Summary of Harvesting Intangible Assets

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Attorney and author Andrew J. Sherman approaches business using a simple, attractive metaphor: Businesspeople are farmers – or, at least, they should be. Entrepreneurs and executives should take a long-range, comprehensive approach to their endeavors, and recognize that time and acquired knowledge play large roles in profitability. Sherman overworks his symbolism, threatening to exhaust its soil, but his images of planting, toiling and reaping succeed as reminders of the approach he wants readers to take. getAbstract recommends his counsel to innovators and those managing innovation, and to leaders seeking a unified organizational vision.

About the Author

Andrew J. Sherman is a partner in the Jones Day international law firm and the author of Raising Capital and Franchising & Licensing.



You’re a Farmer

No matter what field or industry you work in, what product your company sells or what service it provides, you are a farmer. You must fight weather, work with and against the ecosystem, prepare the soil, and labor to bring a rich crop to market. You plan for a long-term future in which certain seasons are better suited for some endeavors than others. Just as there is a time to bring crops to market, there is a time to harvest ideas and present them to the market. Those who are not farmers might think that ripening crops in a field represent the value of a farm. Farmers know that the true value lies both in those crops and in “intangible assets,” like knowledge of agriculture.

That’s true for all businesses. In 1929, intangible assets made up only 30% of the total value of American businesses. In 1993, intangibles comprised 63%, and that share is growing. To capitalize on those assets, you need to master your “enterprise’s value chain.” You want to find ways to get people to buy improved versions of an item that still “works perfectly fine,” and to purchase products in new packages and formats, such as content aggregated from different sites.

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