
[00:35:22] And they've been doing this for many years and they're willing, certainly willing to hear ideas and suggestions and maybe retailers that they're not. But in general, they, they want the inventor to step back and maybe move on to something else and work on other products while they're moving forward with, if that makes sense.
[00:35:39] Greg Mills: I was just thinking, with your product benefiting from being demonstrated and you've already been on QVC, that might be. Kind of a no brainer,
[00:35:47] Alan Beckley: I offered and they said, ah, thank, you know, and I wasn't offended, because they actually took it a different direction than I would have. They pick at HSN and they focused on women, which was actually smart because women buy more wallets than men and they buy for their boyfriends, husbands, et cetera.
[00:36:03] So it actually was a better angle than I had taken.
[00:36:06] Greg Mills: Okay. Now what are some common mistakes that you see in vendors make? And I think you've already hit on. A few of them, like with the inventor, pride and not taking the royalty deal.
[00:36:18] Alan Beckley: The first and foremost is, I guess it's a form of hubris that we all naturally think that our idea is never been seen anywhere ever before. And we don't think, well, there's almost 8 billion people on planet earth. Every one of them has 10 ideas a day. What are the odds somebody else has had this idea and also.
[00:36:39] We don't want to search too carefully because we're afraid we'll find. Right. We don't think about, well, if it's there and we don't find it and we spend thousands of dollars and then later it comes back to it's already there. That's logically thinking, we're thinking emotionally, like I don't really want to find it.
[00:36:54] So I'll just look in a couple of retail stores. Ah, it's nowhere. And I have inventors every day say, oh, I looked everywhere. There's nothing like it. And I'll go to Walgreens and I'll say, there's something right there. That's selling a Walgreens. It looks an awful lot. Like it,
[00:37:05] so number one would be. Back to doing a due diligence and really doing a product search to see what is out there that's selling that is similar. And if it's your good fortune that you can say, there's nothing quite like it's selling out there, then that's good. I guess number two is falling to the siren songs of invention marketing companies, right?
[00:37:27] Because. Actually I can write the script for one of these companies, right. They will usually shake an inventor down from 10 to $20,000 and they'll reach out and they say, oh, Mr. Mills, and my gosh, you do realize this is a million dollar product. And you say, oh, that's what I've been telling everybody else.
[00:37:42] But they don't listen to say, oh, sorry, this is a great product. And, you know, we've seen some, but this is a really good one. And you go, well. Yeah. You know, and you said, can you help me? And they said, oh, are you kidding? We have relationships with all the big box retailers. Now, what that means is I do too.
[00:37:58] I've shopped in target and Walmart's and so those that's meaningless statements, you know, but they'd say, oh yeah, we have relationships. All these companies, we can get it in the marketplace in a big way. And they're just fluffing you up and they're telling you exactly what you want to.
[00:38:12] They make it sound very easy. And the road to riches, this is a million dollar product. It's good thing. You brought it to us, you know, we can get you there and then it, then it gets to a certain point where, how much is this going to be? And you say, well, sir, this month, I'll just tell you, the boss can let me do this.
[00:38:28] It's really just 9,950. Now we usually are looking at about $12,000 with our clients, but I'm going to make you a deal. And the guy. Oh, I don't know. I mean, gee, that seems like a lot. I need to talk to my wife about that and go, oh, you need to get her permission. Well, no, I don't have to get her permission, they're playing that male ego and all this, and then if they pushed back some more and say, well, no, that's okay.
[00:38:52] We can just let it go. And they keep trying to get the person hooked. So the next thing they'll say something like this, this is why I say I could do that script. If I was not a very ethical person. They can then say, sir, let me ask you, do you have a college degree and well, yeah, I got a call it, well, did that cost you what?
[00:39:11] At least $30,000, didn't it. Well, yeah. Well, sir, if you're willing to invest that in your career for something that pays you well, wouldn't you be willing to put, you know, 10, $12,000 into a million dollar idea? Are you not, are you really, even serious about your. Anyways, I gave you a long-winded answer, but that's number two is to get hooked by folks like that.
[00:39:36] I see it happening every day. If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is. So those are two big ones. The mistakes that have vendors make,
[00:39:45] Greg Mills: We didn't mention this in the bio, but you've got two books out, uh, during to invent eight steps to turn your idea into a successful product and six small steps to big chain. How to upgrade your life.
[00:39:58] One tiny action at a time. Now they both came out in 2016 and 2017. Respectively, do you have another book in you?
[00:40:07] Alan Beckley: I probably do. I just haven't put too much time into the ebook and all the rest. I actually recorded the audio for those myself at the time. Probably, at some point I'll have a book about my whole journey, but I'm just not ready to do that yet
[00:40:20] Greg Mills: okay. Now, what is inventing meant for you personally? How has it changed your life?
[00:40:26] Alan Beckley: honestly, in a variety of ways, when I was working with my telecom buddies still have a lot of buddies and telecom, and I was thinking our paths diverged and 2009, when I went full time. Going towards QVC, et cetera. And they continue doing, their jobs. And I look at it and I say, you know, if I just continue to do what I was doing, I'd make a good living, but I don't think I would've made two trips to China.
