Filed under: Business Growth, Marcellus, Pittsburgh, Profitable Growth, Uncategorized
Background: Microseeps is a lab testing business located in Harmar, Pennsylvania that provides a wide variety of services supporting insight into soil and groundwater problems. Since the 90’s, the company has solved a large number of customers’ needs by developing innovative, groundwater, analytical tools and cost-effective ways to sample soil gas for vapor intrusion.
The Challenge: Although Microseeps was experienced in serving large, energy firms responsible parties, consultants and labs throughout the United States, the company lacked a shale-gas offering or specific sales effort dedicated to directly serving small customers in the Marcellus Shale footprint running through West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and New York. The firm typically serves consultants and customers who call Microseeps technical and customer support for solutions. After analysing sales and laboratory results, however, management saw a new market opportunity emerging — the local independent testing lab. But without a sales force, or dedicated products or services, how could Microseeps evolve to serve this dispersed target market?
The BGC Solution
Andy Birol helped Microseeps conduct field, market and internal company research and analysis. Then, Tom Hill, Owner agreed to launch and fund a direct-marketing effort with online and off-line tactics to directly engage with state-approved laboratories across the quad-state Marcellus shale footprint.
“This was a big step for our company to aggressively market to a specific target prospect. We are excited to introduce this unique offer that fully leverages our companies Best and Highest Use,” said Hill, adding, “Andy guided us to discover how we could enter this market, and implement the right steps to further grow our Marcellus business.”
Specifically, Microseeps is developing an integrated. direct-mail, email, telephone and website strategy that offers an easy and profitable solution for any lab to grow its Marcellus business, whether or not it has existing business or experience serving land owners, corporations, drillers or municipalities impacted by the drilling of gas. Beyond these tactics, Microseeps is taking further steps to support its business in this space.
Results to date.
Microseeps has already grown its Marcellus related business segment with existing customers by more than 25 percent. And the new tactics promise to easily double this growing number in this emerging market. More important, early results demonstrate that a focused effort has made a sales impact and has given management the confidence to create more proactive initiatives.
“With a great year behind us and our new Marcellus and other initiatives under way, I have high confidence that the coming years will continue to be some of Marcellus’s best,” says Hill.
“Andy Birol has been of great help not just in terms of developing our Marcellus initiative, but in helping us to refocus Microseeps on creating profitable growth for years to come. I look forward to a positive ROI on his and our efforts for years to come.”
Congratulations, your business has survived the recession! Thanks to your leadership, you held off the banks, reduced your debt, collected your receivables and delivered great products and service.
Today, your firm runs lean, with loyal customers and reasonable profits. So what should you do next? Are you satisfied, dissatisfied or neither? Should you grow your business or should you sell it?
Asking your advisors doesn’t make your choice any clearer. They declare your business is worth less now than before the recession, but not as much as it could be in five years. But to recharge your business you’ll have to refocus your efforts and reinvest some of your wealth back into your firm. Can you? Should you? How do you decide whether to grow or sell your business?
After working with hundreds and speaking with thousands of business owners, I am convinced the decision to grow or exit your firm means reconciling and aligning your personal and business goals. Here’s how:
- Decide on Your Personal Goals
- Needs: What type of income, validation and purpose do you need?
- Lifestyle: Do you live to work or work to live?
- Legacy: Has your business accomplished what you personally set out to do?
- Pinpoint Your Business Goals
- Life cycle: Is your business at its peak or trough?
- Best and Highest Use: Has your business fully exploited or squandered its value.
- Potential: Can you or someone else take your business to the next level?
After you’ve developed an objective list, you may not be any closer to the root issue. Just like a defining point drove you to start, buy or revive your business, you may need a defining point to help you decide if you will grow or sell your business.
Clarifying your defining point
Remember Popeye the Sailor Man (and original Zen master) standing up to Bluto, spluttering, “That’s all I can takes, ‘cause I can’t takes no more”? That’s what a defining point feels like.
As a business owner, you’re probably highly self-motivated, but do you know what got you started or keeps you going? Was it a flash realization or a series of events? What led to your decision to grow your own business, overcome obstacles, and ultimately succeed? Answer these questions to narrow down your defining point:
- When did it occur?
- How did you know what it was?
- Since it occurred, what do you now know and do?
- Since it occurred, what do you no longer believe or do?
- How does your defining point give you confidence?
Identifying this source of conviction is the first step toward growing your business, because it will power your commitment to implement the knowledge, behaviors, and tools of successful owners. Clarifying your defining point will also help to reconcile your business, family, health, and other life challenges in a way that works for you. How can it accomplish so much?
Passion can be mistaken for blind faith, and blind faith has killed many businesses. (Okay, it’s built some really good ones, too, but let’s go with the odds.) The point is this: You need to know your limits. Astute owners balance knowing they can implement, sell, and deliver new ideas with the pragmatic necessity to make money. Avoid any new venture before taking a hard look at what you can sacrifice in terms of cash, time, people, and other resources. Otherwise, your conviction is really just wishful thinking.
Looks like you’ve made it
For years, I’ve seen venture capitalists and other financial gamers flail about in the ocean of ownership. I’m convinced that few of these financial intermediaries make great owners. They generally lack passion about what they sell. They talk about things like roll ups, cash outs, and other financial gimmicks, but don’t focus on delighting their customers, living their products and services, and standing behind everything they sell. Likewise, corporate players who try to cut and paste corporate tactics into a new business don’t experience the freedom or the success involved with building a company brick-by-brick on the strength of an owner’s distinctiveness.
