Top 5 Ways to Help Your Start-Up Succeed

Every new company starts with a mission

Every new company starts with a mission

The statistics are shocking. Start-up companies fail much more than they succeed. What can we do to turn the tide? How can we create a win? At ByDesign Technologies we have launched hundreds of start-up companies. We have seen many succeed for the short-term (3 years or less) and some for a longer period (3-6 years). But then there are the special companies. Those that are start-ups with longevity. What makes those companies special? I hope by sharing some of the knowledge we have gleaned over the last 15 years, it might help you if you are considering starting a business.

For your start-up company to be successful you must have the following:

#1 – Competence

Competence does not equal intellect. You and your team can be brilliant and yet not understand what needs to happen for your business to succeed. You and your team (if you have one) must have good planning skills. You must have good financial skills. Some people will get money from their investors and not spend it on the right things. You must have strong accounting and you must not be emotionally attached to the pricing of your wares. You have to understand the market and how to make it work for you. If you want your company to get off the ground and move, you or someone on your team should have an intrinsic understanding of finance. Ultimately the success of a company is dependent on what money comes in vs what money goes out.

#2 – Experience in Business Management

It is important to expand at a rate that you can manage. There is a saying, “Go big or go home.” While this applies to a few businesses, it does not apply to most. The companies that stick around and generate good profits are ones that take time to build the infrastructure needed to support great growth.

#3 – Knowledge of Inventory and Supply Chain Management

An intimate knowledge of your inventory, where it is coming from and how quickly it can be made is vital to your start-up success. If a product is a great hit, will you have the flexibility to produce it without a backlog? People don’t like to wait.  If a product stinks, will you be aware and be nimble enough to make changes without having a garage (or warehouse if you are lucky) full of inventory that won’t sell?

#4 – Good Relational Skills

When a business first starts, relationships are a key to success. Do you understand the needs of those buying your product? Do you listen to their feedback? Do you take it and use it to improve? What about other relationships? If stores are selling for you, it is vital to hear what they say about marketing your product. Businesses that listen well have a very high chance of success.

#5 – Tenacious Entrepreneurs and Understanding Families

Starting a business is not for the faint of heart. It is very hard work. It requires dedication and many long hours. If your family is not supportive of your venture, it is likely that you will not be able to invest the number of hours needed for success. You must understand that the business depends on you to run it. Your software is not going to run it, your employees are not going to run it, your inventory manager is not going to run it. It lives and dies with you. Tenacity is required for the business builder and an understanding family is a key to success. It is a sacrifice. You must decide if it is worth taking.

Every business starts with a dream. At ByDesign Technologies, we want to see our client’s dreams come true. We want every business that uses our products to become a company that soars.

 

ByDesign Technologies provides mission critical software to the direct sales industry. They have had the opportunity of working with many start-up clients and helping them grow into industry leaders.

20 Things Your Software Company Wishes You Knew

163745682Within the MLM and Party Plan business, your software plays an integral part.  It keeps track of almost everything you need to do.  It keeps track of your product, your individual business owners, your commissions and your reports plus a lot more.  With so much of your business tied to your software, it is understandable why you can get frustrated.  Here are some tips that can help your business and relationship grow.

  1. Treat your software vendor like an extension of your business, not a necessary evil
  2. Embrace us as Subject Matter Experts.  If we tell you something you are doing goes against conventional wisdom, understand we have seen a lot of companies fail and succeed and we want you to be in the latter category.
  3. Be aware of terminology conflicts and technical jargon.  If your software company uses “sponsor” or “placement” or “enroller” ask what they are referring too.
  4. Know your compensation plan inside and out.  You need to communicate it well with your reps and your software company.
  5. Share your company successes with your software vendor, too often we only get failing company calls.  We want to celebrate with you!
  6. Plan, Plan, Plan!  It costs a lot to NOT plan and our industry is notorious for announcing something on stage before even telling your own staff, let alone your software provider.
  7. Don’t make assumptions.
  8. Ensure expectations are agreed to and understood
  9. During the software selection process or while doing custom programming ask tough questions.  Make sure you fully understand what you’re getting.
  10. If you are buying off the shelf software understand that no package does EVERYTHING you think should be a part of the system
  11. Understand we are on your team.  If you succeed, we succeed.
  12. Time=Money
  13. If your business is going down the tubes, don’t blame the software.
  14. Know what you want before you call.  If you are unsure of what you want, state that upfront so that we can plan our schedule appropriately.
  15. Software will not run your business, you have to do that.
  16. Send gifts!  We are always excited to see and touch our client’s products. Gifts are a great motivator.
  17. Don’t call everything a bug.
  18. Don’t let your internal software people say, “That is easy, it is only two hours.”  While that may be the expected time, sometimes one little change can be connected to a lot of moving parts.
  19. Encouragement goes a long way before you need something.
  20. Expect a timeline.  Understand it probably will not be as fast as you want.