[00:40:51] And then, as a result of the success that I had from all star products, I took a 16 day vacation and I'm in Australia, one of my favorite places to go. And then also take my kids to visit macho Picchu. And more than anything, even if I hadn't had the success to do any of those things, the expansion and the fun of creating something that is meaningful and that people say, oh my gosh, I love this product.
[00:41:18] Everybody, my families bought it. That feedback when you have a product that people love is something that is. It's worth a lot, because you're actually doing some good in the world. So to speak, it's a lot bigger than just you or you would never continue.
[00:41:30] When you got discouraged you to just give up, if your only answer was, I can get rich. It's like, well, I'm not getting rich now. So that wouldn't be very fulfilling. But if you've had somebody like I did, cause I, I sold it to a lot of veterans to be a hospital and military basis. I had people that tell me that they're psychotic.
[00:41:47] I was better now because they're not sitting on a thick wall. Many, many stories like that, that made me realize that my life is richer. So to speak for having chosen, to take a path that's very different than what others have done. And I've helped quite a number of other inventors to get some real traction and that satisfying.
[00:42:07] Greg Mills: I know you mentioned that you've loved to travel. Where are some of your favorite destination?
[00:42:13] Alan Beckley: So I love Australia and I've been to almost every major city in Australia twice. Super big fan of British Columbia and Vancouver in particular. I live in the Seattle area for about three and a half years, but Vancouver is just a delightful, beautiful city in British Columbia in general. And then I've been to China twice.
[00:42:30] I'll probably go again at some point, post COVID, cause I would like to see Shanghai, but I've never been to Europe yet. So that's a plan and I do plan to go back to Panama where I live for 10 years. It's been 30 years plus since I've been there. See all the old stomping grounds and that, and I love travel.
[00:42:48] There's so many places I'd like to go. So I'm not, giving up on that any time soon. So definitely there'll be another trip to Australia and a trip to Panama and some point a trip to Europe. So that'll keep me busy as a mere lad of 65 for quite some time. I suspect.
[00:43:05] Greg Mills: Where do you like to travel domestically?
[00:43:07] Alan Beckley: That's right. I like going to the national parks. I like to make another trip to the Pacific Northwest. I did go visit my daughter in the San Francisco bay area, this summer. And that was a delightful trip. Ben wants to Tennessee there's so many places I'd like to go many. Some I've been to and others I haven't been to yet. So. I just love to travel. I don't love the travel experience of all the nonsense of the airport and getting on planes and all that, but I love the end result
[00:43:37] Greg Mills: let's get ready to wrap this up. What piece of software or app do you find an indispensable helping in the invention process?
[00:43:46] Alan Beckley: We did talk about LinkedIn being helpful for sure. What else is a particularly good app for dinners? I guess Google, right? I mean, it's not exactly an app, but doing Google search on a variety of. And I am pretty email@example.com, which is somewhat daunting if you don't know how to use it.
[00:44:08] A straight up answer would be developing skills to be good at researching things. So that could go back to Google again and various other places where you have the ability to.
[00:44:18] Reach out and see who our potential manufacturers and if the product's already out there and being willing and able to do that research is something that's really valuable.
[00:44:28] Greg Mills: Okay. Now what, what's the number one piece of advice That you can give for our listeners?
[00:44:34] Alan Beckley: Even though I'm an engineer, I will tell you, I think it's valuable to have passionate about what you're doing, do something that really matters to you that hopefully aligns with your skillset, because that's going to sustain you when you hit barriers and things.
[00:44:46] Aren't going so well. And also people like to buy from someone. Who is engaged with what they're doing. I mean, if you go to the store and somebody's like, oh, I try over there. I just knock yourself out. You know, like really, you know, if they're saying, oh my gosh, this is what you need. Let me show you. It's really cool.
[00:45:01] And you're like, I want to buy that. So having some passion around what you're doing and then treat it like a career, right. In other words, become knowledgeable, go out there and buy for an inventor in particularly, but entrepreneurs to buy the books that teach you about the patent process for an MBA. By Stephen keys, one simple idea and buy my books if you like listen to the podcast, lots of free information.
[00:45:25] The world's a great podcast out there, be an educated consumer in whatever realm that you're in and really, find joy in the process, and not look at it just as a destination. So that's a very, long-winded answer to your question, but those are the two key things I would, I would focus.
[00:45:41] Greg Mills: Okay. Now what's the best way for our listeners to check you out and get in touch with you.
[00:45:47] Alan Beckley: My website is Alan beckley.com. That's a L a N B E C K L E y.com and almost everything connects to that. So if you're interested in looking at my bootcamps for inventors, that's Alan beckley.com/. And you can always find more podcasts because inventors helping inventors and it's on the Google search on that.
[00:46:10] You can find it, but also Alan beckley.com/podcast. And what else? The last one I would say is from my membership group, that's Allen beckley.com/ihi 25. And that would give you all mine's information about it. But so Alan beckley.com will get you to most of it. ALA N B D K L.
[00:46:36] Greg Mills: well, that's a wrap. Thank you, Allen, for being a guest on entrepreneurs over 40.
[00:46:40] Alan Beckley: Well, you bet. Thank you so much for having me as a guest.