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.


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?


Social Media is the future for Career/Business Branding and Expansion.

Dan Blank, Director of Content Strategy & Development for Reed Business Information, a B2B publisher and media company, has great blog called: Dan Blank: Publishing, Innovation & the Web. Great post today:  Expand Your Brand & Career: Open a Twitter Account. Right Now (I also commented on it when of my fellow “Twitterers” posted it by “re-tweeting” about it today on my Twitter Account: http://twitter.com/LauriePR).  Another one of my fellow Tweeters (and forgive me if I have the jargon a bit off still, but I am just getting into the world of Twitter in an effort to expand my own brand, but more importantly my CLIENTS’ BRANDS)… who blogs on: http://www.buzz3r.com shared a great article about using Facebook on a business and personal level called “How to Friend Mom, Dad and the Boss on Facebook”  Same page, different people get to see and share different things. Needless to say I am revising my FB page this weekend and will be revising some of my Client’s pages as well (and setting up more of them on FB).  If you think that Linked In (still one of the best OSNs for business) is the end-all, well FB, if done right, is right on their tail in the OSN world for business (again if set up right).  MySpace (a Fox company is coming back – getting ready to go big there as well for myself and some of my clients- especially those more on the creative/consumer products ends of things). They offer so many more widgets (for cross posting) – -which is what I love.  Don’t be afraid of Social Media – it’s a Brave New World, yes, but it is our future –time for use baby boomers to step outside of the 1 dimensional web box!


You have to be able to tell a good story

The ECMG (business talent representation with personal publicity production/management) side of my business focuses on executives who are in opportunity search mode (passive or agressive).  I still find it fascinating when I meet an executive who has been having a hard time finding a job, but who still thinks that his resume is going to open doors (like it used to maybe 10 years ago?).  I know about the old saying: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”  However in this case, if  “it is not doing what it used to do (i.e. if the old way is broken), you better fix it.”  What I am trying to say here is that simply floating around (even a really good) resume in this market without a strong pitch, promotion, or even a third party rep/ pitch person to go along with it won’t do much (unless of course you have a super strong and extended network and the time and DESIRE to be your own pitch person and promoter) .  This is especially true for those individuals who have a unique and highly successful career path. You have to really push the envelope these days and get out there and TELL your story. Whether you do that via a personal publicist (who will do all the story telling and pitching for you), a blog and/or a personal website (with really strong SEO) or through on-line social networking and media, the more channels you can put you message out through the better.  Posting a resume or floating it around (marketing it) will not create personal publicity – your STORY will.  A resume is an outline of your career and while it can outline your success (quickly), in today’s COMPETITIVE  MARKET need to tell your story AND BE ON THE LEADING EDGE  to be able to get the traction that is needed now and in the future (for opportunity growth).


Social Networking = 1 part of a Personal PR/Networking and Marketing Effort!

I am VERY into social networking AND naturally, part of my business is to get clients into and produced on social networking (as well as manage and educate them on the process) or in some cases, build up clients who are already into it  — if they are just beginning or just don’t have the time to do it (read on).  As a publicist, I have to say the social networking is one of the best and cheapest ways to “get PR” – BUT it does not happen overnight or that quickly (even if you have the biggest network known to man).  People are into their own thing and most (while they will not admit to this!) are just not into “helping friends get connected” so that their friend can find a job or business etc. in hopes that that friend will then help them get connections and connected to do the same. Do you know what I mean? 

I just got invited to join a social networking site called: SALESCONX (www.salesconx.com). This is a social networking site that actually will PAY!  INGENIOUS! This is a way to actually get people to refer more often – because hard cold cash is involved).  I am not sure how it will work out – sounds very good – (pretty new deal), but Salesconx offers members three primary ways of earning referral fees:

  • List a Connection for Sale. Know of a colleague, customer, partner or investor looking for a particular product or service that you don’t offer? Do you have a relationship with a sought after decision maker? Determine your own referral fee for this connection and add it to the Salesconx listings. Salesconx buyers request to purchase an introduction to this person from you – for the fee that you have already determined.
  • Browse their Database for Connection Requests. Every day, Salesconx members are posting Requests for a Connection, or a request for a lead.  They have members offering superior referral fees for sellers who are willing to put them in touch with that right person.
  • Refer another experienced, qualified professional. Salesconx members earn $20 for each approved, experienced professional that they refer to our community.  

