Six Essential Tips for Startup Success
Essential Tip #1: Why the Very Best Ideas can Sometimes be Very Wrong for Your Company
Many young telecoms underestimate the effect a service introduction can have across their organizations. One common mistake is to assume that because a new service won’t impact your network, implementation will be a breeze. Recently, a service provider we know decided to offer long-distance resale services at the same time it was launching a local access network. Although the long distance effort was an easy proposition for the network side of the organization, the company as a whole was badly distracted by the decision.
Why? Because details like picking a long distance supplier, negotiating a contract, building and rolling out a marketing plan, making numerous revisions to the billing system, and training customer care reps were not considered when the “go" was given. This kind of mistake is simply terrible business. Worst of all, it’s self-inflicted damage — something that can’t be tolerated in the current market environment.
Gaffes like this don’t happen because CEOs aren’t smart or because they’re not on top of their game — they happen because CEOs aren’t omniscient, and that’s a fairly common human flaw! To compensate for human frailty, a Product Introduction Checklist can come in handy. It offers a logical, step-by-step approach to determine how multiple departments will be affected by a complex implementation. It ensures that the right questions are asked of the right people.
It fosters good working relationships among department heads. Communication, after all, tends to do that. The Checklist should be designed to assess the strategic fit of the new product, determine its operational impact, and confirm that it will work financially. This document also comes with an important, value-added bonus...
“Marketing’s always dreaming up big ideas. . . advertising them. . .and then telling us ‘Oh, by the way, we want to launch that tomorrow.’?
Your Product Introduction Checklist will let you dodge bullets like this. You’ll have a productive coordination among departments, the benefits of which will reverberate far beyond successful product introductions. And you’ll also ensure that the good ideas that just aren’t right for your company never see the light of day.
Essential Tip #2: Your Company Only Makes a First Impression Once — Make It a Good One
After all, they’re looking for dependability — 99% network reliability and 24x7 access to repairs and service — not a roll of the dice. So it’s a double whammy you’re facing — a traditional problem worsened by very contemporary market conditions that have created suspicion and hesitancy.
In this environment there’s no overestimating the importance of the first impression your company makes on prospective customers. And there’s also no underestimating the importance your first customers will have on
Bottom line: Your company is actually going to have to perform better in the early stages of your customer-acquisition drive. You can be merely good after you’ve become established and have a strong reputation. But until then, you’ve got to be great.
For example, when a prospect calls your sales office and is ready to order a service, his expectations must be met. But if the CSR’s desktop doesn’t have visibility into the provisioning system, that customer will be told that a definite delivery date for his new service can’t be set. And hearing that, all confidence — both in the service itself and in your
And bad experiences like that snowball. These dissatisfied customers tell friends, the press, and reviewers about their disappointment, and before you know it, the word on the street is: “Don’t go with these guys; they’re not ready?"
Your company would do well to focus on delivering due dates for your customers. This is probably the number one customer relations problem competitive carriers are dealing with these days. Research it, solve it, and you’ll be that much further ahead of your competition. Plus, you’ll have started a positive spin about your company that will be more valuable that any marketing or PR program you could ever launch.
Essential Tip #3: Get All Your Departments Working Together for The Good of The Whole
Put another way, one of the most important steps a CEO can take is to ensure that the short- and medium-term targets he sets for his various departments harmonize — rather than conflict — with each other. Here’s a quick example of what can happen if this harmony doesn’t exist. . .
It’s not uncommon to see network operations managers being evaluated on the mean time between network failures at the same time marketing managers are being rewarded for the number of new services they introduce. Here’s the problem: All these new services — many of which involve snappy new technologies loaned by vendors — are causing the business to crash. Operations and marketing are working at cross purposes — and the whole company suffers as a result of this lack of coordination. There’s an adversarial relationship from the word “go.? And the larger good of the company is obscured. A case in point...
While planning the network launch at a small startup carrier, an experienced consultant suggested that customer-service people and network operations personnel sit down together for a series of face-to- face meetings. But the V.P. of the network nixed the idea: "That’s not my problem"? he said. "The shareholders expect me to have the network up and running by March 15th — and that’s all I’m responsible for!?"
The savvy consultant retorted: “Do you think the shareholders simply want the network ‘up and running’ by the 15th. . .or would they also like to see some customers actually using it, too?"
Of course, the consultant had hit it on the button. The operations V.P had failed to connect his own department’s mandate with the larger goal of the company — to have a working and customer-rich network up and running by the 15th. This disconnect could have been avoided had the CEO, upon setting the goal, precisely defined how successful
The objectives of each department must not only be consistent and complementary — they must also be communicated concretely and unambiguously. That way, each individual job is done well and contributes to a successful, company-wide effort.
