Tag Archives: business

Mentoring Questions Part 3: EXIT STRATEGY

My goodness, I had more to say on this than I thought!

Thanks for coming back to read this third part. 

I got a letter in the mail a couple of weeks ago, from a company who asked if they could sell my company for me. As one of the things they wanted to discuss with me, they had listed my exit strategy for when I wanted to sell my company. I told them I would #neversell , but I would be happy to hear what they thought the company would be worth. They didn’t respond. 

Anyway, it reminded me about something I always used to try to install in my teams when we embarked on large projects in the corporate world: Exit strategy. 

I have observed, as well as been a part of, teams or projects that keep going long after any sane and remotely objective person would have called it quits. Why? Because it is hard to say “I give up”. And it is even harder to do it in a corporate environment where nobody wants to be pegged as being negative or pessimistic. 

So what is the responsible and strategic way to go? Make an exit plan. (And then hope you never have to implement it!)

Open plan office pitfalls?!

I like open plan offices, as it encourages communication. But does it work as well as we think?

Think about average number of distractions during an average work day…..Now take that number and multiply it by 23.

That’s how many minutes of concentration you actually lose. You see, it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to return to the original task after an interruption, according to Gloria Mark, who studies digital distraction.

Distractions side track you for up to a half hour!

In other words, that “30 seconds to check Twitter” isn’t just 30 seconds down the drain. It’s 23 minutes and 45 seconds. (very few of the twitter posts I read are worth that kind of investment, but perhaps I am just following the wrong people… !)

And all these distractions not only hurt effectiveness, they make us stressed, grumpy and less sharp: “Our research has shown that attention distraction can lead to higher stress, a bad mood and lower productivity,” Mark wrote.

Are we victims or villains?!

 

Interestingly enough, half the interruptions were self-inflicted. Working on a task and switching tabs to check Facebook, for example, is a self-inflicted interruption. As opposed to, say, a coworker walking over to discuss a project.

We are, essentially, playing tennis with our cognitive energies, volleying them back and forth at a moment’s notice. Only unlike a tennis ball, our brain takes a little time to switch directions. More like a really large ferry…!

And the problem isn’t just the time wasted. We’re sacrificing some of our best thinking: if you keep jumping between different topics and thoughts, how deep can you really get into a subject?!

Does this resonate with you? It does with me. I just don’t know what to do about it yet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

While I know JUNE Medical has been growing…

…at an accelerated pace, I was delightfully surprised my company won Best New Business in Bucks last year.

Growth – personal, financial, career or otherwise – has always been an integral driver in my life. I consistently search for new ways to expand my experience and knowledge to stay in a perpetual place of forward motion (I like developing and learning new things). This state of being has become second nature, and I have to watch myself; I am very comfortable with change (actually seeking it, getting uncomfortable when things are too stable) and I need to always make sure others are happy with the pace.

With this award for the business, I couldn’t help but take a moment to reflect on what helped JUNE Medical get to where it is so quickly in only two years. We’ve gone from a company of three to an international organization with more than 10 team members and we have brought on several new partners like Carbon Medical, Astora and LamidayNoury. We have diversified the line of JUNE Medical products to increase stability – and we have taken tremendous market share in the last two years.

 

What is it that we’ve done right to receive such recognition?

For me, the foundation of any company is its team. You have to know (or at least figure out by trial and error) what experience and skills you need and when to bring it in. For the first couple of months, the team was small: focused on getting set up in the right way and exercising our strategy of Act Big. We were working out of a Regus office close to my house, getting the business off the ground with a mix of passion, financial expertise and sheer gumption. I have brought on hand selected people, some of whom I have worked before, knowing they had the right make to be successful in this environment. Together, we further defined our business needs to forge a larger path forward. I remain in charge of strategy and big picture finance, but have delegated the daily responsibility of the business to those who are better skilled than me to make it a success.

I approached building my team conservatively, hiring people who were passionate about our mission, understood our vision and were capable of wearing multiple hats. Not only were we building a team of JUNE Medical believers, but also a diverse team of complementary skills that could do more, with fewer bodies. This allowed us to shape the team smartly, not necessarily rapidly, with a long-term vision of sustainable growth in mind. We run circles around our competitors, and people are shocked when they hear how few we actually are.

I have known for a long time that I wanted to run my own company. Both my parents ran their own companies when I grew up, so VAT and balance sheets were as familiar to me as cookies and milk. Every role I have had, every meeting I have attended and every leader I have seen has taught me something valuable. I knew what I was preparing for, and I just needed to be patient enough to wait for the right opportunity, in the right environment, at the right time.

Because I knew who I was, what was important to me and how I wanted JUNE Medical to be operating, it allowed me to have a clear view on what worked and what didn’t from the outset. My vision was to create a business that would support my values, and that would allow me to do good, but would allow me to work a “mainstream” job shortly after its founding. By not adding the pressure of “how do I make JUNE Medical my full-time career that will pay me lots of money,” I inevitably gave myself the space to build a solid foundation for long term growth, based on the right values. With that clear in everybody’s mind, making the right decisions are easy. Customers come first. Always.

 I also had the freedom to think about what the brand stood for in the moment and what it could stand for five years down the road. This helped solidify the core values (that still exist today) and put us on a faster trajectory because we weren’t constantly questioning the fundamentals of the business. We knew what we stood for as we started to reach critical mass and what our customers wanted to keep us moving in the right direction. We’ve been able to use this awareness to guide each decision, creating efficiencies and movement with every step forward.

Could JUNE Medical have grown faster or continue to grow faster?

The short answer – yes. But this would most likely take bringing on financial investors to fund new growth initiatives. Opportunities that we know we’ll be able to deliver on our own, on a slightly different timeline.

Was it scary when I invested my savings into JUNE Medical to get it off the ground? Yes. Is it sometimes unsettling to know that 10 people depend on me for their livelihood? Yes. Do I wish I had extra cushion from another source? Not ever.

I’m sure there is a time and a place to contemplate investors, but for now I love knowing that each decision isn’t always driven by the bottom line. It enables us to be more creative, take more risks and grow substantially more quickly by freeing us of the chains (and quotas) that financial investors would create.

There is a way with smart decision-making and tenacity to win independently. It just takes some patience, the right team, a sense of purpose, a solid strategy and the discipline to execute it well.

 

Angela Spang

Founder, Owner and Managing Director JUNE MEDICAL