What can Greg Sutton teach us about business

Captivating. Remarkable. That’s what I first thought when I heard the story about the origins of judo and Kano Jigoro, who practically single handedly created it in the late 19th century. Out of many remarkable things about Kano Jigoro, let me point out a couple:

a. He structured judo around the principle of maximum efficiency-delivering maximum efficiency within minimum effort;
b. He apparently believed that the principle of maximum efficiency could serve as a holistic approach for governing and improving oneself physically, mentally, emotionally and even morally.

Captivating. Remarkable. That’s what I first thought after Greg Sutton, founder of the company called TinyEYE Therapy Services, shared his company’s story with me. If you visit the company’s website right now (tinyeye.com), you’ll probably notice that they have a successful and truly unique business. In short, TinyEYE Therapy Services provides Speech-Language Pathologists (SLPs) to school districts, by using a delivery model known as Telepractice. (They are the world’s leading provider of speech therapy Telepractice.)

What you most likely would have not noticed from a short visit to their website is this: TinyEYE Therapy Services as we know it in its current form is actually a byproduct of their original business plan. You see, initially their business plan was to supply software to school districts and Speech-Language Pathologists, which the same would use to facilitate their day-to-day interactions with students. According to Greg, the company delivered more than 1000 demonstrations of its software in the first two and half years of its existence. “Your software is good,” prospective clients were telling them, but most were not in any hurry to purchase a copy.

Hence, while TinyEYE Therapy Services did enjoy some initial success, it soon became quite obvious that the company was simply not generating enough profitable sales to ensure its long term-sustainability. But since giving up was not an option, Greg was determined to find a way to turn his young company’s fortunes around. One piece of information that potential clients were sharing with him over and over again was this: “We don’t really need more software. What we need is more Speech-Language Pathologists.” So what did Greg do next? He decided to call their bluff. He randomly called a school district offering them exactly what he was told they wanted: Speech-Language Pathologists. He immediately got an enthusiastic yes and a big order from them. With that order in hand, TinyEYE Therapy Services managed to sign a contract with their first Speech-Language Pathologist  and the rest is history. (If you are an SLP, visit their website to find out more about why so many SLPs choose to work with TinyEYE Therapy Service.)

Today, Greg’s company is no longer focused on selling software (although they still do it from time to time). Instead, Greg’s company is now serving as a matchmaker if you will, between the Speech-Language Pathologists and thousands of those who desperately need their services. When I interviewed Greg in the early part of June 2010, I asked him to tell me more about why and how did he divorce his old business plan. This was his answer: “It was really an easy decision – with our company’s new-found positioning the amount of effort to obtain and maintain a customer was minimal.”

Lesson #1: Promote what people buy. Are you promoting what people buy? I talk about this topic in detail in my “The Moneymakers: How to Promote What People Buy” seminar.

Lesson #2: Have a business related problem? Did you try to judo it? Isn’t that what Greg Sutton did?

Lesson #3: Divorcing ideas is about saving your assets, not destroying them. Expose yourself to new ways of doing things. It’s easier than you think. For example, have you read Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson? Captivating. Remarkable. That’s what I first thought when I finished reading Rework (I highly recommend it).  If you’d like to learn more about how to judo it in business, check out Rework. Here is a little taste:

“A lot of people get off on solving problems with complicated solutions. Flexing your intellectual muscles can be intoxicating. Then you start looking for another big challenge that gives you the same rush, regardless of whether it’s good idea or not. A better idea: Find a judo solution, one that delivers maximum efficiency within minimum effort. Judo solutions are all about getting the most of doing the least. Whenever you face an obstacle, look for a way to judo it. Problems can usually be solved with simple, mundane solutions. That means there’s no glamourous work. You don’t get to show off your amazing skills. You just build something that gets the job done and then move on. This approach may not earn you oohs and aahs, but it lets you get on with it.”