Monday, October 16, 2017

Strategy is Never Enough

This week's post is somewhat short and to the point.  Mainly, I've realized through some examples this past week why the greatest strategy is worthless without execution.  Strategy alone may work well in larger organizations where there are people dedicated to developing strategies, then having others execute it, reporting back with results and suggestions for correction.

But what about in a startup?

When you're bootstrapping, your timelines are short and you need to quickly course correct.  You have to be able to not only come up with a game plan for the sales channels to work through, offerings to provide and marketability of your solutions, but you also have to be able to actually test out your ideas, find their flaws, correct and try again.

In a startup, especially the early days, it's not enough to hand it off to someone else.  You have to be able to make decisions fast and correct the direction, and to do that you must be in the thick of actually doing what you planned.

Come to think of it, unless you plan on moving slowly in a slow moving behemoth of a company, even in larger firms you can set yourself apart from all others by engaging in both strategy and the delivery or execution of that plan!

Monday, October 9, 2017

Go With the (Sales) Flow

First, I apologize to everyone reading these blogs.  I've been late on this and the previous post, as well as skipped one in between.  As it turns out, not all of my weeks are as insightful as I thought they may be!  Or may be I'm just not keen enough to tease out the insights!!!

In either case, I missed the most recent post since I didn't have much to write or talk about.  However, I realize now that I should post at least an update on the business progress. So, I apologize and will ensure I have a weekly post by the end of each week on Fridays.

Second, let's talk about sales cycles.  As many of you likely already know, the sales process has a cycle, some of which may be personal, due to the rhythm you keep, the types of follow up you do or the products / size of deals you sell.

Some of it is due to outside influences.  What I've noticed is that my sales cycle is quite short, in the order of one to two weeks, for gigs smaller than $5k and they are about one to three months for deals above that, but less than $20k.  Anything more than $20k is less predictable, at least for now:   They seem to be six to twelve months.

Though that's interesting, there's another pattern that's quite curious.  What I've also noticed from my experience, and the handful of entrepreneurs I speak with regularly, is that there are seasonal effects as well.  Mind you, the folks I speak with are in software consulting / product development, business consulting,  or chemical product development businesses.  So, you'd think seasons would have no or very little effect, right?

Apparently, that's not true!

What this seasonal pattern actually looks like and how I believe I could take advantage of it, are the subjects of today's video.  Let me know if your experience is the same and how you deal with it in the comments here or on YouTube.

Enjoy!

Friday, September 22, 2017

What's the Worst Thing You Can Do?

This post is mainly the video below where I speak to a simple concept.  It's not something that I learned over the last week, but something that was exemplified through practice and highlighted from the success I had from it.

Whatever you're after or looking for in business and life, you'll have an easier time if you get someone's help.

What do you do then when for your work, in your sales process, you need someone else to cooperate with you?

This is the underlying question I talk about below.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Humanity Trumps Business

There are times in life that you encounter what appears as opposing forces in life, pulling you in different directions.  You have to make a decision.  Which do you choose, knowing full well that you have to compromise one for the other.

Life was throwing that question at me these past weeks when the sign off on a major piece of business I've been working on hinged on steps that needed to be completed by a customer, a friend, a fellow human being who was caught in the Hurricane Irma disaster.  My immediate reaction was one of genuine concern.  Will my friend stay in Florida or evacuate?  How would I make that decision if it were my family?  How can I help them if they want a place to go?

My response was to ask about their preparation and offer our help for their support.  Given I have a number of business friends in Florida, this offer to help, to provide them with a place to stay at our home, was the least that I could do and one I offered every one of them.

In today's post I talk about not only the humanity of putting people before business, but also how such decisions reflect how you handle business too.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Stay Strong Through Hurricane Irma

In case you're wondering, I skipped last week's post due to Hurricane Irma as it's been ripping through Florida.  It's lead to many discussions, calls, emails, texts to friends and coworkers in Florida.

As a result, I've been distracted and less focused on business.

Look for the next post with some lessons learned through this process.


Friday, September 1, 2017

How Much Do You MSU?

In business and life, you've got to MSU!

But what the heck is MSU?

Is that the thing in Asian foods that can make you feel bloated?  Is it some new technology or business practice you need to know about?

MSU is one of my favorite acronyms and one where the actual words always seems to surprise people: Making Stuff Up!  I realized some time past that no matter who's the "Expert" on something, they've always and will always MSU.

