How Entrepreneurs Make Money

You’ve done all your hard work and planning, secured funding, and established your business. But what about the rewards? Where, when, and how can you expect your high-yield rewards to be realized, and why should your entrepreneurial venture succeed where others have failed?

Key Takeaways

  • One of the most important things that an entrepreneur can do to make windfall profits is to protect their hard work through patents and copyright procurement. 
  • The sector of a given product or service dictates the patent length. Being aware of these particular requirements is important in any entrepreneur's plan for success.
  • Entrepreneurs will experience growth and success through a general timeline that will adjust based on the type of product or service provided.
  • The initial investment period, the plain period, is when time, energy, and work are at a premium, but funding may not be in place yet—at this step, angel investor funding can make a world of difference.
  • Following the success of a product or service, an entrepreneur may choose to end the project or sell to pivot on to new ventures. 

Why Entrepreneurs Should Make Windfall Profits

Imagine two hypothetical workers. Joey goes to the office each day, works a standard 40-hour workweek, and gets paid a standard salary. They are great at their job, but their contributions to the world remain confined to their work.

Alex has a passion to change and improve the world by introducing new products and services. They work way more than 40 hours a week, investing their time, capital, and energy to try something new that they hope will make the world a better place.

Clearly, the world would be less dynamic if there were only Joeys and no Alexs around. Alex takes more risks and puts in more effort than Joeys, so it’s logical that Alex will have a greater impact on the general welfare through their contributions. If the reward for Alex is more or less similar to that of Joey, however, Alex will not be as willing to put in the extra effort to improve the world's wellbeing. 

The Lack of Suitable Awards

According to neoclassical economic theory, a lack of suitable rewards discourages entrepreneurs to take on risk and put in extra effort, without which the world becomes stagnant. Government authorities rightly offer entrepreneurs special rewards through patents, copyrights, and royalties. Entrepreneurs are less likely to invest their time, effort, energy, and money without windfall profits.

During a product or service lifecycle, it’s imperative that an entrepreneur weighs the perceived value of sweat equity against taking a salary or payment. 

How Entrepreneurs Make Windfalls

Entrepreneurs introduce new products or services that may result in significant improvements in productivity, reduction in costs, and improvement in the quality of life. Knowing their offerings much better than anyone else and being aware of customer needs, the entrepreneur can charge a premium for their innovations, which can translate to big rewards.

If competitors are not able to build and introduce similar products or services in a short span of time, the product becomes a monopoly for the entrepreneur, and they can expect windfall profits from being the sole manufacturer or sole service provider. 

Protection Through Patents and Copyrights

Even if competitors find it easy to replicate and introduce similar products quickly, the entrepreneur can seek protection for their innovation through patents or copyrights. These channels offer protection to the original inventor and act as a safeguard for successful entrepreneurial ventures.

But how long can this monopoly continue? Without government intervention in the form of patents or copyright protection, profitability will continue until competitors start offering similar products and services. Without any intervention, the market becomes open to further innovations and new variants on the original product or service. Entrepreneurs usually keep a close eye on such developments and are circumspect enough to upgrade their products and maintain the upper hand in the market.

In the case of patents, protection is available for a certain amount of time, which can span from a few months to a few years. In the U.S., patents usually last for 20 years. This again encourages healthy competition: Either entrepreneurs start work on something new or they succumb to market Darwinism.

Where and When Entrepreneurs Make Money

When it comes to money matters, timing is very important. Here is an illustrative graph indicating possible cash flows and their timing during the different phases of an entrepreneurial venture:

Image 1
 Image by Sabrina Jiang © Investopedia 2020

Term 1 to Term 4: The Pain Period

This is the initial investment period where different activities will be performed including, but not limited to, product idea development, feasibility and market study, prototype building, and customer identification. The order may differ depending on the venture, but the concepts remain the same. It is assumed that funding from angel investors becomes available in Term 4.

Term 5 to Term 6: The Introduction Period

Activities in this period may include applying for and securing patents and building sales channels and a distribution model to final product introduction to the market.

Term 7 to Term 9: The Profit Period

These terms are the profit-taking “monopoly” periods when the entrepreneur is either protected by patents or copyright, or there are no competitors for other reasons.

Term 9 is assumed to be the peak profit period, just prior to competitors entering the market. It is during this term that further development is initiated for introducing new product variants. However, reinvestment and research and development can come earlier, depending on the product's lifecycle and other factors. This can also be the time to introduce the original offering to new markets.

Term 10 to Term 11: The Sunset Period

At this point, entrepreneurs may exit the venture completely by closing it completely or selling it to interested parties, or they may continue with newly developed variants. Profits will vary greatly during these terms. 

The Bottom Line

The above is an illustration of a general entrepreneurial cycle. The duration and activities mentioned will vary depending on the nature of the product and markets. For example, a pharmaceutical drug may have a longer monopoly period because of a patent, while a mobile technology innovation may get replicated within a very short span of time.

All business ventures aim for profitability. Owing to the high-risk/high-reward scenarios of entrepreneurial ventures, entrepreneurs are expected to make windfall profits, provided they plan their activities carefully and complete their plan effectively.

Article Sources
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  1. United States Patent and Trademark Office. "General Information Concerning Patents." Accessed June 20, 2021.

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