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Kjellberg is Geared Up for European Congress Keynote

CBI's First Person for October talks to Jonas Kjellberg, the second of two keynote speakers for the 14th Annual IHRSA European Congress. The 42-year-old entrepreneur co-founded Skype, which was purchased by eBay, and Player.10, which was acquired by Yahoo.

Read on to see his answers to questions about Skype, his book Gear Up, and, of course, his talk “Entrepreneurship and Creating a Winning Sales Culture."

CBI: This month, you’ll be speaking at IHRSA’s 14th Annual European Congress in Amsterdam on the topic of “Entrepreneurship and Creating a Winning Sales Culture.” Gear Up - your program and book - is the focus. Let’s start with that.

JONAS KJELLBERG: Gear Up is designed for people who want to bring a new business opportunity to life or to sharpen an existing one. Its goal is to help create new markets or disrupt existing ones. Developed at Stanford University and the Harvard Business School, it’s basically a boot camp with clear, easy-to-follow steps that allow you to test your business idea, assess its potential, and make it work.

In other words, Gear Up doesn’t offer solutions to specific problems. Rather, it’s a tool for analyzing your business’ needs. Your responses to the questions in the summary of each chapter lead to an outcome - a unique strategy for your special situation.

CBI: So, Gear Up is a training program, of sorts?

JK: Yes. Like a personal trainer, it will help you define a training program predicated on your objectives - but, then, you’ll need to put in the hours at the gym. If you stick with it, though, the payoff will be worth the work you’ve put in.

The program is based on nine “gears,” each of which represents one of the most critical components required to launch a high-potential company. They’re customers, delight, customer acquisition, the business model, partners, competitors, going global, the team, and the reality check. You have to ascertain that all of these gears are in sync. If they are, then you’ll know that a given business opportunity is worth pursuing.

CBI: As you point out, you first need customers. How do you decide whom to target?

JK: Yes, that’s where it all begins. And, usually, you’ll need a lot of them. The ones you want to reach out to and attract are those with a particular “pain point” that your product or service can relieve or eliminate.

For that to happen, you need a unique delight - some wonderful thing that distinguishes your product from your competitors’ offerings. You’ll also require a customer acquisition process and a sustainable business model. Taken together, these three gears - delight, customer acquisition, and the business model - make up your sales formula.

CBI: And the next steps or, rather, gears?

JK: As your business begins to grow, you’ll probably have to find the right partners. And, since you’re not launching your venture in a vacuum, you’ll also have to deal with competitors who, perhaps, are tougher, more experienced, and better funded than you are. 

Then, of course, there’s your team, the vital linchpin for innovating, delivering, and challenging other companies, with respect to all the gears. People with exceptional talent and the ability to perform will become the very heart of your business; you won’t get anywhere without them.

Finally, you’ll have to conduct a candid reality check once in a while to stay on track, to make sure that all of the gears remain in sync.

CBI: You suggested that delight, customer acquisition, and one’s business model provide the framework for a unique sales formula. Tell us more about that.

JK: The reason these three lie at the center of everything is simple. Even if there’s a large potential customer base, and even if the customer’s pain is obvious, your idea won’t lead to a profitable business unless you can get these gears spinning as one.

For example, too often, as a business opportunity is being developed, customer acquisition is regarded as an activity separate from the firm’s many other activities. It’s not until later - much too late in the day - that people with sales and marketing experience are added to the team, and, even then, it may be done with some grumbling from the founders and engineers. That’s not a smart way to develop a business opportunity.

Customer acquisition is critical to making money, and also to reducing costs. It’s part of the company’s delight. No customers = no revenue = no fun.

CBI: You urge companies to get their customers to share their tales of delight, getting them to function, effectively, as part of the sales force. Correct?

JK: That’s right. It’s a question of creating a product or service that customers want to talk about. Dropbox, for example, has built customer acquisition into their product by having customers share the service with one another.

CBI: Specifically, how can Gear Up help identify promising opportunities in the club industry?

JK: Gear Up emphasizes “innovation in delight,” the importance of constantly refining your concept, customer acquisition, and how quickly you can acquire more customers. It’s also about “innovating in zeroes,” or reducing costs where others might add them, allowing you to invest more in the customer experience. What, for example, do you really need for a reception area or for your club’s shower rooms? Study the examples of streamlined companies, such as Skype, IKEA, the Apple App Store, and others that focus only on what they need to provide - and no more.

Visit CBI online to read the rest of the interview, which includes game-changing concepts, Gear Up, Skype, and more.



Reader Comments (1)

Delight, I love that you include that essential ingredient. Dry business checklist gets a makeover!
October 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBreanna Harper

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