First I want to thank all of you who have endorsed me on LinkedIn. It’s a privilege to be acknowledged in that manner by so many of you whom I respect in return. What I found interesting is that the prevalent category for those endorsements seems to be “start-ups.” Sure, I know that “start-ups” is offered up as a choice when my name appears, but nevertheless many of you attribute that experience to me. You’re on target, Gerhard Gschwandtner, Jim Dickie, Dave DiStefano, S. Anthony Iannarino, Mike Bosworth, Lee Levitt, Keith Eades, and many more. Again, thanks.
My work at ESR has had me focused generally on mid-sized to larger companies. But having consulted over the years, individually, with more than 120 small companies, I appreciate the recognition.
As I write this, I’m on an airplane flying back from Heathrow to Boston. Then a CapeAir Cessna will take me home to Martha’s Vineyard.
Yesterday I had one of the truly memorable days of my career. I was invited to present to a group of 41 CEOs and their business coaches at Cambridge University’s Judge Business School for Executive Education.
I’m well into my 11th year working with Irish CEOs and Enterprise Ireland, the trade arm of the Irish government, which supports companies that export products and services. There are 80 million or so Irish, but only 4.5 million of them actually live in Ireland (as my friends there quip), and that isn’t nearly enough to support their own economy. Now that’s no joke.
The Irish must export to survive, and Enterprise Ireland has provided knowledge, funding, expertise, coaching, introductions, office space, and a host of other resources to those Irish companies that export. I know of no other country in the world that does anything like this for their business community.
This programme, Accelerated Growth Engagement, is for very high-potential early-stage and start-up companies. The programme consists of three 3-day sessions, two months apart, each day covering a particular subject relevant to what it takes to scale a company for these CEOs, many who are in that role for the first time.
Just as with their International Selling Programme that I have been contributing to since its inception, this programme is facilitated by world-class experts.
Thursday was, as you can imagine, about sales. More specifically, I covered sales process, especially qualification (how to build a qualification process was one exercise), forecasting, and hiring; and basic strategic drivers around managing key accounts, compensation, and how to increase a company’s win ratio.
Most of the 41 CEOs run technology companies. You would not believe some of the products and services that these companies are developing! That’s a post for another day.
For the duration of this programme, and for two years after, the 41 CEOs have been divided into groups of six or seven, with each group having a very experienced and proven former CEO as coach. For the duration of the engagement, the coaches sit at the tables with their group of participants during the workshops as well as coach them individually and in groups during the two months between the three-day learning sessions.
It was quite a thrill to have not only 41 very sharp entrepreneurs in the room, but having their coaches attend and participate was more than icing on the cake. Some pretty impressive folks.
During the day I would cover some material for 45 minutes or so. Then the coaches would work with their group discussing how each member would apply it to their situation. I moved from table to table clarifying, making suggestions, and adding my experience where it was relevant. On to the next topic. I love this model.
The program is sponsored by Enterprise Ireland, and contracted out for delivery by Cambridge University. The person running the programme is a very experienced consultant, businessperson, and a faculty member of the Judge Business School. (I’m omitting his name so he doesn’t get deluged with email messages.) He has done a masterful job of designing this offering along with Paul O’Dea and Aidan Stack. Paul and Aidan are now old friends. Aidan recruited me into Enterprise Ireland’s brand new sales effectiveness initiative in 2002, which he conceived of and started. Paul O’Dea, whose book, The Business Battlecard, I recommend to every small- to medium-size CEO, is one of my most trusted advisors. He runs a unique small business strategy firm, Select Strategies, out of Dublin.
I enjoy my work at ESR. We’re working on a sales training provider evaluation and selection project right now with a very hot software company. It’s challenging and rewarding. But, as many of you have already recognized, helping to compress the time it takes to scale a startup by getting the selling function right, from the beginning, is something that also gets me started.