Trusted Counsel Blog

Happy New Year! Your Business Guide to Speed up Innovation and Dump the Junk

This podcast originally aired in July 2017

This podcast originally aired in July 2017

In this episode of In Process: Conversations about Business in the 21st Century, hosts Evelyn Ashley and John Monahon of Trusted Counsel speak with strategist Susan Reed about innovation. Reed is the founder and CEO of EdgeDweller, which for 30 years has transformed organizations and individuals through front-end innovation practices that are powerful, practical and proven. She and the team at EdgeDweller have helped launch more than 150 products and services for 122 brands representing more than 25 industries. EdgeDweller specializes in creating high impact programs for corporations, strategic business units, nonprofits, individuals and small groups. Reed is passionately committed to driving up profitability while sustaining high growth through insightful analytics and intentional creativity.

Disruptive thinking and making it safe
According to Reed, there is a love-hate relationship about disruptive innovation. She believes the key is actually about learning how to make the planning process and the ultimate launch safe. Businesses can reduce the risks and better develop the ideas by working within the organization, or with consultants such as EdgeDweller, to better formulate those ideas and develop very incremental paths to get to the launch. Reed says, “We create those ideas but show organizations a very incremental path to get there from where they are today. So if you can prove it in step one, you move to step two. That’s the only way, until you see it through.”

In one of our most popular podcasts to date, Reed discusses how to reach innovation faster. In essence, one needs to get rid of bad innovation habits. Check out her guide for innovation don’ts to effectively speed up your innovation success.

Innovation Don’ts (according to Susan Reed):

1. Never, ever start with ideation
Starting with ideation is the least effective path to implementation of innovation. And this is very often where we start. “Really?” you ask. Unfortunately, most organizations don’t have success decision metrics in place, hence, there is no agreement on what equals true innovation if you start off with ideation. As a result, little if anything will get implemented.

2. No more one offs
As we all know, things move very quickly in this day and age. So if you believe that you can create an innovation and then give it an incremental upgrade, it’s going to be out of date before it even launches. It’s important to realize that you’ve got to have that long-term plan that requires a series of actions that need to happen behind the first innovation.

3. Forget skills-based or cross-function based teams
The idea behind this statement is that if you use these types of teams, you will only receive incremental ideas, versus real innovative ideas. These teams are working in this space daily; hence they know the rules and boundaries.

4. No more fun fest creative extravaganzas
While clearly not intentional, you are setting up your organization for failure if you don’t have a way to capture ideas and implement the really good ones that are suggested. Having an idea party or meeting will lead to frustration. You’ll end up in a worse place than you were when you started. Reed also refers to this don’t as “the rise and fall of excitement” - it is just that.

5. Never tell people that the innovation project starts with R&D or customer insights
Companies are beginning to realize this. A recent study showed that these practices are actually limiting growth and innovation. So while experts agree that organizations need R&D and customer insights, they recommend that you wait until future states are created, then use it for the feasibility of those ideas, to support them.

So are you ready to innovate or do more of it? Susan Reed recommends the following: Have a serious conversation on how you define innovation, what you’re willing to do and really understand that and communicate it very clearly to your team. Everything is based on that. When you articulate what it is you’re going to do, make sure that it’s going to work. Also remember that most initiatives don’t have a chance of working. “That’s crazy too.”

Want to get the full conversation on “Speed up Innovation. Dump the Junk?” Stream this episode in the player below. You can also subscribe on iTunes to receive new episodes of In Process Podcast directly on your smartphone.

Shark Fight! How I Survived, and My Product Thrived, after Shark Tank

The Christmas Tree Hugger

This month on Trusted Counsel’s podcast show In Process: Conversations About Business in the 21st Century, Evelyn Ashley and John Monahon spoke to Ryan Kenny, inventor of The Christmas Tree Hugger, a seasonal holiday product that he invented in 2016. Podcast co-host John Monahon happens to be the business partner of Ryan Kenny and has been involved with the product from the very beginning. The Christmas Tree Hugger makes artificial trees look more festive, fun and real. The product comes in several holiday-inspired designs and is simply wrapped around the bottom pole of any fake tree – instantly making it appear more realistic.

The idea came to Ryan after he and his wife decided to purchase their first artificial Christmas tree, simply for convenience factors. But when they sat down on the couch to admire the beautiful tree they had put up, Ryan was sorely disappointed when he looked down at the bottom of the tree. Ryan said to his wife, “there is this fuzzy, hairy, ugly green pole of an eyesore at the bottom” – the eyesore soured the holiday magic. Without more thought, he turned to the internet searching for a fix. Disappointment again - nothing available in the marketplace. So he decided to makeshift something in his basement. After receiving positive opinions from friends and family, he decided to sell the product on Etsy, the e-commerce website focused on handmade items. Soon thereafter, the product started selling and it received nothing but five-star reviews with buyers saying things such as “Why hasn’t anybody thought of this before?” It was at that point that Ryan decided to make his product more official. With a background in graphic design and advertising, it was second nature for Ryan to develop sketches that ultimately led to a solid prototype. He applied for a patent, sought out manufacturers, and launched a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter. It wasn’t long before 100% of the goal was hit. From there, one thing led to another and he soon found himself on QVC (his television debut) during their “Christmas in July” promotion in 2017. John was impressed with Ryan’s ease during the taping by saying, “I’m glad Ryan was comfortable because I was sick to my stomach. His execution was perfect! The host even gave him a kiss on the cheek which Ryan accepted just like a professional TV personality.”

