Necesitamos optimismo para salir adelante

Estamos pasando una temporada muy difícil en toda Europa, esto es cierto. Desde mi punto de vista opino que seguimos en crisis pero mientras hace unos meses se hablaba de crisis mundial, ahora hay que decir que la situación más triste es la de Europa. Debido a mi negocio internacional veo un gran desarrollo económico en los países de Latinoamérica, en Asia y África, el desarrollopositive thinking de infraestructuras y tecnología que hemos experimentado en Europa hace unos años, ahora se ha movido en otros continentes.

Pero hoy no quiero analizar la situación económica europea pero si quiero “gastar” unas palabras sobre la moral general de la gente.

El problema más grave que estoy viendo en Europa es la cantidad de noticias negativas que plagan la prensa y los medios de comunicación. Entiendo que estamos en crisis pero el problema es que no tenemos casi nunca ocasión de ver a alguien que nos diga algo positivo!

Hasta las noticias que circulan en las redes sociales son muy malas. Estoy arto de gente que publica artículos que tratan de la salida de esta crisis. Es una lotería de números que varía desde el año hasta el siglo!!

Siglo???? Pero como puede alguien en su sano juicio decir algo así? Está claro que la gente se deprime, yo soy muy optimista pero entiendo que si continuamos a estar informados de esta manera no hay duda que la depresión pueda apoderarse de nosotros.

Entiendo perfectamente que mucha gente tiene problemas económicos, está en el paro y no ve el final del túnel, yo primero estoy experimentando una temporada muy difícil a nivel empresarial. Lo único que me gustaría es que se intentara motivar un poco y especialmente se transmitiera un poco de confianza en el futuro.

En mi modesta opinión hay que hablar de la crisis pero que se intente contrabalancear con noticias positivas. Hay muchas noticias que están relacionadas con el desarrollo tecnológico, científico, con  eventos sociales y mucho mas; algo que no tenga que ver con el spread de los bonds alemanes o con las deudas de los bancos, etc…etc…

Me gustaría también ver debates “serios” que puedan darnos ideas de cómo superar esta crisis con objetividad y que infundan un mensaje positivo.

Hoy mi sensación es que no todo está tan malo como lo pintan, estoy seguro que aunque en mínima parte, hay algo que pueda decirnos que podemos salir adelante, no digo sin luchar porque hay que luchar, y mucho, pero luchar con motivación es sin duda mejor.

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EdEr International Solutions, Finanzas para PyMes en tiempo de crisis

EdEr International Solutions es un joven empresa  nacida en enero del 2011. Debido a un capital inicial muy pequeño y a las ambiciones de sus dos socios fundadores que querían una empresa competitiva enfocada  al ámbito de las operaciones internacionales. Desde el primer día se introdujeron unas reglas financieras muy estrictas. Una “ingeniería financiera” que fuera el fundamento de la buena performance de la empresa que empezó sus primeros pasos en un momento muy difícil de la economía mundial.

Puntos fundamentales de nuestra “ingeniería financiera”:

bigstockphoto_global_business_team_630626Control de costes. Inversiones mínimas y controladas. EdEr International Solutions empezó en un conocido business center. Únicamente un domicilio social, una secretaría virtual y nada más, alquilando una sala de reuniones ocasionalmente. Los socios fundadores empezaron trabajando desde casa, en Madrid y Milán usando del mejor modo distintas herramientas de intercambio de datos y comunicación (teleconferencia). Todo en EdEr International Solutions ha sido estrictamente controlado desde el principio y “limitado” como, por ejemplo, las tarjetas corporativas. Obviamente siempre hay excepciones de gastos extraordinarios justificados que se discuten entre los socios previamente.

Contratos con nuestros clientes sólo con un fee fijo , aunque pequeño, para garantizar un mínimo aporte de dinero en nuestras cuentas. Obviamente tenemos también unos esquemas de comisiones sobre ventas. Para poder generar ingresos en nuestras cuentas no nos vale un contrato de sola comisión.

