Category Archives: Starting a business

How Your Leadership Affect Your Company’s Culture

Every organization has a culture. For some it is intentional and for some, it just is what it is.
When I think of culture, I think of how the world sees my organization. I also think of how the people inside the enterprise treat their work and the people they engage. A formal definition of culture is this: Organizational culture is the guiding operating system by which people interact and get things done.

I have always been very aware of culture. I am sensitive to the unspoken word, and how people feel has always been very important to me.  Despite this, I have in the past found myself employed in companies I didn’t fit into at all. I didn’t like the people that much and I certainly didn’t have fun. With my own companies, I decided that I didn’t want that to happen again.

For me, culture comes from these 4 things:
1. Strong leadership
It takes work to define the culture elements and a continuous process to keep the company operating by them.
Leaders are responsible for defining the elements of culture and the work to ensure that the company is leading by the principles that shape the organization.
2. Mission
The mission is the point of the organization. Every organization has a purpose. The reason “why the organization exists.” Leaders define how to take that purpose and make it bigger. It is about the impact on the community and the world. It can never be just to make money. Mission guides the future you are creating and how you intend to contribute to it.
As an example, London Medical Education Academy’s Mission is to “Make doctors better surgeons without harming patients during training by using cadaveric tissue samples for surgical skills labs.”
3. Vision
The day-to-day experience is the vision of the company. Vision paints a picture of what the organization looks like over a set time frame. JUNE MEDICAL uses a 2-year vision as part of our culture to frame the experience for each employee.
Vision tells the story of how the organization will look as it is in service to the mission.
4. Values
The values are guiding principles of the organization. Values become the tool by which each employee does their work and interacts with the people that come in contact with the company. It tells us WHO we are and HOW we are.

For my companies the values become the guiding principles.
Values become a central part of the company’s unspoken conversations. The key point is to make sure you are using values that really matter to the company, mission and vision of the organization.

One word of warning though….: Don’t put values on the wall, unless your values are visible in your work each and every day.

Unless you are authentic in your leadership, no Mission/Vision or Value statement in the world can help you build a truly winning team.

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!

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.) 

The 5 First Questions I Ask When I Start Mentoring An Entrepreneur

When I talk to people who are just about to start their own company, they usually have one thing in common: they are experts at what they do. While that is a GREAT thing to get you to where you can deliver a FANTASTIC PRODUCT OR SERVICE, it usually is NOT what you need to get started.  

Why? Because you should NOT BE SELLING ANYTHING yet!

Let’s start in the other end, shall we? Here are the questions I usually ask.  

  1. Don’t tell me what you’re going to do first as you try to sell stuff. Tell what problem you will have solved 10 years from now? (Someone said “To make aviation have zero environmental impact”. Another one said “All clothes will be made to measure”; Excellent!)
  2. What do you need to have accomplished in 5 years to make that happen? (As you can tell, timings here are arbitrary — that depends on who I am talking to. Point is, it starts from the future and goes back to today.)
  3. How will you bridge the income gap until you are into your core business? And how will you make sure you don’t get stuck in that “bridge business” as people start knowing you?
  4. What is the vision in your head (and we all have one — once you start talking about it you realise you know more about your future business and plans than you thought!)? Do you have employees? How many? Where is your office? Will you employ people or work through contractors? 
  5. And then, my favourite question of all: Describe your customer to me. Is it a person or an organisation? (If you say organisation, I say Dig Deeper. It is ALWAYS a person. Always.) Who is she/he? What does she do? What does she like? What is her motivation? Is she a cat or a dog person? Does she do team or individual workouts? Heels or sneakers? You get the point. DESCRIBE your customer, and THEN start thinking about how to package and sell your product, what marketing channels to use, if social media is relevant (and which one?!). 

RELATED: 7 words I don’t allow in Customer communication

That’s it for tonight. More on this, plus the selling part and some thoughts on bank solutions next week.

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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!

I don’t even have a will…!

Lots of things to manage when you’re running your own little shop. Todays challenges:

  • I don’t have a will. I know that is really bad, and I need to get to it. But as a business owner, anything that isn’t directly or indirectly leading to someone wanting to buy my stuff automatically goes on the Yellow List (Pink List: Today stuff. Blue list: Tomorrow stuff. Yellow list: Later stuff).
  • I have to start a company in Ireland.
    I have absolutely no idea how to do that. Oh, and hire someone too. AND I need to start trading on January 1 2017.

So the first one is pretty simple, right? (apparently my suggested solution to the Financial Advisor of “Not Dying” wasn’t as funny as I thought. Oh well. )

  1. Make list of assets
  2. Make a will
  3. Appoint power of attorney

The second one….good thing I can reach out to my Trade Advisor at UK Trade & Investment for things like this. She will know what to do (or know someone who knows).

In short, on my To Do list for this weekend are:

  1. Don’t die yet; make will first
  2. Don’t get tempted by scruffy looking simple solution on how to incorporate in Ireland; talk to some sensible people who actually know what they are doing.

And on that note: Goodnight.

When Idea Meet Market, Magic Happens

I frequently meet people who, wbig eyeshen finding out I have three companies, widen their eyes slightly. I have learned that it usually means one of three things:

  1. You think I am a workaholic
  2. You want one too
  3. You think I am really rich

I am going to leave 1 and 3 out. Neither is true. More on that later (that is a different post entirely). Continue reading When Idea Meet Market, Magic Happens