Monthly Archives: May 2009

Turning a Failure into an eB2B Success

Success is often achieved as a result of a failure. Successful entrepreneurs experience failure as a normal part of growing a business; it is an essential part of the development process. In 2000, Michael A. Berman joined the public Internet-based supply chain management company, eB2B, as Vice President of Sales and Client Services and quickly moved up to the position of Executive Vice President, COO and General Manager. Within one year, he repositioned the Internet start-up company from its original aspiration as a provider of sporting equipment and supplies to an Internet outlet for regional retail pharmacies.
 
Mike Berman had already led several successful company transformations, but none had involved Internet business. When he joined eB2B, they had $40 million in investment money and a business plan certified by McKenzie Corporation. Their business plan looked good on paper and was structured to provide an Internet-based platform for selling sporting goods.
 
Their first objective was to secure the supply side. They contacted existing name brand suppliers like Nike and Adidas, but were unable to persuade them to market their product through their Internet platform. Without the name brand suppliers, they were unable to succeed. Internet customers of sporting goods are highly unlikely to purchase “off brands” because they cannot be certain of quality. For Internet sales on sporting goods, the power shifts to the “sales side.” Customers generally prefer to purchase reputable products based on name identification. Without the name brand suppliers, an online sporting goods sales platform was doomed to failure.
 
Mike did not want to throw in the towel. He examined the e-business model and platform and set out to find a business on which it would work. He needed suppliers with products that could be marketed based on price and convenience, which the Internet could satisfy. Retail pharmacy offered just the right platform. They took their proposition to CVS, Rite Aid, and regional players like Plainview in New York. These retail pharmacies were all comfortable with Internet sales because they all purchased through suppliers like Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, and Merck.   
 
The eB2B business platform was a good match for the retail pharmacy business. They were able to build up their eB2B business and sell it twice. Although Michael A. Berman set out to create a blockbuster star in Internet sporting goods sales, he ended up building a supporting actor that generated a nice, $20 million, $30 million, or $40 million in annual revenues. Through this experience, Mike learned that the Internet is more like an enabling tool rather than the mechanism for success itself. And failure sometimes leads to success.

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Visionary Exec, Increased Sales 90% via New Service Division

Lee Blake’s New Service Division Increased Revenues Nearly 100% for Adept Technology.

One way to improve company profitability is to reduce expenses by automating. However, if the company is in the business of producing robots and sales are declining, another way to improve profitability may be to develop an “add-on” business. That is what VP and General Manager, Lee Blake did for Adept Technology, in Livermore California.

In 2003, Adept revenues had been declining for several years and the company had just experienced a restructuring that included a capital infusion and a new CEO. The CEO was looking for a business development person and contacted a recruiter who introduced Lee Blake to Adept Technology. Lee had already established a reputation as a technical business development manager who introduced new products, reinvigorated several product lines to higher profitability, and developed new revenue streams for existing technical manufacturing capabilities at Raychem Corporation and Newport Corporation, both in California. Adept Technology could benefit from the experience Lee brought with him.

Lee completed a personal pre-interview analysis of the company and found that they had an extensive installed base of light assembly and handling robots. A review of successful industrial equipment suppliers indicated that post-installation revenue (service) could contribute up to 70% of total revenues and raise overall margins if properly leveraged. Since new robot installations were flat or declining due to manufacturing moving offshore, Lee suggested that the best business development opportunity would be to leverage the installed base and create a “Service Division” in order to respond to changing market conditions and to revive revenue growth.

Lee joined the company as VP/GM of Service and recast the customer service cost-center activity into a profit based business unit. He created or restructured and trained the sales, marketing, operations, and technical functions to accommodate the new business unit. Within two years, the service division contributed close to two thirds of the total company profits and revenue grew by nearly 100 percent. Their new “Service Specific” products captured competitive maintenance and upgrade revenue and salesforce.comwas implemented as a service CRM.

Automation is sometimes the answer to business development, but for Adept Technology to increase their revenues they needed something else—they needed the insight and visionary skill that Lee Blake offered. By creating a Service Division, Adept Technology was able to increase sales 90 percent to nearly $23 million, increase margins, and produce higher corporate profits.

