Asides

Me and Gollum: My Precious. My Precious.

Office manager with a slightly concerned look on her face, trying to act casual, handing me a letter and says apologetically: “This came for you today. Sorry I opened it, but it didn’t say Confidential…”

As I scan the letter, she turns and walks away to her desk. I can sense her concern when my face breaks into a broad grin. I jump off my chair and stroll into the open-space office with a cocky smile and swaggering steps, fanning myself with the letter.

“Everyone, I’ve got something I want to share with you!”

(I know. A bit evil. But funny, as I watch the concerned look on OM’s face couple with tentative curiosity.)

The room stops, and everyone’s attention is on me and my little dance as I dramatically hold up the letter and make a grand gesture towards it.

“We have received the first letter of what I suspect will be many….from someone who wants to buy JUNE MEDICAL!”

The room cheers, but I can also tell that there are those who are looking at me tentatively and really want me to reconfirm what i have said in the past when we have discussed this possibility. I drag it out slightly. With a masterful (if I may say so myself) pause, I proceed to reiterate my stance.

“OBVIOUSLY…I am not selling! “

The relief amongst the group is visible, and louder cheering happens. We celebrate with a fika and chat merrily over the fact that we are so awesome.

It must be a horrible feeling to work in a company if you don’t know if you’ll be sold at any time. If you are running that company or leading that team, take that into account. You may not be able to change that, but you do need to understand how it affects your team.

And perhaps take a slightly more mature approach than I did… (but it was very funny!).

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!

The Dark Side of Delegation

There is a short list of things that I am really, really good at:

  • Parallel parking
  • Hiring good people and seeing their talents
  • Delegation
  • Play with kids

Can’t cook for the life of me and would happily survive on bread for the rest of my life. Luckily my kids are getting nutritious and varying meals from both their father and our excellent nanny.

Delegation is one of those things that are usually hailed as a cornerstone of good leadership. People are usually not keen on micromanagement, and universally we hate when someone stands over our shoulder checking our work. As an entrepreneur in a startup, this is a challenging one. Coming from a background where there is just you, and your brilliant idea, all by your very self, getting to where you have to let other people into that sacred relationship is tough!

Delegating certain aspects of that startup is even harder. Few entrepreneurs I know think they are the expert on every little bits of running a company, but there is a lot of comfort in knowing

  1. a) It has been done
  2. b) Knowing HOW it was done

It is not that we mistrust others, not at all. It is simply an emotional aspect of growth. Sort of like when your child thinks another mummy “is really cool” and “can even do the splits!” You think it is great that your daughter has another grown up role model, at the same time as your heart secretly bleed a little and you spend the next month stretching on the bedroom floor before you tear a muscle and decide that you can be cool in other ways.

Back to delegation.

What people rarely mention is that delegation travels with two unwanted cousins:

“Risk” and “Cost”.

Risk, because when you start letting go of control, there is a couple of things that have to happen before. You have to establish an understanding of Purpose, Vision, Ethics and Values. Otherwise your carefully created baby may be taking off in a direction that you didn’t intend. Or worse, someone you delegate to may do something that is unethical or even criminal.

And then there is Cost.

The perception is often that as a business owner you have a fat salary, a fancy car and always fly business class. I am sure that is true for some, but most of us actually surviving on peanuts, foregoing shopping and flying economy to Santiago Chile with an 8 hour stopover in Miami Airport to save money is more accurate, cash is a highly guarded asset. So to delegate, one has to have someone to delegate TO. Cost. And that someone needs training. Cost. And that someone must be allowed to learn and make mistakes. Cost. (Sometimes high.)

So the big question: is it worth it? Don’t know, but it is necessary.

Just make sure you do the prework well, and have a plan for contingency when it doesn’t work they way you hoped.

And Arnica works like a charm btw.

frontsplits

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. 

 

Sign up to get a little note when I post the next time. 

(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!

How I Run 3 companies and Work Part Time: 2 Lists

I run three fast growing organisations, with in total 12 employees. None of them have been around for longer than three years, and all of them are growing double- or triple digits. As you can imagine, life doesn’t stand still.

I work part time. Why? Because I firmly believe we all need balance.

My partner has a high profile job, and we have two lovely children, eight and two years old. I also spend time in Sweden to see my father as much as possible, and to help with his care (he is a prostate cancer fighter).

How? Simple. One simple but crucial rule… and the lists of things I do, and things I’ve decided to stop doing.  But first:

The Rule: No guilt. Ever. I am where I have chosen to be, and guilt has no place.

List of things I do:

  • Drop off and pick up at school most days
  • Uninterrupted playtime with kids between 17-19
  • Share 50/50 with the kids’ father (it is 2016. Par for the course. Come on.)
  • Mow the lawn every Sunday.
  • Hire people who are brilliant and let them do their jobs
  • Maintain responsibility for hiring, new product development, finance and strategy.
  • Start every day by thinking “What is the thing I can do to make the businesses more successful today?”. And then I ACT on it. Relentlessly. Every. Single. Day. I don’t have time to fiddle around.

Click here to read why I sacked the sales rep

Things I don’t do:

  • Cook
  • Clean
  • Laundry
  • Work in the evenings or on weekends
  • Micromanage my staff
  • Have a gym membership (I sneak in exercise with the kids. I do awesome cartwheels by now)
  • Watch TV (apart from BGT!)

I am the first to admit that despite my fairly straight forward plans, it is far from perfect. I get distracted and enthusiastic (a couple of weeks ago I spent over 10 HOURS on making an App. Completely stupid. Not ever a GOOD app….!) and sometimes I read emails during my sacred Kid-Time, and almost always at bedtime. But I have to be proud when I look at the overall picture, because I can see it works. I spend quality time with my kids every day, and I get more done during my limited office hours than most other people I speak to.

Someone told me I was really lucky. I both agree and disagree. I didn’t get here by chance, and it took a while, so luck had very little to do with it. That being said though: I tremendously appreciate what I have.

If you work long hours, perhaps I can inspire you to get a better balance by prioritising harder too? Or if you have something that works better, please add your advice to the comments? Thanks, and thank you for reading.