Category Archives: Business History

Experience and anecdote from the past.

I jumped at the chance to join eBusinessware

Winners aren’t perfect. 

I jumped at the chance to work with eBusinesswareBut in a career of sales, I’ve seen with my own eyes that the companies to survive and thrive are the ones that practice consistency. By showing up every single day, they deliver, even when it’s a slog through rough going. Those organizations make a name for themselves.

There are a lot of reasons I joined the eBusinessware team this summer: The most important isn’t the human face the company puts on global banking, or the enterprise solutions they offer in the financial marketplace. It wasn’t innovation in technology or doing business on Wall Street. It was a chance to play for performers.

There are a lot of buzzwords that come and go in business, and New York global operations aren’t shy to pump them into marketing communications. “Outperform the competition,” or “High performance platforms,” litter the landscape. This performance is different, and it’s better.

This week I ended a conference call with the due diligence team at a leading investment fund, and the VP we had spent our time with thanked us by saying, “you’ve managed to make one of the unglamorous parts of this industry more efficient.” Ed Hoofnagle, our CEO, looked me right in the eye and said, “we built our name on this work, from reference data architecture to wealth management.”

It was true. The most attractive quality of joining eBusinessware is that as they enter a third decade of work in financial services, the company’s focus continues to be making work easier for the organizations they serve, not niche-marketing to hot topics like hedge funds or foreign exchange markets. These are only pieces of the overall puzzle that CIOs and CCOs  work on every day.

Consistency demonstrates commitment. That means if you can perform every day, your clients keep coming back. You earn their trust because you’re consistent. They believe that you’re committed to them for the long haul. When problems arise, and they always do, if you’re focused on coming in daily and finding a way past the obstacles, what you offer is of far greater value than a “flavor of the month,” or worse, a fad. What you offer instead is innovation.

By showing up to get the job done in reference data architecture, or interior communication of wealth management firms, what you offer is unsexy, every single day. But that you can show up and make life easier for the people you serve, not just the organizations or institutions who are clients, will mean something to them because you get the job done, and that means they know that you are here for them.

Which really is valor, when you think about it. Not glamour.

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The Walt Disney Effect

Early sales lessons teach to ask a prospect what they need, and then find a way to offer it, at a price. The modern methods of selling haven’t lost this principle, making clear the leaders in dollar volume.

Walt Disney Montage   In my first position as an application specialist, I worked closely with software sales staff, performing demonstrations for current customers and often, brand new prospects. I will always remember the words one sales trainer shared with me, just moments before the client walked in, “No matter what they ask for, even if the software can’t currently do it, or it’s irrelevant, say yes,” he said, “we will find a way to make it do that, even if it costs extra, it is what they’re asking for.”

For years I felt this little episode in my life was a sad travesty to sales, a man selling ‘vaporware,’ desperate to close a deal any way possible.

I’ve learned better.

Disneyland, and Disney World, are clear examples. You rarely hear complaints about the experience they offer, only about the high price. These destinations make every opportunity in your vacation experience worthwhile, and they charge top dollar to do it. Today’s sales leaders can learn from the Late Great Walt Disney.

Questions to a prospect must be about them, not you, your product or it’s features. Start a conversation about their needs, and you will quickly identify that you can help, and make a sale, even out-of-the-box at a premium, or that there is no way to help from your options, and you both can move on to better things. Either choice is a win.

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On the Importance of Plateauing

Speaking with leaders in business, sales, and athletics has led to new confidence in understanding the phases of growth, and how we discern one portion of our life’s journey from the next.

Athletic Clip Image       While sitting serenely in the Jacuzzi at the local gym after a winning session of Les Mills Body Pump, I struck up a conversation with one of the usual suspects, a friend I’d never shared the workout with, but had often been in the hot tub at the end. He was on what must have been his third crash diet, failing his way through Atkins, South Beach, Master Cleanse, and what must now be some newer fad.

“I plateaued at 230,” he commented.

“Don’t worry,” I replied. “When I lost my weight, I got stuck at 230, then 210, then 200 before reaching my healthy weight.”

“That’s right,” said my girlfriend, joining us in the Jacuzzi, “your body needs to rest from time to time, just drink more water, add a little more exercise and you’ll see results again.”

