Jul 23, 2007

10 Ways To Start A Company And Launch Your Big Idea

There are many ways to launch a company. However, most people who haven't yet launched their "big idea" often delay because of fears. Fears facing new entrepreneurs are often about the following:

  • Fear of lack of knowledge about idea, industry or type of company
  • Fear that money might run out
  • Fear of failure and possible embarrassment
  • Fear that the idea is a stupid idea
  • Fear they aren't smart enough to launch the product or service successfully

This list may continue, but you get the point. What in the world are we so afraid of? Of all the fears, the worst is probably analysis paralysis, where an entrepreneur waits for a magic answer to help them get beyond all the other fears. The truth of it? There isn't a magic answer. Instead, are some tried-and-true ways to start a company, live your dream, and get that great idea launched that are typically rooted in practical steps that just might surprise you.

From my research, I've determined the ways most entrepreneurs become millionaires is to utilize these basic steps to success:

  1. Vision.
  2. Faith.
  3. Action.
  4. Persistence.
  5. Simple Initial Design.
  6. Control of Finances.
  7. Good Marketing
  8. Good Product Design.
  9. A Team.
  10. Passion.

I've gone into more detail on each of these at my article at AspireNow (http://www.aspirenow.com/leader_0707_10_keys_to_start_a_company_successfully_and_launch_your_product.htm).

Consider that most successful entrepreneurs create their success, not because they are a genius, but because they've done their homework, pounded the pavement, and stuck with it long enough to figure out how to make their dream a success.

Do you have a dream? A product you wish to launch? Don't sit still on it! Take action. That's key to success! I did not include PLAN on my list, although it could probably be added to it, too. If you don't have a plan, take a day to create one. You can afford one day. And, if you can't, hire it out. We've helped people write plans that later enabled them to raise the money required to start their company. I think that when ordinary people come up with a new idea, and get excited about it, just about anything is possible.

Are you considering starting a company? Are you seeking help with product launch? Please comment on your own personal story of getting your dream started and help other entrepreneurs who read this.

Jul 18, 2007

How To Build A Successful Sales Team

If you're seeking ways to build your sales, it often starts with a team. My experience with enterprise sales teams at IBM/Lexmark, Businessland, EMC2, Data General, DecisionOne, and Instantis led me to an understanding of the key components of successful sales teams.

Here's the basics:

1. You must first know what you are selling.
2. Your sales team is MORE than your "sales" team.
3. Start your team with your goal in mind.
4. The players.

Okay, I can't blog all of this here, but I'll get to some of the points, then direct you to a couple of articles that will help explain my concepts.

1. First, you must know what you are selling. If you're selling an item that moves off the shelf in 15 minutes or less, you are hiring more of a retail salesperson. There are skills that comprise the retail salesperson such as "ability to build quick rapport, calm ability to help customers find what they need, and expand sales opportunities with either up sells or down sells" that all may be key to success in that type of salesperson.

On the contrary, someone selling complex services to an enterprise environment, such as much of my early career, is quite different. Those people need the "skills to build a sales territory plan, build account strategy, know how to get in past screening mechanisms like EMAIL, EXECUTIVE ADMINISTRATORS, and VOICEMAIL, how to discover and build complex solutions, building long-term customer relationships, and closing with preliminary proposals." Obviously, the first retail salesperson's skill-set might be different than the enterprise complex salesperson's skill-set.

So, evaluate what you are selling. If you are selling a product or a service, you might want to hire people with similar CONCEPT success. For example, a gentleman with no experience in technology sales only had success selling paint. The manager hires the salesperson, and assigned me to mentor him. The guy was a sponge! He copied everything I taught him and then some. I'm proud to say that he had tremendous success because of his experience with Rotary, Boy Scouts, and selling paint. And, maybe the mentoring helped, too! ;)

He also had two kids (debt motivation!) and looked sharp in a suit. So, don't always judge a book by it's cover. The thing was that despite only selling paint this guy could sell technical services because he (a) learned the questions to ask, (b) had drive and desire and genuinely liked people, (c) he understand SERVICE and the RELATIONSHIP PROCESS. Those concepts play well in a complex selling environment.

