Session six is on management – growing the business and optimizing performance.

Carolyn M. Jones, Publisher, Albany Business Review – Passion, Purpose and Vision – Selling Your Product

Understand your brand and your position in the market, and identify how to showcase that to customers. The Business Review has really had to evaluate where to be and how to devote its resources.

Evaluate the customer’s marketplace and your own industry. You have to always be looking ahead for change, innovative ideas and new technologies. The Business Review provides a place for businesses to showcase through advertising. How do clients fit in with your mission, and how can you best serve them?

Know what clients need – even if they don’t know what that is! Business constantly changes, but you have to stay ahead of it.

Joe Rossi, Vice President, Global Sales, Transfinder – The Key to Effective Sales: Be the Expert

Raise your hand if you believe sales is an art and not a science. (Spoiler: The answer is no)

Sales are experts of their products, industries and their customers. How many of you are talking to your salespeople? How many of you understand the steps to a sale? How many of you are asking your sales people to do all of it?

Finding a lead requires a hunter’s perspective, while nurturing a lead requires a farmer. Some just like the backend of sales – the analysis. When you ask them to do things they’re not comfortable with, they’re going to wing it. To have sales people succeed, make it a place they’re comfortable.

If an employee excels at retaining customers, but not with new leads, they might still feel good about your day while you’re frustrated. Be honest with each other and let people do what they’re comfortable with. Reallocate so you have the steps covered.

Do you know what differentiates you from competition? Ask your customer, they’ll tell you. Know what keeps them up at night.

Put your salespeople in a place they’ll succeed, become an expert in your company, and listen to your customer.

Annmarie Lanesey ’01, 04, President, GreaneTree Technology – Win-Win Referrals

Annmarie tells the story from when she started in business in 2008. While she had no actual sales experience, she loves people. And that’s a big part of the sales process.

Make friends. Help others. Build trust. This is in all aspects of our life. Why make friends? We didn’t know anybody, we didn’t have a customer, so we needed to go out and meet people. Over the course of time, they didn’t have a sales strategy but they had done good work. And when you do good work, people refer business to you. Other people became their sales force. But as they’ve grown, that volume won’t necessarily keep up, but that strategy can continue and grow.

Pati Barclay, Executive Vice President, Accent Commercial Furniture – Smart Design Will Build Your Brand

Businesses around the world are changing, as are employee expectations and the work itself. 52% of employees aren’t engaged, and there’s another group that is actively disruptive to the community. The vast majority of workers aren’t meeting their potential.

There are more generations in the workplace than ever. Generation flux is a new term – a group of people best conditioned for deciding where business and culture is moving. This is an era of ideas, our work, and we have to collaborate on these ideas. Office environments are becoming communities of space. We’ve seen a shift in how we treat the environment, and now we’re focusing on how we treat humans (growth, motivation, etc.). We have a new focus on why we do, not just what.

Lauren Groff, Owner, Groff Networks – Overcoming the Operational Squeeze

Lauren’s wondered why the “gut wrench” has to happen. That feeling in the pit of your stomach. It changes you. It’s what forces to act and pushes you to face your challenges and grow. He speaks to challenges he’s faced, from tough conversations down to the time he had to fire his friend. Many choose to stay stuck in the quagmire, to stay safe, but to make a different business – to make the pivot, you have to become a different person to move passed those gut wrenching moments.

Dan Yamin ’96, CEO/Cofounder, Cornerstone Telephone – Corporate Life Cycles

He’s touching on three stages from the Book Barbarians to Bureaucrats.

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Prophets – The vision. The idea. What he wanted to pursue. That initial time you decide what you want to do.

Barbarians – Then you’re the barbarian. That’s where you begin talking to others, considering how you can make this happen.

Bureaucrats – This is where you reevaluate what you’ve done. Where you see what you’ve done right, where you find where you’ve gone wrong, and where you begin reviewing what needs to be done to continue a successful track.

Kurt Van Wagenen ’85, ’86, President & CEO, FirstLight Fiber – Accelerating Growth with M&A

Kurt has a new goal – to speak in the next stage – Prosper. This manage stage is very hard. He’s going to talk about things operators need to be the expert on:

Be true to your core business. M&As will not fix a bad business model. If you’re not growing organically, fix your business model. Understand the key drivers of your revenue model. You need to understand it to be true to it. Remember you’re not replacing your business model with M&A – you’re supplementing it.

Execute at the speed of light. Deals are not like fine wines, they typically don’t get better with time. Once you do a deal, put a strong integration team together. It can be small, but should be your best people. Third, you now have a well thought-out integration plan  – if the new company has a better process, take it.

Remember the best laid plans often go awry. In M&A, they always go awry.

Donald A. Devito, II, Senior Vice President, Investment Officer, Wells Fargo Advisors – Managing Capital to Pivot Through Growth: Getting Your “Bucks” in a Row

You’ve been in business a few years and you’re profitable, but what will it take to get you to the next level? This is where it gets tricky. Lack of capital is often the most critical challenge. Without diligent cash management, the business is often constrained by a need for money. This is often the case when there’s a high-level of inventory or an operating cycle is long.

You have to understand what your capital needs are going to be. Have a plan that looks toward the future.

You have to able to measure what’s causing success or failure. Success is great, but do you know why you’re successful? Know these things. They’ll help you achieve future objectives.

Erica Choi, Senior Area Manager, U.S. Small Business Administration – Government Support for Growing Small Businesses

She’s coming to us from the government side, with a few key government support options to look into.

Capital: SBA-guaranteed loans are designed to increase lending to the small business community.

Counseling: Take advantage of no-cost and confidential business advisors.

Contracting: Small firms can develop very profitable business models selling to the government.

And that’s it! Up next – Prosper!

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