Start-up’s….Like Wiring a House With The Power On…and getting zapped

The start-up phase is often one of the most difficult phases for entrepreneur as they often try to gain market knowledge while trying to meet sales goals. You know you should gather market data, but you often have limited cash, you are the chief cook and bottle washer, and you need to make sales to fund your future growth.

Start-up leaders need a strong emotional intelligence as many days you feel like you are; wiring a house with the power on and you keep getting emotionally zapped.

 

A number of years ago my wife was redesigning our upstairs bathroom and asked I change the electrical outlets from a cream color to a solid white. So we turned the lights on in the bathroom and I went to the fuse box and flipped switches until the bathroom light went out. I started to remove the outlet and saw a small spark. I thought to myself…”That’s odd as I know the electric power was off…” (My perceived truth) so I continued removing the old outlet. Zap! Next thing I knew I received a shock that sent me up against the wall and I fell into the bathtub. I latter found a new truth…the lights were on a separate circuit than the outlets so I was trying to change the outlet with the power on.

One of the most exhilarating as well as frustrating things you can do is launch a start-up company. Like I discussed in a previous post you feel like a plate spinner with more to-do’s than hours in a day. I go on to discuss how we can’t let the most important plates drop. I have discussed in earlier blogs how 2/3 of start-ups fail within 18 months. The main reasons we are all aware of for start-up failure include;

  • run out of cash
  • lack of a market driven plan
  • if you have a plan, your sales expectation is too high, too soon
  • if you have a plan, you have an unrealistic understanding of the buying process and cycle
  • trying to sell the need for a product you launched because you could and not because you should
  • market is not large enough
  • customers do not want to pay to solve the problem you solve
  • stress

 

Assuming your product and or service solves an unmet need, and you have a large enough market who are willing to pay you to solve their problem, the real danger for entrepreneurs is getting zapped by stress during the start-up season of your business..

To keep you from getting emotionally zapped from stress during the often hectic start-up phase, there are five key Biblical lessons I learned from a sermon recently.

1. Don’t wear yourself out – build the discipline to determine what is important, urgent, and focus on what is :urgent and important

2. Don’t shut out others – the reality is you can’t do it alone. Now more than ever you need your network, family, and friends

3. Don’t just focus on Negatives – that’s what market losers do. Keep your eyes on the prize and look for bright lights of opportunity as you launch.

4. Focus on your physical and Spiritual health – far too often those mounting to-do’s make us drop or delay other key areas of our lives. If necessary put time on your calendar for your fitness and faith.

5. Anxiety and fear are the product of looking back or too far into the future , focus on what is in front of you now, and leverage what you have. The quickest way to stop creatively solving roadblocks is to become fearful.

 

 

What about you? Have you experienced stress during the start-up phase?
What advice do you recommend to entrepreneurs in the start-up phase of their business?
What zapped you most in your start-up?
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Choose to be a Builder in 2010….not a Wrecker

 

I enjoyed a recent column in our Scottsdale Republic by Michael Ryan. He published a poem tiled; “Which am I? “ He was not sure who the author was but the message lives even stronger today than it did seven years ago when he first shared it.

When times get tough we usually see one of two behaviors in organizations;

 

Teams begin infighting and blame-storming

 

Teams unite, grow stronger, and emerge as market leaders

 

Ryan goes on to discuss how “Instead of working together to solve problems, some people seemed more willing to battle one another.” I see this far too often with large clients in which managers retreat to their silos and start shooting missiles at each other instead of competitors.

So I have to ask… 

what kind of a team do you work for?….

A market leading team that discusses real issues and works together to solve them?

Or…

A market loosing team of managers so concerned with covering their own rear ends they wouldn’t know an unresolved market problem or a roadblock to providing a positive customer experience if it bit them?

No matter how others in your organization may be acting under the pressure you have a choice.

Chose to be a Builder.

  ( less than 10% of your team will choose to be builders) 

I hope you enjoy this poem as much as I did.

Which am I?

 

I watched them tearing a building down.

 

A gang of men in a busy town.

 

With a ho-heave –ho and a lusty yell,

 

They swung a beam and the sidewall fell.

 

I asked the foreman, “Are those men skilled.