The Short Road to ABC’s Shark Tank

Ryan admits being on the cable network QVC opened doors for The Christmas Tree Hugger. It was not long after airing on QVC, that Ryan was interviewing to become a contestant on The Shark Tank. Fast forward a few months when the holiday product was featured in the ninth season, episode thirteen of The Shark Tank, airing December 3rd, 2017. Ryan sought $100,000 for 20% equity of his company, The Christmas Tree Hugger. He didn’t get a deal but was happy with the way the experience went – The Shark Tank was amazing.

The Christmas Tree Hugger in 2018

A year since Ryan appeared on Shark Tank, the product continues to receive top online ratings. He hopes his invention will turn into a standard Christmas product - a Christmas season iconography. During our podcast interview, he said “much like the top of the tree that has a star, I would love for the bottom of the tree to be equally important. People will say, what will we do with the fuzzy, hairy pole on our Christmas tree? The answer will be a no brainer, THE CHRISTMAS TREE HUGGER! The interview ended with these heartfelt words by Ryan. “It makes me so happy knowing I’ve made something from nothing, this simple product, and it’s now it’s in thousands of families homes.”

Click below to listen to the entire podcast. During the course of the podcast, CEOs, business owners, C-level executives and entrepreneurs will learn:

  • Ryan’s strategy for getting major retail buyers to talk to him on the phone

  • The various stages that contestants need to go through in order to get selected to appear on Shark Tank

  • How Ryan prepared for the actual filming of Shark Tank

  • The real reason why Ryan went on Shark Tank 

  • The after Shark Tank update, where you can find his product now!

Don’t miss a single episode of our podcast show. Subscribe to our show “In Process Podcast” on iTunes and now on Google Play to receive this episode as well as future episodes to your smartphone.

Intellectual property protection is critical in today’s business environment and Trusted Counsel has helped numerous clients with their intellectual property needs. In addition, our counsel extends beyond registering trademarks, copyrights and patents; we develop strategies that leverage your intellectual property into true competitive assets that create business value. If you have any questions or comments about patent protection for your invention, please contact John Monahon with Trusted Counsel. You may reach him at 404. 898.2900 or email him at jmonahon@trusted-counsel.com.

ServiceCentral Technologies, Inc. - Growth Through Acquisition

Growth Through Acquisition. Service Central.jpg

In this episode, Trusted Counsel’s Evelyn Ashley and John Monahon spoke to Steve Teel, President and CEO of ServiceCentral Technologies, Inc. ServiceCentral was founded in 1991 and is a private company headquartered in Atlanta, GA. The company provides web-based reverse logistics, service and repair management software solutions to companies to transform the after-sales service of product into a profit stream. ServiceCentral has gone through two acquisitions; the first in 2005, the second in 2017. As a result, their employee base has grown by 30% and the company has increased revenue by 50% (some of which is attributed to the joint venture opportunities their software enabled).   

Steve has been in the IT business for approximately 25 years starting his career as a software developer. He joined ServiceCentral in early 2000’s. In the years leading up to the second acquisition in 2017, he made the strategic decision to focus mainly on making the customer experience side of service management more efficient. The factors weighing on his decision were marketplace changes, industry consolidation, and the desire to keep fickle customers loyal to the business. At work, the topic of discussion became building new applications in-house versus a business acquisition. Steve said, “these meetings got us to the idea that we could acquire Brickwire (whom they had a relationship with) and their technology platform could propel us into this service area where we wanted to improve for our customers versus building it in-house.” 

It's been a year since ServiceCentral’s acquisition of Brickwire and Steve told us that the acquisition has been beyond their best-case scenario. There’s good cultural fit between both teams and they work very well together. In addition, the products are complimentary of each other and do extremely well in the marketplace. The acquisition has allowed ServiceCentral to gain better awareness in the marketplace, and now the new team is working closely on the concept of providing the customer end to end service management solution that they call “service network.” Steve said, “we’re getting a lot of traction in the industry that I didn’t think we would’ve had, had we not done the deal.”

During the course of the podcast, CEOs, business owners, and C-level executives will learn:

  • How ServiceCentral found the businesses it decided to acquire

  • The proactive steps that ServiceCentral took to address cultural differences post-acquisition

  • Questions every founder and or CEO needs to ask prior to considering an acquisition

  • Sage wisdom to listeners considering an acquisition

  • Where Steve sees ServiceCentral going in the next few years

Don’t miss a single episode of our podcast show. Subscribe to our show “In Process Podcast” on iTunes and now on Google Play to receive this episode as well as future episodes to your smartphone.

Growth Through Acquisition

“After our first successful acquisition we more than doubled the size of our organization in less than two years.”

“After our first successful acquisition we more than doubled the size of our organization in less than two years.”