Nosotros tenemos personal especializado senior que puede incorporarse en las estructuras de nuestros clientes y trabajar como un Ínterim Manager, alguien que da  un importante valor añadido  a quien nos contrata. Nuestras actividades se desarrollan a través de estudios de mercado, estrategias de marketing y comunicación, análisis de las organizaciones de ventas de las empresas, etc. y lo que es más importante: la experiencia internacional de sus miembros que aportan ese  “plus”  a nuestros clientes, los cuales  a menudo necesitan un coaching  experto para desarrollar su negocio en el extranjero. EdEr International Solutions ha estudiado muy cuidadosamente el tipo de portfolio que ofrece a los clientes, algo con mucho valor.

Colaboraciones internacionales. EdEr International Solutions es una empresa especializada en desarrollo internacional de canales de ventas en el campo ICT y Telco. Para poder ser efectivos en nuestras actividades y garantizar cobertura internacional a nuestros clientes, hemos firmado unas colaboraciones con empresas que hacen nuestra misma actividad en países distintos de Italia o España, esto nos permite intercambiar oportunidades de negocio (es un cross selling intercontinental!)  ahorrar en personal de ventas porqué podemos utilizar el personal de nuestros partners y, sobre todo, compartir oficinas y otros recursos si fuera necesario.  El beneficio es mutuo, intercambiamos know-how, oportunidades y participamos a proyectos conjuntos.

Selección de colaboradores freelance. Nosotros tenemos una organización muy pequeña de ejecutivos (dos socios fundadores). Cuando tenemos proyectos importantes buscamos en el mercado los mejores profesionales freelance especializados en la actividad que el cliente nos pide. Hay muchos profesionales muy competentes que por muchas razones han tenido que salir de su empresa, hacerse autónomo y trabajar como consultor independiente. EdEr International Solutions contrata estos profesionales por proyecto limitando los costes de personal en nómina. Cuál es la ventaja para el cliente? Tener un profesional  capaz de desarrollar su tarea en poco tiempo y con eficacia.

Prioridad en los proyectos. EdEr International Solutions es una empresa muy exigente y selectiva. No aceptamos todas las ofertas de colaboración. Aceptamos siempre algo que podamos gestionar de inmediato y que nos pueda garantizar ingresos en nuestras cuenta. Establecemos prioridades y un rating de los clientes con el perfil de proyecto más rentable.

Mucho Networking

EdEr International Solutions ha podido permitirse ahorrar en  campañas de marketing e inversión en personal de ventas, gracias a un uso intenso de comunidades virtuales como LinkedIn. Una plataforma fantástica que nos ha permitido conocer  profesionales en todas partes del mundo. EdEr International Solutions ha creado su grupo y participa activamente en otros, según el tipo de negocio que pueda interesar: Teleco, IT, Telemedicina, etc. Asimismo, la regla que aplicamos en este ámbito  es una cuidada selección: nada de “open networker attitude” EdEr International Solutions se conecta con quien puede aportar algo a su negocio o a sus clientes con el fin de mantenerles informados sobre nuestras nuevas actividades y con quien estratégicamente pertenece a una área de interés en la actualidad o en el futuro.

Una nuova realtà imprenditoriale

Venerdì 10 giugno ho partecipato al primo workshop di una comunità imprenditoriale nata da pochissimo. Inizi di maggio.

Si chiama Officine Italiane Innovazione ed é stata creata con uno scopo molto preciso: rilanciare l’impresa italiana attraverso l’inOII copianovazione e l’internazionalizzazione. La giornata è stata molto piacevole e l’ambiente molto stimolante e ricco di iniziativa volta a trasmettere una sensazione positiva agli imprenditori presenti. Una sensazione di voglia di fare, di reinventare come fare business e superare questa crisi che purtroppo persiste.

