Category Archives: Business History

Experience and anecdote from the past.

Herding Cats? NO, Sales Teams Are Dog Packs

The road to hiring solid business-development leaders can be littered with misjudgments and potentially costly mistakes. However, while it might appear that creating a winning sales team is more art than science, it absolutely is possible to establish a methodology that leads to success.

Who Sells the Sellers?
WolvesOne of my favorite communities for salespeople and business development is Sales Gravy, which I discovered in the early 2000’s. Jeb Blount, the founder, is a career sales leader who understands the mindset of the seller and who early on recognized the need to connect online. The informal community that he built is now complete with forums, a strong presence on social media, and a steady growth plan. I was introduced to Sales Gravy purely by chance during the period of time I was running a realty brokerage and mortgage firm. While listening to podcasts, I found myself wishing that more guidance existed with regard to driving real estate sales. While Jeb’s podcast was not specific to that industry, it was very much applicable – both then and now. He succinctly discussed sales, the rigors of keeping up with both product knowledge and the marketplace, and, most important, he addressed the need for regular outbound prospecting to achieve sales success.

The ‘Aha’ Moment
If you google “better sales and [ANY INDUSTRY],” you will see that there are hundreds, maybe even thousands, of options being offered that all but guarantee better sales growth. Everything from more online advertising, to specialized software, to sales training, are all available for a modest investment – but not one of them is a magic bullet. In fact, there is a great article on SalesHQ (part of the Monster.com brand for job hunters) that details the Top 5 Fastest Growing Sales Jobs. It’s interesting because while the industries vary greatly (Realty, Insurance, Retail, Technology, Wholesalers), the key practices recommended to help a good seller grow into being a great one are identical across the board:

  1. Keep Up With Your CRM
  2. Know Your Inventory
  3. Do Your Dials

Getting Good Sales Talent
“Want good sellers working for you? Pay ’em right.” This was the advice I received a decade ago from Lori Chmura, the second-generation owner and director of the Middleton Real Estate Academy. At the time I was attending classes there in broker ownership and contract law for my real estate broker licensing, Middleton was the highest-rated and most respected school for real estate licensing in Michigan. It really can be simple. Salespeople are good at sales because they are both outgoing and driven by financial reward. Selling is a career choice that rewards regular, intelligent, prospecting activity with opportunities to begin, and close, sales that pay. “Your raise starts when you do,” as one of my early sales mentors once told me.

Advice to the Pack Leaders
It’s not uncommon to hear people outside of the selling profession gripe about salespeople. Oft-heard complaints include: “So cheesy” and “impossible to deal with.” To grossly simplify, what lies at the heart of the matter is the difference between cats and dogs. Pet owners know that cats will always behave like cats: somewhat aloof and ultimately independent. They are trainable, but to a very limited degree. Dogs are the opposite. Like salespeople, they are always hungry for more, they are motivated by pecking order, and they are highly trainable when it comes to following the “boss.” When chaos rules and no lead orders are handed down, or when there are issues with regard to rewarding good behavior and punishing bad, the dogs are unhappy – and, more to the point, cease to function as a cohesive pack. However, when expectations are clearly set and enforced, and pack members understand that meeting these goals – or, better yet, exceeding them – will result in reward, the pack can be managed and will excel. If we can train Huskies to run the Iditarod, we can train the individuals on a sales team to follow the leader, assuming the leader leads. This will keep salespeople from being “cheesy” or “impossible” and will transform them into highly productive winners.

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Collaborative Consulting Confirms Commitment To Financial Services Practice With New Hires

As seen on The Wall Street Journal, week of 22 April 2013

Move Deepens Collaborative Consulting Services In Financial Sector

BURLINGTON, Mass.– Collaborative Consulting today announced it has recruited three executives with extensive experience in the financial services industry. Joining Collaborative’s financial services team will be Gary Jones, who brings a long history of experience in the wealth management business; Sandeep Singh, with deep technical and domain experience in financial services; and Sean Dykhouse, a seasoned business development professional. All three most recently ran the wealth management practice for eBusinessware where they delivered IT service offerings to the asset management industry.