 

And the kind you would hire if you had to build?”

 

He gave me a laugh and said “No indeed,

 

Just common labor is all I need.

 

I can easily wreck in a day or two

 

What other builders have taken a year to do.”

 

I thought to myself as I went my way,

 

“Which of these roles have I tried to play?”

 

Am I a builder that works with care,

 

Measuring life by the rule and the square?

 

Am I shaping my deeds to a well-made plan,

 

Patiently doing the best I can?

 

Or am I a wrecker who walks the town,

 

Content with the labor of tearing down?”

 

unknown author

 

 

I would like to add a few lines….

If you have played the role of wrecker you should not despair,

As wrecking is easy for those who do not care.

 

To add value, now that is the to pass through the camels eye,

It is there leaders are born solving problems that arise.

 

Having the courage to often stand alone, to be a part of the solution,

 

When their peers partake in political pollution.

Ok, so I wasn’t meant to be a poet. But I have worked within a number of organizations that lack leaders willing to be a part of the solution. When we focus on the problem and not attacking the person we are often called “heretics”.

The best way to add value to the team is to be a builder and not a wrecker.

( there are far too few builders these days)

Builders identify and solve problems. They flip what is perceived by most to be a problem and turn them into opportunities to add value.

 

Wreckers take the easy route quickly criticizing and tearing down creative new ideas and they often overlooking roadblocks and broken processes for perceived personal safety.

 

So who will you choose to be in 2010?

 

Thanks again to Michael Ryan for the above Poem.

Entrepreneur Best Practices; #1 “More” Sales or “Create Sales Velocity” ?

For the past 25 years I have helped entrepreneurs realize what I refer to as Explosive Sales Growth, or said another way;

I help organizations Create sales velocity.

 

Sales velocity occurs when you connect your product or service to a market need, and create messages that clearly tells them how you solve those needs for your buyers.

Sales Velocity is Sales Acceleration, with Direction and creates Momentum.

 

Creating Sales Velocity is one common need every business has, particularly in 2009.

A few nights ago I attended the local TIE event here in Phoenix. As I mingled with entrepreneurs before our guest speaker I heard a constant need;

I have an amazing product (service) but we need “more” sales…now!

 

I met with a number of entrepreneurs and their passion for creating something bigger than themselves seemed dampened by the immediate need for sales. I shared some “quick win” techniques that always work for me, but I went on to explain that what they really want is to create Sales Velocity.

Sales Acceleration

I have helped entrepreneurs and their teams grow businesses and what they often need first is sales acceleration. What I mean by this is a number of quick wins in new accounts or new products placed in existing accounts. A big part of sales acceleration is intentionally driving the sales you want to grow. When entrepreneurs mistakenly say they want “more” sales, by default they are saying “any sale will do”.

Not all sales are good sales if they strain your team to “slightly” change your product or service.

 

These “slight “changes slowly pull you form the core of your business and distract focus.

I have served a variety of industries and the best way to create intentional sales acceleration is always they same; talk to your customers and others in your market. In doing so you must determine “current truths” because your gut and intuition alone will not drive the growth you desire.

Direction

 

I think we have all seen the monthly sales charts that resemble a heart rate versus a market leading organization. Sales are up, and then off, up, plateau, then drop.

As an entrepreneur you need sustainable, repeatable sales or your personal heart rate will fluctuate as you try to plan cash flow.

When you implement a ; creation of sales velocity mind set, you have specific targets that support your overall vision, road map and serve market needs.

Momentum

 

One of my favorite classes in high school was Math and Physics. (odd for a sales guy huh?) The concept of momentum always fascinated me. How a body of mass moving with direction creates an energy of its own, and that energy can be transferred to other things that the mass bumps into.

Sales momentum occurs when your sales pick up in a positive, intentional direction with velocity.

 

clip_image001

 

Now the fun part, if you have two particles ( sales) , with masses clip_image002and clip_image003and velocities clip_image004and clip_image005, the total momentum of these particles , clip_image006is

clip_image007

 

However, if you have one particle (sale) going to the right, the other to the left they cancel each other out. ( how sales and marketing often act) Once you pay commission you have a net negative effect on your bottom line for the energy produced. If you sum the two momenta together, you get a total momentum of zero. ( this is what often occurs when sales teams are asked to …”hit your numbers and make it happen” …because that is what we “sales guys” are wired to do. However if not directionally focused and aligned with your road map the net result over time is zero added value to your bottom line( and often reduces the value of your business).