A key component of Accusoft’s strategy for growth has been through acquisition. In this episode, Trusted Counsel’s Evelyn Ashley and John Monahon spoke to Jack Berlin, CEO of Accusoft. Accusoft is a leading document and imaging software company based in Tampa, Florida. Founded in 1991 as Pegasus Imaging Corporation, it’s a privately held company that has grown to approximately 160 employees. The company has gone through several acquisitions and now provides a wide array of technology solutions to developers worldwide. 

Looking back, the early days for Accusoft, were tough. In fact, two of Jack’s four business partners were gone within the first 18 months of founding the company. When the business plan nearly failed, the company had to reconsider the big picture. In order to stay afloat, it was decided to embark on the acquisition path. Along the way, the brand was reinvented several times, the service side was dissolved and a focus on technology became the number one priority. Jack said, “…by combining into a larger entity we would have more market clout, build a better business and a faster growing business, and lastly a more profitable business under the same roof.” Since their first transaction in 1997, Accusoft has completed multiple acquisitions.

“Out of all of the acquisitions that we did, the 2004 acquisition of TMSSequoia was one of the scariest things I ever did in my life, but in retrospect, it was one of the smartest things I did,” Jack said. His team knew it would be a smart deal. At the time, TMSSequoia was a public company and its history can be summed up as a merger gone bad. It had gone through five presidents in six years and was poorly managed, hence the negotiations for Accusoft were fairly easy. The transaction created major customer extension opportunities and access to top engineers for the company – and made Jack and his executive team understand the value and importance of growth through acquisition.  

This was a terrific discussion as Jack walked us through each and every acquisition. During the course of the podcast, CEOs, business owners, and C-level executives will learn:

  • The acquisition challenges that Accusoft faced

  • Lessons learned from three deals that actually never closed

  • Accusoft’s strategy for finding businesses to acquire

  • Accusoft’s communication strategy regarding employee change management

Don’t miss a single episode of our podcast show. Subscribe to our show “In Process Podcast” on iTunes and now on Google Play to receive this episode as well as future episodes to your smartphone.

How I Did It: I Bought a Failing Business and Turned it Around in 60 Days

“My partner and I bought a software business and we took it apart. We were set out to turn this warhorse into a systems house.”

“My partner and I bought a software business and we took it apart. We were set out to turn this warhorse into a systems house.”

In this episode, Trusted Counsel’s Evelyn Ashley and John Monahon speak to Senior Counsel, Tom Wardell who joined the firm in early 2018. If you missed the press release on Tom’s joining Trusted Counsel, you can read it here. Additionally, Tom was president and CEO of Versyss from 1988 to 1993. Versyss was a provider of computer systems for small businesses and based in Boston and Los Angeles. It was the largest provider in the United States for the physician practice and credit union industries and one of the top-three providers for the construction and building-supply industry. Tom’s experience with buying and selling Versyss gives him unique insight and practical understanding of our clients’ businesses and the operating problems and issues they face. We’re pleased to share with you our in-depth interview with Tom Wardell.

According to Tom, he and his business partner David knew what they were getting into when they bought Versyss. They had a good sense of where the mistakes were and what the problems were. Upon takeover, they immediately set out to get rid of expensive R&D projects. Next, they tightened operations which meant eliminated various projects and there were necessary layoffs. Lastly, they decided to set the foundation for a larger concept that entailed positioning the company as a “systems integrator.” They managed to turn the business around in 60 days in terms of having it run in the black, and therefore, generating cash that they could use for operations.

Absolutely critical during the process was having a strong executive team. Tom said “You wind up needing people who first of all buy into your vision. Secondly, you need to know how to assign responsibility and hold people accountable without pushing or scaring them.” The business success can also be contributed to managers who created a strong team.

Tom ultimately sold the business because a true systems integration business required an engineering/programming creating thinking group that was different than what the company was at the time. Secondly, his business partner became very unwell.  Based on his partner’s illness, Tom thought it best to sell the business instead of continuing this entrepreneur undertaking.      

During the course of the podcast, CEOs, business owners, and C-level executives will learn:

  • The biggest challenges Tom faced when he bought the business

  • What prompted him to start wearing bow ties (it started when he bought the business!)

  • How he got the business out of the black in 60 days

  • Advice for CEOs or first-time entrepreneurs looking to sell a business

To learn more about the steps that you should be taking inside your business now to make it more attractive for a successful sale visit our dedicated website www.preppingtheprincess.com. Also, be sure to check out our new e-book titled Prepping the Princess: Is Your Business Ready to Sell? Download the e-book here. The e-book is compiled of a collection of conversations recorded over the course of 2018 as a podcast series on our podcast show called “In Process: Conversations About Business in the 21st Century.” The show is hosted by Evelyn Ashley and John Monahon of Trusted Counsel. The e-book is designed to give the enterprising business owner an idea of how to prepare for an exit, even if that transaction is years away from fruition.

Don’t miss a single episode of our podcast show. Subscribe to our show “In Process Podcast” on iTunes and now on Google Play to receive this episode as well as future episodes to your smartphone.