2. Your sales team is more than your "sales" team.

I've written a whole white paper on how organizations must map to other organizations. I describe this in quite a bit of detail on the AspireNow: Innovations In Business talk show entitled, "How To Build A Successful Sales Team" recorded today. Check it out at http://www.talkshoe.com/talkshoe/web/talkCast.jsp?masterId=37798&cmd=tc. You may also see a model that demonstrates how you need to map to customers in enterprise environments at http://www.arriive.com/sales_diamond_model.htm. The main thing is that your administrators, operations people, engineers, customer support, and managers may have BETTER opportunities to uncover new business challenges or potential client solutions than your SALES team! Why is that? Because people try to avoid telling salespeople things because they're afraid that the salesperson will pester them about it. The other people are not considered as risky to tell, because they're just a peer. That's why it is so important to engage your ENTIRE organization in Sales Methodology.

A personal example is when I sold to Tandem the first time, the deal came through the Alliances manager, who asked for my help. I said I could help him if I got credit for the deal. He agreed. That started the process towards signing a $2 Million dollar account.

Have you ever been treated rudely by a customer service agent and said, "we'll see if they get any more of MY business!" Or had an engineer give you some over-the-head techno-jumble that lost you in translation, to cause you to say, "I think I can take my business elsewhere!"

Well, if you have, then you recognize that a sale can be made (or lost, unfortunately) by people OTHER than the salesperson. So, build a diamond-map to your client to ensure better success.

3. Start your team with your goal in mind. I once had a manger who started every sales meeting with a slide that read "Sacramento is a MILLION DOLLAR SALES CENTER!" At the time he first showed it, Sacramento's numbers were right around $298,000, if I recall. What he was doing wasn't lying, it was STATING A PERCEPTION!

In order to reach your goal, you must first have a perception of how you will reach it, and that you are ABLE to reach that goal. No manager had succeeded prior to this manager at hitting $1 Million in one month. But Dick knew he could do it. If he just built a team, got the right players, and developed everyone to hit their quota, and with a little luck on some bigger deals with the State of California, he'd get there.

Sure enough, 9 months later, Dick's team hit $1 Million!! How cool is that? We had a great party and tons of fun water skiing to celebrate, too. The best boss I ever had understood that you must first begin with your goal in mind.

4. The players. Well, I've published a whole article on who the players ought to be on the team. You may find this at: http://www.aspirenow.com/Leader_0600_winning_sales_team.htm. There are players you must have for your team to be successful as a dynamic group. You can learn about that there.

Personally, I've always been a bit of a "Maverick," or peak-and-valley type of salesperson. I could have a huge month one month, then the next not as big. Until I sold timeshares. That was a different experience. I found out there that when I had a big month, if I rolled a deal into the next month it just continued to snowball my success. I had a good run for well over a year until the company changed management structure to a draconian system (against my principles: I left).

Last, the elements of a successful sales team ought to include the dynamics of SUCCESS. It ought to be FUN selling for your company. And, make sure you give your team SUPPORT so they're spending their time SELLING - not processing paperwork or doing menial order entry.

If you utilize these elements in building your team, you're bound to have more success. I've seen it used by other managers to tremendous success and used it myself to tremendous success in my own past.

Jul 13, 2007

The Job That Won't Get Outsourced

I just finished reading an article on a popular website that was called "Jobs That Won't Get Outsourced." Now, the topic caught my eye, because my company ARRiiVE is focused on helping people create empowered environments (harder to do when you outsource). So, what are the industries that present these downsizing-proof jobs?

Examples given included CONSTRUCTION, EDUCATION, HEALTHCARE, REAL ESTATE, and MILITARY. All I could think was, Hmm. I think the author is WRONG!

That's right, wrong. No offense, but as many comment bloggers noted, each of these industries are being impacted as much as the notorious call centers, customer service, and programming shops in India, China, and Mexico. We're starting to see more of the legal profession, salespeople, architects, and other careers impacted by outsourcing, too.

Outsourcing will happen any time the head of an industry can see a way to lower costs. And, in a world that is now a "global" economy, who do you think will cost less: the job/cost of an American who lives 2.6 people per household with a $39,452.74 per capita? Or the job/cost of an Indian who lives 2.7 per ROOM with a $640.47 per capita? (source: NationMaster) Isn't it obvious to you what is going on in the world? Are way of life in America is threatening the very job we wish to keep secure!

NO JOB IS SAFE FROM OUTSOURCING. I'll say it again: NO JOB is safe from OUTSOURCING. Now, if you're a teacher, once you are tenured, your job is pretty safe. But, on the whole, outsourcing is hitting every industry imaginable.

Outsourcing irritations: why do people get upset about outsourcing?Well, if you've had your job outsourced to a foreign country and all your friends in your division let go and looking for work, you could probably share first-hand about the frustrations of outsourcing just from the loss of jobs, let alone impact upon hard-working American families, children, and spouses. Perhaps Outsourcing is a popular topic if you manufacture Prozac or Zanax, but otherwise it probably brings up feelings of anger or concern. After all, downsizing is never pretty.