Essential Tip #4: Build Roadmaps That Will Guide You Around Operational Hazards
Straightforward, right? Let’s see. . .
A few months after the DSL offering was initiated, the CLEC’s chief executives became very troubled by what they were finding on their performance reports — more than 50% of all their service turn-ups were failing. They immediately jumped to the conclusion that the ILEC was deliberately delaying installation of the second copper pair, sabotaging the CLEC’s operations. They were so convinced of the incumbent’s guilt that they initiated litigation.
Imagine their chagrin when an internal investigation uncovered the realculprit — a serious internal operations error. . .
It turns out that the provisioning system was not building in a sufficient grace period between ILEC installation and DSL service turn-up. In fact, appointments for copper pair installations were being made for the very same day the service was due to be turned-up.
Sometimes, the ILEC tech would arrive in the morning, sometimes in the afternoon. Same thing for the CLEC representative responsible for turning-up the system. This meant, of course, that 50% of the time the service was appropriately provisioned, and the other 50% of the time the CLEC man would arrive before the ILEC tech had completed work — so the turn-up would fail.
How could the CLEC’s senior executives have missed such an obvious operational problem? The answer: No one had taken the time to put together a blueprint that mapped the sequence of events needed to provision a DSL service. So the success of these installations was nothing more than a roll of the dice.
This was an embarrassing and costly experience, but it had a long-term, positive effect on this CLEC. The startup now has procedures in place that map out precisely how operational actions will play out across the enterprise; there are no surprises. . .the left hand knows what the right is doing. . .and those performance reports are delivering far happier news to top management.
Essential Tip #5: Don’t Be Tripped Up By the Small Handful of Problems You Can Actually See Coming
But this isn’t being done. . .
For example, many CLEC’s aren’t putting enough energy into cultivating good working relationships with the ILECs. And this oversight is tantamount to administering one giant-size shot directly into your company’s foot.
A smooth, cooperative relationship with ILECs is a critical factor in the success of any CLEC’s business.
Poor communications in this channel can mean that up to 90% of local and access service requests are rejected by the ILEC. This creates problems on two fronts: First, you’ve got unhappy customers who aren’t getting the services they’ve been promised and, second, you’re faced with long and costly discussions with the ILEC to try and iron out the
As a result, the ILEC simply has no way of knowing what information the CLEC needs and in what sequence. But with proper planning and people skills, that horrific 90% order-reject rate can be reduced to a much more tolerable 5%.
So instead of waiting for trouble to begin before taking action, why not take the lead and see that those responsible for setting up ILEC relationships appreciate the nuances and benefits of diplomacy? Doing this will mean that when one of the many problems you can’t prevent crops up, you’ll have the time and resources to deal more effectively
Essential Tip #6: Quick Reflexes are Great. Planning Ahead is Better.
Unfortunately, too much stress does nasty things to peoples’ cognitive powers. There are a great many very highly intelligent people in telecom, all of whom have deep knowledge of their particular specialty. Yet many are making foolish mistakes because while they’re busy being consumed by today’s work they forget the need to map out, and then follow, a well-thought-out plan for what they have to do tomorrow.
Nimble and intelligent reflexes are wonderful assets, but businesses cannot be run spontaneously. Startup carriers have so much going on right now that the fundamental, long-range issues that can make or break success often go unrecognized and unresolved. That’s too bad, because the companies that succeed in our industry will be those that
And this broad strategizing has got to come from the top.
It falls to the CEO to be the one who’s able to stand above the fray — no matter how pervasive the fray may be at times — and ask the questions that will keep the company’s larger objectives in focus for harried employees. It’s a tough assignment, and requires a fine sense of balance. In a very real sense, you have to do two things at once, each
Like a captain guiding a ship through the fog, you must lend a hand as your crew navigates around the obstacles that are always rising up, threatening to delay or destroy your mission. But as you do this “fine- tuning"? — as you deal with day-to-day problems — you must constantly be mindful of what lies further ahead, in the distance, beyond these
This kind of dual vision is tough in any company, but particularly so in a startup telecom. If you make the mistake about the long-term — adopt too much of a hands-off attitude — you’d probably find yourself out of business.
Still, it pays CEOs to be aware of this problem and the dangers it creates. Who knows? You might be among the first startup telecoms to figure out a way to keep your eyes on all the controls and watch where you’re going — at the same time.
In the meanwhile, do what you can to reduce stress in your workforce. Keep people talking to each other, get different departments together so that mutual understanding can be cultivated, and remind your people of the larger goals you are all pursuing.
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