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Learning the language of sales

Thursday, 10 March 2011 | By Michelle Hammond

Ten years ago, the design and installation of electrical and technology solutions was a largely underdeveloped market, controlled by just a handful of companies.

 

In 2003, Nuvo Solutions Group was founded, promising to deliver cabling solutions including electrical, data, communications, security, smart systems and audio visual.

 

Its founders, Paul McMurtrie and Lior Rauchberger, had both abandoned their well-paying jobs in the medical industry to complete a Masters in Entrepreneurship at Melbourne’s Swinburne University.

 

After being paired together for a university project, McMurtrie and Rauchberger decided to go into business together, based on the shared belief that very few companies offered one service for separate jobs such as electrical, audiovisual, telephone, computer and security.

 

Although McMurtrie already had an electrician business in operation, neither he nor Rauchberger had any real experience in the technological field, which meant Nuvo Solutions was up against some serious competition.

 

Despite this, the business has grown from four employees to 130 in just over seven years, with an annual turnover of $35 million and an impressive portfolio of clients including the Grand Hyatt, Crown Casino, Eureka Tower and BHP Billiton.

 

But before it was a multimillion dollar business, Rauchberger and McMurtrie had to deal with the challenges associated with being “commercially naive.” They struggled to become immersed in a completely new sector and then commercialise that knowledge.

 

“[For our university project] we had to write a marketing plan about a business... We pretty much started the business based on all the concepts and themes [in the project],” Rauchberger says.

 

“We were commercially naive, clearly. We didn’t have a lot of experience under our belt; we came from a medical and health base to the construction sector.”

 

“Working on a job site and working in a hospital are at opposite ends of the spectrum. The language, the terminology – it was a bit of a culture shock... I heard more vulgarities in one day in this business than in one week working in the hospital.”

 

“We had to be quick learners, flexible and open minded. In addition to having very little knowledge of the industry, we were trying to create demand for that industry.”

 

Rauchberger says the sales process was initially very difficult because architects were sceptical of the technology.

 

“It was like selling ice to Eskimos. I wasn’t in sales mode – I was in education mode. I reckon I spent 80% of my time just being like a lecturer,” he says.

 

“One thing that helped us a lot was that our competition was often from really technical backgrounds; they would try and explain concepts to clients and end up confusing them.”

 

“One thing they teach you at medical school is to take complicated concepts and explain them in simple terms to your patients, and I was able to do the same thing in this business for prospective clients.”

 

“We were able to break down those barriers and walls. I didn’t recognise that at the time [as being an advantage] but looking back, that was clearly a big help.”

 

Rauchberger says his and McMurtrie’s naivety also extended into the area of recruitment, which proved to be a challenging process.

 

“Because we were new and young, it was hard to find good people with experience; we had no reputation and only a few clients,” he says.

 

“We often went with our gut feel and hope that it would work out... We made some disastrous decisions.”

 

“Having said that, we’ve taken people with no experience but they’ve felt right and they become superstars in the business. It’s not all about the experience – it’s about the cultural fit.”

 

Rauchberger says the company now outsources HR professionals to oversee the interview process because “you need to surround yourself with experts in this area” to ensure you hire the right people.

 

“Any business is only as good as the people in it... We’re a lot wiser about who we want on the bus riding this journey with us,” he says.