Finding Early Success
Two months after hiring Prem, I was fortunate to pick up another smart guy. Sean Fambrough joined our team in November 2005, with a lot of energy, plenty of ideas and a skillset that complemented Prem’s background perfectly. The success of a small company often hinges on early hiring decisions and I was lucky to have made two outstanding selections.
Both Prem and Sean were brought onboard for specific projects, as a result, delivering assignments and defining accountabilities were relatively easy tasks. I knew these projects had a specific lifespan and I knew at the end of these projects, I needed to have something in line to occupy their time. I was well aware of my responsibility to Prem and Sean and I understood I was ultimately accountable for making sure I could keep enough work lined up so they could continue to support their young families. I knew I had to market our skills and find new projects for Decypher.
Now, I am not a sales or marketing guy. I have a major in International Business and a minor in Spanish, and I worked as a landscaper and painter to get myself through college. As I began working to expand the Decypher footprint, one of the earliest challenges we faced was that we were a team of three and companies looking to expand their technology, don’t typically gravitate to small companies regardless of how promising they are. To help spread the word about Decypher and our abilities, I created some fancy tri-fold brochures and invested in Decypher mugs and shirts. These early actions felt right…I mean, doesn’t every large company have tri-fold brochures and a closet full of marketing trinkets? This was a good start but these items were certainly not luring customers our way. There was no panic in our camp but I knew there was an urgency to develop a recipe for cultivating new work. Only through this type of cultivation could I help our band of three grow into something more symphonic.
The approach we would use came to us as we worked with a prospective customer. We were discussing her workplace struggles and identifying improvement opportunities when we came up with a clever solution to her problem. We were excited as a team but we were falling short conveying the solution to our customer. We decided to collect our thoughts and build a graphic prototype of the solution so she could see exactly what we wanted to develop. The prototype design had all the features, look, feel and aesthetics of the application without the engine. If prototype design works in the automotive industry, it sure could work for us. We took the design package back to the customer, presented it and we won the business. We realized the prototype approach was the key to winning the business and we realized we were on to something special.
This approach might not sound revolutionary, but all of the prototype work took place before we had a contract in place. All of this work was on our dime in hopes of winning the project. This is an unconventional approach as most IT firms want client commitment prior to this type of investment. Our philosophy is quite the opposite. We feel investing in discussions and prototyping prior to the contract serves a vital purpose. It allows the customer to visualize the end solution, it provides us better tools for determining the project cost and it allows us to draft a better project timeline. This is the recipe we still follow to this day. We meet with the client, discuss, prototype, estimate and then we deliver in fine fashion. Our prototyping tools have improved greatly over the years and not only do they assist the client, but they also help shorten our delivery timeline and they result in greater customer satisfaction. Thanks to this approach, Prem, Sean and the rest of the team are still delivering fantastic applications out of our Berkley headquarters.
President of Decypher Corporation