An Entrepreneurial Jam Session: From Growing Your Sales Team to Fine Tuning Your Business Purpose (skucon 2017)4 min read

Tune into an awesome jam session: Three entrepreneurs have five minutes to make a brief presentation about their business and then pose a challenge they are facing to a group of expert panelists (as well as the audience). The panelists then respond with their advice and (just like a musical jam session) the experts riff off each other, and come up with a score of ideas that play well for both the entrepreneur and the audience.

The entrepreneurs presenting were Theresa Vandermeer of Work+Shelter, Joe Sommer of Whitestone Works, and Tom Rector of Rector Communications.

The panelists were Jason Lucash with OrigAudio, Holly Ringle with Turnkey Merchandise Programs, Winston Lo of Boulevard Advertising, and Adam Walterscheid of T-Shirt Tycoon Solutions.

The entire jam session is worth watching, but if you want to skip right to the parts most relevant to your particular challenge, we have highlighted a few spots that will help guide you to the most relevant business problems you might be facing:

Are you a manufacturer looking to get into the promotional products business? Or, are you a distributor who wants to partner with more mission-minded manufacturers?

Watch from the beginning as Theresa Vandermeer of Work+Shelter presents her inspiring message about her B2B social enterprise, a sustainable cut-and-sew business in India that empowers women and alleviates poverty.

Theresa’s question to the panelists was:

  • How does Work+Shelter become a thriving, profitable producer in the promo space?

Answers:

  • 7:00 – Adam suggests building a business around fast-turn, small quantities, high customization
  • 9:45 – Winston advises on turn times and the relevance to the customer (the distributor)
  • 10:40 – Holly asks about warehousing in the United States and also discusses cash flow and profitability
  • 13:00 – A critical riff back and forth between Jason and Holly on the subject of going retail vs staying B2B

Are you struggling with a growing sales force?

Listen to Joe Summer’s presentation at 15:07. Joe presents the challenge of trying to build an internal model for his sales team and is wanting to create a successful path for hiring outside sales reps.

Joe’s question to the experts:

  • To scale growth, what’s the right internal model for our team?
  • How do I hire outside reps, help them grow, and then duplicate their success?

Answers:

  • 18:45 – Adam talks about the power of solving problems versus slinging swag.
  • 20:07 – Holly asks a critical question about Joe’s compensation model for new reps and discusses her ideas on allowing reps to take a draw versus a salary.
  • 22:15 – Jason challenges Joe to cultivate his next sales force by allowing them to work alongside Joe in an apprenticeship mode.
  • 25:55 – Adam talks about the power of education – making sure your team goes to events like skucon and the PPAI Expo, “comprehending the industry is very important.”

Are you having difficulty scaling your business?

Tom Rector of ScreenBroidery has a fast-growing and complex business model with retail storefronts, online stores, screen printing/embroidery equipment and more. Tom presents a brief but comprehensive overview of his operation at 27:37 and poses two primary challenges to the experts.

Tom’s question:

  • How do we scale growth?
  • How do we keep good salespeople?

Answers:

  • 39:45 – Adam suggests dividing teams that focus on B2B vs B2C
  • 40:35 – Holly mentions millennial challenges and engaging millennials by building a career path

A jam session is “the most informal of jazz arrangements and one which depends solely on the shared knowledge of the players.”* Props to the entrepreneurs for having the guts to stand before an audience and discuss their business challenges. More often than not, the road to a solution begins by being vulnerable and asking for help. Besides, there’s a secret knowledge in the art of asking. As you observe the video, some of the entrepreneurs contributed answers to their own problem simply because they were in an environment conducive to ideas.

Thanks to our panelists and excellent audience answers as well. As always with the commonsku community, getting answers from your colleagues in the business community can be easily done through commonsku social, our online “jam session.” If you are not a member, we’d love to have you join (and contribute to) the shared knowledge of all the players. Sign-up is easy and free.



Also published on Medium.