Almost everyone who calls an outsourced customer support line knows that when you're expecting an English-speaking support agent to help you, but then line get frustrated trying to explain your problem you're already upset about with the hard-to-understand foreign accent only adding to confusion, it can be frustrating to deal with outsourced call centers. One of my hosting companies provides support from the Philippines. I had a dickens of a time trying to get the site live, until I complained and threatened to pull my account, then the hosting firm escalated my email to the American headquarters and pronto - problem solved in one email.

Amazing how support may not always be the same level with outsourced centers. So, that is another one of the problems. I could go on and complain for quite a while, but there are probably many people who would defend call center outsourcing by saying they've experienced lesser hold time and more satisfaction in some cases, too, to be fair.

My own company, ARRiiVE Business Solutions, offers an outsourced "Acting VP of Sales" program, not to replace your VP of Sales but to give you insights into your selling process that otherwise you could not get from a typical salesperson or manager. I don't know how I can offer that same service only serving as a consultant. So, there are cases where it can be truly helpful to outsource. And, when you're multiplying costs of $20 per event x 80,000 events, you start to get into pretty serious cost savings that make it hard to resisst outsourcing.

Now, let's take construction, for example. Aren't we seeing changes in the labor force in that industry? I've seen changes in this industry in California. Why couldn't someone come here from China or India build a building better than an American labor force? After all, was it not China who had the roadroad chain gangs that laid much of the rail lines across America over 100 years ago? I'd say construction is not a safe industry from outsourcing.

We're utilizing more and more online education as a way of learning. In fact, schools are going to more and more online methods to reduce their costs of teaching. Classrooms are getting bigger, not smaller. And, there's a lack of qualified teachers in many areas, but in others, teaching jobs are hard to come by. Consider that school districts have largely done away with such positions as Vocational Education (my father can talk to you about this - he taught machine shop) and many music programs (sniff - I grew up playing my sax in the schools bands).

Today, most of the machine shops are located, guess where: CHINA! That's right. One of my best friends runs a machine shop. Fortunately for him, he has the talent to do the rare jobs that nobody else can do. So, his shop was spared the closings that occurred during the mass outsourcing and shop closures of the early 21st century. But all around him the machine shops shut down and their business, just like Nixon, went to China. In 2000, the Chinese bought up so much of the metal supplied that it became very expensive in America to compete. Welcome to the global economy. So, vocational education has been replaced with courses on computers, graphic design, and programming. But, have those jobs been outsourced? You betcha!

Education will continue to be impacted by outsourcing in the coming years.

Healthcare. I read one post that said a surgical procedure in America costs $72,000. That same procedure costs $12,000 in India. According to Travelocity, I can fly roundtip leaving San Francisco on August 21st and returning August 28th from New Delhi, India right now for: $1,550.00. Add that to the $12,000, and I think I might consider that surgery in India. Insurance or no insurance, I might save a lot of money. So, yes, healthcare is going to be affected by outsourcing, too. I already know travelling nurses are becoming a bigger profession to fill rotating needs at hospitals. More changes in healthcare are surely coming as this overpriced industry is poised, in fact, for a crash, if you ask me.

Next, Real Estate. Wait, did I just say healthcare was poised for a crash? Well, what about Real Estate? With the boom that has gone on the past 5 years, with rates well under 10%, people have boosted real estate into a bubble almost as dangerously speculative as technology stocks in the year 2000. The general rule of thumb on an investment, for fair market value, is 8.5%. Once the rates go above 8.5%, we'll see the market decline. Do you think that's going to happen soon? If and when it does, do you think we might see more real estate positions (brokers, etc.) outsourced? Yeah, I think so, too.

Last, the military. Well, I don't know about you, but if we're not in a war your military job isn't very safe from outsourcing. The military can hire many things to replace people. Technology replaces people. But, more than that, I see robots becoming more and more of a factor in military settings. (Why get human beings killed when we can send a robot to do their dirty work?) Okay, so I'm jumping into the future and pondering a world of Terminators with that comment. But, don't you think ANY industry is vulnerable to outsourcing?

That's my point.

Therefore, the only JOB that isn't vulnerable to outsourcing is that of the ENTREPRENEUR.

That's right, the person who starts a business, not self-employed, as a plumber, hair salon, or some other self-employed service job may still be vulnerable, but the entrepreneur who is creating cash-flow through some mechanism is probably the only person safe from outsourcing.