Personalmente posso dire che era da tempo che aspettavo un messaggio forte che potesse dare una spinta decisiva per poter combattere la paresi economica che purtroppo vediamo ancora in molti Paesi d’Europa.

Officine Italiane Innovazione è quello che si può considerare un elemento nuovo nel panorama delle varie comunità online. C’è dietro molta concretezza, gran voglia di fare e soprattutto la consapevolezza che per essere vincenti c’è bisogno di preparazione, tenacia e partnership selezionate.

Ho avuto modo di discutere con molti imprenditori e con alcuni membri del team di KNOW NET, un’azienda di consulenza che nasce a Como nel 2005 e che è stata l’ideatrice di Officine Italiane Innovazione. Dalle diverse chiacchierate è emerso un dato sostanziale, che mi è sembrata la vera chiave di questa iniziativa che considero proiettata verso un sicuro successo: che tutti i presenti sentissero la necessità di unirsi per creare nuove opportunità di business ne mercato nazionale ed internazionale.

Ora, dopo questa primo meeting c’è la necessità di cominciare a lavorare in un’ottica diversa. Si sa che l’unione fa la forza, e questa volta la forza è quella di una serie di imprenditori e professionisti che vogliono gettare la basi di una ripresa economica che deve assolutamente partire.

Questo mio piccolo contributo è mirato a far conoscere Officine Italiane Innovazione e far presente che li ci sono veramente molti spunti interessanti che possono essere applicati alla Piccola e Media Impresa ma non solo, ritengo che anche tante multinazionali dovrebbero prendere spunto da queste iniziative che senza dubbio, con il tempo, si faranno veramente notare.

Sales Department setup in a reshaping environment

We are closed to vacations period but someone is still working hard, trying to prepare a new sales department setup which must be operative in a short time, efficient, professional and, above all, effective!

I’m writing this article because I think that it’s very important to share my experience to whom is facing the same situation and, taking into consideration what is happening in many companies, I believe quite many people.

Today we are still facing tough times in dealing with sales. Even if there are few sign of  gradual improvement, economic downturn is still  present in many Countries. If you are a company specialised in sales channel creation or improvement, you must fight hard in order to catch opportunities for your customers. Then, of course, the situation varies depending on which customer you refer to.

The scenario I would like to describe is quite complicated (Yes, sure, easy things are too obvious). Let’s imagine a company trying to sell products ina very aggressive competition environment, being a newcomer and consequently without brand awareness. The products are good, innovative and characterised by a very competitive prjscreationzs / FreeDigitalPhotos.neticing. This company must address the market with a brand new sales structure because there isn’t actually. The problem?

Well, the board wants results with a really reduced investment. I mean, a new sales organization is really wanted but, due to many factors, this organization should be done using existing personnel, maybe taken from other divisions.

Now, two simple questions:

What is finally the correct approach? How could we satisfy this customer assuring results?

What I can say is the following.

I must admit that is quite hard find out the correct approach but yes, something to be done with a controlled budget while optimizing costs and enhance effectiveness can be found. Let’s start from the beginning, taking into account that your customer, lacking a sales department of course  doesn’t have a sales strategy . If you must start from the beginning, the sales strategy will be based on simple assumptions: we must focus on market segments where competition is not so strong. After that, once selected target customers and reviewed with the factory its production capacity, we need to prepare a short term and middle term forecast. Nowadays, considering how variable, unstable and sometimes unpredictable is the market, I don’t want even to thing about a long term forecast. Following this first steps we need to start some marketing campaigns. Brand awareness is a must.

If you are working in strict contact with the board you should very often report how things are going and fight to convince them that without a proper investment it will be very hard to have results in a short time. This is a difficult task because you know that time is really short and competition doesn’t wait for you. The board need time to decide and, as I said, budget is very limited.

So, the second question is coming: what now, how can I satisfy the customer while convincing him to change his mind and approve the investment?

