Business 101: Committment
Last updated: 7/3/2002; 8:18:23 PM
 
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Business 101: Committment

Commitment.  This is a big scary word.  And it’s scary both in relationships and in business.  In this essay, I’ll talk to you about commitment in terms of a new business venture that Gretchen, my partner, and I, are in the process of entering.

Ever since I got involved with Radio, I’ve been engaged in, well, flirting – with Paolo.  No, no, no – not that type of flirting.  Paolo is the CEO of www.evectors.com and www.evectors.it.  eVectors is an Italian company focused on two things:

  • The IdeaTools content management system
  • Service, Support and Implementation of web sites using IdeaTools or other technologies. 

If you think of eVectors as a very talented web development agency that also happens to write really good software and deploy great, MAINTAINABLE solutions then this is a pretty good analogy. 

I’m not quite certain how Paolo and I started the “flirt” but I read his blog and he reads mine.  He’s fairly prominent in the Radio community so I some how happened upon him.  And the relationship just clicked.  He’s a few years younger than I am and the founder of eVectors just as I, once upon a time, founded NTERGAID.  NTERGAID was a company I started with a partner (as Paolo had a partner) and then ran for 9 years before selling it to Dataware.  I think the similarities in our background helped a lot as they often do.

Anyway, we started swapping emails and doing the IM dance, basically feeling each other out and, without saying so, thinking about ways to do business together.  And then it happened.  One day, out of the blue, Paolo asked me if I would be interested in handling sales for eVectors in the U.S.  What happened was that, for the first time, Paolo had U.S. sales leads and he recognized that some local presence was needed.  So he IM’d me.

I thought about this for about 30 seconds, IM’d my partner, she agreed, I IM’d Paolo “Yes – Heck Yes!” and I was on the phone to the first lead about 5 minutes later.  Three days after that we arranged to go to Italy for training, contract negotiations and doing the very, very important face to face meeting.  About two days later I was in a car headed for Vermont for an in person sales call on a good prospect.  

This is Commitment

That’s Commitment.  He called.  We answered.  We took it seriously and we did it almost immediately.  I’m not plugging my own horn here, and this wasn’t a rash decision at all – even though we did act quickly, but there’s a good lesson here I think:

  1. Trust.  If you don’t trust someone then you can’t have commitment.  Since I’ve been interacting with Paolo for some time and since I have access to his web site, his blog and what other people think about him (in comments on their blogs), I have a good feel for him. I trust him.
  2. Be Opportunistic.  When you are a little company, and we are, you need to grab opportunities where ever you can.  Paolo contacted me, and after confirming it with my partner, I leaped onto it.
  3. You Have to Act Quickly.  I knew that this didn’t have to happen immediately and we could have waited for cheaper plane tickets.  Here’s why we didn’t (and both of us made the decision, not just me):
    • People’s minds can change over time – not to slam Paolo in any way – but this happens.  Going NOW means that it minimizes the risk.
    • I strongly believe that business is all about people – and face to face makes everything real.  Virtual is fine and all that but once you meet someone face to face there is a reality that isn’t present any other way.
    • If this is a good thing then we need to show commitment and this is a very good way to do it.

Wait: What’s the Downside?

With any decision you need to think about the downside – what if it goes wrong.  For example, we could get to Italy and find out that this doesn’t work at all – for lots of reasons.  Here was the logic trail that I used to think about the downside: In the worst-case situation:

We get to go to Venice (Paolo’s offices are outside of Venice),
in the summer and write it off our taxes. 

Oh, hurt me more like this!  What Pain! What Trauma!  (Picture me laughing out loud and rolling on the floor with laughter – a trip to Venice in the summer time sounds wonderful to me). 

The real downside is that we’re putting a lot of time into it and it might not work out.  Here’s what we are doing:

  • learning the product
  • implementation of the English eVectors site
  • creating product literature
  • training materials and such
  • defining the product positioning

Given my somewhat embarrassing, prolific output of written text, this isn’t all that hard for us to accomplish.  I’m a _fast_ writer and Gretchen does great training materials and does a really good job addressing some of the, well, eccentricities in my writing that my fast pace seems to create.  So when you think about it, there isn’t all that much of a downside except for some lost time. 

Upside?

If the downside is minimal then the obvious question is “What’s the upside?”.  This is a little harder to define since we haven’t yet decided on the final structure, pricing, our role, etc.  So we are going largely on faith here.  We never talked about money at all (we did decide on initial U.S. pricing for the 1st 5 customers for IdeaTools, but not what we get).  Here are some of the obvious upsides:

  1. We get a great product to use for some of our consulting clients.
  2. There’s definite money in reselling eVectors.
  3. We get to work with fantastic people.  I’ve been hugely impressed with Paolo and the people from eVectors that I’ve worked with (Hi Simone).  The longer I am in business, the more I realize that the technology, while interesting, is always subordinated to the people you work with.  If the people relationships aren’t good then it always fails – no matter how good the technology is.

Conclusion

It’s hard to write a conclusion for this one – since the relationship with Paolo is on going, I guess the conclusion is “Stay Tuned”. 

Postscript

I was going to rewrite this entirely based on the results of our latest negotiation – but I think it’s better to be fully honest – what started as a simple reseller relationship has become a full fledged subsidiary of eVectors, Srl (the Italian parent company) – eVectors North America now exists with myself as Vice President of Marketing and my partner Gretchen as Vice President of Business Development.  Even though there are still issues to be addressed, the level of trust that has developed from blogging is sufficient to bring this about – and that is very, very profound.

 

 
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