Here's what I mean: if you're first starting out in your field, heck even life, you're not great at anything, even if you have talent.  What's more, you may read about how others became great at that thing, but what recommendations or "Best Practices" you read about are still not specific to you and what you're pursuing.  You have to experiment, even with Best Practices.

Bill Gates wasn't a great businessman when he was a teenager.  He had to practice it, even if he read the various books on how to be successful in business from the likes of Henry Ford, Jack Welch or Warren Buffett.  All of those businessmen had or have pearls of wisdom to depart, but Bill still had to figure out how to apply those ideas to the software business and the market he was trying to develop in his post-high-school days.

This past week reminded me of this idea.  What's the best sales channel?  How can I get the attention of our prospects?

There are so many books and recommendations that tell you "how it's done."  In fact, I've read many recommendations on different sales channels to try and how to approach them.  None of them should be treated as formulas that you plug in your values and get results. Every idea requires tweaking for your scenario, industry...heck even year in business and region. What's more, you have to be willing to tweak without getting utterly frustrated.

In today's video, I give an example of how I applied and experimented with one sales channel and what specific and general lessons I gained from it.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Why Your Talent is Not Enough

Seneca the Younger, the great Roman philosopher of the first century, once wrote that, "The best wrestler is not he who has learned thoroughly all the tricks and twists of the art, which are seldom met with in actual wrestling, but he who has well and carefully trained himself in one or two of them, and watches keenly for an opportunity of practising them." — Seneca, On Benefits, vii. 1.

This quote is often shortened to "Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity." Though this latter shortened quote is clearly easier to say and remember, I prefer the former as it better describes seeking out opportunities. I would actually reword the original quote more like this:
Mastery and luck involve recognizing opportunities in the obscurities of life so that you can practice your expertise. 
What I mean by this rewording is that demonstration and practice of our mastery and the rewards it garners, especially in business, often starts with discovering our talent and feeding it.  Discovering your talent or niche expertise is easier said than done, and it may take many years of trial and error.  It's not just a matter of what education I've had, which industries I've worked in, or who have been my employers.  It's often the culmination of all of these activities that eventually lead to a slow crystallization of one or two things we can do very well across all lifetime activities...not just work...not just personal life, but across everything we do and how we portray ourselves, DESPITE our efforts at times to be someone else.

However, knowing your talent and practicing it is not enough to be "lucky."  Knowing how to generate business leads for a large software company, even if you know which social media platform to use, or how to get people to voluntarily give you their personal information and their business challenges is not enough. That is, not until you realize how to transform your expertise to address specific challenges that someone's having.  This is opportunity recognition.

What's not immediately apparent in all of this is that it's still a matter of trial and error as you aim to find how your peg can find the right hole. It's a matter of being open to hear about every aspect of someone's life and business challenges, and having these conversations continuously, even if they don't immediately result in what you aim to get or find.

In today's video, I speak about one example on how to recognize opportunities when they present themselves. Enjoy and let me know what you think!

Friday, August 4, 2017

The Importance of Peer Support

In my last consulting business, iEngineer.net, I went at it alone. I hired software development consultants to do some of the work that I couldn't do and did the rest myself. I didn't do much in the way of business development or marketing since our work would lead to more work through word of mouth.  However, I learned that I certainly couldn't do everything myself.  I still needed an attorney, an accountant, and my brother for some HR questions.

This time around, what I knew when starting ValTeo Tech was that I needed to put a lot more effort into business development, marketing and sales.  I would still deliver on some of the consulting work, but my main focus was filling the pipeline of new gigs and ensuring our branding on the right track for VTT to be known as the leader in Digital Transaction Management consulting.  I've certainly gained experience with some of these activities while working in other companies over the last decade, but none of it was direct business development or sales.  In every instance, I wasn't doing any hunting, so much as supporting the sales staff.

That's why I decided to have at least some peers who may be experimenting or, better yet, have experience with business development, marketing and sales.  In today's video clip, I'll cover the benefits I've already received from just such a group among the other weekly progress topics:

  1. On Choosing or Starting a Peer Group
    1. Why I Sought a Business Accountability Group
    2. What Skills and Variety to Search For
    3. What Rigor to Use
  2. This Past Week's Plans
    1. Progress on Marketing / Education Material
    2. Progress on Large Deals
    3. A New Approach for Small Deals
  3. Plans for Week of 7/14
You'll notice I have no plans for next week.  That's because I'm taking the week off to spend with my family who's been so supportive and understanding of my efforts to startup and grow ValTeo Tech.

