Category Archives: leadership

I’ve been on Holiday!!!!! My oh my…

Time out of the office

I am on an airplane, and next to me is a man in a suit. He just hung up the phone as we were pushing back, mid argument with what I am assuming was his partner. Apparently he works too much, isn’t focusing on the kids enough and hasn’t been with them on holiday for the last 5 years. I didn’t meant to eavesdrop, but it was hard not to hear – they were sort of agitated.

On my other side is my nine year old daughter. She is building something in Minecraft, her hair is tousled and her freckles are sparkling like stardust on her golden cheeks. She is in a grumpy mood, but I know it is just because she has absolutely loved our holiday, and doesn’t want it to be over, so I forgive her.

We have just spent a week in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico, and I haven’t worked a single minute. For the first time since I started company 1 (I have 3), I have taken a whole week off, and I have absolutely loved it …..once I figured it out, which took me about 24h. Turns out I forgot how to relax.

Interestingly enough, I always go on about work-life balance, and I am very good at it at home, I think. I spend a lot of time with my family, and I manage my work so that it doesn’t impact our daily lives too much. But…this whole holiday thing I have completely overlooked in the last 4 years.

So I have learnt two things this last week:
– Nothing fell apart while I was gone.
– I like holidays.

I think I will have to book another one. Who knew. (And how silly is it that I am actually slightly surprised by that?!)

(And You, Guy in suit next to me:
Hi. I am hoping you are reading this over my shoulder. (Or that youre already following my blog — then you’ll see it anyway)

I just wanted to remind you to make sure you are happy with your choices. I get that it is not always easy, and I don’t know your story. But I DO know that family and love ALWAYS comes first.
Happy to chat about it if you want to. Just ask about my vacation, and we can get started. ‘
key?)

 

Nobody* likes to feel naked in public

The professor in the back of the room is leaning back in her chair, arms crossed. She is tilting her head, eyes narrowing. I know I am in for a challenge, I can see it. The tension in the room is palpable.

I am 26 years old, and have been in the job for a couple of months. I represent a medical device company, and my customers and doctors, highly educated, are experts in their field. Decisions are made on facts, statistics and clinical data.

The professor asks me if I think the product I am talking about has better clinical trial results that the leading product on the market. 6 months ago I had never read a clinical trial. She is the lead author for over 250 publications in major journal across the world. There is only one thing to do: openly say that I don’t know.

This is a frequent occasion in my business, and rightly so. Medical device reps is on high turnover, often young, inexperienced, polished and smart, in for the career opportunities. In the good cases, there to make a difference, in the bad cases they are there to make a quick sale and move on.

Two things are imperative to do a good job in one of my companies;

Technical skills, and a humble approach to the knowledge of our customers. There is no way we can catch up with the 8 years of medical school. But we CAN be experts on one thing: our product.

I tell my team 2 things: don’t EVER try to diagnose and treat a patient. You will be asked to, and sometimes even pushed to. Stay away, and do not be flattered and dragged in, no matter how good your relationship with the doctor is. You are NOT trained and equipped to make such judgement.

Know everything there is to know about the product. Features, benefits, technical specs, clinical data, user experience, manufacturing process, origin, improvement history. Watch it being used. Listen, learn. Ask questions  of the users. My favourite one: Ask the user why she/he is using it. They will tell you better reasons than your marketing department can, with a lot more credibility. Know how it is used, in what applications. For us, anatomy is key, and I send my team on the same anatomy trainings that doctors attend. They need ton be extremely knowledgeable, so they can add value to the customer.

After all, it boils down to this: you need to earn the trust of your customer, and they will appreciate your dedicated. Few things can replace passion and dedication, no matter what field you’re in. And trust me…you can’t fake that.

And of my professor? I asked her to mentor me. We spent a couple of years with me tagging along every chance I got. Her patience and support benefits me yet to this day, and I thank her by paying it forward.

*Well, MOST people don’t like it.

 

My second application was rejected too! WTF.

So I have now submitted two rounds of the same applications for funding from Horizon 2020 to prove how surgical confidence has an impact on outcome.

Both got rejected.

And interestingly enough, the SECOND application was deemed WORSE than the first one!!

The rating was much worse specifically in the area of proving the market potential for the final product despite me adding further detail and markets. I believe (from the notes in the feedback) that they simply thought the numbers are too good, versus what I was asking for. And that, exactly that, is an entrepreneurs weakness. You see, we are consistently asking for less money than others, if my theory is true.

Entrepreneurs ask for less money because we are used to doing more with less.

7 considerations for aborting mission

When you’re working on a project, it is sometimes easy to get emotionally attached. From time to time, that means that decisions are taken differently during than they would have been before the start of the project.

