Hawaii-born John Dano, 32, still holds a Division II NCAA baseball record for something he's not completely proud of: getting hit by the most pitches.
Dano said he studied the science of the game and realized that baseball, like business, was mostly about opportunity. Although he had a batting average over .300, getting into a position for his team to win was more important than attempting a glorious home run. From first base, he'd often steal second, and so forth.
The former semipro player says he now applies similar methods to put businesses in positions to win. After studying to become a corporate trainer, Dano opened the Entrepreneur Center in Melville two years ago to train small businesses and provide outsourced corporate sales management.
He also owns a private equity firm, Philosophy Group, which sometimes invests in some of the businesses he trains, a consulting business, and a bookkeeping firm.
What's your advice for entrepreneurs trying to break into a market?
When you're trying to break in, the biggest thing is to earn the right to be there. A lot of people try to sell their services without building any rapport with . . . the person they're trying to sell to. And so they go in and they make huge assumptions that people will convert. They get frustrated really early. I genuinely want to know what makes you tick first. Spending all this money to create something and then trying to sell it is a little backwards to me. If I'm a product-driven business, I'd go to a CEO or CFO or CIO and ask, "How do you guys buy? What makes you decide?"
What's an example of "earning the right to be there?"
Let's say you're selling to salon owners; most salons have windows, right? Bring a bottle of Windex, clean their windows. Sooner or later someone's going ask, "Why do you keep coming in to clean the windows?" And as long as you have a clear conscience and you're dead serious -- even though it's a fun statement -- you say, "Because I want everybody to be able to see the products that I'm going to sell you." And I tell you, you have earned the right to be there.
Why do businesses fail?
There are only two reasons businesses go out of business: They can't raise capital to seed their idea into fruition so they never even get off the ground, or they can't sell. That's not a cash-flow management problem, that's a selling problem. And the heart of that problem is usually fear from the owner.
How do you apply science to business?
Use the science, track every single call, figure out how many calls it took to get an appointment. So if I had to call 200 people to get one person, now I know that 400 equals two.
What do you do for small businesses?
We lead, teach, inspire them, help them put in systems, accountability, and we help small businesses do the things big business does really well. Pro forma, numeric, budgets -- all the nerdy stuff that most small business owners go, "I don't need that," and that's why they stay small. For big corporations, we work primarily with sales teams and then managers. The irony is, we will tell the big businesses to do what the small businesses were doing, which is being creative and serving the community really well.
What do you tell businesses to overcome difficulties?
Everybody has a science that they are using, they just don't know it. So if your theory is, "I pray for sales . . . pray that they walk in the door," I call it "hoping people through the door" if you're a retailer. And we've all done it -- it's mediocre at best. Get a database, find a thousand-person list and I guarantee you with focus, discipline, multiple scripts, following some kind of a process that any good sales coach can give you, you're going to get a customer. It's hard to do the right thing for a long time and go wrong.
What's a workable model to get employees vested in your small business?
You say, "Look, here's your wages and you get a share of all the profits above and beyond. We're going to sit down weekly and talk about how we can make more money and save more money." Now you get them thinking and actually communicating how to make a difference.
Name: John Dano, lead educator and founder, The Entrepreneur Center LLC in Melville
What it does: Sales management for companies with $10 million-plus in revenue, and small business training for solo entrepreneurs and small businesses
Employees: 4 full time, 3 part time
Revenues: $1.5 million to $2 million