The real fun begins when you have a number of particles (sales) bouncing around in the right direction. The equation gets a little sophisticated and the total momentum of N particles (sales), of masses clip_image008and velocities clip_image009as

clip_image010

 

The net result is increased sales and the valuation of your business increases if done correctly.

(Thanks to Joshua Deutsch for the above equations.)

 

As an entrepreneur and future market leader you do not want “more “sales you want “sales velocity”. When you realize sales velocity you experience sales acceleration with direction that builds a sustainable momentum over time.

 

Sustainable momentum provides predictable cash flows and helps you find willing investors for future expansion.

 

How about your team?      heart rate 2

 

Do your sales look more like a heart rate monitor?

 

Do you have salespeople “making it happen” but the way they are making it happens seems to cancel each other out?

 

Are you or your salespeople running in many directions, getting your organization exhausted …without building momentum?

 

 

Over my next series of posts I will be discussing entrepreneurial best practices. I will be sharing personal experiences of what worked as well as did not produce in hopes of helping entrepreneurs shorten their sales cycle and accelerate their revenues and profits, and most importantly the value of their business. I am always looking for thought leaders to contribute as it is my goal to add value to the entrepreneur community.

If you have thought leadership for entrepreneurs, please contact me.

When Bootstrapping, Leverage What you Have….

 

boot

So you want to be an entrepreneur? You sure?

 

I am just finishing an eBook that will be titled; 50 “UGLY TRUTHS” about owning your own business …and 5 reasons to do it anyway. I have served entrepreneurs in a variety of industries for 25 years. Some of my clients today are people passionately setting out to launch their new service or product. Some have owned their business for years and want to take it to the next level in revenues and profit.

 

One common area I help entreprenuers  with in the start up, bootstrapping stage, is to focus on; Leveraging what you have….as opposed to making a list of what you need.

 

Look, I’ve been there….you’ve mentally made the commitment, you have made some investment, you’ve told your family and friends about your business… and you are all in. Very quickly what most entrepreneurs do is start making a list of what they need.

 

I often see lists that include; new buildings, office space, people, a new printer, fax machine, a custom showroom, new cell phone, new computer, business cards, stationary….and so on. I spoke with one entrepreneur that went out and leased a new Lexus and he has yet to open his first customer. He contacted me because he needed sales velocity because he had no cash.When I inquired as to why he leased a new car…I heard the common response when buying wants versus needs…” I needed to look successful…” Really? (So he must think I am a real loser driving my 2003 Toyota Camry huh?)

 

 

If you are about to launch your business or planning your growth, focus on leveraging what you have and not making a list of what you need. It is in this phase you build your leadership muscles.

 

In 2005 I was asked by an entrepreneur I was serving at the time to launch a new retail business as an independent division of his company VMI. VMI is the second largest manufacturer of wheel chair accessible vehicles in the world. I was the VP of Sales and Marketing and created a repeatable sales process and adjusted our messaging to be more specific to the problems we solved for our three main buyer persona’s rather than” features and benefits speak”. We modified some of our designs based on customer and user feedback and sales were exploding. The owner asked me to take on the new challenge; open a local retail store.

 

When we launched what soon became Arizona Mobility Products we had arguably…nothing. We did not have a business name, a building, a website, a logo, a sign; computers….you get the idea. So I too quickly went into list building mode. However I quickly learned this business needed to “eat what we killed”…we needed to be self funding.

