Franchise Management and Investible Units

How can you tell which Venture Capital firm is funding a small research venture aka Investible Unit+? Is there something about the way one firm manages its transactions that makes it stand out from another? Can you sense the difference when you walk the halls of the research venture? You walk into most ventures before and after the ‘transaction’ and very little will have changed: perhaps a few more people and a bit more equipment. Most Venture Capital transactions are merely about the money.

In World Class R&D we seek franchisees. These are individuals and teams willing to adopt a common look-and-feel for their ventures. You walk into one of these ventures and it’s clear, without looking at the placard, it’s one of ours.

I would go into these meetings with 6-10 individuals from research and even at the end of the meeting I couldn’t tell you which one was the boss. Professional Colleague Consulting in the Chemical Industry (2009). Personal Communication

There’s a wink-and-a-nod, a slight smile, a look of complicity amongst the researchers that let’s you know they are in this together. These are teams moving so fast they often don’t have the time to document every nuance of a scientific procedure. They have a common understanding that is tacit or implicit. Questions are not even asked because they already share the answer. Or better, questions are asked, rhetorically, with the understanding that both already share the answer, so none is forthcoming.

You can’t measure this difference. You can only describe it by resorting to anecdotes or vignettes. These teams work so closely and so intensely they don’t bother with explanations. They don’t need a master schedule. They don’t need someone to tell them what needs to get done. This is a multi-layered understanding, one that crosses several science domains. Names, designations, past successes (and tribulations) are weaved together into an understanding that excludes all but those who were deeply involved the unfolding of the events. Outsiders get a sense they are witnessing something great, but are baffled, and dare not interrupt the flow.

This is an exclusive club within its own rights. It’s a shared experience that crosses years, and perhaps generations. Team members have a sense for what works and what doesn’t work. They share a common mental landscape for where to push and where not to push. They pour over all available data, often on their own, searching for that next breakthrough. This is not a job. The data is fully internalized so that decisions can be made based on a sense of the correct direction.

The above is an illustration. The management of a World Class R&D venture has the freedom to set up the unique approach for their research venture as they see fit, subject to a back-and-forth with the funding agent+. There will be a common look-and-feel to the venture that goes far beyond mere funding. But this look-and-feel will be closer to a shared philosophy: we collectively know and practice effectiveness in R&D. This is a philosophy that, in the spirit of the word itself, is ever-living and ever-growing. We’re dealing with human nature, and we’ll never quite get it right no matter how long and hard we try. But the sense that we’re trying will be palpable.

The World Class R&D franchisee stays a member even should they become self-funding. The advantages of membership+ far outweigh any costs. We join the franchise to gain access to the best available (shared) talent in the industry, both technical and business; both research and commercial. But more importantly we stay with the franchise because we acknowledge we are at our best by being a member. We are often in competition with our neighboring ventures, but we acknowledge their accomplishments and unique sense of spirit that we share in common. We are at our best because we’re competing with the best.

We’re eager to share our insights on the management of these irascible fellow researchers (and ourselves). Insights are free. We know that it’s the practice and not the insight where you get value. So as management of a research venture we relish a community in which we can share our successes and have these successes appreciated by our peers. Respect is most appreciated from those we respect, and within the franchise community we have many connections where this can occur.

This is an exclusive club. Many will try to get in based on their need for funding, or based on the perceived attractiveness of their patented technologies. Only a few will actually gain admittance, which is based 98% on the people. We’re interested in individuals who show the gut and determination to do whatever it takes, for however long it will take, even in the event of discontinuance of funding, to get to the blockbuster+. If you’re in this for the quick win, to get your technology bought out, you will be excluded. We are very careful to admit only those who demonstrate they share the goals and values of the franchise. This is not a matter of pedigree. We’re looking for individuals, who by their membership, will grow and enhance the value of the franchise for all the members.

Home Page May 2010

Further Reading