I had quite success acting in this way. After studying the market and collecting some evidences on how should be a first basic organization, I discussed with the board underlining company’s potentialities and of course some deficiencies. Doing in this way I provoke for the first time a sort of conciousness of what really the situation was. Then I propose the strategy I just explained before, insisting that decisions should have been taken as soon as possible in order to start sales and marketing activities very fast.  In addition to that I show the possibility to hire people from other departments in order to avoid additional costs. Those employees has been previously selected with HR, you should avoid organizational gaps and take advantage of company reorganization.

A small tip: when you have to face a situation like this, try to go to the meeting well documented and propose a scalable solution. If the executives you have to deal with are really sensible to invest (because of various reasons, one of this could be the lack of experience due to the fact that the company before was doing a different activity) will not be happy to see a big amount of money to be spent in a short time.  Different will be the reaction to the request of a moderate investment related to concrete results. Yes, sure, be aware to show always concrete and reachable target.

Once your customer will make his decision, hopefully approving your proposal, you have to focus on some customers you believe can give you positive results in a short time, this is fundamental because you have to show sooner or later that the proposed strategy works well.

Closing this article I must say that experiencing activities like the one I just described is really important for a management point of view.  Due to the complexity of the scenario and the huge amount of elements to be considered it gives to whom is involved an inestimable value added on his consulting abilities. Situations like this are quite common nowadays and be able to managing them with competence is really appreciated.

How I deal with entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurship has become a way of working since some months. I should say that I’m quite happy and satisfed about that. My startup company is performing quite well. First months revenues and margins are in line with my targets and we are receiving many cooperation requests.

I take this occasion to share twobusiness point that I consider quite important for whom has a company like me or is going to think about founding one.

First point. Apply since the beginning a Cost Reduction policy.

Nowadays it’s quite mandatory to avoid useless expenses. Try to maintain assets extremely reduced. If you are not able to invest some money for an office rent, go to a business center: it’s a chip solution which cost really nothing. For example, When you need a meeting room for an important occasion, rent it that same day.  If you can avoid loans, better. I know that this depends on your activity and that sometimes it’s necessary if you plan to produce goods. What I want to say is that in case you must request some money to banks, capital ventures organizations, business angels etc, prepare the most accurate business plan having under control requested interests, contract constraints which could be a potential cause of problems.

In m y case, talking about sales outsourcing services I didn’t have to ask for loans. It was enough capital invested by me and my partners. Of course you need to prepare contracts that includes fixed fees related to different activities performed for and with your customers. In addition to that you have a variable part of your payments related to sales. This drives me to the second point of my thread, Customer selection.

Second Point. Customer selection.

During my first activities as a general manager of my company, one of the mandatory issue to be solved was to have a bunch of customers which permit me to start having revenues with a  reasonable timing and that could accept a fixed fee. Is quite well known that if we are talking about sales, customers are telling you: “give me a deal  and I’ll pay your commission…but don’t ask me a fixed fee”.

I know that is difficult to select customers but especially nowadays is a must. For two main reasons: be sure that they are going to pay you (Accurate rating to be done previously) and have someone that can accept to pay you a fixed fee, vital for your company.

How can you make your customer accept a contract with a fixed fee? Studying its needs and offering  a dedicated service scheme with defined activities and targets. If possible adopt a scalable fee scheme too, better  avoid some unexpected reactions to your requests.

If you have customers that are not so profitable, or  pay you only on provisions,  think to eliminate them as soon as possible or dedicate them less time and priority.

So I thing that resuming what I’ve just written, being an entrepreneur sometimes is not easy but it can be really satisfactory even in a downturn situation. Being careful with expenses and customer selection is a must, and is a tremendous drive for a company success.

New career perspective

After a long time working in a big international holding: Siemens before, Nokia Siemens Networks after, I decided to move towards a big change in my life: to become an entrepreneur.