 

So like my clients, I went off to think at a local restaurant as I don’t know about you, but I do my best thinking out of the office. I took inventory of what I did have;

 

  • as VP of Sales and Marketing I had worked with the most successful mobility dealers in the world for the past four years; I intimately knew best practices of market leading dealers

 

  • I have observed what dealers have done well, and the mistakes like signing leases for expensive elaborate show rooms that only erodes the bottom line

 

  • I knew our customers, our community, from the market research we did for our new corporate marketing, website, and product designs

 

 

  • We had over 400 finished vehicles available for sale in every configuration , ready for sale

 

  • The company had warehouse space vacant, old extra computers, extra phones

 

  • A small customer list of local consumers who have bought accessible vehicles over the last eight years or so

 

  • I had an amazing salesman named Pat with over 30 years of vehicle sales and local connections with car dealers

 

  • I know sales, marketing, and I have developed sales acceleration programs for companies for 20 years

 

  • I know that one common problem consumers who need a wheel chair accessible van have is the ability to see one, they lack transportation to get to the dealer

 

  • I personally have a network of thought leaders in internet marketing, marketing creative, and print marketing support

 

After making the list, I asked myself ;based on what I know from meeting with other dealers and customers, the inventory we did have, how can we… leverage this to grow this business? To make this operation a market leader?

 

We could give our customers what they needed, with the specific options they wanted, and we could do it same day.

 

We didn’t have large fancy showrooms, so we went to our customer’s homes. We did not have an ad budget so I wrote content that was picked up for free in local magazines that served the community, like; Arizona Mobility Products makes doing-good good-business…

 

With each unit we sold we accrued money to support a web site, ads, direct mail to past customers who’s vehicles were about to go out of warrantee, and business cards. I called my network and asked for favors. I offered to barter when possible and thanks to our service partners we launched.

 

In case I never said so, Thanks go out to some amazing partners;

 

John Scott Dixon and his team at Thought Lava for our web site

Jay Wilson and his creative team at Real World Marketing

Phil and Barry at BC Graphics

Bill at Tempe Dodge

 

Within months we were averaging what most successful mobility dealers sell each month, and after the first year we were in the top 10 dealers nationally in total revenue. We had five people, and we were focused;

 

“Serve our customers with what they need and want…we bring mobility vehicles to you”

 

When bootstrapping your business, focus on leveraging what you have as opposed to making lists of what you need.

Lists of what you need are good for the future but they do not fill the cash register…as a matter of fact we did not even have a cash register…smile.

 

Have you launched and business?

 

What can you leverage to serve your market?

 

Did you rush out and buy a bunch of office furniture, equipment, or did you learn to ;“eat what you killed

Your leadership muscles grow in the bootstrapping stage as you learn to leverage and scale what you have. Those expenditures that add value you keep and those that do not produce your desire ROI are removed.

 

Although I left AMP years ago to help other entrepreneurs, Pat now running the store and continues to provide amazing service and bringing vehicles to his customers. Pat continues to serve his market as opposed to selling them, and continues to be in the top 10 mobility dealers nationally.

 

 

Market leaders, Like Snipers, Understand the importance of …“Policing your Rounds”

sniper

 

When I was a young man, I grew up in a family of hunters. My father, grandfather and so on all hunted. Very early on, though I liked shooting, I found I just wasn’t all that angry with those beautiful animals. So my father and I would go to opening day of deer season in Pennsylvania, usually the Monday following thanksgiving weekend and we go to our spot deep into the woods….and wait.

Sure enough the deer would come, and I would miss. In reality I enjoyed the time at the cabin with my dad and grandfather, my cousin, but I just did not want to kill the deer, so I would …miss. (Sorry Dad)

As I grew older I continued to enjoy shooting and thought about becoming a sniper for the military. No surprise though ;the guy who did not want to kill deer really did not want to kill anything. If called to serve I would do what was asked, but I did not volunteer to use my marksman skills. However I was very intrigued by the training and techniques of snipers.

Snipers, through hours, years, of practice hone their skills. They also become experts at camouflage and being able to sneak up on their target unnoticed. They spend a considerable amount of time in recon and observation prior to the day they execute their one strategic shot at just the opportune time.

Once the shot (usually one is all it takes) is fired, they know the importance of “policing their rounds”. In other words, they pick up the empty shells so others do not even know they were there, they leave no trace. There goal is to approach, patiently observe, execute their objective and leave unnoticed. In so doing they accomplish their objective and return safe for future missions.

