KC Roundtable welcomed a different setup this week. Rather than inviting one speaker to the table, we had the luxury of three entrepreneurs in the form of a TechPanel.
Our presenters included:
: Services Director at Umzuzu
Passionate about the value proposition of cloud computing services, Joe’s work with Umzuzu helps organizations replace antiquated technologies with Google Apps for simple, powerful communication and collaboration tools.
: Operations at Engage Mobile
Todd has entrepreneurial management experience across multiple industries. He is primarily focused on high-growth and technology-based ventures from startup to harvest.
: President & CEO of Saepio
In 2007, John joined Saepio, which is a premier provider of software and solutions that maximize brand effectiveness for organizations with corporate and distributed marketing networks.
of RFP365 facilitated the panel, asking our respondents about the challenges and rewards of building a company in Kansas City. Major topics included:
Always a popular conversation piece among local entrepreneurs, the general consensus from the whole Roundtable was that financing is a challenge in Kansas City. Angel investors and VCs are interested in physical assets, not ideas; proper debt valuation is still a mystery to local bankers; and introductions to investors are easier to come by in the aggressive landscape of Silicon Valley.
Regardless of these challenges, our panel remains fond and appreciative of Kansas City. If he could do it all over again, Todd would still build his business here. The talent is more loyal (and perhaps more level-headed) than that of the Valley. And Joe had to praise the low cost of living: an ideal situation for bootstrappers. Plus, for nationally-reaching start-ups, customers on the coasts seem to like working with the Midwest, a subtle but reasonable differentiator.
Recognizing and capitalizing on trends (even those as subtle as pleasing coastal customers’ desires for a friendly Midwestern voice on the other side of the phone) is the difference between success and failure. The secret is to be vibrantly aware of your market and where your customers’ needs lie — and to be willing to move and shift with them. As John reminds us, the most wildly successful businesses, from Skype to Ebay , actively made substantial changes to stay ahead in the marketplace.
No matter how great the idea, if it has zero customers, it is not a viable business. Never fall so in love with your business model that you’re negligent about changing to appease the demand. Understand and learn from rejection. Make corrections. Focus on 1) What customers will pay for, and 2) How your core strengths serve their needs. If you figure out a way to make those two ideas coexist, be the biggest believer in your product or service, because no one else will ever care as much as you do.
Organic growth can only get your business so far. To get predictable sales, you need predictable leads. And getting predictable leads demands a better sales practice than a few strokes of luck and good referrals. Get smarter about your sales by testing assumptions; then, back up your hypotheses with checks and balances.
And, perhaps the greatest lesson of the morning: Follow your competitors nationally, not just in Kansas City. Regardless of where your client base lies or where you hope to dip in the marketplace, compare yourself to the best , not the rest.