Okay that is all really great to know and well; I can’t say how long it will take for every person known to man looking for leads and referrals to jump into Salesconx.  I wish them well and I think (I know) I will try it out.  Now I can say this:

  1. Social networking takes a ton of time (I, for one, spend at least a few hours a day on my own stuff – and well, I COULD spend the whole DAY and days on end if I could, but I have clients that need this more than I do so there you go) – and so who has that much time in a day (extra that is) -to work a network unless they make social networking a full time job in the beginning (after a year or so you are pretty free and sailing along, but even then you still have to “work it” and maintain everything and keep it your information fresh and updated. 
  2. Social Networking it is a now very a useful tool for personal publicity, branding and marketing and will soon to be an overly necessary tool when it comes to doing and making business (happen) and getting publicity. NOTE THE PHRASE:  “soon to be”?   Yep – “soon to be” is a key point here. 
  3. NOT EVERYONE is a writer or even wants to write (about their own greatness – it’s bad enough to have to write a resume for most people) and if you want your social networking to be viable (and buzz worthy in the social networking communities: YOU BETTER HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY AND YOU BETTER BE ABLE TO SAY IT WELL – or you will go unnoticed – no matter how many “friends” you have in “your networks!”
  4. Again – social networking (and media) is TIME CONSUMING, but most of all
  5. NOT EVERYONE IS INTO OR EVEN THINKS ABOUT SOCIAL NETWORKING AND NETWORKS (AT LEAST JUST YET) and not everyone thinks social networking is necessary or an end all when it comes to finding talent, opportunities, new business deals etc.  So working your publicity and marketing in more than just one (social networking channel) is still SO NECESSARY.  I am thinking social networking will probably be the mainstay when my kids are in the business world (they are 2 and 8 right now – LOL).

Those of us working (or playing around) in the social networking bubble have a hard time REALIZING that MOST of the business world and society in general is still really far behind in this area (this social networking as well as social media era that is). Heck I am currently trying to educate my brother (43 yrs old, high school teacher and coach and MBA) on the whole thing – he is on Facebook and still thinks it’s a place to post pictures. 

All kidding aside, Social Networking = 1 PART of Personal PR.  I am just saying that when you want visibility (PR, marketing, whatever) – to create opportunity, sales (whatever), you need to work a plan that is involved in more than just ONE channel – right?  Companies selling products and services, after all, still rely on a blend of stuff like print ads, television advertising (and the like to include: www.spotrunner.com or www.rippletv.com), event marketing, press/media covered news stories and events, traditional email and mail marketing pieces, tradeshows, etc. etc.  So all I am saying is that Social Networkers should not rely on JUST social networking and traditionalists should not rely on what they have always known to work in days gone by! 

A modern Personal PR plan of action (especially for those looking for new opportunity – as in JOBS and new business!) should equate to: 1/4 Social Networking +  about 1/4 Social Media = 1/4  (blogs, online video/audio/etc.) + 1/2 DIRECT PUBLICITY and INTRODUCTION CAMPAIGNS (to include some PRESS/MEDIA PLACEMENT (IF applicable) and some good old fashioned “door knocking” to and belly-to-belly talking (even if it’s over the phone or email).   REMEMBER: NOT EVERYONE IS AS INVOLVED IN SOCIAL NETWORKING OR MEDIA AS WE WOULD ALL LIKE TO THINK!  Those who are ONLY in the traditionalist mode will miss out on a lot if they do not social network or try to get some social media built up and those who are ONLY into doing every bit of networking, self publicizing, branding and the like ONLINE via social networks and media could also be missing out on a ton of opportunity by refusing to work in a more traditional channel as well.


Got PR?

Got PR? Well if you think you don’t need it and you are in business or looking for a job you need it.  Executive and Business Opportunities do not simply occur and when they do they happen and go away quite quickly.  To stay on top of what is going on (in any market) at all times, you  (YOURSELF) have to be READY to be in the “in the right place, at the right time” –as the old saying goes.  Getting a totally different kind of professional endorsement and representation is one of the key ways to be able to do this (right place, right time thing). DON’T DO IT by yourself if you want press, opportunity or people wanting to “know more” (about you).  You need spin and you need PR people to do that for you. There is now such a thing as “personal publicists” and business talent agents (yes, just like how it works in Hollywood) and yes, these people have contacts, but they also know how to create and make contacts –for you.  The bottom line is ARE YOU WORTHY of their time and effort (think about that for a minute!).  Of course you want to know that your personal publicist CAN DO the job for you and the right publicist will work terms with you to be able to allow the “let me prove to you” thing to happen (and if they don’t provide, you need to fire them!).  The best personal publicists will create collaterals and branding that you can take away and walk home with (something for the price/retainer you pay at the top of your campaign/project).  Yet again, you do need to make sure that they do take you from point A to point B. References are a good thing to ask for, but don’t expect the same EXACT thing to happen for you that has happened for the other guy because very campaign or project is different only because EVERY PERSON IS DIFFERENT. References should be used for character and ethical ratings only. Just have patience – PR is a PROCESS and the more consistently you can work at it (or have other people work it out for you), the more publicity you will gain. Keep it building and keep your name out in lights (or computer lights?).