Sean Dykhouse (Photo: Business Wire)

Sean Dykhouse (Photo: Business Wire)

Combined with Collaborative Consulting’s recent acquisition of the SMART Consulting Firm last year, the additions further enhance Collaborative’s Managed Accounts practice. All three hires bring experience and skills that advance Collaborative’s financial services offering.”By adding these three, very talented and experienced individuals, Collaborative will be gaining incomparable expertise and managed accounts consulting capability in the financial services field,” said William Robichaud, President and CEO of Collaborative Consulting.Jones comes with over 25 years of experience in the Managed Solutions industry having spent a significant period of time as a part of the leadership team in Merrill Lynch’s Advisory solutions business. He currently supports the Money Management Institute (MMI) as a private consultant in its effort to bring greater efficiency to the managed solutions industry.

“We are excited to join one of the industry’s strongest IT consulting firms in financial services and look forward to what we can achieve together,” said Jones. “This week’s MMI Annual Convention is the perfect opportunity to introduce our new team,” he added.

Collaborative’s acquisition of SMART Consulting Firm in July 2012 boosted its expertise in business development, enterprise and project management in the capital markets industry. That practice is based in offices at 77 Water Street in Manhattan.

“Collaborative Consulting has made rapid strides in the financial services industry and Mr. Jones, Mr. Singh, and Mr. Dykhouse will be valuable assets in expanding our existing systems architecture and implementation capabilities,” said David Gardner, Senior Vice President of Collaborative Consulting.

The recruiting of these industry experts comes about a year after Collaborative broke new ground with its “onshoring” initiative and the hiring of over 70 new IT specialists, jobs that in the past would have gone offshore to facilities in places like India and China. The Collaborative Domestic Solutions Center (CDSC) in Wausau, Wisconsin recently celebrated its first anniversary focusing on onshore application development and testing and is on track to hire up to 200 IT experts within the next year or two.

The announcement today about the firm’s financial services practice comes only weeks after Collaborative announced a boost to its life sciences capabilities with the acquisition of the Maxiom Group. Maxiom provides pharmaceutical, biotechnology, medical device and healthcare technology consulting services.

The growth at the CDSC has resulted in significant new job creation at Collaborative Consulting’s Burlington, MA headquarters.

Collaborative is a leading management and IT consulting services organization with offices in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Texas, dedicated to helping clients achieve business advantage through the use of technology. The company delivers a full complement of services across multiple industries with a specific emphasis on financial services and life sciences. Collaborative’s foundational service areas are Information Management, Application Development, Program Management, Software Performance Engineering, and Quality Assurance. They deliver these services through a combination of traditional consulting and the Collaborative Domestic Solution Center providing optimal value to clients. Collaborative was recently awarded a spot in Software Magazine’s Software 500, a ranking of the world’s largest software and service providers. Collaborative is headquartered in Burlington, Massachusetts.

See the full article on WSJ.com

This article is also available at the following syndicated sources:

Gary Jones (Photo: Business Wire)

Gary Jones

Sandeep Singh (Photo: Business Wire)

Sandeep Singh

 

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Of Cabbages & Clients

While some metaphors are effective because they are memorable, and some are regrettable because they are forgetable, this sales example of becoming and staying focused is one that always brings smiles.

Customer Focus
cabbage
One of the most common fallacies you can observe in modern business marketing efforts is the inability to overcome personality in order to offer customers what they want. It is true that you can sell more than what people think they want, but it is a terrible mistake to sit in meetings with marketing and promotional leaders and declare “don’t make the widget purple, I always hated purple.” Big wins and big breakthroughs come from surveying and listening to what customers really desire. If market research shows purple widgets are what will make the biggest impact for purchasers, mismanaging the process to offer only orange based on one opinion is too large a risk.

The Buyer’s Perspective
If a woman walks into a grocery store, and she is only looking for cabbage, she is not looking to buy anything else, although other upsell opportunities exist. Trying to sell her a hammer, or a box of pastries, may or may not be effective, but it is not what she walked into the store looking to purchase.

Purple Cabbage
The old adage, “sell the sizzle, not the steak,” has never been more true than today. Imagine the markets of England, where even today, in open air bazaars, sellers loudly hawk their wares,” Cabbages! Get your cabbages here,” they announce. In modern marketing practice, it would make more sense to holler the experience your customers could want. By getting your potential buyers to imagine a tasty sauerkraut, or a crisp cole slaw, even a warm and steaming rice and saucy cabbage roll, will make a far greater impact towards selling the cabbage alone.

