Using the Inc 5000 to Create New Opportunities

Annually Inc. Magazine publishes their list of the 5,000 fastest growing, privately-held companies.  It is based on the average growth of the company over the past three years and annually has a list of unexpected surprises.

“That’s great, Tom, but how does this relate to me?”

It’s simple.  This list contains the companies who are actually growing.  They are dominating their space and making business happen.  Their growth means business opportunities for every vendor in the market who supports these types of businesses.

Using Inc.’s list, you can drill down to the state and metropolitan area to find those who are in your local market.  Or, if you provide national coverage, simply start at the top and work your way down the list.

This year’s #1 company:  Fuhu.  Fuhu is the creator of an Android tablet for kids and an Adobe Air application that allows children to access the Internet in a parent-controlled environment.  They’ve experienced 158,957% growth over the past three years.  Their revenue has risen from $123,000 in 2012 to $195.6 Million in 2013 and they’ve added 178 jobs in the past three years.

Ask yourself some questions:

  • What market is this company in?
  • What challenges could they be experiencing as a result of this growth?
  • What pain might they be wrestling with?
  • What solutions do I offer that may be of value to them as they embrace this growth and plan for additional growth over the next few years?

Do your research and start making contact.  These accounts are being courted by someone; why shouldn’t it be you?

Remember:  Go big or stay home!

No Mercy

heartON Saturday, September 13th, I went to the local urgent care because of a increasingly difficult cough and lack of oxygen. After x-rays were done, I sent directly to the hospital where I was admitted with Congestive Heart Failure. A week later, 30 pounds down and a stent in one of my arteries, I’m back at work and feeling better than I ever have.

Traditionally this is where you hear about the great epiphany that occurred. You won’t hear one from me. No, I didn’t have an epiphany but rather an awakening to one of life’s greatest principles.

The marketplace always disciplines the unprepared.

Success loves and rewards the prepared.

My body was unprepared because I let it become that way.  My experience was no surprise.  I have type 2 diabetes (not managed); I have high cholesterol; I have a family history of heart disease; and I’m well over my optimum weight.  Just as the marketplace punishes the unprepared, my body punished me for not being prepared.  For not taking care of myself.  For being a putz when it comes to living my life to it’s greatest potential.

Look…the key as I see it is this.  I have an ethical duty to my wife, my family, my job, my community to be the very best I can be.  I know what my purpose is and it’s up to me to live it out.  There are no short cuts and there is no middle ground.  It’s all or nothing.  Live big or go home.

I had a wrist band on for the past several days that says, “Don’t be a little bitch.  Champions dominate!”  When I hurt the most or my energy was dropping off, I meditated on that simple message.  It’s a message no longer lost on me.

So join me or don’t.  I intend to live life with no mercy.  I will live according to my ethical duty to my wife, my family, my employer and, of course, to myself for a long time to come.

Dealing With the Egos

One of the primary challenges your are going to face when managing people, especially salespeople, is the wide range of egos.  Everyone has one.  You have one as well.  Admit it.  It  can work for you or against you.

When it comes to egos, I like to define my job as part manager, part psychologist.  Every personality and ego is different.  One is a Type-A extrovert who demands a lot of attention.  Another is a quiet, go-with-the-flow individual who just keeps his nose to the grind stone.

The biggest challenge with individual egos comes when the rubber meets the road.  When their performance is less than minimal expectations and they are put on a performance improvement plan, you instantly go from being their hero to being the reason for their poor performance.  Everything is now “your fault.”

Even great performers let their ego get too big and that, perhaps, is the bigger challenge.  A year ago, one of my most consistent and strongest performers seemed to feel he had “arrived.”  You know the type.  Their “stuff” doesn’t stink and they can’t get into trouble for cutting a special deal without approval because they’re too valuable.

Eventually this rep started ignoring expectations of the company and started missing set meetings with me.  Yes, he was performing at a high level, but seriously….  When he refused to participate in a coaching session that I was doing with all of my reps and then proceeded to tell me that “there isn’t anything you can tell me or show me that I don’t already know,” that I knew we had hit the bottom.

What do you do in this case?  You can let it poison the well or you take quick steps to cut it off where it sits.  The hystrionics caused by the dismissal were huge, but it also sent a message — he was out of line and that behavior was unacceptable.

I hated it.  If he can get hs head on straight, he can be one of the greats in sales, but that’s just it.  You can be extremely talented and be the “greatest gift to mankind,” but if your ego is out of control, you’ll find yourself in a very tough spot.

