I have been acting as the CRM subject matter expert for the Small Business Technology Taskforce that is being sponsored by the likes of Microsoft, Cisco, and AT&T. The taskforce's story is a really great one deserving of its own post in the near future. Suffice it (for now) to say it is a great project aimed increasing technology adoption in women and minority-owned businesses in order to generate an additional $200 BILLION in annual revenues for the US economy.
I've been calling on a number of the leading vendors in the CRM industry to see if they could provide some educational content on the subject, as well as access to their solutions to use in training demonstrations I'm creating to highlight different processes. To their credit, companies like Microsoft, NetSuite and Siebel have all offered up educational whitepapers and access to software. RightNow Technologies was no exception, as they were very happy to help us out. What was exceptional was who led the charge.
Greg Gianforte is founder and CEO of RightNow, one of "The Big Three" of on demand CRM. As you could expect, the time demands on one of the pioneers of on demand services are great. Even so, Greg has made himself very accessible to CRM Essentials, as he and my business partner Michael Thomas touch base on a fairly regular basis. I even had an opportunity last summer to speak with Greg, who had me laughing with some of his observations on the industry.
So when I emailed Greg asking for RightNow's assistance (I also asked to receive a copy of his book)I was pretty hopeful to hear back from him in few days or maybe a week. Within hours I received a reply saying RightNow would be glad to help and asking me to follow up with Dan Nichols, RightNow's director of marketing. Also within days I had a copy of "Bootstrapping Your Business".
The great thing about this book is it gives hope to folks who do not have access to investment capital. Being a minority entrepreneur this is great, since only 2% of the VC money goes to minority owned businesses. Now I'll be honest, we never looked to the investment community for capital. After reading the book, I know why...I was a Bootstrapper and didn't even know it.
I found some of the things Greg and RightNow did (and continue to do) CRM Essentials naturally gravitated towards doing. But then there were a number of things that we had not thought of that really make a lot of sense for us. Yes there are some common sense kind of things in there that most people have already heard. But the helpful thing is seeing how RightNow, and other business highlighted in the book, USED common sense along with many other uncommon ideas and methods to create successful long-lasting companies...starting with next to nothing. And although this is not necessarily a CRM book, it is a CRM book. Without tons of up front capital, bootstrappers need good paying customers right away if they have any chance to make it, which Greg illustrates in numerous ways throughout the book.
From a minority business perspective there are a few cool things to point out. Greg includes some really great stories of companies who bootstrapped their way to success. One of those success stories was Lurita Doan, an African-American woman who started New Technology Management Inc., a $200 million company.
Each chapter begins with an interesting quote, many of them from famous people in history like Albert Einstein, Plato and Winston Churchill. The funniest quote ("Cash is more important than your mother")was attributed to an unnamed business professor at NYU. I'm assuming he's unnamed to protect him from his mother. But the most interesting to me was using a quote from Tuskegee founder Booker T. Washington - "The world doesn't care about what a man or woman knows: It is what a man or woman is able to do that counts." This is one of Booker's better quotes (See the "Cast down your buckets" speech for Booker at his accommodating worst). I'm not the biggest Booker fan as I believe W.E.B. DuBois was right on some points that differed greatly from Booker's philosophy. But I greatly respect his work ethic, his accomplishments and him lifting himself Up From Slavery. And I greatly respect Greg for including these kinds of people in his book, in addition to his own great bootstrapping lessons. So from one bootstrapper to another...Thanks.