Usually when I ask people about their exit strategy, they think I mean how they will sell their company and retire. Not at all: I am talking about how to know when to abandon the plan.

Let me give you an example.

Marianne had been working with her Dance school for years, and she had made it a second home for her three girls who had spent pretty much every day after school in the studio. As a leak in the building made her financial situation strained, the smart move would have been to cut it lose, and to relocate to a different venue.

But, because her day to day business and personal life was entangled with emotional ties, she endured 5 really difficult years in the same location, before she finally gave up, having lost most her savings. Had she been making the same decision if this was identified as a risk and had a mitigation plan before she started? Probably not.

An exit strategy should contain the following considerations (…as a start. There will be more that are specific to your business):

Ask yourself this:

  1. TIME: How long am I willing to go before I say this isn’t working? 1 year? 3 years?
  2. MONEY: What is the maximum financial figure I can commit to putting into the business, and when do I cut my losses?
  3. OWNERSHIP: What are the areas of the business that I would be willing to give up to take in financial support (if any) if I needed to? What’s the maximum shares I am willing to sell?
  4. ILLNESS: What do I do if I or someone who depends on me get really ill? What is my contingency plan?
  5. RISKS: What are the top 10 risks in my company and current set up, and how do I mitigate that?
  6. TRADE OFFS: At what point do I decide the risks are not worth the (potential) rewards?
  7. COMMITMENTS: Are there commitments that I am not prepared to sign? Long term contracts, legal obligations, other?

The above is tremendously useful things to consider and have a plan for. Discuss them with your business partner if you have one – more often than not we have very different views on things like this, and it is good to be VERY specific. And make a plan for what happens if you disagree. Write it down. It may all change, but at least you have a starting point when things get rocky.

Also discuss this with your family. Your partner may not have the same expectations as you, and after all, he or she is one of your most important stakeholders as you embark on a new venture.

Good luck. You have taken a whole list of unknowns and turned them into something tangible. Of course there can be surprises you haven’t planned for, but you have narrowed that down tremendously.

And hopefully you will never have to use any of this!

Lie to me. But do it with some EFFORT.

6 ways to impress me

There are a several people whom I have the utmost respect for, and then there are people who have impressed me. The difference is important. I have had the (debateable) pleasure of coming across people who have impressed me, but that I don’t respect at all. I still learned from them, and I wouldn’t want to be without the experience. Sometimes NOT learning from a situation is the best lesson of all. Here is how to impress me:

  1. Be true to who you are

Like the guy at Johnson & Johnson who didn’t give a rats about the fact that his spiky hair and colourful socks made him stand out from the rest of the ambitious crowd. Over 10 years ago, this was quite a talking point in corporate and conservative blue chip companies. He told me to never ever let work change what I liked about myself. Good advice that I wasn’t always strong enough to follow, but now something I won’t ever compromise on, and certainly never forget.

  1. Do good

If you can do good, you should. Simple as that. I don’t care in what format: give someone change for the supermarket trolley, compliment a stranger, build a children’s hospital, found a charity, give your time and knowledge. Pay it forward, and you’re my hero. Teach your children (or someone elses) the joy of giving.

  1. Work hard at what you have committed to

There are a LOT of things that will make you great at what you do, and talent is only one of them. Be on time, study your topics, be polite, be coachable, keep deadlines, look for solutions, help your colleagues. If you’re unhappy, get out.

  1. Be brave

Are you afraid? And still doing it? Then you rock. I am not saying that those who just do things without being worried about it aren’t brave – I am sure they have areas where they have to be courageous as well. I am just of the firm belief that true bravery is best proven by those who are terrified…and do it anyway. I met an inspiring woman called Marta on Thursday who told me her next meeting was to donate blood; her way of getting over her fear of needles!

5. Lie well
I can’t stand bad liars. I know this is a weird one…most people don’t being lied to, but I actually don’t mind. People lie for all sorts of reasons, and it would be arrogant of me to think that I deserve honesty that may be uncomfortable or painful for people to share. That’s fine. But I do have one request; if you’re going to lie to me, put some effort in. Half ass lies that are easy to spot, where the liar really has neither skill or finesse. See Point 3.
6. Find your element
When I see someone who is passionate, knowledgeable, engaged, excited and “in the flow”, I always need to take a deep breath. It is SO powerful to see someone who have found their place, their space in the universe. Nothing is as attractive as when you watch that magic happen, and the force coming from individuals like that is pure power. “Find something more important than you are,” philosopher Dan Dennett once said in discussing the secret of happiness, “and dedicate your life to it.” How you arrive at your true calling is an intricate and highly individual dance of discovery. See Point 4. Last time I saw someone do it was when I watched a candidate in an interview with me last week. I think I may have to hire her.
Thanks for reading.
Angela
Angela Spang at BBF UK Reception at The Compleat Angler
Angela Spang at BBF UK Reception at The Compleat Angler

