Greg Gore is Vice President of Praxis International, Inc.
Technical Training, Consulting, and Publishing since 1988

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Lessons in Success Applied to Business Ventures in the High-Tech World
by
Greg Gore

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In 1983, Ray Hansell started a one-person sales and marketing consulting firm from a spare room in his home. In 1984, Marysue Lucci, his wife, joined the fledgling firm because of the growing need for telemarketing expertise. Over the next decade, they transformed the company from a consulting firm into a national teleservices company with 16 offices, more than 3,000 employees, and $50 million in annual sales. The company, RMH Teleservices, is headquartered in a 45,000 square foot building in Bryn Mawr.

In September 1996, RMH Teleservices began trading as a public company. As a result of a very successful IPO, the Hansells cashed in some of their ownership for significant liquidity. Following two years of management restructuring and reorganization at RMH, the Hansells resigned their respective positions as CEO and COO.

In 1999, Ray and Marysue launched a new venture, Maray Corporation, from a beautifully renovated 10,000 square foot Victorian building in Paoli. (Maray is derived from their first names, as RMH was derived from the initials of their first names and last name.) Next month, as MaraStar Communications, they will begin marketing innovative animated training and communications programs

Having achieved a great measure of success with RMH and off to a promising start with Maray, Ray and Marysue offer some valuable success lessons to other entrepreneurs:

1. Follow your intuition and build on your strengths. Marysue and Ray are examples of this advice. Before starting his own business, Ray was a successful sales, marketing and management executive with NCR, ADP, and Shared Medical. Early in her business career, Marysue became a Vice President for Colonial Penn Insurance Company and managed the marketing, training, and customer service functions.

2. Your idea must have intrinsic worth and provide value added services. In the excitement of the "new economy," many investors lost sight of this basic principle and invested in companies that had no intrinsic worth and provided no added value services. As a result, many of these investors lost a substantial amount of money.

3. Establish the need for your product. "There is a difference between 'neat' and 'need'," cautions Marysue. "Many ideas are neat, but no real need exists or can be created for them."

4. Don't accept the idea of "disintermediation." One of the concepts prevalent in the Internet economy is that the middleman can be eliminated. Ray and Marysue are adherents to the principle that the sales and marketing functions, which have existed for years in many industries, add value.

5. Risk something of your own. "If you believe in your idea, you should put some of your own assets at risk," emphasizes Ray. Early in the history of RMH, the Hansells secured a bank line of credit by putting up their house and other personal assets as collateral. "Some entrepreneurs have been lured into thinking that OPM (Other People's Money) is the only way to go. A number of entrepreneurs have approached us to invest in their start-ups, but we never invested in a venture unless the people behind it had a significant amount of their own money in it," adds Ray.

6. Think like a big company, but spend like a small company. "Just because a big company may spend $40 million a year on advertising doesn't mean that you have to spend that amount. What is important is to come up with cost effective ways to get a big bang for your buck," says Marysue.

7. Listen to your customers, do market research, and act accordingly. "We are big believers in focus groups," says Marysue." Moreover, one major mistake that many entrepreneurs make is that they are so wedded to their ideas they don't make changes when their research and customers lead them in a new direction."

8. Be dedicated to quality. "Quality is something we believe must be an integral part of what we do. It has to be built into every part of the business process," affirms Ray.

9. Recognize your people. Ray and Marysue have found that "a little bonus and a lot of recognition are worth more than a big bonus and a little recognition."

10. Capitalize on luck when you see it. "Many entrepreneurs did not see what a fortuitous time the mid-nineties was for IPOs. They continued to hold out for more money and some lost everything. We recognized luck when we saw it and cashed in at the right time," says Ray.

In the months ahead we will follow the success of Marysue and Ray as they apply these ten principles to their new venture.

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The Greg Gore Web Site on Computers and the Internet (www.GregGore.com)

This column was published in the Daily Local News, West Chester, PA on February 28, 2001. Greg Gore can be reached at gg@GregGore.com.

2009 by Greg Gore. All rights reserved.