Beacon Client Stories

The following are 4 examples of how CAN’s Beacon system has been deployed to help companies.  When reading this post it will become obvious that CAN’s systems are catalogues of intellectual property that are used to help people sell, market, retain, manage and plan smart.  Since we are constantly developing new technology, surveys and mathematical models it is easier to focus on solving our customers’ needs, instead of on our technology.  At the end of the day no one cares how we do it, they just want solutions to their problems.  Here are some of the solutions we have delivered using our Beacon system:

  • Client Match Making: CAN built a survey to match managers and clients based on personalities, the needs of the clients and the strengths of the managers.  This resulted in increase client satisfaction and high project profitability.


  • Reseller Program: One of our clients had a reseller network to distribute their products.  They competed against other providers to become a core provider of different products.  CAN utilized our Beacon system to determine what would help our client become vendors preferred provider.  The result was a plan that segmented different resellers by what they valued, as opposed to wanted, in new products, marketing support, provider support and compensation.


  • Project Management: One of our clients, an architecture/engineering company, used CAN’s Beacon system to determine how to optimize their project management strategies.  We segmented projects by type of project and type of client to build a model that determines what they should bid on the project, who is the right project manager, and how many employees should be involved.  The model also provided a risk factor for each project to determine what the risk of the company losing money on the project.


  • Feedback from the Field: One of our clients with thousands of salespeople has used Beacon to improve their lead generation process by having their salespeople complete an 8 question survey after each client interaction, and completing a long survey each quarter.  The result is a monthly report of what leads are effective with different segments of salespeople, what types of leads should be generated next month, and whether the leads are delivered and called in a timely manner.

Improve your Sales Calls by a Meeting Contract for Each Call

One of the easiest ways that I have found to improve my sales calls is by establishing a “Meeting Contract” at the start of each call  that states the purpose of the meeting, what each participant is looking for out of the meeting, and how much time the meeting will take.

Using a Meeting Contract has helped me:

  • Improve the customer experience, because within the first minutes of meeting me my clients know that I respect their time by asking them how much time they have and what they hope to accomplish from the call.
  • Gain the complete focus of my customers, because the Meeting Contract clearly states that I have their focus for the agreed upon time. You and your prospective client know exactly when you both can get back to work, email, phone calls etc.
  • Focus my presentation, because I know the client is interested in improving their marketing and they want to know about our past work and next steps.

How to Adopt a New System

I am biased towards systems because CAN builds simple systems to help people work smart.  The other day I noticed that a new employee wasn’t using one of our systems to complete his work. When I confronted him about this he responded, “I am not an systems kind of guy”, and my response what “No one is naturally a systems kind of guy.” I have never met someone that enjoyed using systems at first, because it feels unnatural or the person feels that the system is creating unnecessary amounts of work. All of this is true.
Systems feel unnatural because they force people to work in standard ways, and well designed systems are built to create standards based on best practices. Systems do create more work because they require us to put our thoughts into data that can be stored and transferred, however this allows us to handle more work since we can focus on processing information as opposed to storing information.
Some of the keys to adopting a new system in your organization are:

  • Marketing/Selling the New System: People don’t like change, and it is likely that most of your employees feel that the current system works just fine.  Make sure to market your new system so that your employees understand what problems the new system solves, and what the features of the new system are.  Make posters, videos, websites and emails explaining why it is important to adopt the new system, and host user groups so that people can learn from each and offer ways to improve the system.
  • Single Point of Failure: If you adopt a system, anything that doesn’t happen within the system should be treated as if it didn’t happen. You have to be firm and not backdown. Any exceptions will erode the adoption. When it comes to systems adoption three legs are better than four.
  • End Support for Old Systems: When you officially adopt a new system, cut support for the previous system.  Your new system will be undermined if any employees are allowed to continue in their old ways.

What experiences have you had with adopting new systems? Any interesting tips/tricks?