As I sit here, at a Paradise Bakery over lunch hour writing,I am amazed how many business executives need to learn how to “police their rounds…”

In the booth behind me a young entrepreneur is sharing his vision for a new web based service he is presenting to what sounds like a would be venture capitalist or angel investor. Not only has he openly shared the problem he solves, who to sell it to, he even estimates being cash positive in eight months.

To my right is a very heated discussion about “Julie” and how; “she needs to go. She undermines my leadership in meetings and I need to get rid of her…” The three associates are having a blame storming session, here , in a public place?

In the past I have listened to preliminary business plans here, IPO discussions, job interviews, and performance reviews here or at Starbucks, as well as  The Good Egg.

I want to share with everyone, there is no unwritten rule of ;

“what is said at Paradise Bakery, Starbucks, or The Good Egg stays there!”

 

You need to Police your rounds!

bullet shells

 

If you must have a discussion about a business plan, needed funding, or a difficult employee,… do so in private….you never know who may be listening.

How about you and your company executives…

 

 

Do you discuss your business, new products, and new service solutions at lunch or at the local watering hole? Golf course over lunch?

 

 

Would you say what you shared last week if you thought your competitor was in the booth next to you? No? Well not that you shared your entire business plan you may have just created one!

 

 

Would you have been so brutally honest venting your feelings about your Julie if you thought her mom or husband was in the booth next to you? Or future employees? Future customers?

 

 

I have shared this with some of my local business network buddies and I was told…just don’t listen. Just because I learn to tune out local discussions as I write my blog, does not mean everyone has.

 

 

As a leader in your organization you owe it to your organization, shareholders, and team to learn to “police your rounds.”

12 Lessons All Leaders Can Learn About Launching New Products and Services …From the 2009 Health Care Reform

health care mast head

 

 

Watching the current 2009 Health Care Reform Initiative has valuable lessons for all leaders throughout the world if we take time to pay attention. I think it was Einstein who said “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. The current 2009 Health Care Reform Initiative has strong emotional attachments regardless of which side of the debate you reside.

It is often the life lessons with emotional attachments we remember most.

 

The goal of my last series of blog posts was to share business lessons leaders can learn from watching and living the 2009 Health Care Reform Initiative. I tried to focus on the business principles and not take a partisan view. If you have read any of my posts you will not be surprised to learn I am a Christian, American, and Republican….in that order. I am proud to be an American and I admit we can always improve as a nation, however having traveled the world I can say first hand how blessed I feel to live in the United States.

pres obama

As for our President, I follow what our Lord taught us in the Bible and I pray for him. I pray the Lord gives him and all our leaders wisdom, discernment, and the courage to act upon what the Lord instructs him to do.( and not those of this world) I have received a number of emails since launching this blog thread. A number of those felt I was “bashing” our President, and if my word choice made you feel that way I apologize.

 

As a man, I have no problem with President Obama and if asked I would welcome the opportunity to be a part of the solution.

 

As our leader I must follow him, support him. If he loses, I lose…we all lose.

 

What I challenge is the process of this initiative.

 

My intension was to ;

 

“focus on the problem and not the person”

 

There are a number of lessons we can glean from watching life lessons before us.

 

I am sure there are many more lessons if thought leaders wish to add content:

 

 

  • the impact of social media on the 2009 Health Care reform Initiative

  • Lessons in leadership when a launch goes bad

  • The cost(s) of change

  • The psychology of change

  • When tempers flair seek first to understand and find common ground

  • …and I am sure there are many more

 

 

12 Lessons All Leaders Can Learn About Launching New Products and Services …From the 2009 Health Care Reform?

 

#1: Without a Clear Definition of the Problem You Want to Solve, You Will Experience “Scope Creep” and Your Launch Plan Will Fail

 

#2: Without a Clear Definition of the Problem You Want to Solve, you cannot write good requirements for your development team

 

#3: Without a Clear Understanding of the Problems to be Solved, and Requirements, Development will Build Solutions Because They Can and Not Because They Should!

