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Archive for April, 2010

I hate the term “lead generation“, even though my firm Corporate Rain International has been for many years, arguably, the quietly elite US company serving this business niche. (I prefer to call my company an executive sales pipeline company.)

Since I started blogging six months ago, I have gotten lots of lovely responses and calls. It’s really fun and gratifying to occasion dialogue with peers. But I’ve noticed several of these correspondences ending with a variation on, “But what the hell does your company actually do? I can’t quite figure it out.

I don’t intentionally try to be cryptic, but I admit a wish to not define my firm too restrictively. Simply put, Corporate Rain discretely initiates high-end new business development with a wide variety of corporate decision makers. (It is industry agnostic.) Over the years, this has taken such widely variegated forms as raising venture capital, arranging speeches, putting fannies in the seats at elite seminars, doing due diligence, supporting road shows, etc., but basically we deliver a bespoke, high-level first meeting to clients that is both money qualified and ROI specific.

Corporate Rain creates a systematic, ongoing new business pipeline. We are essentially an insta-presto elite outsourced sales force for the first half of the sales process. We only do this one thing and we only do it with real strategic decision makers.

There are many details to how we do this technically and administratively, but it is beyond boring to describe. What is not boring is to say my firm is institutionally and karmically grounded in a tonality of service, ethics, and truth. In a large sense we don’t first worry about profitability. We assume that will follow if we treat people as we would want to be treated. Which is not to say we are not an aggressive, fierce executive sales organization. We are.

This blog does not pretend to thought leadership nor is it written to market my firm. I write it for myself, my fellow salesmen, my fellow entrepreneurs, my employees, my friends, my fellow travelers. I write it to allay my own entrepreneurial loneliness. My personal interest is exploring how to live an ethical, effective, and full life in the Darwinian testing ground of capitalism.

Hence my weekly thoughts, anecdotes, maunderings, and dreamy conjectures on effective entrepreneurship and sales.

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Beware of middle managers. They are the bane and the enemy of entrepreneurs and of quality business development.

One of my favorite musicals is “How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying” by Frank Loesser. It’s certainly one of the best Broadway shows ever written.  I’ve seen it several times. Early in the first act there is a song called “The Company Way“. It’s great. It’s perfect. Here are the first few lines:

Twimble: When I joined this firm
As a brash young man
Well, I said to myself,
“Now brash young man,
Don’t get any ideas.”
Well, I stuck to that,
And I haven’t had one in years.

Finch: You play it safe.

Twimble: I play it the company way;
Wherever the company puts me
There I stay.

Finch: But what is your point of view?

Twimble: I have no point of view.

Finch: Supposing the company thinks…

Twimble: I think so too.

Middle managers are not rewarded for creativity or risk. They are a whole different species from entrepreneurs. My experience is that middle managers are primarily about protecting their asses. They are not about the new. They are not about the cutting edge. They are about keeping their jobs. Avoid them like the plague. The efficiencies and savings your new product or service offers may indeed obviate the need for the very middle manager you are pitching.

The primary reason my own firm, Corporate Rain International, only does high-end sales initiation with real strategic corporate decision makers is that all else is a huge time waster. In executive sales outsourcing, even if you are eventually pushed down to a middle manager for a final sales decision by a company leader, it is with a strategic mandate. A different ballgame entirely than going bottom up.

If things go bad, the middle manager always wants to be able to say, “But I hired IBM…” or “But I hired McKinsey…”. He sees no reward for backing your pipsqueak, out-of-the-box creative company, no matter what the potential upside for his corporation.

Quoting “The Company Way” further:

Finch: When they want brilliant thinking
From employees

Twimble: That is no concern of mine.

Finch: Suppose a man of genius
Makes suggestions?

Twimble: Watch that genius get suggested to resign.

How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying” opened on Broadway in 1961. I assure you things haven’t changed. Here’s a picture of Frank Loesser, composer and sales guru (1910-1969). Thank you, Frank.

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Horace Greeley, the nineteenth century editor of the New York Tribune, famously said, “Go west, young man!” I wish to update that maxim to, “Go to Texas, young man!

Why? I’ll tell you why. Texas likes entrepreneurs, goddamn it. It welcomes them. It smoothes their way. It wants them. It loves them. You may say, “Doesn’t every state want our wonderful, productive, job-creating, creative business class?” No. Every state apparently does not.

I was in Dallas last month on business for my company, Corporate Rain. And I was pleasantly surprised by the palpable warmth extended to me in many ways as a non-resident small businessman looking to expand into this peculiar and unique state. I came home to New York feeling that Texas offers a paradigm and guidepost of what can surely make all our struggling states more internationally competitive.