That's why I became an entrepeneur. Well, not exactly. I'm just driven to do things and adverse to risk. But, being an entrepreneur is the only way I can see clear of the problem with outsourcing. It's a crazy world, but there's always been a career that has been impacted by lower prices, change in demand, technological advances, and influence of trade with other countries. Ask a horseshoer, blacksmith, farmer, and machinist how they like their job today. You'll be looking for a while before you find one of these people, yet, not so long ago those were some of the top JOB descriptions in the census. (Source: my mother's geneology work!)

What do you have to say about outsourcing? Do you think it is for real? Think you've got an idea how to protect yourself and your career from outsourcing? Let's discuss!

Jul 11, 2007

Thriving Through Turbulent times

I recorded a show on the most recent blog entry, and expanded the challenges and solutions offered on the post. You may list to it through the RSS feed or at the ARRiiVE.com show link.

Jul 8, 2007

Are you struggling with high growth or massive change?

Have you noticed that most organizations are structured like a pyramid?

While the pyramid is useful to get many people following specific orders in a short amount of time, there is a problem with the pyramid stifling innovation and leaving people wondering "what else is there?" about their job.

Have you ever thought up an idea that could make or save your firm a lot of money, then sent that idea to your boss, then only have that boss "steal" your idea and claim it for their own?

I have. I know the feeling.

How are you keeping abreast with change? If you're like most busy executives, you're not able to cope with the massive amounts of information hitting your organization. We studied this and through evaluating usage of a business model we call the Diamond-Circle, we believe our results indicate your organization can not only stay on top of the biggest challenges and opportunities facing you today, but also move from being REactive to PROactive in tackling your biggest obstacles to growing a succesful organization.

How does it work? Well, the Diamond-Circle is quite simple, actually. Much like the "Triangle Offense" utilized by Phil Jackson, Head Coach of the Los Angeles Lakers (winner of SIX NBA titles on two different teams), the Diamond-Circle enables you to build teams around "hot hands" within your company. Your core is in the middle, not the top. Functions and Staff evolve around this core, depending upon skill set, not job title or category. The idea is to build a skills database that allows your team to respond to new opportunities, react to competitive threats, and build new programs based around specialized knowledge, skill sets, and other key contributing factors we've determined are useful in building interactive organization teams.

While the database might need to be tweaked by the type of organization you are operating within, there are basic functions that are always replicated across teams.

The value in utilizing a structure like this is that you build more empowerment. People's ideas on the teams are highly valued, and they can contribute in a safe environment without risk of termination, idea-theft, or other nasty things that typically happen in a pyramid environment.

In addition, your organization's ability to innovate is turned back on. Since when does the "your suggestion here" box work in a modern organization? Every "WIFFM (what's in it for me) meeting I ever intended was a way for a company to determine who was the squeaky wheel and get rid of people, rather than actually gather true innovation. Sound familiar?

I care about making a difference. I care about seeing human resource managers actually DEVELOP their employees, rather than just being the screener/protection/firing agent that HR represents in most organizations today. If you think I'm generalizing, well, then prove me wrong. I've lost count the number of "nice" human resource agents who entered HR to make a difference, only to find that all they do is "process" people, corporate rules, and firings. Isn't it nice to get smiled at when you're being "down-sized?"

Sarbanes-Oxley just made it worse, too. It seems to me that Human Resources managers would jump at the chance to truly make a difference and get teams working in their organization the way they envisioned when they entered their profession. HR isn't alone. Sales VP's struggle to motivate their teams to do more than take orders. CEO's struggle to stay on top of challenges to their organizations. Operations managers struggle with creating new ways to delivering solutions in the face of risk that a competitor will innovate and develop a way to beat them.

Innovation is an organization-wide issue.

By turning your organization from top-down to inside-out you dramatically change the way you can relate as teams. We're developing a software model to make this system even easier to implement. Want to get involved? Email me and I'll send you my non-disclosure agreement. In the meantime, I'm helping organizations build structure that sets-up innovation from the get-go. We've got to get innovative in a global economy. It's the only way to truly succeed in the face of high growth and turbulent change.

What do you think? Could the Diamond-Circle help your organization? Are you struggling with change? High growth? Ways to stay ahead of quick-and-nimble competitors? I welcome your feedback on this matter.

ARRiiVE: Innovations in Business

Don't miss our next show, "Thriving Through Turbulent Times" a guide for empowering teams, on the next ARRiiVE: Innovations in Business Talk Radio Podcast show. Show starts at 2PM PST, 5PM EST, this Wednesday, July 11, 2007.