Check out my LinkedIn Profile for resume-like detail. My comments below add color to the resume sign posts.
Early in my career, I had the great fortune to help develop a repeatable, successful process which guides entrepreneurs toward understanding their business opportunity and what it takes to develop it. That phase began in 1987, the company was Frank H. Robinson & Co., and my mentor and colleague was Frank Robinson. Frank was a solo consultant who wanted to codify a process he recently had implemented successfully for a local investor who was facing a major add-on investment decision with one of his start-ups.
Frank and I called the process Market Validation. As Steve Blank and Bob Dorf attest in their recent book, The Startup Owner’s Manual: “Frank Robinson independently came up with many of the concepts in the Customer Discovery and Validation long before I wrote about them. Frank coined the term minimum viable product.“ Now, 25 years later, Frank has continued to develop the process, but under a more appropriate name, SyncDev which can be found at Product & Market Development, Inc’s website.
After nearly seven years of working together, helping companies as consultants and eating our own cooking relative to productizing our process, I wanted the challenge and rewards of instilling customer discovery and validation principles from within a growing company as an employee. I joined a funded startup, SpectraLink, to lead their sales and marketing efforts out of the no-sales doldrums to IPO.
This was a real proving ground for me. Off “on my own” without Frank’s guidance, charged with jump-starting a standing sales team when decades of experience on the sales force made no progress. I stuck to what I knew worked…focusing on who had the problem and what was their cost of not solving the problem. When I discovered through field meetings with prospective customers that the healthcare industry proved to be ripest fruit, I tried to look confident when the VP of Sales and Marketing told the whole sales force to ONLY call on hospitals. Later, when he complained to me that the field guys couldn’t get meetings with my target individual within the hospital, the VP of Nursing, I set up meetings myself to prove that an inside sales group could do it for the field guys. The old school sales management couldn’t imagine an inside group doing a quality job for the field guys, so I ended up hiring, training, coaching, and growing an inside sales group to set up highly qualified meetings for the field. Revenues took off. I was proudest when two of my first three inside sales hires became field sales stars. They were used to hard work and realize that success was not about “selling” someone, but rather sales success was about finding those folks with the problem you solve…and also that working hard was fun when you’re successful.
Since SpectraLink, I have implemented these principals at various-sized startups as vice president of sales, vice president of business development, ceo, and, of course, as a consultant. I have worked across diverse industries from network security to medical devices to supply chain SaaS services to image recognition software.
Decisive Path is my consultancy when I am not in a full-time engagement. I find the best way to find a good opportunity and good people is to “play with the band” as a consultant.
Frank and I continue to encourage and critique each other’s progress — and I’m proud to have his blessings:
“I’ve known and worked with David as a client, employee, friend, and collaborator since the mid-1980s. David is very good at finding new markets and customers for new products well before they’re proven, including at the concept stage. He is especially good at burrowing into brand name companies, getting to the right people, creating new relationships, and generating short and long term business….He understands the business case for a product and the business model pivots needed to maximize it. Together, we conceived a Market Validation service for tech companies.” — Frank Robinson
I appreciate the increased attention Steve Blank’s and Bob Dorf’s evangelism for Customer Discover and Validation has created. Their videos and writings are faithful windows into the what and how to understanding a business opportunity and what it takes to develop it. My blog’s purpose is to provide more clarity on the how and why of the process — insights from the trenches about implementation details — which I believe will help followers get the most out of the discipline. Or in some cases, avoid costly short-cuts.
I also find that my emphasis is colored by my strong sales and revenue orientation. I am sensitive to what today’s feedback means to tomorrow’s sustainable sales model. I’m fascinated with how people make the decisions they make. I’m a big believer that people try to be rational. So, if they don’t appear rational with their descriptions, actions, or opinions then there usually is some missing data on one side or the other.
For reference, below is a partial list (alphabetic order) of my clients and employers — a diverse exposure to technologies, markets, distribution channels, and pricing structures…and also a glimpse at what used to be on the “bleeding” edge. Also, my LinkedIn Profile.
|Company Name||Primary Industry||Product|
|3Com||Data Communications||ISDN Terminal Adapters|
|Advanced Computer Communications (ACC)||Data Communications||WAN & LAN Network Interfaces, Routers, Switches|
|AdChek||Consumer Products||Advertising Media|
|Advanced Micro Devices (AMD)||Semiconductor||ISDN & Optical Chip Sets|
|Advent Software||Financial Management Software||Financial Data & Executive Search|
|Ameritech||Telecommunications||Data & Voice Services|
|Aquarius Enterprises||Advertising||POS Advertising|
|Arial||Electronic Mfg’ing Equipment||Printed Circuit Boards|
|BenchmarkPortal||Call Centers||Benchmark Report Subscriptions|
|Citrix Systems||Computer Systems||Distributed Application Services|
|Cogent Software||Electronic Manufacturing||Product Change Data Service (Internet)|
|Data Products Corporation||Computer Peripherals||Color Printer|
|Foundation for Self-Sufficiency||Community Development||Motel & Market Center|
|Frank H. Robinson & Co.||Start-up & Growth Companies||Professional & Information Services|
|Fujitsu America||Telecommunications||Data Communication Products|
|Harris Corporation||Data Communications||Data & Voice Products|
|Inogen, Inc.||Durable Medical Equipment||Oxygen Concentrator|
|Lastline, Inc.||Network Security||Advanced Malware Detection|
|Mindflash Technologies||Education & Training||Training Development Tools (Internet)|
|National Semiconductor||Semiconductor||Data Communication Chipsets|
|Northern Telecom (Nortel)||Telecommunications||Data & Voice Products|
|Omni Solutions||Computer & LANs||Network Servers|
|Procter & Gamble||Packaged Goods||CRP & Office Systems|
|Protocol Engines||Data Communications||Protocol Chipsets|
|Redspin||Information Security Services||Network & Application Security Audits|
|SaasSoft||Mobile Location Services||Cemetery Information Systems|
|ScentAir||Food & Personal Care||Point-of-Sale Advertising|
|SpectraLink Corporation||Telecommunications||Wireless Voice & Data|
|SupplyEdge, Inc.||Electronic Manufacturing||Supply Chain System (Internet)|
|Templock Enterprises||Food & Electronic Packaging||Electronic Component Insulation|
|The Learning Company||Education Software||Executive Search|
|Toshiba America||Data Communications||Data & Voice Products|
|TypeMatrix||Computer Peripherals||Ergonomic Keyboard|
|VIMA Technologies||Image Recognition Software||Visual Search Tools|