Filomena Scalise / FreeDigitalPhotos.netThe decision has been taken not so fast. It was just medited during some months. A period where I just wasn’t so happy of my career’s perspective while working in a “new” company without feeling myself part of it.

Now I can say that I’m very happy and exited in my new position and I hope to be able to maintain this blog updated quite often. My intention is to share my new experience with as many colleagues and friends as possible.

I know that economic downturn is still present but I know also that something is changing. I see a lot of Companies that are looking for new markets to be developed in addition to their national ones. I’m experiencing a big networking with existing and new companies that want to invest in new innovative projects which could last for years: sustainable energy, renewable resources and of course telecommunications.

I’m sure that 2010 will be a great year and want to wish all the best for the coming months.

Provoke your customers

You have to provoke your customer! This is what I’m learning from some interesting articles and discussing quite often with my sales colleagues. As I already mentioned in my previous articles, during this period of crisis everything became extremely difficult: from having financing and loans to setup new strategy for properly addressing the market while avoiding extra costs.
Provoke learning 2It’s a must to be more prepared than some years ago, mediocrity is not acceptable anymore. In every performed activity we must reach the excellence.
Today, as a matter of fact, it’s really hard to close deals and when you reach the goal to sell something you have to fight against poor margins and financing requests quite often impossible to satisfy. So the questions are: how should I approach my customers now? How could I convince them to buy something while they are always telling you that they don’t have money?
One solution is just what I say before: we have to provoke our customers. How? Just deeply analyzing them in order to find where they problems are and propose a proper solution. This could be related to an existing problem or a potential one that could occur if nobody takes actions. It’s not easy, I know, but in this way we can have some chances to close some deals.

A second important point that must be taken into consideration while dealing with this sales approach is related with whom we should organize meetings. If we want to be really effective, we need to involve people with top positions. In this way, we have someone who is directly affected by the problems we identified and of course can manage an extra budget.
Of course before doing this we have to prepare ourselves carefully, trying to retrieve as much as information as possible from the customer, by interviewing lower levels of the organization.

My last comment for this issue is the following: even if this sales approach is recommendable in difficult times, it’s not the only one. It depends on which market we are addressing. For the market I’m dealing with, telecoms, I’m sure it’s good together with a proper solutions portfolio. For other markets, maybe we should think more about something focused on product features and with a value for money approach.

Market strategy in a new challenging telecom environment

Some days ago I was discussing quite a lot with some colleagues about the  economic situation worldwide and how sales directors should fight for catching some new deals. After some minutes arguing about this and that approach, some strategies and how be effective in this new market, I’ve decided to write thistrategys post.

First of all let’s analyse what is asking the market: Due to the fact that Telecommunications networks are evolving towards next generation architectures, the market is asking solutions that can effectively help operators to Optimize CAPEX ad OPEX. The market is also asking sales experts too, able to recommend flexible and scalable solutions. These solutions must follow standards and be as much as possible Interoperable inside a multivendor environment. Mobile operators are going to implement new shared networks and need a “flat architecture” with Ethernet interfaces. Multi-standard Aggregation is the key.

If we are thinking to go for a worldwide market, nowadays is quite important to have a structured sales organization to be able to have an extremely quick time to market and partnering the customers in the most suitable way, avoiding delays in services and operations.
Some companies are not so lucky to have local companies spread worldwide and consequently they have to trust some resellers.
In order to have the most effective sales approach, it’s not only a matter of pricing, that still is important, but it’s also mandatory to “educate” VARs and business partners on how to stress the value proposition or the products.
The “traditional” retail electronics distributors/integrators/VARs approach is not valid any more due to the fact that the competition is becoming more and more aggressive.

Today we are not only talking about products. We are talking about solutions and key differentiators.

Sales directors and their teams must be incredibly skilled and prepared to discuss with their customers on how their portfolio could fit in their networks. Of course I’m not saying that commercials should act like R&D personnel, I’m saying that they should at least be able to argue quite in details with the customers about technical issues and be able as well to report customer’s need to their project engineers.

