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June 22, 2010

MCS Forum in Boulder

Last week was a real treat for me - I attended an industry conference that was right here in Boulder, Colorado.  Usually I have to travel half-way across the country, but not only was this one just a 10 minute drive from my home, but it was a lot of fun, and I got to bring home an award for Gold Systems.

This was the first ever MCS Forum, an event dedicated to theMicrosoft Communications Server product, aka Office Communications Server.  Thomas Cross, who put on the event and did a great job of keeping everyone entertained and well fed, asked me to be the first speaker of the morning.

I did a live demo of how we've extended Communications Server to add social networking capabilities, such as Twitter.  I've written about that before and recorded several demos, and Microsoft has even written a case study on it.  You can read the Microsoft case study here.

But the main point of my talk at the MCS Forum was that this product isn't just a new communications system or even a PBX replacement, but rather it is a platform that will be extended and built on in ways that are just now becoming clear.  I believe the shift from the traditional propriety PBX hardware mindset to open, extensible software communications platforms will be as big as the shift was from mainframes to PCs, or landlines to smart phones.

I'll bet the MCS Forum will be three times as big next year because it delivered great information about how this industry is going to evolve, and it brought together customers and vendors who are making it happen.  If you missed it this year, put it on your schedule to attend it next year.  Check out Tom's blog at http://crosstalk-techtionary.blogspot.com/  or the mscforum.org website.

June 22, 2010 in Unified Communications | Permalink | TrackBack

19 Years and counting, and 13 lessons learned

Nineteen years ago yesterday, June 21, 1991, I received notice from the State of Colorado that Gold Systems was officially incorporated as a business.  I believe I also gave two weeks notice to AT&T on that day and officially started my entrepreneurship journey.

I've learned so many lessons along the way.  Some lessons are still being repeated, but years ago I wrote down some of the ones that had really stuck with me.  To commemorate the day I'm going to repeat a blog post that I did back in 2004.  Here's the original link, which amazingly still works.  I called it Thirteen Lessons Learned in 2004, but the list goes back to the very early days of Gold Systems.  At that time there were only twelve lessons, but the most important lesson was only added after we survived the dot.com crash.

Thank you sincerely to EVERYONE who's been a part of Gold Systems.  For everyone who's ever worked here, or been a customer or a partner or an investor - thank you!

Thirteen Lessons Learned

1. Get all of the business we can . . .

Too many times we thought we were going to get a big contract and slacked off on our sales efforts. Then we had to scramble when the contract didn't come through.

2. Don't assume anyone else is working in our best interest.

People have their own problems and sometimes wishful thinking made us believe that people were going to do more to help us than was realistic.

3. Always confirm sending a fax and appointments.

Faxes have a way of getting sent to the wrong number, lost, mis-filed or directed to the wrong person. We confirm every fax that goes out of our office. Confirming appointments can prevent you from driving across town and then finding out the person you are meeting is no longer available. It also reminds the person you are meeting about the time and gives them a chance to be better prepared.  I don't remember the last time I sent a fax, but I do remember the last time I sent an email and then wondered why it wasn't answered, only to find out it didn't go through.  The point is to confirm the important stuff.

4. Every phone call could be from a customer.

Always answer the phone assuming that a customer could be calling. Some people like to call at odd hours and leave voice mail. It is impressive when they catch you working late and you answer professionally.

5. You get what you want by helping enough other people get what they want.

I believe business is all about providing service to other people. I believe that Zig Ziglar might have said this originally.

6. Get your name in front of people.

Reputation and name recognition are two very valuable assets of a company.

7. Be honest.

Always. No exceptions in my book. Besides being right, it makes good business sense. People who lie eventually get caught and aren't trusted. If a person will lie about a little thing they will lie about a big thing.

8. Call the person who writes the check to make sure that we are going to be paid on time.

Don't wait until an account is past due to find out they never received the invoice. It is easy for an invoice to get lost. Make it easy to get paid.

9. It's not a "Done Deal" until Jim gets his sucker.

Jim Fudge is my friend and partner. He also used to take every check to the bank and he would celebrate by bringing back suckers. Until the check is in the bank a deal can go down the tubes. Don't relax until you get paid.

10. Always write down all commitments.

Make to-do lists and use a good contact management system. Customers hate when things "fall through the cracks". When they do (and they will) don't make excuses. I hate being told by someone that "they got busy". What, with their good customers? Own up to the mistake and try harder not to miss commitments.

11. Spell check everything.

I'm a terrible speller, but there is no excuse for sending out a document that has spelling errors. (Now watch, one will slip through in this list!)

12. Always get a copy of anything we sign.

It's pretty common to be told "Sign this and we'll send you a copy". Ask for a copy when you sign it. Sometimes they forget to send it and then you have nothing if you ever have to refer to the contract or try to enforce it.

This list of lessons was developed by Terry Gold and James Fudge during the startup and growth of Gold Systems, Inc., a custom telecommunications software firm in Boulder, Colorado. Feel free to use this list in your own business and to make copies if you keep this notice intact. Someday when life slows down I might like to use this list as a basis for a book.


I can’t believe it took me this long to add this lesson.  You can survive anything as a business as long as you don’t run out of cash.  Don’t do it.  Don’t get close.  If you are heading in that direction, create a massive sense of urgency to change what you are doing.  Note to VC backed entrepreneurs:  Big bank balances turn in to small bank balances surprisingly fast. 


June 22, 2010 in Entrepreneur Essays | Permalink | TrackBack