Blog: Lisa Kurek

Lisa Kurek can show you the money. As the Managing Partner of Biotechnology Business Consultants she has brought in more than $40 million in grant funding for Michigan companies. Lisa will be writing about the impact of grant funding on the state's economy and offer tips for small businesses interested in pursuing funding.

Lisa Kurek - Post No 2: Life is Sales

I am trained as an engineer and spent the first part of my career in research and development. Turns out I was not the greatest engineer.

I was fortunate to work for a company that although large in size was quite entrepreneurial in attitude. With a bit of fortitude and tenacity, I was able to transition my career into sales and marketing. My colleagues on the engineering side were somewhat chagrined that I had "sold out" (no pun intended). Over the ensuing years I was a product manager, sales person, sales manager, and ultimately a VP of Sales and Marketing. Of all of the experiences and skills that I acquired along the way, the one that has been the most valuable to me is the experience in sales.

I have since come to the conclusion that it is one of the most valuable skills that anyone can acquire, especially entrepreneurs.

In my current consulting career, I train entrepreneurs across the country on how to write grants to the federal government, specifically targeted to small companies developing new technology based products. Most of the attendees are scientists and engineers. Many are from academia. Some are from industry. They are all there because they need funding to develop their “technological innovations.”

One of the first questions I always ask is, "how many of you consider yourselves to be sales people?"

You can guess how many raise their hands – none! In fact, at that point some of them actually start to look towards the door and you can tell that they are wondering if they can leave without causing too much commotion. They have no idea what sales has to do with writing grants to fund their research and development.

The federal government is not funding companies just to be nice and help pay for R&D. They fund small companies to develop products and establish successful commercial entities that address government agency problems and goals.

For example, the National Institute of Health funds small companies to development new medical devices, diagnostics and therapeutics that, if commercialized, will help NIH achieve their mission of improving human health. By addressing a problem that NIH has, the company can secure funding. NIH is the customer. The proposal is the "sales tool" and the entrepreneur is the sales person!

This sales approach isn’t isolated to grant proposals. Entrepreneurs that approach all constituents that they rely on for support as customers are in a much better position to succeed.

Successful sales people provide solutions to customers’ problems. The customer might be the person buying your product or service. But it is also the person you want to hire, the organization that you want to partner with or the institution that you want to raise money from. Talented business and technical experts. Sources of debt and equity capital. Corporations looking for strategic partnerships. Find those "customers”"and you begin to find your economic niche. In fact, reread yesterday’s blog to find examples of organizations that can help you identify some of these customers right here in Michigan.

I truly believe that life is sales. And yes, I think this is a good thing! Who doesn’t like to solve problems for others?