ByDesign Technologies is headquartered in Tampa, Florida with offices in Utah and Singapore.  ByDesign’s mission is to empower direct sellers worldwide through industry expertise, innovative technology and unrivaled customer support. Their website is www.bydesign.com

Direct Selling Companies Look Forward to Back to School

backtoschoolIt is nearing the end of summer here in the US and for the direct selling industry that is an exciting time.  Summer is typically a very low season, especially for small companies.  The Direct Selling Association reports that approximately 86% of the workforce is women.  Some are full-time and some are part-time, but throw in summer, with kids and grandkids out of school and a good amount of that workforce takes off.  This is the challenge of having a company with a flexible workforce.  One of the benefits of being involved in direct selling is that you can choose your schedule.  It just so happens that most choose to downgrade their work time in summer, or just take it off completely.

Many direct selling companies are working hard to encourage their members to stay engaged during the summer.  They have conventions or offer special deals.  These special events keep the interest going and gives the representative the motivation they need to continue meeting and selling throughout the summer.

Many representatives don’t realize that though summer can be more challenging because of vacations,it is a great time to share your business.  People have a little more time in the summer and if you can incorporate the kids, they are all in.  Hire a neighborhood teenager to watch the kids, while you demonstrate your product.  There are many ways to get around the summer down time!  Social selling is about being social.  There is no better time to be social than summer!

As we move into the new school year, direct selling companies rejoice with parents!  We all love having the summer off, but we look forward to the regular schedule. Direct selling companies will focus on rolling out their fall catalogs and new lines and representatives are looking forward to the new products.  School time is exciting!  As a software vendor for the industry, ByDesign is looking forward to school time as well.  We get an influx of new projects and ideas.  We love looking at the new and creative products our clients have come out with.  It’s time for school!  Are you ready?!?

Tax Time for MLM, Party Plan and Direct Sellers

200171399-001As April 15th draws near we all get prepared for tax season.  If you are an MLM, PartyPlan or Direct Seller, you should know that you might qualify for a tax deduction.  For the millions of taxpayers who work at home, the IRS has simplified the Home Office Deduction.

If you use a part of your home for business, you may qualify to deduct expenses for the business use of your home.  The IRS states that there are 6 ways to determine if you qualify.  Take the time to review what they have to say here:  http://www.irs.gov/uac/Newsroom/Home-Office-Deduction:-a-Tax-Break-for-Those-Who-Work-from-Home

If you believe you qualify, the IRS has simplified the Home Office Deduction starting this year.  Home businesses can deduct up to $1500, based on $5 a square foot up to 300 square feet.  http://www.irs.gov/uac/Newsroom/Simplified-Option-for-Claiming-Home-Office-Deduction-Starting-This-Year

Take the time to check it out and discuss it with your accountant!  It might be worth some good money to you and it might save you a lot of time.  As we all know, time is money!!  Good luck!

The Herbalife Stock Issue in Plain English

You may have heard the names of Bill Ackman, Dan Loeb or Herbalife in the news lately.  If you are familiar with direct selling you should be familiar with Herbalife.  The company has been around 30 years.

Bill Ackman manages a hedge fund that has shorted more than a billion dollars’ worth of Herbalife stock.

If you are like me, you may not be totally sure of what “shorted” means.  I looked it up and found a great explanation.  Basically, shorting means that you buy stock planning for it to fall.  If it falls, you make money.

Ackman made his billion dollar purchase, then he and his collegues presented why they think Herbalife stock will fall at an investment conference last month.  The presentation was over 300 slides and has been posted on a website that Ackman created.  Additionally, they have bought advertising on Google that shows up when people search for Herbalife.

I think it is fascinating that people are allowed to manipulate a market this way.  I don’t run in finance circles too much but I am sure my financial advisor friends could give me quite an education.