This advice is simple, straight-forward and amazingly clear. Consulting for start-up companies in growth mode all the way to enterprise-level standards, I’ve seen many leaders beating themselves up or berating their employees for hitting a flat zone.

These periods aren’t just rests, they are signposts, the milestones along our travels to show us the way upward. Kudos to those losing weight, winning friends &  influencing people!

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How Can We Co-Opt the Competition?

Making the transition from a decade of work as a mortgage broker to a fresh start working for a banking direct lender could have been a real challenge. Instead, it was an opportunity to grow market share.

The Fed   After working for mortgage brokers from Chicago to New York, I recently started a new contract for an entity I had never worked for directly as a loan officer before: a bank.
While in most arenas, being promoted to Euro Mortgage Bankers was a step up for me— lower pricing, faster closings, direct access to underwriting and lenders— in another way, I was unsure. How could I go to loyal clients and Realtors who had known my dedication to my previous mortgage brokerage?
The answer came in a way I couldn’t have expected: working for  the bank meant I could sell loans not just t o my end consumers buying homes, refinancing their property, and not just through Realtors who could recommend me, but also sell our loan products to my competition!
The very mortgage brokers I had competed with for so many years, and many homes, could now purchase directly from me at a discount and I could be rewarded for setting up the relationships! This was a true win, and more than a third of my initial success stories have been in this manner.
To think, I could have continued only direct selling and not even noticed!

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Distilling Innovation with YouTube.com

When competitive challenges mount, the best leverage in many small companies is innovation and the ability to implement change more quickly and with better results than in large organizations.

200902 Spring When Do We Challenge Status Quo.pub   What would you do if you were faced with the challenge of creating new and effective ways to sell homes in a competitive real estate market?

When I was considering ways to double  ClickAnnArbor.com, my small team of Realtors in sales and in size of the workforce, many fleeting ideas seemed solid. What can a small firm offer that bigger competitors can’t?

Change and technology.

Since the mid-1980s, real estate sales firms have been using technology that puts panoramic views of homes online in what is now called a “virtual tour.” Most Realtors provide this as part of a package in home selling services.

My firm, ClickAnnArbor.com, pioneered the use of low-cost, high-quality digital video technology to replace the “computer nerdy” feel of virtual tours with a newsy YouTube video. This innovation allowed us to become the fastest-growing real estate company in the nation’s slowest-selling state!

Today, real estate agents from Maine to California use YouTube for a much more robust view of property.

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When Do We Challenge the Status Quo?

When faced with a budget crisis beyond proportion and mounting promotion and industry trade show demands, one company stood up to adversity and made a new name for itself by spending smarter.Compass

While working for Virtual Systems, a Point-of-Sale (POS) software client, I learned that one of the annual budget items was $275,000 spent on a single trade show for the POS industry. The sales and marketing teams always put a lot of planning, money and thought into the show, and almost always came home hungry, with little to show for it.

The reason: The show was almost sold out with competing POS companies, all working to out-do each other’s booths, presentations, giveaways— all the traditional trade show avenues. It was time to put an end to this cycle.

By recommending that the client send the sales team to the show on the floor, but not invest in a booth in the “Me Too” contest this industry expo had turned into, we freed up over $225,000 that was then invested into three other trade shows attended by the company’s key clients: One in gift shops, one in bookstores, and one in pharmaceutical retail. In each convention, they were now the only POS company on the floor. The result: Sales growth of more than $ 3 million in new orders.

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What is Courage in a Corporate Setting?

By avoiding toxic loan programs that seemed too good to be true, an independent real estate brokerage was able to weather the storm of mortgage crisis and grow in a time of loss.hand raiser

As a real estate broker in the Michigan realty markets in the 1990s and 2000s, my Realtors were asked to make a lot of concessions in deals, both in residential home sales and in business and commercial property.

Mortgage officers often visited the office with details on new and exciting loan programs to place home buyers or investors into property they wanted very much to get their hands on, whether times were good or bad.

Agents often needed a direct policy on what banks were approved, what types of loans were acceptable, and how we could turn a better profit against the competitors. In each and every case, my ruling was the same, follow the ClickAnnArbor.com mission: To put people in homes. That meant no “interest only,” no 100%+ loan amounts, no “adjustable rates.”

When the housing market began to shake up, our customers suffered losses in property value, but they didn’t have “stinger” loan problems. They kept the homes they loved but they raved about us to all their friends!

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