Another effective business strategy we developed was the concept of the “Ah Ha” technique when we sought to elicit a customer response to our work with amazement and surprise as to the quality of our effort. On one of our first projects, we were asked to provide a recommendation for a client looking to find the best possible price for long distance telephone call rates from a national telephone company for use in the customer’s seven branch locations. We spent grueling hours pouring over the customer’s phone bills, surveyed every national phone company available to handle this project and completed a nearly 500 page report with statistics, charts, and time line analyses and destination pricing levels identifying the best solution. We packed up our briefcases and headed for the customer’s office in the financial district of San Francisco.
During the presentation of our findings, I noticed something peculiar with our customer. About half way through, the client started to smile. I noticed became worried that perhaps we had made some errors in judgment, that we had flaws in our approach, or something. After we finished our analysis we offered our recommendations on the next step, which the customer whole-heartedly approved. My curiosity was eating at me. I had to ask the client what it was about our presentation that caused him to smile. He laughed and said, “ I can’t believe that you went through such an incredible amount of work to make your recommendation”. He was pleased and we hit our first “Ah-Ha” moment.
A second example of this phenomena occurred while working for a small Silicon Valley electronics manufacturer. We had been doing business with this company and got to know their CEO. We began to notice that things weren’t going well for the company. After a head count reduction, they were cutting back on manufacturing and engineering projects. We wanted this company to succeed as we were using their products in our business. I called the CEO and asked if we could meet and kick around some ideas as to how his company might more effectively market their products.
My partner and I dug deeper into their products, studied some different markets, and looked at several different distribution ideas that this client was not addressing. We put together our research, laid out some potential changes and provided a new 12 step-marketing program with timetables and penetration strategies. We laid out sales forecasts and lists of the largest distributors that could be used to increase sales.
What was supposed to be a casual business conversation ended to be a multi-hour new markets development presentation. The CEO sat quietly as we presented our ideas and plans. At the conclusion of our pitch, the client quietly said somewhat dumbfounded, “Who are you guys? This is an unbelievably powerful presentation. I wasn’t expecting this.” Our second Ah-Ha moment had occurred.
What we did was to aggressively provide overkill in our work product for our customers, seeking to go beyond their expectations. We were small and needed to impress our customers. The result of this approach was to provide the perfect product with our strongest level of enthusiasm and with the highest level of polish and professionalism we could muster. Out goal was to gain the maximum impact with our customers. This attitude of perfection and hustle resulted in our linking with an angel investor who put $250,000 into the purchase of the manufacturing company that we set out to help. He appointed me as the president of this adventure and we went to work to grow our own company.
We ignited our company with our energy and built the company into the largest supplier of hotel room telephones into the worldwide hospitality industry. We sold over 15 million telephones into hotels in over 120 different countries. Fifteen years after we started, we sat with our angel investor and asked if he would like a liquidity event after his many years of patience. Once again we went to work and ended up selling the company. We wrote our angel investor a check for $23 Million for his $250,000 investment. Hard work and an attitude of never giving up led us to success.