Case in point, The Dallas Morning News (Sunday, March 14, 2010) printed a revealing, succinct article by staff writer Cheryl Hall about this phenomenon. Ms. Hall cites Michael Cox former chief economist for the Federal Reserve of Dallas (presently head of The O’Neil Center for Global  Markets at SMU). Mr. Cox apparently has a slogan for companies seeking to recruit elite workers from New York and California: MOVE TO TEXAS AND GET A FREE BMW. Ms. Hall confirms that this is no exaggeration; that professionals living in the Northeast and California “pay the equivalent of a year’s worth of expensive car payments in annual personal income tax”, which Texas doesn’t have. Professor Cox states, “Every six years Dallas adds a million people.” Since taking over as Director of the SMU O’Neil Center, Cox has created compelling statistics that point to Dallas/Ft. Worth as the new “it” economy for common sense American businessmen.

I live in Westchester County, New York. I personally love living here. I love the opera, the theatre, the art, the Yankees, the Mets, and the Jets, the wooded beauty, the distinctive seasons, the intellectual ferment, the buzzing frisson of sweaty go-go New York energy. But Westchester County bears the heaviest tax burden of any county in the United States. The State of New York is effectively bankrupt and controlled by featherbedding unions, selfishly interested only in maintaining staggeringly excessive benefits at any cost–mostly on the back of energetic productive small business. Why would any entrepreneur in his right mind come here?

Furthermore, even with New York’s incomparable cultural footprint, Dallas, particularly, is quietly growing its competitive cultural presence including a startling new world class opera house, the architecturally notable AT&T Performing Arts Center and the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Hall (home to the Dallas Symphony, led by charismatic young conductor, Jaap van Zweden), and strong civic support of museums, theatres, parks, wildlife, environment, and education. Dallas is not New York, but it is stealthily becoming a quality of life, as well as an entrepreneurial, oasis. They’ve even elected a lesbian sheriff. Really.

On February 18, 2010, Forbes Magazine released its list of America’s most miserable cities. It’s not just Detroit and Newark on this list anymore. It’s also New York City, Chicago, and Cleveland. I assure you, my friends, we entrepreneurs will leave the New Yorks, the Californias, the Massachusetts, the Michigans, the Illinois, the New Jerseys, in droves. Eventually, entrepreneurs will shake the dust of these mad states from our sandals.

I won’t leave New York. I am willing to continue to pay the uncompetitive price of living in New York because I love it and it’s worth it to me. But for a young entrepreneur in New York or California it makes no sense to stay in these states when Texas and other sensible states beckon with lower taxes, reasonable government cost and efficiency, and rational labor costs.

The actor Fess Parker died while I was in Texas. Fess Parker was famous for portraying Davey Crockett in a Walt Disney TV series during the mid-fifties. (I still remember my Davey Crockett coonskin cap, which I wore religiously for a while.) Crockett, in a speech he made when he resigned his Tennessee legislative seat, memorably concluded his parting Jeremiad with the immortal words, “You may all go to Hell, and I will go to Texas.

Well put, Davey. Good advice. Thank you.

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As many of you know, I was an actor and singer for many years. Not a common background for a businessman. But I learned a lot that applies to my life as an accidental entrepreneur. (I’d better, since I have no formal training in business at all.)

Business friends and clients sometimes send their sons and daughters to me for advice if their progeny want to go into show business. These kids almost always ask what’s the most important thing about making it as a performer. My answer? LUCK. There are a multitude of truly talented young artists and, honestly, I find luck the key differentiator in their success. However, the secret is to be ready for luck to happen, when and if it does happen.

The same is utterly true of entrepreneurship. Successful entrepreneurs are driven and courageous. They are a passionate, hard-working breed. I truly love entrepreneurs. They are infinitely not boring people. But, despite their admirable, if disparate, natures and work habits, I still believe the key element in their success is luck.

How does luck happen? In my opinion it comes to those who are most comfortable in their own skins. It comes most easily to those who live and breathe their unique selfness.  There is an achieved existential integrity to people who have luck. They are themselves. Becoming a real “self” is, of course, a life-long process, but it is just as important as marketing, business plans, spread sheets, technological know-how and everything else they teach you in B-School.

There is wisdom in the phrase, “It’s better to be lucky than smart.” Luck defies encapsulation and control. It is an ineffable and recondite goddess. But it seems to me it comes to those who are soulfully open to acceptance of fate’s surprises. I believe it happens to people who’ve somehow developed an innate subconscious integrity that allows them to pivot adroitly and automatically in response to any happenstance.

I was lucky last week. On the train. I bumped into a neighbor, a man I’ve known passingly for a good while. We got to chatting about neighbor things and, quite incidentally, I mentioned that my firm, Corporate Rain, sets up elite sales initiation pipelines for corporate clients. Well. It turns out my neighbor represents a major foreign country and is responsible for helping his country’s firms penetrate the US market. Who’d ‘ave thunk it?  The next day he had me in front of nine CEO’s at his consulate’s boardroom. Within five days, three of these companies were clients. God bless Metro North.

Napoleon Bonaparte talked about luck. In his Maxims he said, “When a man is a favorite of fortune she never takes him unawares and, however astonishing her favors may be, she finds him ready.”

Thank you, Napoleon.

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