Interview with Scott Herring

Scott Herring has over 22 years experience in all aspects of software development: system design, programming, consulting, training and support. Scott started True Focus Solutions after leaving his position as Senior Vice President at Counterpoint Systems, where he directed the business for North America and architected service-oriented, Internet and N-tier software systems for clients including Universal Music, 20th Century Fox, and MTV/Viacom. True Focus is Scott’s second start-up (the first was fresh ground software).

When did you decide that you wanted to become an entrepreneur?

My father started his own electrical engineering consultancy when I was very young, so I grew up in a “self-employed” household, witnessing the feast-and-famine cycles until the business became quite stable and successful. After graduating from college and working for a few small companies, I was confident that I could run a business better than the folks I had worked for. I prefer to work with a small team of smart people, and it’s easier to do that with my own business.

How did you know your business idea was the right idea?

We started True Focus Solutions in early 2008, before the banking crisis surfaced. Funny enough, we were looking at writing a small system to help a company write and track reverse mortgages. In meeting with people, we were warned about the looming meltdown with mortgages in general. The same tools and architecture we were describing for reverse mortgages made sense, with a few design tweaks, for the relationship managers (RMs) at banks. Watching the financial crisis, with over 100 banks closing in 2009, we knew that there was going to be a need to change systems to be better with metrics and workflows.

What was the most difficult part in getting started?

True Focus is my second software start-up , and based on my first try, I always said “I wouldn’t wish entrepreneurship on anyone!”. It’s hard work , which I suspect is why so many companies fail. I also have found the chicken-and-egg problem. The first time, we built software first, and almost starved in the process. With True Focus, we spent a great deal of time creating the framework for the company and the defining the business first, with the goal of getting funding. After that, it was time for product development. Neither path is “right”, but if I could do it again, I’d probably build a simple version of the product first. In this economic environment, investors are choosing companies that already have revenue.

What is the top skill (or skills) needed to be a successful entrepreneur?

1. Communication with customers, employees, investors and vendors
2. Prioritization
3. Ability to motivate others (especially to work for cheap or free at the beginning!)

What motivates you and/or keeps you motivated?

I definitely experience peaks and valleys. It feels like each learning curve ends with yet another learning curve… I have partners and friends who keep me accountable. My personality is about getting things done, so each time we reach a milestone, my energy goes back up.

What do you think is the major difference between entrepreneurs and those who work for someone else?

When you’re in most corporate environments, you have room to coast. When you’re starting up a company, speed is paramount, and coasting only hurts your chances.

What has been one of your failures, and what have you learned from it?

In the early days of True Focus, I presented a few times before we were ready. The tough questions, though, are the ones that make your business better. You can’t plan for everything, but you can be prepared to learn and adjust.

Henry Ford once said that "A market is never saturated with a good product, but it is very quickly saturated with a bad one." What are your thoughts on that quote?

I’m not sure what Mr. Ford was trying to say, and I don’t really agree. If he was pointing to fads, we have a fad with iPhone and iPad right now, but both products have changed their market’s landscape. Phones were changing incrementally until Apple launched iPhone, and who would have thought tablets would be all the rage? Game changing products can saturate, or substantially capture, a market.

Walt Disney once said that "The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing." What are your thoughts on that quote?

I agree that doing is better about 90% of the time. Sometimes the talking part is underestimated. I’m a proponent of the emerging User Experience (UX) and Customer Experience disciplines, which are more interested in talking before doing because ready-fire-aim isn’t always the best approach.

That said, action gets results. We love iterative development techniques like agile programming, which can be powerful if used properly. Having somewhat of a roadmap from talking is a key factor.

Zig Ziglar once said "If you don't see yourself as a winner, then you cannot perform as a winner." What are your thoughts on that quote?

I practice vision techniques all the time, something I learned when training for my first marathon. It certainly helps if you can visualize where you want to go, whether it’s in sports or in your start-up. I associate “getting there” with “winning”.

What was the most crucial thing you have done to grow your business?

I think too many firms are sales-driven rather that customer-driven. If you want to build evangelists among your customers, the most crucial thing to grow business is to deliver products and services that solve their pains. Sometimes that means foregoing early income while you build things or fix problems now. I’ve worked places where finding a client who would provide a reference wasn’t easy because the delivery wasn’t as promised during the sale. Eventually growth stops.

What advice would you give an entrepreneur who is just starting out?

Try to find a mentor, someone who has started a successful company. Learning from their experiences can prevent you from repeating history, at least in some areas. Any entrepreneur has to work hard and learn from mistakes, but avoiding mistakes in the first place will help you be more productive in the long term.

Company Description:

True Focus Solutions creates integrated business development software and offers professional services that enable consumer and business banks to manage marketing & sales, engage clients, and keep digital assets at their fingertips. By delivering tools that improve on marketing & sales workflows, our Rich Prospect Management (RPM) business development software suite can help True Focus Solutions’ customers increase revenue and contain costs.



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