It seems to me that Ackman has made a calculated choice.  The direct selling industry constantly is fighting a black eye.  Unfortunately for Ackman, I don’t think he truly understands the industry or all of the people that work in it.  By betting against Herbalife, he is betting against an industry that has great products and has helped lots of people do a little better than they were doing before.  Jen Fong, a direct sales blogger, recently started a blog titled “ I am direct selling”.   I invite you to go and read why people join.  If you are a direct seller, add your thoughts.  The majority of people I know never joined a direct selling company to make millions.  I am direct selling.

Ackman claims that Herbalife is a pyramid.  Does Herbalife have a viable product or do people make money by just signing people up?  The answer is that they have a viable product that they have spent a lot of money developing and creating.  Anyone in a pyramid scheme is about quick cash.  I have never heard of a pyramid scheme that was sustainable over 30 years.

Herbalife recently commissioned a survey that found that 90% of the people who buy Herbalife products are not distributors (people in the business), they are just people that want the products Herbalife offers.

Daniel Loeb, the founder of Third Point LLC, another hedge fund went against Ackman and has apparently made an estimated $108 million profit so far with his long position (betting that stock will go up) according to the New York Post.

Loeb said that he does not believe that Ackman’s pyramid scheme claim has any merit.  In a letter to investors he wrote:

“The short thesis rests on the notion that the FTC has been asleep at the switch, missed a massive fraud for three decades and will shortly awaken (at the behest of a hedge fund short seller) to shut down the company. We find this to be preposterous.”

Well said, Mr. Loeb. Well said.

Leadership Lesssons from the Caterpillar Game

As a child in the church youth group, we used to play a game called Caterpillar.  Everyone would line up with their hands on the shoulder of the person in front of them.  The leader would then run like crazy, twisting and turning, trying to get people to let go.  Some great leadership lessons can be learned from that game.

Stay Close to Your Leader

The closer you are to the leader, the better you are able to anticipate their next move and stay with them.  The first five people holding on to the leader rarely got thrown off.  They were able to stay connected.

Communication is Key

If you are the leader and are planning to make any change, communication is what will save your team.  If you were leading the caterpillar game and shouted, turning left, everyone would be able to follow you.  If you make quick turns in policy or procedure and don’t tell anyone, don’t be surprised if you find them on the floor.

Pay Attention to Who You Follow

Sometimes when I was playing the game, I would be behind someone who would just let go. They were not committed to the goal.  If the person leading you is not committed, they will let you fall.  Sometimes in the party plan, mlm or direct selling world, we might get someone who has pulled us into the business but is not leading us.  If that is the case, find out who their sponsor is.  Move up the chain until you find a leader that helps you stay connected.

Keeping everyone connected is the goal of any healthy organization.  It is also a challenge for all healthy organizations.  Healthy organizations are growing and must constantly keep in mind that the chain behind them is getting longer.  This requires an increased commitment to leadership communication and encouraging their team to listen and follow the right person.

Mobile for MLM, Direct Sales and Party Plans

Mobile is a Necessity

The Direct Sales Industry has seen a number of different training and communication methods with their sales force, over the years.  These methods have reamined consistent with the technology changes by keeping the sales material up to date and in a format that is most easily used by their field, for example:

•             Printed Materials – Printed materials have been around since the early stages of Direct Sales and are still a popular format for delivering sales tools and marketing materials to consultants.

•             Tapes and CDs – Audio has been around for decades in Direct Sales, starting with audio tapes and being replaced by audio CDs.  This format is still extremely popular for training audios and sales tools, especially internationally.

•             DVDs – DVD’s are a popular choice for  product, opportunity and training videos.

•             Email – Once email was widely adopted, mass email blasts quickly became an efficient way for Direct Sales companies and leaders to communicate with the entire field or downline at one time.

  • Texting-texting is used in a similar format as email as a way to update the field

•             Internet – With high interest sites like YouTube and Twitter, along with the high adoption of broadband connectivity, Internet distribution of content has become extremely common.

  • Social Media sites like Facebook, Pinterest and Google+ have created a new form of media as well

 

When looking at sales tools, one of the keys to high adoption and usage throughout the sales force is the ease of accessing content.  This has kept printed sales tools extremely popular, as it’s something consultants can give out to friends and associates that are interested in their product or opportunity.

