Insider #16: Our First Growing Pains

It’s Father’s Day time again…so feel free to support the cause by purchasing a MouseDriver. We hate the shameless promotional plugs, but hey, we could use the sales! Hope everyone is doing well.

Lessons Learned

We’ve decided to make Platinum Concepts bigger than just MouseDriver! The way we figure it, we’re in a prime position to take advantage of our knowledge gained over the past two years, our momentum (especially from a company awareness perspective) and most importantly, our channels that we’ve spent so much time developing. Plus, when in life are you really ever going to have the opportunity to “build out” a company? We may never be in this position again. And, we already have a new product in the works that we believe has much more intrinsic value than MD (i.e. not just a novelty item) and that we hope will have a lot of upside for both the company and our investors. We’ve done the research, we’ve set up partnerships, we’ve put together a business plan…we’re ready to go! So what ’s the product? It’s code named “BallTender” and it’s an electronic golf ball locator that utilizes military/spy technology to help find lost golf balls during the course of play. Pretty cool!! Here’s the only caveat: Unlike MouseDriver, this is not a “bootstrap” type of idea…we have to raise some money in order to bring this product to market. So, if you know any really rich golfing angels, feel free to pass along their names to us…we could use all the help we can get!!

When you’ve bootstrapped a company for two years, you give yourself an opportunity to do everything under the sun with regards to running your business. You get to design your products, play with the accounting books, develop marketing campaigns, fulfill orders, answer customer service questions, raise money, negotiate with manufacturers, sell your product, clean the “office”, etc. You get the picture. The beautiful thing about doing everything for two years is that you get a very clear picture of what you’re good at and what you’re not good at (and what you don’t want to do!). Well, we’ve figured out what we’re not good at. WE SUCK AT SALES!!! Not in the “selling the big picture” type of stuff…we can do that anytime. But in the day-to-day aspects of selling a product. Following up with distributors and retailers, cold-calling new prospects, sending out samples and information packets, etc. Basically, we lack the motivation/experience/energy/time to deal with all of the tasks associated with being a successful salesperson (btw, for all of you MBA types out there, Sales and Business Development, at the core, are completely different). So, knowing that we suck at sales, we’re now making an effort to find the first new employee of Platinum Concepts; a Sales Manager. It’s going to be tough to find, but we truly believe that a dedicated sales person will help us to not only increase sales volume but also expand distribution.

If you really want to grow your company, you’re going to have to increase the distribution of your product. We purposely kept MouseDriver distribution limited during our first year of sales because 1) we didn’t want to manage a bunch of distributors, 2) we didn’t want overlapping distributors competing on price (and thus lowering the retail price of MD) and 3) we wanted to make sure we knew what we were doing (i.e. get our feet wet) before selling MD en masse. Well, in order to grow, you have to increase distribution and increasing distribution means that you DEFINITELY will have some overlap between distributors, sales people, manufactures reps, etc. There are certainly ways to keep the overlap to a minimum, but even in our limited efforts, we’ve been put in the position where we’ve had to manage overlap between a few of our distributors. So, we spent most of April reassuring one of our golf distributors (whose primary account was called on by another one of our distributors) that we weren’t trying to squeeze them out, that we still considered them as one of our key partners and that we would do our best to “make things right”. The lesson learned: In addition to developing strong relationships with your distributors, make sure you’re also managing your distributors expectations and that they are crystal clear on your long-term distribution strategy.

It’s time for us to embark on the second phase of our product marketing strategy! Over the past few months we’ve been designing packaging for a version of MouseDriver that will be sold in mass merchandisers such as Walmart, Target, etc. Assuming that we can actually get into any of these stores, the idea is to sell the current version of our product in a “clam shell” package (clam shell is the name for the hard plastic packaging that you see hanging on hooks at Target that is next to impossible to open with just your hands) while at the same time, introducing a new and improved MouseDriver (in different packaging) in our current channels (golf and gift stores, specialty and department stores). This way, we keep all of our channel partners happy. Our current retailers are psyched because they have a new and improved MD that they can continue to sell at $29.95 and our new mass retailers are excited to be selling a discounted product that was one sold for $29.95 in the higher-end stores. Of course, actually implementing this strategy is going to require us to jump through hoops from a coordination perspective, but it will allow us to extract revenues from several different sales channels. Hopefully this strategy will work and we’ll end up selling a ton of MouseDriver over the next 12 months.

What We’ve Done

  • Written the first ten chapters of our book, The MouseDriver Chronicles. It’s kind of weird “writing” a book when you’re really not “writing” the book. More to follow on this later…
  • Developed a new logo, business cards and letterhead for Platinum Concepts (trying to reposition the company as Platinum Concepts rather than just MouseDriver).
  • Developed a PCI Business Expansion Plan with an emphasis on our new product, BallTender.
  • Designed, ordered and received 100 samples of our new “clam shell” packaged MouseDriver product (and this is the product that should really drive revenues for us!).

Priority Goals

  • Raise money! Yeah, we know this is always a priority goal when you’re a small company, but this time, we can’t just float the money on our credit cards!
  • Identify and hire a sales manager to help sell MouseDriver and other new products that Platinum Concepts introduces.
  • Set up sales presentations with some of the mass retail merchandisers in hope of selling MouseDriver for the Holidays and in 2002.
  • Finish writing the first manuscript of The MouseDriver Chronicles and convince our publisher, Perseus Books, that this book will be one of the hottest sellers of 2002.

Mood Meter

Excited, nervous and still scared shitless. Raising money and finding a sales manager are absolute musts if we’re really going to have a chance at building this company out.

 

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