Lessons Learned from Starting Pariveda
I’m often asked about what it takes to start a business or walk into a new market as a sales leader and succeed. The two areas that I always fall back on are, first, learn to walk comfortably in ambiguity, and second, follow your process. The latter is much easier to do than the former simply because when walking in ambiguity, the destination is unknown, and our brain is constantly trying to sow seeds of fear, uncertainty, and doubt. These three words, FUD, as they are called among professionals, can be powerful in holding you back. One has to walk forward despite the fear and that’s walking in ambiguity. The greatest tool in fighting FUD is your process.
Touchpoints and the Sales Cycle
As you recall in previous blogs, I had two key processes. The first is that “touchpoints,” as they were come to be known, helped me in constantly stay in touch with my network and look for opportunities. The second was my belief that a sales cycle was simply a complex project with a work breakdown structure that could be repeated. So, what does this have to do with Pariveda Solutions?
In June of 2003, I quit Hitachi Consulting to start Pariveda. Bruce Ballengee, my co-founder, did not join me until October 2003 when we incorporated and continued the journey. That first 120 days was a process of walking in ambiguity where we defined our focus, canvassed the market, and got a few of our first clients. In 2004 we hit $1 million in revenue, in 2005, $4 million, and in 2006, $10 million in revenue. As employee numbers one and two, we were very proud of what we built. Most question how we accomplished what we did without a commissioned sales force. After all, today, the company is north of $150 million and over 900 employees according to recent publications.
Networking and Sales for Consultants
From the start, we decided to build the company without a commissioned sales force. What I learned in my time at Lawson, and with the Big Dawg contest, was that networking and sales could be and needed to be taught to consultants. The other benefit was that I had already created much of the methodology that we could leverage at Pariveda Solutions. We would teach this methodology to everyone in the company, and we would all be responsible for business development and recruiting. We morphed what I had built into a concept called Networking for Life and it became part of every employee’s training and the company’s individual review process for all consultants. When I decided to leave Pariveda in 2012 after nine years, the company had grown to well over 250 employees without a single direct salesperson.
This does not mean that a commercial sales team is not a great way to go; many successful companies have succeeded with this strategy. However, what we believed is that buyers wanted to hear directly from practitioners, not indirectly through salespeople. You’d have to say we were correct. Today, with the advent of social media and the explosion of content, practitioners are found because of the content they publish. Relationships continue to rule, but every company needs to be involved in digital marketing at a scale well above their size.
A Goal of Authentic Connection
Connect for Life takes what we created at Pariveda Solutions and goes further than networking. It is about building trusted networks of people in your life and helping those people become successful. Connecting should be the goal for all the relationships in our lives, not just in sales or other business endeavors. Why? Because connecting with others in an authentic way creates value for everyone involved. As I reflect on my career and success, I can’t remember a decision that I’ve made or a need that I’ve had in the last 30 years that didn’t start with a call or an email to somebody in my network. In fact, if you review the friends I’ve mentioned in my stories, most are still very good friends whom I love and respect. Get crackin’!