A drawback to print media, CDs, and DVDs is the cost associated with updating content.  Given the fast-paced nature of our industry, consultants are likely to continue to distribute outdated content after its expiration date.  Many companies encourage the consultants to purchase catalogues and this cost can cause be a deterrent.

Email is a great way to deliver time-sensitive and important messages, but you can no longer be sure that your message is being received.  With the rising challenges of bloated inboxes, spam filters, and ISP blacklisting, clicking the send button can be challenging.

As internet video has become easily accessible, companies have been able to quickly publish new content.  This has allowed for a faster rate of communication with the consultant and the potential consumer.

Mobile has been a game changer for our industry. The mobile platform combines real time access to information with simple ease of use, making it an appealing tool for direct sellers.

According to PewInternet ‘s 2011 study (http://pewinternet.org/Reports/2011/Smartphones.aspx)   85% of Americans now have cell phones and 42% of those are smartphones.  Considering the demographic of direct sellers (entrepreneurial business owners); these statistics are likely much higher in our industry.

Direct Selling should Capitalize on mobile in the following ways:

•             Training and Presentations – A consultant can have all of the company’s training and presentations in thier mobile phone or tablet, anywhere, anytime.   If a consultant runs into an acquaintance and they start talking about business, they can share their informational videos directly from their mobile device.

•             Access to Back Office – Consultants can access to their back office throught their mobile device.  This helps keep them informed while they are on the go.

•             Keeping Consultants Engaged – With text messaging and push notifications consultants are notified instantly on their mobile device when a person in their downline ranks up, or when action needs to be taken in their business!

•             Order Entry -Consultants can take orders anywhere

 

The uses can be specific to your company.  When companies started a long time ago, there were some that thought they could do it without a catalogue.  Some companies today still believe they can succeed without mobile access.  Direct Selling companies will soon be required by their consultants to have mobile.  It is quickly progressing to a place where it is not an option.

ByDesign Technologies was the first direct sales provider to have a mobile app for the industry.  They have taken the desires of the field and made it reality.

3 Ways to Increase Your Adoption Rate

Do people love your product?

Adoption rates are huge in any business.    No matter what you are selling, if people don’t buy, it is worthless.  So how do you get people to “buy in” to your product?  Unfortunately, there is no secret sauce.  You must focus on the basics.  Below are some helpful hints that may help you get started.

1) Consider your audience-Seems pretty clear cut, doesn’t it?  Many times, companies move on the whim of a designer, CEO or a programmer, rather than actually listening to their buyers.  Many companies that are very successful, like Starbucks, have idea labs where they allow customers to submit their ideas and thoughts.  Then, (don’t miss this!) they actually read and respond to some of the ideas!!!  Good stuff!! Whether you are a rep for a party plan company or own a big business, listening is key!

2) Cheaper is not always better-While most people want a good deal, they also want something that will last. Value is important.  Access what value your product brings to the consumer and use that to your advantage.

3) Develop your brand-What is your brand?  What are you offering and why should people buy your stuff?  I know plenty of teenagers who buy strictly based on a logo.  How can you convince people they need to buy your product?

If you are able to master these three basics, I think you will find you are on your way!!

 

How Building a House and Software are Similar

it all starts with a good foundation

I have had the distinct pleasure of helping build a house as well as a software company. (ByDesign Technologies) I have found over the years that there are a lot of misconceptions regarding software and I thought I would use some illustrations to help clarify them.

Spec  home vs. off the shelf software

A spec home and off the shelf software are very similar.  In a spec home, you take it as is.  It is move-in ready and there are not a lot of decisions to make.  The same is true of off the shelf software.  You download it and it works.  It works the way the creator intended and you use it as is.

Custom home vs. Customized software Customized software is a very different from off the shelf.  Whether you are modifying an off the shelf program or designing something from scratch, you must consider all the parts that must fit together to give you a full, satisfactory product.

Design- In both housing and software, you meet with an expert to put your ideas onto paper.  An analyst (software) or an architect (house) to help you draft up a perfect situation.  The analyst considers all the things you do not know.  Where are the load bearing walls?  What can be moved and what cannot?  What things must stay?  Are there ways to achieve your vision that are more realistic to your budget?  Design is the most important phase of the project.  It is here that you and your analyst work closely to avoid unnecessary changes.  As you walk through the design portion, take into account that changes made in this process, though they might have a fee, will be much reduced compared to having to change something mid-project.