I don’t want to spend too much time describing how should be the most effective sales organisation but of course I would like to share some points I consider quite important.
When a company wants to address international customers, after a deep geomarketing study, in addition to the sales hubs/partners located in strategic countries, it should be also established technical assistance and repair/return centres.
Everything should be organized properly depending on the business volumes and logistic (some hubs/centres should be able to operate in neighbours countries if needed).
Local representatives structures should be small and flexible in order to maintain low costs, but they must be well prepared too. Local partners must be properly trained on the proposed value proposition and how they should follow a particular sales strategy.

It’s mandatory to make the customer feel comfortable with a company. One of the main reasons why some competitors are not so well considered is because they are lacking in services and customer support.

Key contacts in a Country must promote products, understand how solutions could be proposed/integrated into new/existing networks. Sales approach must be discussed and implemented locally. It doesn’t exist an “universal” approach.

Last but not least, it’s recommended to study business opportunities with contacts and agree on a strategic account plan. Utilize “best practice” and references coming from previous successful deals.
Customers always want concrete facts, they are too often bored with a lot of words and a little bunch of evidences.

I Hope that these few arguments could give some ideas or, at least, influence someone to think about what is mentioned above. This new Telecom Market is asking us to evolve, abandoning the old sales approach and moving towards a 2.0 level.

Project morphing

Some days ago I was navigating in different sites looking for some inspiration to create new business. Suddenly I found an interesting video in the Stanford University Entrepreneurship Corner’s website. Marissa Mayer, Google’s Vice President of search Products & User Experience, two years ago was recorded during her conference based on the old adage that that if at first you don’t succeed, try again: Don’t kill projects; Morph them.
I don’t want to resume what Marissa said but I want to stress the fact that it’s incredibly up to date this concept!
During this crisis sometimes we don’t have to invent something new. We have to try to reshape it.

It’s important to understand that it’s not just the fact that you have to insist on your ideas. Of course you should, sooner or later you’ll succeed in reaching your goal.

The important point is that nowadays, if you want to be in the market without loosing a lot of money, you have to be smart. You have to change your sales approach and your products following what the market and consequently your customers are asking. Only a recommendation: do it, with the smallest effort!

When time to market is a nightmare

Many times we have been discussing about time to market and that nowadays we must be quick to address our actual or possible customers. Due to the fact that the world’s economy is becoming day by day more complicated and full of risks, we are obliged to set up expert teams who can prepare offers in a snapshot, dealing with technical issues, economical and financial ones.

Unfortunately this is not enough! We have to fight against internal process. Too often in many companies to be fast in proposing an offer is a nightmare. It takes a lot of time to receive proper approvals and go ahead with the next steps. It takes a lot of time to coordinate people belonging to offer teams: Technicians, Legal, Sales, etc.
Too many times this nightmare is worsened by tools, not one category of tools: tools for selecting people of the offer team, tools for approvals, tools for pricing, etc. Try also to guess if those tools have the same format and interfaces to be at least user friendly: I think you already know the answer.
In addition to that, we must prepare hundreds of presentations: covering all the possible milestones of an offering process: strategy, sales approach and winning plans, offer description for approval and more.
Now the question is: how could we be so fast if we have to die in this hell of bureaucracy?

I don’t discuss on the need to follow some processes, we have to. I just would like to see a lot of smartness and above all realistic approaches.

I ‘m quite convinced that in the future big enterprises will have to fight hard with small and well specialized companies. These small companies will be strictly connected to others in such a way that they will address the customers with very small times to market, using integrated offers prepared by different suppliers in a very shot time. Last but not least, small companies will be able to change approach and structure quickly for best fitting the market needs: David vs. Goliath’s effect strikes back!
By Ercole Rovida, 08/11/2008