Monday, December 17, 2012

The Dial Tone of Ops

Startups begin with hope and vision of success. That's great and important.

But when it's time to really rock--you're ready to launch (or you think so), you're mapping out strategy, and you're ready for revenue. It's time to go from zero to one, the hardest part of building your company. 

What will your dial tone of operations be?

(if you already have ops established, please take this survey http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/T3VKY39 thanks)

If you're young enough, you might not even know what dial tone means. So let's go to the wayback machine and see. 

In the grand Olden Days, there were these things called phones--land lines, as we call them now. When you pick up the phone, you hear this dial tone. It's always there.

If it isn't there, your phones are down in all likelihood. When you hear that tone, you know the phone works. 

As a company, you need a dial tone of operations: that reliable, steady, stable, expected performance of all of your operational processes and tools. 

So these days, what does that mean? 
  • Cloud backup of all of your data. 
  • CRM always available, and a backup system just in case Salesforce or Nutshell goes down. If they aren't available, how do you access customer data? 
  • Your accounting data and software always, reliably available so you can invoice, analyze, etc. 
  • Your phone service--and yes you need phones, because cellphone quality still sucks for business purposes. 
  • Your website
  • Your support site like Zendesk
All of this stuff is so important. Some of it has no relationship to your vision. All of it matters to the mission of serving your customers, or people who use your stuff. So get it right. 

I've been looking at all of these things for Joe and Current. And I have not found a consensus of what works for startups for half of this stuff, especially phones. 

Why phones? Sales. 

Salesforce.com calls me every other day. I've told them no. They call anyway. I'm on all major social media services, but they call. They have my email address. They call. 

So what does the "No Software" company (bullshit slogan, btw) do to add customers? They call them. They have systems. Processes. A pipeline. Software (hence the bs). And a telesales force that calls every prospect, even after they say no. 

What do we need?

Well, we need to make a ton of calls. We need to be able to listen in on the calls so we can help manage the sales process. And we need to be able to transfer calls. 

So cell phones? No. Not at all. Google Voice? Nope. Pretty sure it doesn't do the job, but please correct me if I'm wrong.

At my last company, we had an in-house PBX. This time, we'll go with a hosted PBX like Ringio or RingCentral. Grasshopper is too expensive for a call-intensive operation. 

You need to figure out what that dial tone of ops will be for you. Part of that will likely be a phone system, and fortunately phone systems are now available as hosted services with little or no up-front cost. 

The dial tone of ops. Can anyone point me to what works for today's startups? 

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