Cost– based on design, a contractor (house) or programmer (software) will give you an estimate of cost for your project.  Based on your budget, you will either move forward with development or head back to design and go through the process again.

Permitting-Permitting for a house means that all your paperwork will be submitted to the governing group to get permission to do the job.  In the software world, this happens a lot quicker and because it is typically the same agency, it is normally wrapped into the cost area.  During this phase, the developer looks at everything and determines if things have been issued correctly or if anything major is missing.

Development/Construction– It is always exciting to see the slab get poured on a house and then the walls go up.  The same is true in programming.  The workers create your structure/software to meet the specifications that were detailed in your plan.

QA/Inspection– Just like a house undergoes inspections, software goes under QA.  In a house, they check various things: wall strength, wiring, plumbing, and special items.  QA (Quality Assurance) does this in the programming world.  They meticulously walk through the code, testing to make sure everything is working correctly.  If it is not, it is sent back to be worked on again.  This causes delays just as it does in a building world.  The programmers/builders must reschedule their work to accommodate the changes and get the work right.  Their other projects go into jeopardy.  They have to work extra hours to get it all in.   No one likes to fail inspection or QA but it is better to fail at the inspection level/QA than once you have taken ownership.

UAT (User Acceptance Training)/Walkthrough– As you near the completion of your project, you are able to walk through the house or software.  You are able to look at everything and see if it is where you thought it would be.  Changes at this point can be costly.  If it is a minor change that still falls within the initial design spec, it may be taken care of, but if it is a major adjustment, the wall is not where you thought it would be, then you must go back to phase 1 (design).  Looking at the steps above, you can understand why you hope that there is nothing major at this point.  All the work will have to be redone.  The plans will have to be redrawn, the piece that requires modification must be torn down, construction/development redone, QA/inspections redone and UAT/walkthrough completed again.  Changes at this phase are a cost and timeline killer.

Rollout to Production/ CO(Certificate of Occupancy)-Once your house or software is completed, you receive your CO or have your product rolled to production.  Yay!!! You can now move in and start using your home/software.

Warranty period– different companies have different warranties.  Check with your builder/provider to make sure you know and take advantage of this critical period of time.

Understanding the process when building or customizing software will help you be more efficient and productive and can relieve stress between you and your builder.

Moments of Greatness

George W Bush (courtesy of Mike Magolnick)

Have you ever spoken to someone, or heard a speaker and just been enamored by what they had to say? You wished they would just keep talking? At the recent DSA Annual meeting I had that happen twice.

I love older people. My grandparents were very special to me and I loved to sit and listen to their stories. It seems as people get older, they just tell it how it is, they don’t care about your opinions or what is politically correct. It is about how they see the world. My grandfather had dementia and got to the point where all he talked about were “the old times.” He would tell me stories of his travels and adventures. I loved those times, even when he could not remember my name.

At the DSA annual meeting this year we had the privilege of listening to two great men, George W Bush and Rich Devos Sr. Mr. Bush was our 43rd President and Rich Devos Sr. founded Amway along with Jay Van Andel. These men both spoke so candidly and conversationally, it was hard not to just want to give them a big hug. (Secret Service would have none of that!!). No matter what your personal thoughts are about politics or business, both of these men care deeply about America and about empowering small business. It was easy to be drawn into their thought processes. They believe in what I call “the real America.” They care about empowering individuals to create small businesses.

Rich Devos said, if we have only built a company for us and for the money, we have done the wrong thing. He went on to talk about empowering and helping people experience Freedom.

Former President Bush said, “Culture cannot be created around individuals; it has to be created around principles.” He also said, “You don’t know who you’re going to influence, so make your decisions wisely.” He pointed out that if he had planned to be President, he sure would have behaved better in college!

Each of us are given time here on this Earth to create a life for ourselves. Once we become of age, we can choose our path. We can use what is given to us and learn. It is our honor to listen to those wiser than us. It is our duty to pass on the knowledge and experiences we have to others.

Each of us has a job to do and I am afraid that many of us underestimate the importance of our daily jobs. Whatever your job, you can be assured that your attitude and your knowledge can change a person’s day and outlook.

You are influencing someone today, make the right choice.