No Room for the Mediocre

“Make a Dent in The Universe” I love this quote from Steve Jobs. It is was used to motivate a small team of engineers during Apple’s early days, when it was disrupting the way we thought about computers, for the first time. I think this is the mindset that entrepreneurs need to take if they want to truly make a difference. There is no room for the mediocre
Economically speaking new companies shouldn’t exist. There isn’t room for them in the balance of supply and demand. In addition, the incumbents are typically pretty good at what they do, so new companies have to force themselves into the market place. So there is no room for mediocrity. You simply have to be the best.
Also, when designing your website, you also must not be mediocre. When a customer visits your website, they aren’t there to qualify you, they are there looking to disqualify you from their search. This should influence how you design your site, your brand and your copy. Focusing on features and price are the easiest ways to disqualify yourself, and this is where most people focus. Instead your marketing should focus on who uses your product and why. Knowing who uses your product builds trust, and the why focuses potential customers on their own needs instead of the intricacies of your product.

Startups vs. Incumbents

In my experience starting companies, it is nearly impossible to simply outperform or out work incumbent competition because if it is a profitable industry they most likely have unlimited supply of capital, in the form of cash-flow and profits, to reinvest in labor and equipment. You have to select and establish the right competitive advantage. Below are several successful competitive advantage strategies:

  • Unique: Your product or service is so unique that the competition hasn’t thought of it. The danger is that unless your idea is legal protectable or you can keep your property process a secret then your competition can simply copy your product or service. Establishing a unique brand is one way to establish yourself in a way that is hard to replicate. Pharmaceuticals area good example of competitive advantage from legal protection. Coca-Cola is a good example of a competitive advantage by keeping properitary informaiton secret.
  • Understanding: You have a understanding of the market that your competition doesn’t have. This is typically understanding a niche customer need that isn’t being addressed by the rest of the industry. A great example of this is the computer industry. Acer and Dell understand that some people care more about price compared to quality, while Apple and Sony understand that some people care about quality and will purchase a computer at almost any price.
  • Willing: This is personally one of my favorite strategies, because it allows you and your competition to exist peacefully together, as you slowly eat away their business. You are willing to do things or take on jobs that your competition isn’t, because they are either not as profitable, are riskier, or less glamorous. The key to this strategy is to gradually move up the ladder. Ideally you will be able to reduce future competition by owning eventually owning the entire spectrum of jobs, desirable or not.

A fun example of the little guy versus the over funded incumbent is Rocky 5. Check out this video of Rocky vs USSR training style:

How to Increase Your Capacity for Change

Tadd and I have experienced a lot of change over the last three years in business as we have had to learn to run a business, increase our technical skills, and adapt to a rapidly changing industry. Consequently, we have had push ourselves to explore new opportunities, viewpoints, ideas and ways of doing things. In other words, we are constantly working to increase our Capacity for Change.
There is no shortage of brilliant ideas. However, successful implementation is rare. Implementation faces many barriers to success, which include, but are not limited to: politics, complexity, budget constraints, and counter productive habits. However we have found that the most common barrier successful implementation of a brilliant idea are individuals’ capacity for change.  Typically, capacity for change is a function of creativity, resources, intelligence, education, flexibility, values, risk tolerance and beliefs.
Tadd and I have tried to increased our capacity for change by:
Being Patient: Successful implementation doesn’t happen over night. It takes time, and sometimes years. We learned that if our goals were constantly changing we would never be able to accomplish any of them. Now when making goals we try to take a Long-range Focus and set goals carefully and accept that it might take a couple years to accomplish our goal. While we try to have patience we also are constantly looking for incremental progress towards our goals.
Make Space: We have reduced the clutter and commitments so that we can make space for new things. Right now we make space by setting aside time during Saturdays and holidays to explore and implement new ideas. We also try to systemize as much as we can so that we don’t continually have to do the same things over and over, and instead spend our time implementing new ideas.
Develop Horizontal Friendships: Everyone needs best friends. However, having a large number of horizontal friendships can also be valuable. Horizontal friendships are friendships with people that you wouldn’t be friends with naturally. Horizontal friends typically have different interests, lifestyles and personalities. If you spend time with these people they will increase your capacity for change by introducing you to new ideas, products and people outside your normal sphere of influence.
Stumble Upon Ideas: Some of the best advice I ever got was to just read everything I can, and not worry about retaining what I read. This sounds counter intuitive, but my mentor explained that I should make it a habit of stumbling upon knowledge. Everyday I try to scan Twitter and LinkedIn for interesting articles or ideas. Weekly I try to spend time reading a biography, a business book and a technical journal. I don’t care about when I finish, but only that I expose my self to the opportunity to learn something.

