Entrepreneur and author Creel Price tells how he founded a business at 25 and retired at 35 after selling it for $109 million. Now he trains entrepreneurs and writes business books.
Blueprint Management Group
Profile: Author, coach, founder and former co-owner of Blueprint Management Group
You founded Blueprint Management Group with $5,000. How did you start it up?
I co-founded it with Trevor Folsom who I had worked with for three years and then I ended up going and travelling around the world as a backpacker. When I came back and was talking to Trevor we decided to throw $5,000 in each and founded Blueprint. We worked for an American company that was probably a little bit ahead of its time around customer relationship management. So we saw a big opportunity for a lot of big banks and telcos to do similar sort of marketing programs rather than just the whole acquisition thing everyone was preoccupied with at that time. So we set the business up on that premise.
How did you come to see that niche?
I guess I saw how powerful it was when we worked together. That you can take customers that are purchasing maybe one product, but if you can upsell them – I think the magic formula in those days was that if you could get seven products a customer – your company was onto a winner. Australia was pretty slow about a lot of the methodology that was coming out of America and the UK.
And how did you grow that business to go from $10,000 to selling it for $109 million later on?
Not easily, particularly in the early years. It took a while to come up with the formula for the market, in some ways we were a little bit ahead of our time. We would rock up to these marketing departments and talk to them about our ideas, and they agreed, but unfortunately their marketing practices and their incentives were all based on acquisition, so it did take the market awhile to catch up to us. It took a while to do case studies and build up enough credibility so that the larger organisations would do business with us, but once we started to get some inroads in that area we ended up in some ways creating a little bit of a monopoly for ourselves. Particularly in the financial services arena, I think we ended up working for seven of the top ten financial and insurance companies in the country.
What was your biggest contract and how did you get that?
The biggest contract was with Westpac, it took us a couple of years to achieve it, but it ended up being, I think, a $20 million a year contract for us. How did we get them? It is quite an interesting story. We did what you might call a Hollywood set, where we managed to get a pitch to some of the executives at Westpac, and we talked to them about our whole customer relationship and management philosophy and how we could help. They seemed pretty interested, so they said, ‘When can we start?’ The first thing they did before they started was they wanted to come out to check out our operations. Unfortunately, we’d spent a total of $100 on all of our fit out combined at a second-hand auction, so whenever we had a new customer come to the office we hardly ever saw them again.
This was at 3pm and Westpac wanted to come in the next day so we went back to the office and we had $3,000 in the bank and we decided to create really what became a Hollywood set. We hired plants and rugs to cover some of the shagginess, and paintings on the wall, and we didn’t have many campaigns going at the time so someone hired some staff and put them onto a campaign. Someone hired some computer monitors and hid the cords because we couldn’t afford the hard drives. To make us look a bit focused, we hired a new boardroom table, and the next morning when all the cool stuff was getting put in we broke into the next door office and put the new table and stuff in there to make the whole office look bigger. And we did the pitch of our lives and we managed to get the business.
That’s fantastic. So did you have a sales team?
Probably not initially, it was mainly Trevor and me, and probably more so Trevor in some ways than me. I was more of the management and director type.
What about when the business got more developed?
We did have a sales team then. But still, it wasn’t a huge sales team, it was really two or three people, it was mainly about interesting products and there were really only 100 companies in Australia we could do business with.
What would your tips be for running a sales team?
Well, I think a tip for small business owners particularly is that the best person to sell a business is the business owner. Sometimes I’ve seen the business owner spend 90% of the time in operations and trying to get other people to do the sales, but I think as a front person in the company they’re better to employ someone else to do the back end and be more involved in sales.