For today's interview, we thought we'd connect with Roger Andrus, who heads up Provo Tech X (www.provotechx.com), an effort in Provo, Utah, to help out emerging companies. We wanted to talk with Roger about what the program is all about.
Roger, thanks for the time today. Wat's the idea behind Provo Tech X?
Roger Andrus: The idea behind it is to really help companies accelerate their growth. The missing component in many companies, is while the have cool technology and all sorts of promising ideas, it all comes down to it is they have to hone in and execute on their sales and marketing model. It's a universal and very common thing among all promising young startups. They need to figure out who their customer is, how best to deliver to that customers, and how to best service their needs. The thinking behind our effort, is to help companies solve that very common problem--how to crate customers, and keep their customers, in a way that benefits them. The way we put this together and make it work, is they are mentored, one-on-one, with experts. Those experts are willing to give back, and help take promising young companies and hone their business models, so that they have some real chance of success and survival.
Why start the program, where did it come from?
Roger Andrus: It's kind of a long history. It started years ago, when I used tor un of the largest SBA lenders in the country. Looking over my portfolio one day, I noticed that the companies that performed the best were companies that had mentoring--specifically, franchise companies. The reason was, companies that were franchised had a built-in mentoring mechanism. They outperformed others in the portfolio. That's because the franchises have taken an enormous amount of time and effort to hone their model, to help replicate the franchise.
Through the years, I've manged funds and provided money to companies. A few years ago, I came in to take over a fund and turn it around. I looked at what companies needed, especially in the startup arena, and starting bringing in experts, had a CEO peer-to-peer forum, and brought in CEOs of portfolio companies to have roundtables to discuss topics. Even those seemed to be very much appreciated, it seemed like something was missing. A lot of those topics were build on the old model of what incubators do--provide accounting, legal, and those sorts of things. But, what companies really need, is help to execute and get the sales traction they need.
Last spring, I decided to do an experiment, and brought in a number of portfolio companies. We exposed them to world class training from a world class sales training organization, to see what the results would be. We brought in Griffin Hill, a premier sales training organization, and they helped those firms increase their sales by 300 percent or more. So, we designed a 12 week course where portfolio companies could come in for an all-day boot camp, and follow up each week, and hour each week, reinforcing concepts, honing their sales model, and closing model. We analyzed where those companies ended up last year, and where they were this year, and on average they saw a 28 percent increase in sales from last year. Also key is how many jobs created. Our first group is on track to create 18 new jobs this year.
Are there specific kinds of companies that should participate or industries?
Roger Andrus: It's mainly designed for companies that have an idea or company that is scalable. Any company can go through it, but it's targeted at companies such as service, manufacturing, software, or any company with technology spun out of a university. They fit well with what we are doing.
Do companies need to have sales at a certain level?
Roger Andrus: We've taken companies in the test group who are brand new, but have product and are sales ready. We've also taken companies who have been around for ten years, and already have millions in sales. The training is consistent throughout. It helps younger companies get a leg up, and traction. With companies that are more seasoned, it helps them hone their processes, think through their systems, and optimize what they are doing.
So what is it that you're hoping to get out of the program?
Roger Andrus: One of the funds that I manage is the fund for the city of Provo. It's a small, revolving loan fund. The purpose of that fund is to find promising entrepreneurs and ideas, and accelerate access to the money, market, and mentors. We view our success in the quality of jobs created. Overall, our goal is to work with companies in the Provo area, and move them along and help them optimize their systems, so they can create jobs. The government doesn't create jobs--companies create jobs. More specifically, growing companies create jobs. We want to help companies get the level of help and mentoring they need, to take their company to the next level--and, as a byproduct, create jobs in the community.