Thursday, April 3, 2008

Go back where you came from

Once you strike out on your own, it's wrong to go back where you came from. That’s admitting failure, right?

Rosie Feeley saw it differently. She was a well paid sales manager for cable giant Comcast. The thing she enjoyed most about her job was training other salespeople. But her responsibilities had become increasingly administrative, so she left to start her own sales training company called Training By The Slice. She politely thanked her former employer for the regular paychecks, said goodbye and walked out the door.

Rosie then spent her first three months in business putting together sales and marketing plans, doing research and other fun things required to get a business off the ground. Then came the hard part: getting customers. She remembers asking herself, “Where do I find these people? I was Rosie Feeley, an unknown quantity, competing against major corporations that provide sales training to other major corporations.” Rosie took the same route many other successful startups do: She went back where she started.

Rosie returned to Comcast, not as an employee, but as a vendor proposing that her new company do some of their sales training in a new way. It was a comfortable and logical fit for both sides. “I knew what Comcast was paying for sales training,” Rosie says. “They knew who I was.”

Rosie had decided early on that she would target small- to medium-sized companies as her main prospects. She couldn’t compete with much bigger sales training outfits for Fortune 500 clients, but it helped to have a recognizable name to toss out to subsequent prospects. Even if Comcast had been a small company that hardly anyone had ever heard of, Rosie was smart to go back where she had come from first. Nobody knows your abilities better than the people who once signed your paychecks.

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