Great! The idea has legs!
Startup Concept Summary
This new startup concept will save senior business managers time, and perhaps even their jobs.
When no other help is available, senior managers can contact Management Help Desk for quick questions that can be resolved by a short phone call or a day of analytical work. In a nutshell, the Management Help Desk includes:
- Phone help desk, where managers can access experts to bounce around ideas or ask basic questions
- Online help desk, where managers can request quick analytical reports with a 48-hour turnaround
- Rates based on the type or number questions, or the lengths of calls
Background of This Startup Idea
Life is difficult for senior managers. The market environment changes quickly, and office competition is fierce. Email boxes get filled with 100 emails every day, and schedule get filled with endless meetings. Worse yet, asking associates to do last minute nitty-gritty work or acknowledging a lack of knowledge in a politically charged office can get you a bad performance review. I am sure business managers, even the best of them, have moments when they just want to get a quick answer to some basic questions.
So how can Management Help Desk help?
You just came out of a meeting with your team about fixing an issue of leaking bottles returned from a retailer. Upon returning to your desk, the VP calls you. The VP is seriously pissed off, as he just learned that your competitor just launched a new flavored drink. You respond that you can develop a new strategy within two weeks, but the VP wants an executive summary tomorrow morning. Unfortunately, your schedule today is already tied up with meetings to deal with the leaking bottles. You hesitate to ask your marketing associates to help you because they are already tied up on five other projects.
What do you do? Before you go to your next meeting that day, you email the Management Help Desk with specific requests. Next morning, you receive your requested information, such as a picture of the competitive product, flavor options, price point, marketing claim, channels information, news summaries, etc. You quickly pull together your executive summary and email your memo to your VP by the lunch time.
You are sitting with your purchasing folks on the bottling issue. Packaging folks never liked marketing folks like you. So, they keep the conversation to themselves by using technical jargon you don’t fully understand. If you reveal that you do not understand the discussion, they will complain about why marketers are paid more than packaging professionals who know more than you (a good point, but let’s leave that to another discussion). What do you do? You make an excuse to step out for a moment, and then make a quick call to the Management Help Desk. An industry expert quickly educates you on the terminology. You then go back to the meeting room, and the packaging folks are under your control, again.
So, are you sold on this new concept? I am, I wish I had this in my corporate life!
Strategy and Tips for This Startup Idea
1) Competitive Differentiation for Management Help Desk
While plenty of market research agencies and consultants already exist, the Management Help Desk will not compete directly with them. Rather, this service will focus on urgent and quick help, not mid- or long-term projects. Accordingly, the key differentiation will come from the type of experts you hire.
Many consulting firms are staffed with strategic or management consulting experts who are not necessarily attuned to day-to-day operational issues. For quick help, your clients will need someone who can intuitively understand business situations to provide quick advise, knowledge, or analyses based on their deep experience.
Will professional social networking sites compete against the Management Help Desk? Most likely not. From my experience, I have never found it easy to leverage forums in these situations because it takes time to find the right forum, and replies, if they come at all, are usually half-cooked answers.
2) How to Build This Startup?
Staffing at the Start
To start, you should find about 7-8 appropriate candidates who are willing to become support providers in different domains such as business analysis, marketing, sales, R&D, manufacturing, HR, IT, and finance. Or you can start with 7-8 persons focused on a select functional area, so that you can get extra depth and availability of resources.
I am sure you know a number of people in your company who are about to retire or who are taking maternity leave, but want to stay in touch with the business world. Just ask if they might be interested in getting on board with you to start-up you new firm. (Be careful with the non-solicit clause of your employment agreement.)
Starting Service Menu
You should start from an email-only Q&A service so that your small staff can handle all incoming requests. Once you have sufficient scale, you can then hire more staff to create a phone call center.
Your initial website should have the following features:
Initial Customer Development
You can use a number of marketing methods, such as advertising on business magazines or direct mail to business school alumni. Perhaps, the most effective method, however, is networking with your current colleagues. The network from your initial staff, who are from your own employer, will give you plenty of chances to exploit opportunities with your managers remaining at the company.
Once you capture a good number of subscribers, you likely will start getting inquiries from other companies. Then, the viral marketing engine turns on. You can start hiring more people to expand the capacity.
Potential Financial Rewards of This Startup Idea
This model is based on the margin between what you charge your members for questions and what you pay the staff, less the fixed infrastructure costs. If you plan it right, you are going to make money.
So, this brings us to the important question: “Will managers pay for this service?”
With growing insecurity in the job market, many senior business managers are already personally paying for many sorts of things, from conference fees, community college classes, personal career coaches, magazine subscriptions, MBA alumni fees, expensive clothes etc. Do you think they’d call the Management Help Desk if it can save their career, or would they rather buy yet another Armani jacket?
It’s also possible that companies will reimburse the costs of the Management Help Desk, and allocate such costs to their market research budget. Large companies regularly pay for market research report spriced at $1500, or for a one-day business conferences priced over $1000. If getting help from the Management Help Desks helps make the company more profitable and efficient, they just may reimburse the expense.
Who Should Pursue This Startup Idea?
This is a kind of business I myself should start, given my background in the international corporate arena. But unfortunately I am more interested in other kinds of ideas like Bon ApPETit.
If you a middle manager who are looking for a unique startup opportunity, the Management Help Desk may be for you.