The Two Heads You Need To Succeed

Want to start and then grow your new business?  Of course you do.  And of course you know about all the things you’ll need.  Passion.  Hard work.  A great idea.  Good people.  Excellent advisors.  Capital.  Yes these are all very important things that every aspiring entrepreneur must have. But more important than all of these things is something else:  you need two heads.

Relax.  No one’s telling you to grow two heads, even if that were possible.  But you will need two heads to really succeed.  Figuratively.  Just ask Glen Dobi of Dobi & Associates, an international distributor that buys and sells excess and obsolete inventory and a recent member of the Inc. 5000 list of fastest growing privately held companies.  An accountant by nature, Dobi found himself out of a job in 2000 and, with his wife, started his company with nothing and has grown it into a $14 million business.  “We’re good at the high volume stuff,” he says proudly.  Dobi’s also good at two other things:  accounting and sales.  He’s got a head for both.  And he needs both heads.

Successful entrepreneurs like Dobi have to be accountants.  They have to have a head for numbers.  They like to do math.  They use resources like Staples to make sure there’s technology to help them stay on top of their numbers.   He can buy a pallet of seemingly obsolete materials because he knows there’s a few items there he can sell for enough profit to make up the cost of the entire pallet, and provide a profit.  He admits he’s a numbers person.  “We fully disclose our profit/loss every month, by department to everyone. We share the sales weekly. We open the books up and look closely at how each department did compared to their budget.”  Business is all about numbers.  Calculating profits on every sale.  Knowing how many chargeable hours you have.  Understanding which products or services are most profitable and which are not.

Understanding the lowest possible price you can quote a product and still make a profit.  Looking at monthly income statements and sales reports.  Why do venture capitalists all seem to come from Stanford?  Why do so many bankers have MBA’s?  It’s because they’re trained to look at numbers, to evaluate key ratios, to benchmark the performance of their clients and investments against others.  Business is math.  “Know where you are in terms of P&L,” Dobi advises. “And bring over that budgeting process as well as some of the strategic planning.” Of course you can still succeed if you’re not good at math.  But you have a better chance of growing if you have a head for numbers.  That’s the first head.

The second is something else: sales.  Dobi’s background may be accounting but he would never be where he is today without being a great salesman too.  “I’m projecting $14 million in sales this year, with eight employees, and that’s up from five employees and $3 million in sales two or three years ago,” Dobi says.  He has a new product line that he thinks could generate an additional $10-20 million in additional sales within five years.  Sales, sales, sales!  Who’s the next customer?  Where’s the next deal?  How can we close more business?  That’s what is always being asked.  When you start your own company you can’t afford to hire sales people.  You’ll have to do this on your own.  Dobi learned this early on.  Selling is something that every entrepreneur must master.  And the job never ends.  Even today, Dobi is helping to sell new products to larger customers, selling the benefits of his company to prospective employees and selling his vision to his team.  Bill Gates at Microsoft was a programmer at heart, but he learned to be an excellent salesman.  All great business people have to be.

Passion, hard work, great ideas, capital…that’s all great.  But in the end its customers and cash that will prove your success.  You need to be a good salesman.  You need to be a good accountant.  You need both those heads.

Check out the Staples Small Business Center with tips, deals and products to help make more happen at your small business every day.

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