Whatever their background, winners discard the trappings, the ego, and the support mechanisms and get, what owning a business is all about—delivering customer value.
Are these guys lucky? Do they possess a Midas touch that turns decisions into profits? Absolutely not. Their magic is the self-confidence that stems from believing in their companies. Their triumphs are the living, breathing examples of their core conviction that as business owners, they each control their own destiny through the passion and conviction they either do or don’t possess.
You can’t file conviction in a drawer and move on to the next challenge because, as your firm grows, the issues, concerns, and crucial decisions you face will evolve. The conviction of a rookie entrepreneur looks nothing like the conviction of an owner of a multi-million dollar company. Yet, however big a firm becomes, it never outgrows its foundation. An owner’s commitment, confidence, and conviction remain the crucial drivers of a company’s success.
Ambivalence is to the business owner what salty food is to an obese smoker with undiagnosed high blood pressure—a silent killer. Check the following symptoms to find out whether you are ambivalent. Do you agree with any of the following statements?
- My products or services aren’t all that effective.
- My customers don’t really deserve the best.
- My employees are replaceable.
- Sure, I can cut corners. Who’ll notice?
- What, me lead? My people know what to do. Leadership doesn’t really matter.
A “yes” answer to one or more of these statements indicates some level of ambivalence.
Whether our businesses are in transition, succession, growing organically or through acquisition, we owners all share a common standing. Once we’re recognized as business owners, we never want to go back to work for someone else. In our independence, we all belong to the one club that even Groucho Marx would want to stay in.
The freedom, affirmation and respect we encounter is difficult to replicate in the corporate world. And even if it does, it usually comes with strings attached. So it’s not surprising that the drive to protect what we’ve created could be the professional equivalent of a mother’s devotion to her child’s well being.
On the one hand, we fear the downside of failure, on the other, we yearn for all the opportunities we could be missing. How can we protect what we’ve earned, invest in new opportunities and avoid the clear threats our businesses face? These dilemmas torment many owners. How many times have you seen examples like these?
- A successful security alarm company ignores the clear trend toward smart homes and integrated home-theatre systems only to discover that these providers are now competitors as they include security alarms as part of their command and control systems.
- A maturing accountancy, searching for new services with better margins, starts offering executive search and outplacement. Instead of embracing these added services, their clients grow confused and wary, when even the partners struggle to explain why and how these different offerings work together.
- A computer cabling company moves seamlessly from connecting servers to setting up wireless connectivity. Their customers are grateful and even more loyal to their cabling company for shepherding them from obsolescence to state of the art.
In the final analysis, your role as a successful business owner may come down to two conceptual duties: demanding more predictability of your existing business and honing your skill in scouting out your environment.
You know you demand greater predictability from your existing business when you:
- Aren’t happy with great results until you know how they happened
- Become intolerant of erratic swings in sales or profitability and refuse to blame only the economy, competition, suppliers or customers for bad results
- Demand that successful activities in your firm be repeated, rewarded and routinized, and surprises become anticipated and eliminated.
You know you are becoming an expert scout of your environment when you can:
- Anticipate what your customers, employees and vendors will demand and already have a solution that meets their needs and yours.
- Interpret the difference between what your target market says it wants and have the confidence to offer them what they need.
- Look ahead at least three months and anticipate what your business will need in terms of sales, cash, expertise, and time to meet your goals.
For most business owners, growing a business is the fulfillment of their life’s work and dreams. When your business is growing, you feel in control of your destiny. The decision to sell or further grow your business comes down to where you stand on keeping your business growing in the right direction.
If you are still full of conviction to make it more predictable and to continue to scout out your environment you should stay in your business and grow it. If not, you should sell it.
If you need further help, contact me at 412 973 2080 and I have a questionnaire I can step you through to create the confidence and conviction you need to decide if you should sty or you should go!
©Birol Growth Consulting 2012 all rights reserved.
Filed under: Business Growth, Profitable Growth, Uncategorized
As a stakeholder in a tech company, you have your money, future or ego in its future. Whether you own, buy from, or sell to such a firm, its hype should be contagious but could be a double-edged sword. Are you in on the ground floor of the “next big thing” or will your stake be wiped out by the next disruptive technology? Industry pundits who define success in terms of “digital immigrants”, “hyper-personalization” and “virtualization” aren’t very helpful! So how can you tell whether your tech firm is chicken-salad or chicken-scratch?
Here are three steps to decide if and how your technology company could succeed.
1. Is your firm’s product or service really a feature, a benefit or an advantage (FBA)?
• Features are the functions, specs or characteristics defining how a product or service performs. Apple’s touch-screen technology is a good example.
• Benefits are how the features help the user/buyer. The Garmin portable GPS has evolved from a beneficial product
• Advantages are what value the benefits provide the user/buyer
2. How can FBA’s help you define your tech firm’s focus?
• A feature-driven company should offer a function or tool that enables something greater to work better.
• A benefit-driven firm should sell a capability which enables its user/buyer to pursue an outcome
• An advantage-driven firm should market an ultimate condition or outcome to a user/buyer
3. Which markets, investors or ultimate buyers are best for your tech company?
• A feature-driven tech firm has the most appeal to vendors/suppliers of a greater or broader solution
• A benefit-driven company should target its product/service at end-user/buyers who will leverage it into the most profitable outcomes or value for its customers
• An advantage-driven company is most valuable to the final user/consumers who enjoy the most immediate value or highest outcome from this complete product/service.
Whether your technology firm is “pre-revenue” or “self-funding” you are proud of it and its future.