An Organization Structure Designed for Knowledge Workers

organization structure
CAN was started to provide great jobs to innovative and creative professionals.  Our organization structure is designed to help people focus on what they are good at and enjoy. Each aspect of our organization structure helps us attract people that a results driven (as opposed to ego driven), multi-discipline, and creative.  The following some of the ways that we accomplished this:
1. We separate management and technical roles to allow technicians/managers to focus becoming better technicians/manager instead of having to switch gears and learn new skills.  This creates an environment in which the next step for a good technician is not to become a manager, but instead to become a better technician, and the same from managers.  In addition to keeping people focused on their skills, it also helps to screen out people with egos driven by title instead of accomplishment or skill level.
2. We carefully curate layers, and only adding what we need.  We currently only have 3 levels of technicians and only 2 levels of management.  Limiting the number of layers encourages collaboration because people are able to talk across different departments and with people of different experiences and skill levels.  The number of levels and departments will need to expand as we grow, but our goal is to rigorously question if a new position, department or level of management needs to be created.
3. Each month everyone including managers are encouraged to produce at least one new or improved piece of intellectual property related to CAN and present it to the team.  This provides a way for people to be creative with a purpose, requires respect and trust of peers opinions, and provide a learning opportunity for each person on the team.
4. We encourage our employees to expose themselves to the best ideas available.  We encourage continual learning, exposure to multiple disciplines, and discussions about interesting topics.  Innovation and creativity at CAN come from the synthesis of ideas from multiple disciplines and sources.  For example, the first thing that we train analysts is design principals instead of more mathematics.  This helps them organize their work, and communicate their results for effectively.
CAN’s Three Way Test of Organization Structure:

Our models provide the foundation of our client’s business, and so we work hard to make sure that our models reflect reality so that they generate reasonable predictions.  One of the best ways that we do this is the CAN Three-way test.  The CAN Three-way test requires that each model we produce can be backed up with theory, data and math.
  1. The Theory: Without a sound theory, you have to rely on randomness, and that decreases the long-term usefulness of the model.  CAN relies on the expertise of our clients executives, managers and employees to build the theories around our models.
  2. The Data: CAN makes sure to fully understand your data, because data is the raw materials used to build predictive models.  CAN will examine patterns in your data to determine which equations to use to model your data, and also determine the quality of your data.  CAN is able work with imperfect data, we just make sure that we understand the flaws and limitations of your data, such as potential bias etc.
  3. The Math: CAN’s analysts go through hundreds of different models to select the right one that fits the data as well as the theory.  This doesn’t mean that we always select the equation that has the best line fit, but instead the equation that fits both the data and the theory.

The Right Approach to Good First Impressions

While you need to be genuine, it is always the best sales strategy to know how to approach someone for the first time. This will help you quickly establish trust, and make a good first impression, with a new potential client. The following are some of the approaches that we recommend to our clients depending on the potential clients personality type, education and work experience. The basic principal is to pick a sales approach that allows the person to see a little bit of himself or herself in you. If you can successfully do this, without making it obvious, the people that you talk to will be more trusting and willing to connect with you quicker.

The Ego

This person wants to feel important, and they will most likely respond to you and possibly purchase your product to satisfy an egotistical need.

The Expert

The person considers themselves to be an expert in their field, and will expect you to have a minimum knowledge of their field, or to be an expert if you are approaching them about something in their field.

The Good Samaritan

These people are very open to being contacted, but they don’t want to be sold. They want to help out and listen to someone.

The Skeptic

With skeptical people you want to lead with facts and figures. They won’t agree to a meeting with you unless you have case studies, testimonials, and/or an impressive client list.

The Explorer

These people are very open to being contacted, because they love learning about new things. When you approach them about an opportunity, it has to be unique and also be exciting.

Featured Posts – Click the Brain
CAN Jewels