From Helping One-to-One to Helping One-to-Many: Interview with Karen Meckelborg, Founder and CEO of Fio Connect
Q: Hello, Karen, and thanks for speaking with me about Fio Connect! Let's start at the beginning. Why did you start Fio Connect?
A: Fio Connect actually started out as Fio Consulting in 2014 as a pure business consulting service with emphasis on sales. The inspiration was quite simply recognition that people were asking for advice and that 25 years of experience in the world of sales had value to small business owners.
Q: How has Fio Connect evolved?
A: In 2016, we changed the name because we recognized the value of the connections we have, and the world of sales and marketing is all about connecting. We connect people with product, business with customers, owners with expertise, people who know people, etc.
Q: What does Fio mean?
A: Oh, that's a good question. Figure it out! That's what it means. It's also a bit cheeky – I wanted a short word title and that's also exactly what we do. We see where a business is at, we see where a problem exists - and we figure out a solution.
Q: Can you tell me a little bit about how the company has evolved over the years?
A: I started out operating as a consultant. My time was spent predominantly one-on-one helping small business owners. It was immediately rewarding because we could see the results and impact directly on the company's bottom line. This is especially true when you're consulting for sales, because you're directly affecting revenue.
But then two events happened. Event number one was when I realized that being asked to help multiple businesses at the same time meant being at capacity, which is not a bad thing for a consultant. That's fine for the most part, but it meant that I simply couldn't do more than the hours I had in a day, and I actually found myself working too hard.
The second thing was a result of that: I had a health crisis. This meant not only was I ineffective in helping one, I could no longer help multiple businesses, and the few that I could carry in a short period of time had to either go on pause or had delays. That's not a comfortable feeling, from a business and income perspective. It bothered me - having others wait and having people who were relying upon my service go on pause with their own business development.
I ended up having kidney cancer in 2016 and had my kidney removed. That was a wake-up call physically and emotionally, as well as from a business perspective, because I realized - what happens if you have a health crisis and you're a consultant? For that matter, what happens if you want to go away on an extended vacation? What happens if you want to have a great big family activity, or something else happens in your family that causes you to need a break from work? When you're independent, that's a challenge. So the thinking was – how do you scale and deliver ongoing services to multiple companies not just such that you get paid, but more importantly, that the business continues and that there is still value being delivered? And how do you help others that want to also be consultants in that same way who may have the same concerns or fears or pauses in their career – how can you help them with the delivery mechanisms to keep their business going too?
So that was it – it was a crisis and awareness of the need to keep going when you're forced to pause.
And taking a step back, taking a look at that, and recognizing – ok, there's gotta be a new way to work. That was really the start of the journey. And along the way, figuring out that there are a lot of small businesses needing consulting services of some sort. Lots of companies wanting sales consulting. Realizing that a lot of the materials and tools and things that are intuitive to me and at the ready and can be customized quickly from my own resource library – those should be accessible and available to any business that could use some help. So that started the new way to work. I thought, let's create a resource library make it readily available for owners of small businesses.
In thinking about how to share those sales and marketing resources in a useable way, it was important to make things simple and user-friendly, so that any business at any stage, whether start up, growing, stagnated, or declining, can find a tool to help.
And I started to think about it almost like going to a gym - I wanted to give all the fitness equipment so that anybody could make use of what they needed, depending upon their motivation or goals. For example, in a gym, some want to lose weight, some want to get strong, some want to bulk up. There are tools, activities and systems for them at any time.
Q: Now to build on that – the equipment's all there. What's the next step?
A: I recognized that people still needed help. It's just like having a gym membership. Sometimes you need a personal trainer to kick start or put you on the right path.
Owners of small to medium sized businesses don't have time. And they don't have time to create all the strategy, and sometimes, they don't even know how to use professional sales tools because they're not trained. Many entrepreneurs and business owners are where they are and they're successful because they're good at what they do. But that doesn't make them sales experts.
I asked myself, how could I help these business owners in the space where they are? It's not enough to just say, "ok, come look in the library and find the tools." It was more important to be a hands-on guide. It was equally important to do that efficiently and within a small business budget.
And so I developed this way of providing personal, hands-on attention in small, affordable bursts.
I put together a 52 week plan for any small business, based on their individual circumstance, where each week, they train and build up their business development efforts.
As for efficiencies, we are able to work virtually. There are all kinds of virtual service offerings these days. Why can't sales consulting, training, motivation, management, and strategic planning be offered virtually?
So that was the start of our new way to work. Creating a high level consultancy-style service in a bite-sized, meaningful, and cost-efficient manner was the birth of Fio Connect.
Today, we offer our library of resources, and one on one personal attention, each week, in small chunks of time, to business owners who need hands-on support for their sales, marketing, and revenue growth.
Q: What does that service look like in real terms? How does a company work with Fio Connect?
A: There are several ways we work with small to medium sized businesses. For example, one of our companies is struggling with motivating their existing sales team. So we've done customized sessions on team building and how to run an effective weekly meeting. We've also helped the business owner create the right bonuses and incentives, along with a weekly plan to help that team achieve their goals.
We might have another small business that says, "I don't even have a team – what do I do?" In that case, we'd create a business strategy that helps develop a sales plan that a business owner can take on themselves, and then we would inject a little bit of help with marketing.
Occasionally, companies that have stagnated believe that they are doing everything right, but revenues have plateaued. That might entail a different starting point. We might ask things like, "Has your market changed? Has your target changed? Are your forecasts accurate? Do you have innovative thinking in your sales and marketing approach? Have your margins changed?" We usually take this opportunity to look at financials and targets to make sure they are accurate.
Some businesses tell us, "Nothing's working and we don't know what to do." They probably need help with sales strategy, possibly restructuring. This may involve hiring, firing, realigning their sales team, etc. I've seen many companies with dysfunctional sales teams. We will work at executive level to create and implement the right plan.
So whatever it is – whether it's systemic, personnel-related, sales training and motivating, financials, strategic planning - we meet them in their space of need. We help them understand what to do next. And we guide in short bursts that allow that business to say, "Ah, ok." They learn how to implement the sales function by using the right tool or strategy based on experience and high level expertise. They're essentially tapping into a VP of Sales for direction and management at a fraction of the cost of hiring a sales manager.
Q: Who does Fio Connect work with? Do you work across Canada and internationally?
A: We work with clients all across Canada. Because we have the capacity to deliver our services virtually, we are able to work anywhere. Currently, we have emerging business in the UK, and I'm excited about growing our footprint internationally.
- Don’t let the technology own you
- Take care of your health - Find a way to scale
- Find a niche and serve them well
- Have to be nimble and innovative
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