Part 2 of my mentoring questions: Selling stuff

I know how easy it is for entrepreneurs to be obsessing over sales — especially before you have any, and especially if you don’t know how to sell. And many entrepreneurs don’t. They are enthusiastic experts in their field, but rarely do they have the benefit of having gone through a career in sales and marketing (I consider myself VERY lucky that way, and that’s why I have decided to Pay Forward what I’ve learned.). 

 (Missed the first 5 questions? Click here)

The Anti Crow Rule

I asked my Twitter followers a while back if Marketing or Sales was harder to get right, and the majority said Marketing. I believe the two are closely linked, and if you get your marketing right, your sales will come. I strongly encourage having a clear image of who your customer is, and to segment your market. MAKE CHOICES and stick to them. I call it the Anti Crow Rule: stay away from the shiny objects! It is VERY easy to get distracted, and as an enthusiastic entrepreneur we are flattered and grateful when someone wants our stuff. Don’t get me wrong, do sell….just stick to your overarching plan. 

 

Bank people DO make good friends

If you don’t have finance experience, I strongly encourage you to collaborate with someone who can build you a solid budget, including cashflow projections. Not only will it save you eons of time, it will also ensure you won’t find yourself in a situation that you have a profitable business but no money o pay people or buy stock with. In addition, it will also make any bank conversations you will have a lot more productive. (I never borrowed any money to start my companies, but I do recognise that it is very common to have to do that. And even if you don’t need a cash inflow at the start, having your bank team well informed is a plus should you ever need their help and/or advice. 

 

I am done for tonight, but I do want to talk Exit strategy (because you need not just one but several, and I don’t mean just different versions of you selling your company to the highest bidder and taking off to Aruba) and what/when/how to abandon your plan. 

 

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(No spam, no selling of your data, no me selling to you. I #neversell and am just Paying It Forward. Why? Because I can.) 

Why I Sacked the Sales Rep

Medical Device world is filled with them. Two categories, with the same goal: sell stuff. Either the seasoned professional who has been around since “the good old days when we could all go drinking together” or the new, slick, shiny looking rep determined to prove themselves in their first job. Measured to 90% on their sales results, they are quick in, eager to make a deal…and will move on within 18 months.

A sale is impersonal and fleeting. It doesn’t on its own create a consumer. A loyal customer believes in you, not only your product. The days when we did a sale and moved on are long gone, and we need to let go and take a new shape.

Read more on communication here

Nobody likes being “sold to”!

I have never met anyone who likes the phone sales people who hang up as soon as they realise you’re not buying. Ever been in the position when you’ve bought something you didn’t really need or want, and walked away with a bad taste in your mouth? Well, in medical device world it is coupled with moral.

How on earth can someone with a Marketing or Economics diploma tell a doctor how to use a medical device? Makes absolutely no sense (unless we consider 7 years of medical school a complete waste of time…?).

Don’t chase a sale and make sure you know your facts.

In the medical device world, it is absolutely crucial that we remember where the responsibility lies for each role. Pharma and medical device should inform about the facts of a product…and be 100% accurate.

The customer has the responsibility for what product they buy, but also for how that product is being used and what the outcome is for the patient. Don’t aim for making a sale, and never EVER attempt to treat a patient. Aim to inform and educate. Once you shift your focus, the entire process will transition into thinking for the future, not just for today.

Changing the thinking and approach ultimately drives ROI because cultivating repeat customers is less time-consuming and less expensive than creating new ones. Focusing on your customer experience in EVERY SINGLE INTERACTION increases the likelihood that people will come back. If you want a good ROI, spend as much time and money on improving the customer experience as you would on conversion.

Related: 4 Vital Lessons Sales Teams Should Take from Customer Service

What keeps a consumer coming back for more?

For medical device and pharma it is obviously all about patient outcomes — this translates to managing expectations in the customer so they know what to expect. The medical device is only as good as the customer is, so education and information plays an enormous role in the end result.  And then, whether it’s convenience (making it easy and reliable) or company culture (donating products to charity), customers need a compelling reason to choose you time after time. Be clear, honest and objective. Never push a sale, but focus on observing needs and match it with your offering. And that is exactly why I made the decision to completely eradicate our sales team. I don’t hire sales people anymore.

Focus on what’s most important: create trusting relationships. It is more relevant, more cost-effective, much easier and a lot more fun!