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We are coming up on a decade in our own business. We have worked with thousands of clients and many times that number of prospects. As independent business people, our survival depends on our ability to forecast and close work. We have a very high close rate once we’re presenting, especially in person. This has been achieved through careful study of human nature and at a high cost.
As a consultant, you need to make the prospecting cycle as tight as possible so you are not chasing leads that won’t go anywhere. We began to experience greater success when we understood the following principle: Most people can’t say no.
I don’t mean this in the sense that they will buy from you if you overcome objections or demonstrate value. Most prospects know very quickly if they see value in what you’re doing and will buy. Our experience has been the best engagements result from connections that form quickly or, if there are delays because of a competitive procurement process, you are continually building a tighter relationship as it goes on. Absent this, you are likely waiting for a ‘no’.
The reason for this, my partner and I believe, is that most people hate the idea of rejection and hence are hesitant to do it to other people. I, for one, appreciate having my attention and effort liberated by a firm ‘no’. I am now free to begin the hunt for a new client, sometimes with lessons learned. But the slow ‘no’, or worse, the ‘we’re thinking about it’ just takes up mental and emotional cycles that are better spent elsewhere.
Below is the transcript of the full interview I conducted with Dr. Richard Sudek, Director of Chapman University’s Leatherby Center for Entrepreneurship and Business Ethics. The center is nationally recognized as a leader in the field and Chapman has produced a number of notable entrepreneurs, including our client, Frank Delgadillo, creator of the Ambiguous and Comune action wear lines.
Excerpts from this interview appeared in Impact (formerly Caypen) magazine in both their online and print editions.
Q: Can you give us some background on the Leatherby Center and what you do here?
Sudek: I’m the Director of the Leatherby Center for Entrepreneurship and Business Ethics.
PM: What is your background?
Sudek: I had my own computer company, built starting with $250 and sold it, so I’m not your typical academic. What I’m really trying to do is change the entrepreneurial ecosystem here in OrangeCounty. The entrepreneurial ecosystem is poorly connected from my perception. We’d like Chapman to be involved in helping connect it. We’d like Chapman to be the place where entrepreneurs, inventors and investors meet and collaborate.
Most of our energy is outward facing rather inward facing.
One of the things to point out is that Chapman one of the best kept secrets here in OrangeCounty. We’re a top 50 business school. We have a Nobel prize winner in economics. Our entrepreneurship program is ranked 13th by BusinessWeek. Because I wanted to cross connect the university, we built this thing called ESUN, Entrepreneur Student University Network. Originally it was designed to be small, so we started with the local schools; Cal Tech. USC, UCLA, Loyola, Pepperdyne, UCI, Fullerton and Claremont McKenna to try to cross connect our centers which we’re starting to do.
The thing that really launched this is we created this competition called California Dreaming. And we brought in other schools such as Oklahoma, BYU, Berkeley and Hawaii, etc and created a $100,000 business plan competition that we have in April. Next year it will be a $200,000. It’s going actually be two different competitions a business plan competition and fast pitch competition. Microsemi will be the anchor sponsor, as they were last year. The idea is to get students in front of investors, not just to win cash. I brought in VCs and angels from the bay area and local VCs and angels.
One of the teams, BYU, who won the competition, got some equity funding from this in late April. So that’s the idea is to get students connected to that.
PM: So you’re trying to build the hub for this kind of activity here?
Sudek: Yes. Now this reaches outward across different states so the idea is the help students in general although focused on Chapman, OrangeCounty, Southern California, going out from there.
Amir Banifatemi is founder of K5 Accelerator, which is based at ChapmanCollege’s e-Village. He has extensive experience developing start up and growth companies in many different markets but focuses primarily on healthcare, internet and media technologies. While he is focused keenly on developing value, he also has an eye toward projects that have significant technological breakthroughs and significant social and economic impact.
Mehit: You’ve been quoted that the center of gravity in OrangeCounty has been around real estate and finance resulting in a very careful and staid culture. What would you like to see changed?
Amir: I would try to improve a certain number of things, one of those would be more collaboration. I think the history of OrangeCounty and how people are disbursed does not promote synergies. Unfortunately, distance makes it difficult for people to meet and collaborate on projects, except on big projects.
Further if you look historically, at San Francisco or other places, when people get out of college, where do they go? They go to Hewlett Packard or the Fairchild or Intel but what do they do here? They go to a real estate company or title company. The appropriate employment environment is lacking.
Finally, people are focused on cash today instead of cash tomorrow. Your attitude, your investment of time and resource in collaboration and how you view society and community are different if you looking at cash tomorrow.
Created by Burden in 1979, the Flaming Carrot has no secret identity, no superpowers, and is not particularly intelligent. After reading 5,000 comic books in a single sitting to win a bet, a man was driven quite mad and was permanently transformed into the orange superhero.
Crowdfunding is the latest buzz to hit the entrepreneur community, but no one really knows how it is going to work. What we do know is that it will allow people like you and me (non-accredited) investors to use our money to help small businesses to start or grow. The problem is that the funding entrepreneurs need to prove, start and grow their ideas into companies has been at a premium since 2008. The question now is whether the excitement will translate into a meaningful solution.
The turn of the century already saw a slow down from the tech investing of the 90’s, but when the recession hit, bank funding ground almost to a stop. Where could the entrepreneur go to seek funding for their idea or startup?
A more effective model for Angel investing is long overdue. If Angels want to win — they want to lower their risk, create better returns, and help entrepreneurs more they’ll do the following: fly lower heights (avoid trying to fund the next 5 Facebooks) and take shorter flights (avoid riding each investment out all the way to the end).
A friend of mine, once honored for his business accomplishments, was asked what advice he would give to those starting a business. With a wry smile he said, “Don’t do it.”
This friend, now prosperous, had a long and difficult climb. An immigrant, he had fits and starts while selecting his business model, then a bankruptcy and some personal tragedies before he tasted sustained success. An accomplished engineer, my friend could have opted for a well paying job at any point, using his war stories as an entrepreneur as badges of self-reliance and leadership.
He instead chose a decade long struggle to build a successful manufacturing company. While he was honored for being special, the truth is he isn’t unique among entrepreneurs. From programmers coding the next killer app to the husband and wife running the corner market, entrepreneurs have some common traits. They’re hard workers. They know how to focus and get things done. They understand whom their customers are and how to reach them. More than anything, they are courageous.
When choosing a revenue model, most companies wait until the very end of development and simply look to what market leaders are doing, altering it slightly. But when considered carefully, the revenue model can be a very powerful tool. By changing the revenue model, a company will change its entire business.
The NSBA’s Mid-Year Economic Report, which surveyed 400 of the group’s members online between June 24 and July 11, offered little to be optimistic about:
More than one-third say they aren’t confident about the future of their business from a financial perspective
Eighty-eight percent anticipate a recession or flat economy in the next year, an increase from 78 percent six months ago
Forty-five percent expect no growth opportunities in the coming year, up from 40 percent in December.