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TIA: Tennessee Inventors Association in Knoxville Tenn and Oak Ridge TN
Oak Ridge and Knoxville, TN  

May 2012 Mike Thompson and a TIE update

Meeting Date: 
May 19, 2012

The May 19 meeting of the TIA features speaker Mike Thompson, a teacher, inventor, and author, and further discussion of the Tennessee Inventor Expo (TIE). The TIE committee has mapped out the TIE program, identified vendors and partners, and assigned responsibilities to several volunteers.

Mike Thompson, marketing professor, speaking at the Tennessee Inventors Association meetingMike Thompson said the sub-title of his presentation is "Build a better mousetrap . . . and beat your head against the wall."

Mike Thompson is a marketing professor at the Cedar Bluff Campus of Lincoln Memorial University. In between teaching, he worked at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) when PARC was creating what became today's personal computer. Mike told of meeting the man who invented the mouse. He told of another researcher that basically lived in his cubicle. Mike was part of the team that sold the graphical user interface (GUI) to Steve Jobs of Apple Computer.

Mike reiterated the golden rule of business: He who has the gold makes the rules.

Mike discussed business plans. He said most business plans are worthless because they are written to describe the business and not to plan what needs to be done. What a startup needs is a plan for success. How the business plans on making money and what the business plans on doing to make a profit. He said that instead of business plan, entrepreneurs need a good business model. A business model describes the rationale of how an organization creates, delivers, and captures value. In other words, how it make a profit.

Mike also discussed marketing and the 5 Ps: Product, Price, Promises, Place, and People. Marketing is more than just advertising. A good marketing plan should address all five Ps.

There is no universal product. That is, there is no one product that "everyone will buy." Many inventors claim that "everyone" will want their invention. But that is never the case. The people who will buy a product is a subset of "everyone." Marketing means identifying the people who are likely customers.

Mike had several handouts. The first handout listed seven things that lead to success. It was titled Success in a Nutshell.

  1. Live within your budget
  2. Manage in good times for bad times
  3. Define your own standards
  4. Keep things simple
  5. Bigger is not always better
  6. A the peak, look for things you can do even better
  7. Be humble

Another handout was titled Ten Survival Strategies.

  1. Focus completely on satisfying customers
  2. Study the success of others
  3. Gather and analyze information regularly
  4. Sharpen marketing skills
  5. Increase customers perception of value
  6. Position the business uniquely
  7. Eliminate waste
  8. Find something to improve everyday
  9. Embrace change with a positive attitude
  10. Pull the trigger and start the battle

After Mike's presentation, Tom Kulaga presented an update on the Tennessee Inventor Expo (TIE) project. The Expo committee met mid-month and made great progress in planning the Expo.

A short description of the Expo was put together and presented:

The Tennessee Inventor Expo is a Knoxville event bringing together inventors, entrepreneurs, business and legal advisors, marketers, and business service providers. Got an idea? Don't know what to do with it? Find answers at the Tennessee Inventors Expo.
The one day event features two tracks of classes and presentations of interest to inventors and entrepreneurs. One track offers sessions featuring local business advisors, marketing specialists, and patent and business lawyers. Another track offers presentations by successful inventors and professionals who aid inventors.
When not taking in one of the sessions, Expo visitors can tour the exhibit hall. Inventors will be displaying their inventions. Manufacturers will have information on their facilities and capabilities. Engineering and prototyping companies will be showing their capabilities. Marketing and advertising companies will be there, along with business advisors.

In order for the Expo to succeed, volunteers are needed to spearhead various aspects. Many members have stepped up and offered to help. The following members have volunteered to help with the listed tasks:

  1. Carl Papa, Joe Martin, Tom Kulaga: TIE Executive Committee: overall coordination and planning.
  2. Carl Papa: Program Coordinator: identify, contact, schedule, and track status of speakers for the program sessions.
  3. Andre Duvall: Exhibitor Coordinator: identify and track status of exhibitors.
  4. Marty Sanders: Education Coordinator: develop program & reach out to schools, teachers, and students.
  5. Need a volunteer: TIE Treasurer: handle funds, develop budget.
  6. Martin Skinner: Marketing Coordinator: identify, create, and track marketing opportunities, develop TIE brochure
  7. Holly Shaw: Web master: create content for the website, work with the website builder (Tom Kulaga) to design the website.
  8. Need volunteers: Salespeople: contact potential exhibitors to first, get a commitment, and second, to collect the partner fee.

Tom discussed the TIE program and the types of exhibitors for the Expo. Many members contributed ideas of the types of programs and exhibitors they would like to see.

Lastly, Tom presented a tentative schedule of milestones that need to happen for the Expo.

  • The venue must be selected
  • The program needs to be fleshed out to put together an exhibitors' package.
  • The TIE website needs to be created with information from the exhibitors' package.
  • The exhibitors' package needs to be finished before we begin selling to exhibitors.  
  • By September we need to have enough exhibitors on board to pay for the venue
  • By September we should have all speakers confirmed for the program
  • January -  The Expo!

Joe Martin discussed the details of the venue search. The downtown Holiday Inn seems to be the best choice, so far. A quick vote of the members showed that there was consensus to pursue the Holiday Inn as the Expo venue, unless another option became available. The Holiday Inn has January 18 and 19, 2013, available.

The meeting wrapped up with many adjourning to the Chinese restaurant in Oak Ridge.