 

#4: Your Previous New Product Launch success (or Failures) Affect Current and Future Launches

 

#5: Without a Clear understanding of the Problems your New Product Solves, Marketing will resort to “Buzz Word Bingo” and “Gobbledygook”

 

#6: Without a Road Map Your “Administration” Will Attempt Too Much, Too Fast and Not Achieve Any of Your Goals

 

#7: Asking…and not listening to your market, is worst than not asking at all…

 

#8; Buyers Become Tone Deaf to Lazy Marketing Messaging

 

#9; Make Sure Your Marketing Has All the “Rights” Covered…Fix the Right Problem

 

#10, #11, #12; Make Sure Your Marketing Has All the “Rights” Covered…right time, right customer, right offer

 

What other lessons have you learned, or are learning as we watch the 2009 Health Care Reform Imitative?

 

Is your organization making some of the same mistakes? Why?

 

Are you about to Launch a New Product or Service and you adjusted your plan based on the above 10 posts? If so which posts and how?

 

How can we unite as Americans and stop Blame Storming?

 

Do you feel I was wrong to use this real life emotionally charged lesson to blog about? Why, Why not?

 

2009 Health Care Reform Initiative Lessons #10, #11,#12; Make Sure Your Marketing Has All the “Rights” Covered…right time, right customer, right offer

 

 

A basic marketing tenant says make sure you have all the “rights” covered in your New Product launch, New Service Launch. I discussed solving the right problem in my last post and that leaves the following “rights”; Right Time, Right Customer(s), and Right Offer(s).

Failure to nail all the rights puts your new product and or service launch results in jeopardy of missing ROI targets. Let’s take a quick look at these “rights”.

Right Time       alarm clock

One of the difficulties the Obama administration faced when launching the 2009 Health Care reform initiative was bad timing.

Like companies who have launched products in their markets before they were ready, or failed to meet the expectation set by marketing and sales, the Obama administration could not have launched at a worst time. They followed a failed stimulus from the Bush administration, a failed stimulus from the Obama administration, and they tried to begin their launch in the worst economic conditions the United States has seen arguably since the Great Depression.

When you launch products that are not complete solutions, or are not solving a specific problem, your market at first becomes suspicious, and if you repeat the insanity (doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results) you eventually break the trust in your Brand. When trust is broken you turn loyal customers into shoppers again.

Market leaders understand the importance the right timing plays in hitting their new product launch goals and the ROI’s promised the board and or shareholders.

Market Losers are so in love with their new product they fail to listen, they fail to send out market soundings and often their launches crash into the rocks of bad timing

.2009-08-14-Protester

Right Customer       

In the Book Tuned In the authors discuss how to determine if the problem you are trying to solve should even be considered for development. They discuss the need to determine if the problem is urgent, pervasive (a bunch of folks have it) and most important, is your market willing to pay to solve it?

As we look at the “market “of US consumers we have distinguishable groups that can be segmented: Gen Y’s, Gen X’s, Baby Boomers, and Retired Consumers, consumers without health insurance,…just to name a few.

When you launch a new solution the burden is on you and your organization to clearly understand the problems of each market segment and solve them.

Once you solve problems the burden is also on you to clearly articulate the problem(s) you solved in the voice of the market.

Market Leaders understand the importance of segmenting their markets and speaking to each segment in a voice that they understand.

Market Losers launch with one size fits all solutions that require a salesperson to interpret, and fail to be understood and therefore Miss ROI targets.

 

 

Right Offer        reform bill

When you thoroughly solve problem(s) for specific segmented groups in your market, you create offers that are made to stick. The offer is clear and does not require a rocket scientist or an attorney to understand. These perfect solutions instantly connect and become viral in all your targeted market communities. Social media picks up your solution and cannot wait to share how you solved the problem.

Market Leaders understand and value the impact social media can play in a successful Product launch.

Market Losers use Ready-Fire- Aim new product launches that, not surprisingly end in disaster.

Market Losers do not understand the power of Social Media and how it can be a valuable ally or an incredible foe that literally can cause you to go out of business.

How about your business….

Do you have all the “rights” covered in your next new product and or serve launch?

Are you living a launch disaster now?…tell us about it…

Have you successfully launched a product without having all the “rights” covered? If so, tell us about it.

Do you have clearly defined solutions or are you practicing “Agile Product Launches” …how’s that working for your shareholder value?

Are there other “rights” we need to consider?…Right Channel?….