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Spread Too Thin

While some corporate choices lead us down a garden path to delightful gains, some journeys can delay growth as an organization. Worse still, some decisions can sink the entire ship by sapping energy and resources from an enterprise’s core competency.

Too Big to Succeed?
In initial drafts of this post, I struggled with the conflict of how much I love using Google Search, Google Maps, and a variety of other Google products with the difficulty I was experiencing with Google Apps, a platform of services including Google Docs services like word processing, spreadsheets, and Google’s GMail for business email service. I found the extremely low per-user fee charged to businesses using Google Apps and free availability of some services to be at odds with professional use when support is required; for a period of time last year, the spreadsheet service was completely unavailable for edits or uploads. However, I was wrong. My thesis was planned to be “Spread Too Thin,” based on the idea that by taking on so many tasks, and by becoming a Jack of All Trades, Google might become the anecdotal Master of None.

I Stand Corrected
While complaining about services which in some cases are completely developed to compete with existing models (maps.google.com is now in many ways better than the MapQuest.com who dominated the market years ago, or launching Google+ to integrate social networking directly into the Google suite and in effect take on Facebook and Twitter), I underestimated the work that appears to go into this kind of Google growth. The leverage of large monopolies is always fraught with peril, because if a firm becomes too large and exerts its own girth in order to control the market, it runs the risk of competing unfairly. But looking at this in-depth, Google appears to target large opportunities, in fact bringing its considerable cannons to bear only on sizable markets, even when they appear unrelated to existing lines of Google business. When a small company is achieving remarkable growth, as in the case of Groupon.com, Google makes all efforts to acquire the firm and acquire the intellectual property, only competing when required.

Redux
I now consider the progress made on new and exciting (sometimes seemingly unrelated) fronts for Google to be not only what is currently called “creative destruction” or constructing “disruptive technology” but better still, the achievement of Google’s mission: to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. It’s a win because they succeed far more often than they fail.

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From $4 A Share To $404: How Apple Succeeded

This is a post I have been planning for some time. It’s important because of the way Apple has made their fortune over the last four decades. I’m not going to begin discussing solid supply-chain economics, a lesson they learned in the 1980s era when manufacturing crashes and industrial  firms were all playing catch-up to “Kaizen” and “Just-in-time” strategy. I won’t delve into the recent Apple cash management victories, with solid debt principles, product launch timing and an $80+ billion war chest. I’m not even going to wax poetic about the incredible mind that was Steve Jobs, and how we miss him. These are all true, but they’re not the real story.

I’m going to draw your attention to Time Machine. This simple innovation is exactly how Apple Computer beat the bigs. It’s how a group of guys and girls from simple beginnings got to become that American fable of building a better mousetrap, founding a company in the “garage” and going on to superstardom and independent wealth.

Time Machine is the story of how something people do regularly with computers became simple, without technology innovation (although that followed) but simply with an analogy.

In the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, and early 2000s, backing up files from a personal computer, or network of computers, was an ugly endeavor. Leading vendors offered great leaps forward in storage capacity: Terabytes of information could be saved to tape, disc, or off-site server farms. The problem was, no matter how often you remembered to back up, or automated the process, it was a technical nightmare. Special interfaces were required, and the media you saved to had to be labeled, catalogued and libraried. This sounds like it could be an orderly process, but the devil wasn’t in the details. It was in the one time you needed to restore from backup. This almost never worked.

It wasn’t the users that failed this, or the sysops who were tasked with the backups, or even the companies like Iron Mountain or Western Digital that were providing the highly complex data solutions. It was the system itself. People had to determine which of the last 2 or 3 backups had the version of their files, and often one of those hadn’t run right, so restoring from saved versions just didn’t match up, and could take hours or days in larger organizations.

Apple defeated this problem with an analogy. Instead of making users bend to a complicated catalogue system, they changed the inner workings of their technology to a simple mental understanding. By giving users an in-operating system dial to “travel back in time” to see what files were in a folder, Apple made this easy. It is this same understanding of what users want that forces them to test, test, and test again the methods for user interface in their iPhone, iPod, iPad, and computers. There is plenty of highly technical custom possibility beneath the surface, but for most users, Apple makes it easy on us. If you shake the iPhone when iTunes is open, you get a random playlist. This is something humans understand, without needing to “learn” the interface.