To grow your team and maintain consistency, manage the egos.  Put your psychologist coat on and play the role.  Your reps will thank you for it.

The Numbers Don’t Lie – They May Mislead, Though

Over the years, I’ve learned to be a number geek of sorts.  No, I wasn’t the one who loved math in high school.  In fact, I forced my way through Algebra I because it was a requirement to graduate.  In college, I believe the only reason I received a C- in Statistics is because the instructor felt pity on me and also knew a D would mean I would be back in her class.

Nevertheless, when I made the connection of numbers to money, I became a raving fan.  I have learned the art of analyzing data to find the hidden growth secrets in sales.  I’ve learned what it will take, with almost precise precision, to achieve certain sales numbers.

One of my favorites is a tool that analyzes critical rep data.  I take the raw numbers — both final outcomes as well as high value activities — and identify what a rep needs to focus on to make their financial goals happen.  When used effectively, it creates a clear roadmap that, if the rep follows it, will lead to consistent over-achievement and high income.

But I’ve also learned that the numbers can be misleading.  When you look at trends, you need to look at the short term as well as the long term trends.  While a rep may be hitting it out of the park, the most recent short term statistics may be yelling, “Look out below!”  If a rep has become addicted to their success at the expense of the ingredients that make up the success, they will be doomed for near term failure.

As managers, we can’t afford short term failures.  Yes, reps can have some up and down results, but our objective is to help guide them to make these occurences far and few between.

Be sure to inspect the numbers, but pull back the curtain.  Ask yourself, “What are the numbers hiding?”  “Are the numbers misleading me?”  Carefully monitoring yourself to make sure you don’t get sucked into glowing results rather than the ingredients, especially in the near term, is a recipe for disaster.

Generating Substantial Growth…Consistently

In 2013, my first full year with my present company, I found myself with the unenviable task of leading a team that had under-performed the year before.  That’s putting it mildly.  They started strong, but, due to a wide variety of the most common of challenges, the team fell apart in the second half of the year and fell woefully below expectations.  It was a team missing critical parts and grasping for air when it came to key fundamentals.  Things needed to change.

At the end of the fiscal year, this team of former under-performers achieved outstanding success.  The numbers speak volumes:

  • 211% year-over year revenue growth
  • Increased managed services revenue by over 4000%
  • over 200% year-over-year growth in profitability

In addition, two thirds of the team over-achieved the highest goals set for them and earned the top tier level of President’s Club which was an all-inclusive eight day, seven night trip to Jamaica.

Great stuff!  Thrilling and exhausting all at the same time!

Oh, wait….it’s 2014.  A new year.  What about consistent success and continual growth?  Is it possible?

As we head into the latter part of the second quarter and into the last half of the year, it is indeed possible.  There are key elements that lead to high level, consistent success.

In the blog posts to follow this, I will examine and illustrate what it takes to create sustainable sales success.  It can be done!

Making It In Spite Of It All

Tomorrow night, my youngest of five graduates from Norman High School.  At 18 and impressed with his own presence, there was a time I didn’t think he’d make it.  And yet, here he is.

While I won’t go into the whole backstory, I will simply share that two years ago he faced his demons .  Drugs,alcohol and teenage rebellion had led him to a dark spot, one which I feared he might not return from.  Encarcarated by my wishes in the Childrens Recovery Center in Norman, not once, but three times, he was looking at a dark future.

It wasn’t until a scout from Oklahoma State’s track and field program approached him last spring and challenged him.  He gave him hope.  A glimmer but hope nonetheless.  And hope was all it took.

The kid who had determined he didn’t have much of a future, let alone that he’d ever make it to college, started doing his classwork and trained like it was his final day.  And when the “Welcome to the Cowboy Family” card came, so, too, did the celebration.

He faced great obstacles, albeit obstacles of his own choosing.  But he persevered.  Hope showed him the way.

Marcus Aurelius writes, “Our actions may be impeded…but there can be no impeding our intentions or dispositions.  Because we can accomodate and adaptt.  The mind adapts and converts to its own purposes the obstacle to our acting…The impediment to action advances action.  What stands in the way becomes the way.”

My son graduates tomorrow and heads to OSU a changed young man, not because of any special favors or great assistance, but rather because he latched on to hope, faced his obstacles and adapted.  This is a lesson that goes with him for the rest of his life.

Godspeed, Christian!