Jul 6, 2010

The Best Biz Strategy? Go Offline

An old friend of mine, now retired, had a pretty successful software business from the early 80's to the mid 90's. His product was a cross-industry application, and his market was local and regional, B2B.

He had some interesting policies on handling and managing his small sales team. Key was the fact that he refused to provide any of them with an office, a desk or even a telephone!

The thinking: "I don't want to see you around here. The office is for production and administration. It's not condusive to selling. Now goodbye."

The policy: "The only times you set foot in the building are: a) if I ask you to; b) to hand over a completed sale to the project manager; and c) if we're having some sort of a party."

His pack of lions (as he liked to call them) were to spend their days in one of two places: in a prospect's office or at some sort of event that a large number of prospects would be in attendance at. If any were to make the mistake of handing in an expense report that dared to list any sort of Home Office expense, all hell would break loose.

It seems to have worked: everyone made money and the company had a surprisingly low turnover rate in an industry notorius for just the opposite.

This nostalgia was brought about after having read Abby Johnson's What Startups Do and Do Not Need. Number two on her list:

- "A startup needs to have lots of in-person communication. In spite of how great the Web is for so many tasks, there is absolutely no substitute for offline communication...."

She is correct. Too often, newco's will setup shop in a fancy office, walled off from the very people they need to get to--and hesitant to lace up the shoes and go out into the real world to change that. This is espcially true of tech'y enterprises, who are often manned by founders dangerously married to remote communication technologies that are poor substitutes for the best communication forum ever designed: face to face.

As I've often said: more deals will get made in a bar room than they will using WebEx.

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