Can we take a step back from our own daily walk and ask, “what do the customers want?”

That’s when we can really break through our own pattern.

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A Call for Coordinated Cloudbursts

While researching this post, I received an invitation from About.Me, a service where I already have a simple profile posted about myself in classic vanity press fashion. What struck me most was that the main request in the invitation was for me to try out the new in-dashboard feature from Klout, a web service that allows you to track the number of and quality of (ranking) posts you provide in the Twitterverse and Blogosphere. Yes, two buzzwords at the end of one sentence.

However, visiting the link from the invite on Klout works just fine, while the link to About.Me’s in-dashboard new Klout feature fails. Not from user error, where a mass email was sent with a typographical error in the URL, not from database code in the CRM’s mass email system, but where About.Me apparently sent it to everyone at once. Now, like a fifth-grade rumor that has everyone flushing the toilets at the same instant, ruining the school’s plumbing, or every human being on earth jumping up and down in the same moment to move the planet out of orbit, a very real effect has been achieved: the link can’t respond to all the users at once.

The methods behind cloud computing allow for quick scalability, for immediate response to overwhelming web traffic and processing, but the sad truth is that they can be throttled. By choice, by service level agreement, by paid tier, there are numerous reasons why banks of servers that were built to handle small spikes in traffic but can’t hold up to large jumps in processing…. Often the CPU-sharing agreements allow for a “burst” method where processor power on the server banks aren’t always working, but pulse in large part, then slow down.

The beauty on the example of About.Me’s ask was that within minutes (about 8-10 minutes, in fact) they had remedied the problem and the links were working, the integrated Klout functionality was up and running, and I was amazed. Not by the feature, although it’s delightful. I’m amazed at the digital ability to scale in more processor power when needed, in a way that makes me reminiscent of the machines in Fritz Lang movies or steamboat engineers, twiddling knobs and opening valves for more power when needed, slowing it down when no longer necessary. The Amazon Cloud, Google Apps Cloud, and a variety of private services like Rackspace.com seem to have this handled within limits in a very clear way.

But the innovation is still in its infancy.

What is needed is a predictive model, tied in with the CRM systems, so that when an email leaves the “house” containing a link to servers hosted on the same (or a connected) cloud platform, the system can presumptively throttle open more spillways or even veritable floodgates depending on how many recipients are targeted, or, to take it another step further, to integrate with the response mechanisms in those messages, in case a small group of recipients is included in the initial mailing, but the email “goes viral” and includes a high pass-along rate.

A model is needed that can take all of these data points and feedback items into account and can plan to work and react ahead of usage in an overall architecture.

The technology, of course, will follow.

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Meeting Warren Avis

In an unassuming building on State Street in Ann Arbor, Michigan, I met
the head of the Avis Empire in 2001, the man who had built and sold Avis Rent A Car and all its innovations in the 1960s. His small staff buzzed productively from room to room as he announced, “Each worker for Avis is respected…”

   Why create the Shared Participation theory?
   I wanted to contribute something to the business culture.  I had been very successful, and had spent ten years at Harvard Business School and knew I wanted to do something people would benefit from.  When I look at the Newman’s Own salad dressing bottle, I see that $100 million has been donated to charity as a result of people buying that bottle.  It makes me feel good to do it.
   Team management is a buzzword in today’s business society, but if you include regular meetings, with truly anonymous comment systems, will work every time.  Blame the implementation, not the system if it fails.
   This was first an idea in the 1970s as a shared problem-solving process.  The growth of the system, and the books I wrote led to the formation of Shared Participation using team implementation.  By forming teams, with regular meetings and anonymous comments, people learn to respect the process, and most importantly, learn to respect each other. Using Shared Participation, you learn that every voice in your structure is important. This brings harmony by allowing two people in a conversation to really listen.  You cannot out think the system, you cannot out think a team of five people.  It simply is not possible.
   The Montgomery GI Bill made the United States the great nation it is today, because it changed the educational value system in this country.  Before, most families didn’t send children to college because of the cost, because they didn’t see the value in higher education and the ability to get it.  With the GI Bill, many families of all incomes suddenly had the ability. 
It has educated our nation like nothing could.

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