Why I Love Founder Institute (And You Should, Too!)

hands-people-woman-meeting

And, just like that, I’ve graduated from Founder Institute.

In the middle of September this year I, along with 24 hopeful entrepreneurs, attended orientation for the Melbourne 2016 Founder Institute course. Founder Institute “is the world’s premier startup launch program for talented entrepreneurs”.

Essentially it’s a 3-month course taking people who want to be entrepreneurs through all the steps they may fudge around in over a period of three years. Instead of directionless faffing about, attendees undertake a directed program through stages such as “vision and ideas” and “product development” through to “bootstrapping and fundraising.

The goal of the program is to take the Silicon Valley philosophy and networks and distribute them around the world.

Entrepreneurs need to work hard

There is a lot of work each week, and it’s supposed to be a hard slog. When a course is promising to launch success-ready startups, the participants can’t be of the misguided belief that entrepreneurialism is easy.

Doing coursework 50 to 60 hours a week while holding down a regular gig, as well as attempting to allocate sufficient energy to family, friends and health dispelled any thoughts that starting something significant from scratch is for everyone.

Of the 25 who started, there were nine left at the end. Better odds than most Alien movies, but an illustration that, despite the best-laid plans, things can still go wrong. Founder Institute offers participants who drop out the opportunity to come back at a later semester, so dropping out is better referred to as “deferment”.

It’s all about the team

A highlight of the course was the other participants. We were allocated workgroups at the beginning, and our workgroup (TeamBlack) quickly bonded and became a huge source of support, encouragement and ideas. The benefits to having people who were going through exactly what I was going through were immeasurable and I came to look forward to the twice-weekly Skype chats.

It was while working with my workgroup that I learned a valuable startup lesson – People Like To Help.

You need to understand that I have just spent 20 years in the freight industry. Unfortunately, at least in Australia, the industry is not the model of trust, honesty and collaboration. I believe this is due to the red ocean philosophy predominant in logistics that the only source of new business is to take it from competitors.

Startups, on the other hand, are swimming in the blue ocean. There are unlimited opportunities to expand and develop new projects. In fact, competitors are beneficial as they validate a business model or industry segment.

Another benefit of Founder Institute was the access to a whole network of mentors and advisors.

Entrepreneurs like to help people

There is a strong Australian network of entrepreneurs, startup advisors and people with enormous experience in, and understanding of, the difference between starting a small business and launching a startup. Amazingly, they make themselves available to guys like me – just a middle-aged man with an idea.

For the price of coffee, it is possible to get thousands of dollars of advice. No strings attached. However, if (when?) people ask my advice, I will be ready and willing to give freely of my own time.

And now it begins

The next step is all up to me. Founder Institute, or any launch program, can only take one so far. The real work starts now. My startup, Passel, has received some seed investment, and I’ve got a couple of months to go and find some customers and suppliers, integrate a little tech and start delivering on my promise!

If you want to follow the journey, I do have a mailing list you can subscribe to here.

If you’ve been thinking about making the jump from worker to entrepreneur, you can learn more about the Founder Institute here.

Enjoy 2017,

Marshall

Passel helps retailers gain more sales by providing cheap, convenient and friendly same-day home deliveries for online orders.

Using a flexible crowd-sourcing platform, Passel manages local deliveries by people living and working in the local community.

Passel – same day online deliveries.

For more information, please visit www.passeldelivery.com or call Marshall Hughes on +61419134461.

When the new client honeymoon is over

honeymoon

When the new client honeymoon is over.

 

Oh, it ain’t no fun no more
I don’t know what to say,
The honeymoon is over baby,
It’s never going to be that way, again.

  • The Honeymoon is Over, The Cruel Sea

 

When a client moves from their old service provider to the new, there is a “honeymoon” period when the new provider can’t do anything wrong.

Everything is bright and shiny. The new software is faster and smarter. The customer service is friendlier and much more helpful. Even the account manager seems to be everywhere and is anticipating problems before anyone else can.

This is to be expected. If things were so good with the old provider, why would the client have moved in the first place? Management should have assessed both the incumbent and the alternatives against reasonable criteria, and testing in real world conditions should have been undertaken as part of the implementation process.

From the service providers, there has been weeks, months or even years of preparation. The onboarding process has been meticulously planned, and the IT has been bedded down and stress tested. The new business team is excited, and usually the whole company is buzzing. “Customer X starts Monday!”

While there may be some initial resistance from the client’s operational staff, this is quite quickly overcome. Generally speaking, operational staff dislike change and prefer to perform tasks in the tried and true method. If management at your client has been proactive, then the operational staff may have been part of the decision that ought to help smooth things over.

The sun will be shining, and the donuts and coffee are liberally spread throughout the organisation.

But then, after a week or two, the gloss may start to come off the new service. This can be due to two related critical factors: habit and a short memory.

Habit

People will very quickly adapt to the new system. The changes are no longer frightening, and they may have discovered a few shortcuts.

The new system is now the standard operating procedure. People are familiar with the colours and the processes. They have formed relationships with customer support and have eaten enough donuts that the account manager doesn’t bring them anymore.