 

Friday, July 28, 2017

Defining Business Value Can be Difficult

We've all heard the importance of delivering value to customers.  But what about during the sales process? In those early talks, how do you portray the value you CAN deliver and also how the value your deliver differentiates you from others?

This is what I've been struggling with over the last week as I continued refining our sales process, messaging and presentations.  I've been putting together some new material that better portrays ValTeo Tech as the authority on DocuSign implementations. But I don't think that's enough.

I originally wanted to demonstrate that our overall experience solving business problems using technology was our differentiating factor, but I soon realized...well, that's what any and all system integrators will claim. I had to dig deeper and really mirror our niche expertise, where we have significant experience, unparalleled by any other competitor: automating paper-based, manual processes using DocuSign and supporting technologies.

I don't think even that's enough since the words don't quite translate to the actual value received.

In today's video, I'll start off by answering a question posed on my YouTube channel from last week's post, then explain a bit more about how I'm refining this message and what I'm considering to demonstrate the value that we can deliver during an engagement to a customer.  I'll wrap things up with some other business activity from this past week. Here are the points I'll hit on:

  • Question from YouTuber: What's our segmentation
  • What I Learned from a Sales Training Seminar
  • Why a Pure Statement of Value Won't Work
  • How to Demonstrate Our Value
  • Working Through Large Deals
  • Taking Up Strategic Partnerships with Product Companies

Friday, July 21, 2017

Lessons I've Learned So Far Starting ValTeo Tech

With our recent launch of ValTeo Tech, I realize our startup challenges may not be completely unique, but they are unique to my experience.  Though this is my third company, the last two focused on pure "body-shop" software consulting, taking on any software projects, for one, and a pet-food non-profit company for the other.

This new venture, on the other hand, focuses purely on Digital Transformation and Digital Transaction Management.  It's quite a lot more differentiated from the other two ventures.  So, it is that I'm facing new and different challenges.

With that in mind, today I begin sharing the lessons I learn, the resources we find most useful, and the tools we use along with the results they deliver.  As is often the case with any education, I know it's not just the specifics that are important, but the general lessons that are teased out of the many interactions, failures and successes, that have the highest value.

Though I originally wished to also record Best Practices on Digital Transformation here, the ValTeo Tech blog already serves that purpose. So, what I'll share will be the trials, tribulations, business lessons learned, the defeats, the victories and personal thoughts here.

To make these easier to consume, I'm posting these as webcast videos on YouTube and embedding them here.

Here are the topics I'll cover in this video:

  • How I approached starting up the company
  • What challenges I foresaw
  • What challenges we hit
  • Where we go next

Monday, May 1, 2017

Challenging the Mundane


ValTeo Tech


Today marks the official, public launch of ValTeo Tech, where we challenge the mundane processes that suck the life out of work by providing Digital Transformation and Digital Transaction Management software consulting services and products.  

I’ve spent the last two months getting all the preliminary work done for the launch today, including firming up key relationships with some major players in this space.  We’ll announce more details on this later in the week on our company blog.  Stay tuned.


This is all a culmination of my personal journey in Digital Transaction Management (DTM) over the years.  As some of you may already know, I’ve been in the business of software development and consultancy since 1996, and spent time in the Digital Transformation space since 2007, though certainly nobody really called it that back then.


What’s more, I’ve spent the last few years, starting in 2010, working for the Digital Transaction Management company that defined this space, DocuSign, where I managed Professional Services for the North Americas. In that timeframe, I worked with many customers and addressed numerous business challenges.  Along the way, I met some great people, made lifelong friends who changed the world by digitizing parts of their businesses!


All of this lead to the formation of ValTeo Tech and why we believe in what we say...


We challenge the mundane processes that suck the life out of work


You know what I’m talking about!  


How much time do you and your business lose collecting and keying in the same data into multiple systems?


How excited do you get about walking or even emailing legal contracts, HR Onboarding documents, financial statements, from one person to the next to ensure they all review and sign it?


Is that why you’re in business?  Is that the value your business intended to deliver when it set out to do business?


Of course not!  


We help you transform your organizations, connect your applications and fully automate your manual, paper-based processes across your existing and other DTM platforms.  We’ll  make you digital transformation heros, accelerating your success.


Our journey together starts today...let’s go change the world, break new grounds and make new heros out of you, your team and company!