by Glen Carlson, an EO Australia-Victoria member and managing director of Entrevo Pty, LTD.
Stop me if you’ve heard this before: Every industry insider told you it can’t be done, that you’ll just blow yourself out of the water before the game even begins. You were facing barrier after barrier, confronted with extraordinary competition and just scratching your way to the top … and then you broke through. I’ve been there. Looking back, I’m glad all the naysayers cast me aside. It makes my business success story more enjoyable to tell. Here’s part of that story, as well as a few things I did to take my company from a fledgling startup to a reputable force.
Nail the Pitch No Matter What
I ran an underfunded, bootstrapping startup, so I needed a way to cut through the noise and make the competition irrelevant. Mike Harris, founder of three multi-billion-dollar businesses, pointed out that amateur musicians would never dream of playing to an audience before tuning their instrument, “but that’s exactly what businesses do every day.” He added: “One of the most powerful ways to differentiate yourself and your business is with your words.” I spent weeks testing my business pitch. I reviewed my spiel during sales calls, meetings and when I answered the question, “What do you do?” I would keep tweaking the pitch until it paid off. Not only was I able to land some respected brands to endorse us, but having a polished pitch helped me negotiate better terms with our suppliers and attract a core team that was worth more than I could have afforded at the time.
Use Published Content to Build Street Cred
Starting out, my business partner and EO UK-London member, Daniel Priestley, authored “Become a Key Person of Influence,” the book our business is built around. It became our secret weapon. Although I had crafted a sharp business pitch, it wasn’t always enough for the more discerning targets. If heavy hitters were still lukewarm about working with us, I’d casually say, “By the way, my business partner just wrote a best-seller. How about I send you a copy, call you back in a few weeks and see where it goes?” The answer was often a noncommittal “sure.” But I’d call back and get cut off halfway through my introduction. “I loved the book!” was a typical response, followed by, “We’d love to work together. What were you thinking?” Leveraging valuable content helped us get ahead in business.
Ignore Competition— Embrace Collaboration
Competition is a zero sum game; it works for no one. Collaboration, on the other hand, expands the pie for all involved. When I started out, I had no money, contacts, trust or track record, but I knew there were people out there who did. Someone somewhere had a surplus of the very things I lacked— I just needed to find them and pitch them. If I wanted people to support us in our growth, I needed to find ways to make our success their success. So I made a list of potential partners by asking myself, “Who has the same target market as us, but with no competitive overlap?” The ensuing list of people and brands was perfect because we could cross-promote without the threat of any real competition. Once I had my list and knew what I wanted to do, my next question was: “What could I offer in return?” That got the ball rolling. Since then, we’ve developed more than 300 joint ventures and strategic partnerships with internationally respected companies, small businesses and freelancers.
While it’s always easy to look back and find a formula for business success, in my case these three tenets served as my strategy from day one. In fact, they’ve helped my firm become the ninth-fastest-growing company in Australia in just three years. And I’m still hungry to prove the naysayers wrong. It’s what’s helped get us here, and it’s what will keep us ahead of the pack.
Glen Carlson (pictured) is an EO Australia-Victoria member, speaker and co-founder of Entrevo, an international leadership and training company operating in the UK, USA and Australia. Contact Glen at firstname.lastname@example.org.