The fact that “process X” takes 3 seconds is something people have become accustomed to. A new workflow has formed around the new system and the new service provider. A high level of service has been set, and the expectation is that this will continue.

Short Memory

The old system fades into the past. The quirks and workarounds that were part of daily life might be something people remember, but as each new task replaces an old one that memory dims.

“Was the old system that bad?”

Suddenly, when something unexpected occurs, it’s just a bad thing. This didn’t happen before. With our previous provider, everything was peachy all the time.

“Yes, customer service is quick, but I don’t remember calling them this often.”

I work in logistics, and an example of this may be the following:

Client – “We always used to receive a delivery at 1030, and the new driver doesn’t get here until 1115”.

Me – “Yes, but your previous service took two days, and we’re delivering next day”.

Client – “But 1115 is too late!”

The difficult second album

Often it is a challenge for a band to back up the success of their first album. They spent years practicing and crafting each song for their debut and then they are sent back to the studio for a few months to do it all again.

The best way to continue the honeymoon is to do what Nirvana did. Make your second album way better than the first. How can you make your client feel like you just dropped “Nevermind” on them?

One key to overcoming the loss of gloss is to reboot the honeymoon. After a couple of weeks of bedding in and full attention, go back and do everything again.

Retrain, reboot and refresh. Back to the studio with renewed vigor.

Send your onboarding team back out on the road and get them face to face with the people who may have started to fall out of love with you. You may be excused for not taking donuts and coffee, but take that new attitude from two weeks ago with you.

Another option is to send the other onboarding team in. This may be management or a different group of people. Everyone in your organisation has a slightly different set of skills and experience. Use them all!

Keep buying flowers

Always keep the relationship fresh. Don’t fall into a routine of accepting things as they are. A colleague of mine refers to this process as “continuous implementation”. Every day is a new day and there always processes with room for improvement.

Ensure your client is as special to you on day 50 as they were on day 1. We can be in this together for a good time AND a long time. Sure, it takes work, but for most business models retention cost is much cheaper than acquisition cost.

The result of your good work can be a honeymoon period that goes on forever. This is a win for you, and a win for your clients.

 

 

P.S. The quote at the top of the post is from The Cruel Sea – the full song can be found below.

Warsaw Pact military tactics as a sales strategy

warsaw pact and sales

Warsaw Pact military tactics as a sales strategy

It’s not often Communism can teach us anything about sales. In fact, the one thing Communism taught us about sales is that a market-based economy backed by a democratic system of government is a safer long term investment.

During the Cold War, it was feared that at some stage, the Warsaw Pact would completely lose their marbles and launch an attack against Western Europe. This would have caused untold devastation and would have resulted in a catastrophic loss of civilian and military life.

The Warsaw Pact armies weren’t geared to fight a defensive war. The strategy also necessitated a massive build up of forces, and the hope that this would go unnoticed by NATO, or would be treated as routine war games. Advances in surveillance technology naturally made this harder, as did the rapid deployment wargames frequently rehearsed by NATO.

But I digress, and, fortunately, this war never happened. The Berlin Wall was torn down; Eastern Europe is full of capitalist democracies, and millions of happy people drive Volkswagens.

The strategy of such an attack was impressive, both in its simplicity and single-minded focus.

Now, to oversimplify the strategy:

  • Attack all along the front with a small portion of the overall force.
  • Cause maximum initial damage and confusion (with the aid of 2,200 tactical nuclear weapons).
  • Reinforce successful attacks only, but with a 100% commitment of reserves.
  • Non-successful attacks would be left to wither, stagnate and, quite literally, die.
  • Once a breakthrough had been established, run amok in the enemy rear.
  • Don’t stop, don’t defend. Keep attacking until they reached the Atlantic or ran out of steam.

For a full analysis of this strategy, you’ll need to dedicate several years of research, or at least read Red Storm Rising by Tom Clancy.

Now, to sales.

As sales people, we are tasked with continuously feeding the new business pipeline. Depending on your product or service this could be as short as the queue at a fast food outlet, several weeks in car sales, or months in corporate sales.

At each new meeting with someone, we are faced with a question: Is this a buyer? Is this a prospect, or a suspect?

You won’t know. And to be respectful, everyone has to be treated like a genuine prospect until they are proven not to be. Once they are established to not be a potential customer, you have to let them go. Don’t reinforce the wrong position. Don’t invest more energy, time or resources in a stagnant battle.

When you do find a genuine prospect, hit them with everything you have and bring in the reinforcements. Go all out. Be strong, be clever and sell. Deploy the resources at your disposal in the areas they can do the best.

Then, keep going until you reach the Atlantic.

So, to oversimplify sales strategy:

  • Engage every potential prospect as if they were a genuine likely customer.
  • Hit them with everything you’ve got – pitch, demos, etc. (with the aid of your marketing creative genius).
  • When you have a live one, bring in the sales support and analyst teams.
  • Non-successful pitches and engagements should be left to wither and, not literally, die.
  • Once a breakthrough had been established, keep it open and get to as many decision makers as you can.
  • Don’t stop, don’t defend. Keep attacking until the client signs.

The stakes in sales aren’t as high as a geopolitical European war, but they are high. Get in the game and use your forces wisely.