 

Eduardo Rodriquez, Esq.: How he took an major Electric Utility from “Chapter 11 Ashes” into a position of financial strength

Emerging from a Chapter 11 bankruptcy to a position of financial strength may seem as far removed from reality as the Greek mythical phoenix–the bird that rose from the ashes of destruction. Some companies are essentially liquidated during the bankruptcy process; some are restructured and survive as smaller fractions of their former selves, and a few, occasionally, emerge in better financial shape.  What Eddie Rodriquez did for El Paso Electric is an example of the successful resolution of a potentially financially destructive process–corporate bankruptcy.  Read it here.

Online Personal Branding and PR: Get it Now, Not When (Build it now and they will come)…

I often talk to people (on and off line) who are all about “the When” when it comes to building a personal brand and publicity campaign:  “When I need to look for a new job” or “When I launch my new products” or “When my competition starts doing it.” There should be NO “when” when it comes to building a personal on line brand or Web 2.0. Build it out now, manage it well and “they will come” –when the time is right.  It take take a good 6 months to a year to develop your personal brand and drive a campaign that will lead to an end.

The thing is, I guess, that most people (especially on the job search side of things) are so darn paranoid of “being found out.” YOU DO NOT need to announce to anyone that you are looking for a job.  Everyone who is anyone should have a brand and a publicity campaign out there to develop that brand –keep it simple.  Just ensure the messaging is right and the placement of it all is correct.  If anything, the world of executive search is going towards Web 2.0 sourcing and away from Job Boards, but do NOT think that you’ll be discovered if your brand messaging and placement is not interesting, viable or findable!  Consider some of training courses that search professionals are tapping into: http://aces.arbita.net/node/891.  Guys like Glenn Gutmacher and Shally Steckerl who are the materminds behind this training course and many others, heading up Arbita Consulting Education Services (ACES)  in an effort to redefine the art of recruiting as it pertains to the social media. They are getting search pros off the job boards and on to the Web as a whole function!   In my mind’s eye it’s like good old fashioned “hunting of heads” (circa 1988), but only now we have the Internet and the world is an oyster!

So all I am saying here is – don’t be shy, don’t wait and don’t say “when” – because when might be too late.  Again, “build it now” and they will come (sooner if not later).

Outsource Your Personal PR Campaign – nothing to lose, everything to gain!

Self promotion (personal publicity) has become a 4-dimensional sustainable thing thanks to the Internet.  Along with regular (on and offline) networking and professional marketing collaterals (resumes, bio, case studies, etc.),  people now need things like also branded domain names, personal websites and now the every-popular social profiles of course (Linked In, etc.), blogging, micro-blogging (as in Twitter) and audio and visual profiles and blogs. Then there is the whole “work them in unison” deal—as in keep everything going at all at once at all times now, NOT just when you “think” you need to.  PERSONAL PR IS A CONSTANT THING.  And whoever says “Personal PR? I don’t need THAT – WHAT FOR?”  Tell them to get their head out of the 1990’s sand! (Kidding, but well it’s true!)

All of this new self promotion (personal publicity) stuff can be pretty overwhelming for most and not a whole lot of folks really know what to do or how to do it.  So a lot of people really do need someone to help them: write, produce, place, pitch, campaign etc. (There is a lot to good Self Promotion!).   While a lot of people think they can’t afford t0 hire a Personal PR Person to handle them, I have to tell you that it might be worth it if you think about TIME AS BEING MONEY!  I meet a lot of people who are also just tired of “working it” all on their own, day-in and day-out too. So having someone “there” to support is also a key to success in this new media/PR world!

One of my clients just reminded me that 60% of the people who start on Twitter end up dropping off and out within a MONTH! Why?  Because most people just don’t know how to use it, maneuver in it or even have time for it or even want to deal with it. But get this, savvy people (in business no less) KNOW that (yes) they need to get into Twitter or they will be left in the on line dust.  Twitter is not “going downhill” – most people need to be produced properly on the thing (along with blogs, websites, videos and all the rest). NOT EVERYONE CAN BE THEIR OWN GREAT PRODUCER (FOLLOW ME?).

Outsource Personal PR/Social Media, Networking and Brand Development.  I say why not let someone else take your best interests to heart and make you look great?

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