Brandon Schaefer, the CEO of MyVirtualSalesForce, is an entrepreneur, public speaker, author, investor, advisor, and market segment influencer. He's also living proof that you don't have to spend a lot to make a lot.
In this interview with Startup Savant, Brandon talks about how MyVirtualSalesForce came to life, its competitive advantage and how he balances life and work. He also shows us that running a business is tough but the most important thing is to never quit and have a positive attitude.
For entrepreneurs starting a business in Pennsylvania, his advice:
Start small, team up with the colleges and universities and work with startup organizations. Philadelphia has one of the best startup scenes in the country, so be sure to take advantage of all the opportunities.
Why did you start MyVirtualSalesForce? Can you tell me a little bit about your business and what you do?I started MyVirtualSalesForce.com because it filled a much needed lead generation and sales development gap in the marketplace. We have Quora.com which is free, and Clarity.fm which is expensive, so MyVirtualSalesForce sits right in the middle of both of them.
MyVirtualSalesForce subscribers can ask unlimited lead generation and sales development questions, and get back professional answers from seasoned entrepreneurs.
Is there a competitive advantage that you have over the rest? How did you find it and 'niche down'?Yes, our competitive advantage is quick access to lead generation and sales development questions. Not only do we provide the answers quickly, but we provide it for a reasonable monthly subscription amount. Like most companies we threw spaghetti up against the wall to see what works, and then we took the most popular service, and ran with it and formed this Q&A subscription service.
Did you write a business plan for MyVirtualSalesForce? If so, would you recommend using a template or planning software to help new entrepreneurs?My plan was written on a napkin. It’s pretty simple. I find that the simpler, the better in most cases in terms of business plans. Yes, I’d recommend using a simple business plan template, especially if you’re presenting your business idea to investors.
We're huge believers of every entrepreneur keeping their business' finances under control. How do you keep MyVirtualSalesForce books in check?I’ve used all kinds of systems, but the simplest way I’m able to do it is by entering my monthly outgoing expenses into a simple Excel spreadsheet. The most important thing is watching cash flow burn rate, and it’s just easiest for me to do it this way. I know the money will come in, but I really watch what goes out very closely at this point.
How do you balance life and work to remain connected and available for your loved ones? Any advice for me?I’m always plugged in and getting pinged, so I have to shut down every once in a while. When I’m on vacation, at one of my kids sporting events, or spending family time. I’ll leave my phone somewhere where it’s not easy for me to hear or get to, this way I stay focused and in the moment with whom I’m with.
How did you find the time and money to get MyVirtualSalesForce off the ground? Any advice for entrepreneurs with minimal time or resources?I funded MyVirtualSalesForce.com while I was still running my 90DayEntrepreneur.com site. Once I signed my 90DayEntrepreneur.com site over to Entrepreneur.com, I naturally just focused on MyVirtualSalesForce. I’d definitely recommend funding your business idea while you’re making money doing another business or corporate job, this way you have something to fall back on.
What do you consider the biggest milestone that you have hit with your business? What was the number one thing you did you get there?Running on a lean budget and not having a high cash flow burn rate. I only invest in technology that delivers a strong ROI, such as Salesforce.com for our CRM and Nextiva.com for our phone system. I found out that I don’t need to spend a lot to make a lot.
Who has been your greatest influence as an entrepreneur? How did they shape your business?No one entrepreneur has been my greatest influence, it’s a combination of a bunch of them and the business experiences I’ve learned from them. It’s like mixing up a fruit smoothie, but I mixed up entrepreneurs instead. My business is always evolving, and the entrepreneurs that influence me are always changing as well.
Everything changes in business, the market, the people that are influencing it, and what you need to do to be successful.
What do you enjoy most about being an entrepreneur? Is there something you are most proud of?I enjoy the ability to be agile and to be able to pivot quickly based upon market needs. Big companies take forever to make changes, where I can say, “Let’s try this and see what happens,” at the drop of a dime. I’m most proud of never quitting, and always having a positive attitude and knowing the hard (and smart) work always pays off in the end.
What are the top 3 pieces of advice that you would give someone starting a business in Pennsylvania? What do they need to know from the beginning?The first piece of advice I'd give someone starting a business in Philadelphia is to start small i.e. grow the business one zip code at a time. Every zip code has a different vibe, so be sure to personalize the message to match the personas of the zip code.
The second piece of advice is to team up with the colleges and universities. Philadelphia has incredible schools i.e. University of Pennsylvania, Drexel, Temple, etc., work with their business schools, attend their events, and be helpful to their students, and it will position the business to get exposure and new business opportunities.
The third piece of advice is to work with startup organizations, both that the city provides, as well as what the private sector provides, to get business ideas, plans, space, money, etc., to grow the business. Philadelphia has one of the best startup scenes in the country, so be sure to take advantage of all the opportunities.
For daily expert advise on lead generation and sales development, follow Brandon on Twitter, Linkedin or check him out at Myvirtualsalesforce.com!