Archive for March, 2010

Chasing the Sun

March 24, 2010

I have learned to get used to my travel schedule, which usually entails leaving on a Thursday morning before the sun rises and leaving late in the day the following Tuesday or Wednesday to return back to the Chicago office. There is something about chasing the sunset home after a week on the road that just gives you a different perspective on things. It lets me be a poet, a little.

No, you will not see me writing poetry anytime soon. I have never gotten the true appreciation of poetry since an English literature class I took in college where I felt I did less interpreting the inner meaning of the poem and more trying to translate iambic pentameter into prose so I knew what the heck this guy was trying to say. I did, however, find an appreciation of the poet himself who took a completely different approach to telling a story. It is that view that I get to enjoy when I am spending an hour and a half watching the sunset from Raleigh, DC, New Jersey, or Atlanta over to Chicago.

Much of my day is spent running. I’m meeting with clients, usually 2 or 3 a day, where I am helping a plumbing company develop sales process one hour then driving to an accounting firm next to help them determine their own unique selling proposition. On the drive there, I am usually talking to our inside sales manager about the projects we are working on, with our SAM Group membership coordinator about our latest meeting, or listening to a book on CD to see if I can pick up some additional insight for a client. I love every minute of it, but sometimes it is nice to just look out the window and watch the sunset, letting my mind wander to endless possibilities.

Truth be known, after all of the reading and talking, it is usually the time I’m on the plane, taking the different perspective of the poet, that the new ideas come. Over the last few years, my role with the company has changed from being the guy who brought in all of the projects and did all of the work, to the person who “steers the ship” as we have grown from a small “one man band” to the company with procedures, infrastructure, and many people, even through the most difficult economic time in recent memory. With that change over the years, my ideas have become as valuable as my ability to delegate, and that time away from the phone, email, and clients has become the most valuable time of my week.

I still don’t know what Shakespeare was saying half of the time, though!


March Madness: On the Court and at the Office

March 18, 2010

I was walking through the airport this morning and as I was going through security I overheard a few guys talking. “Duke is looking strong,” one of the men waiting to be screened said. “Nah, Kansas is going all the way!” Immediately I knew that these guys were not talking grad school here because it is that day that so many people wait all winter for…the first day  of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament…March Madness!

Being a fan of warmer weather myself (if you have been reading this blog, it has been well documented how “done” I am with snow and winter!) I usually look at March Madness as the perfect appetizer to the upcoming baseball season, when I spend many an evening over the next several months before going to bed finding out two very important things: (1) Did my Yankees win? & (2) Did the dreaded Red Sox lose?

March Madness has led to another thing that has become an annual tradition—sitting here just hours before the first game and realizing that I did not fill out my NCAA brackets!

My plan is simple, pull out the bracket the Monday before and pick my teams for the one or two pools I plan on joining (since readership of my blog is growing and you never know if the FBI is monitoring to crack down on $5 office pools, I will allow to remain nameless the people who run these pools). I always plan on getting my picks in on Wednesday after thinking about which upsets are going to happen in the early rounds and which top seeds are going all the way. After all, after watching 2 or 3 games over the winter and listening to sports talk radio in Chicago and Raleigh, I qualify as an expert, right?

This year there is a good reason why I am not participating in a pool: we just got too busy at work and I completely forgot to fill out my brackets. I know, balance is the key and the $50 or so I could have won would really have gone a long way, but with the amount of work we have been seeing lately during this economic recovery, things have been just nuts lately.

We are seeing many companies focusing on new business and business process lately, in all areas of the economy.

  • Manufacturing firms looking to increase business by having us develop new relationships with companies that previously were working with a competitor who has since gone out of business; or by developing processes so that their product is a “lower hanging fruit” for manufacturers’ reps to sell their products and 5 or 6 others.
  • Staffing firms, especially temporary staffing, has been on a huge rise as companies are finding projects that were put off in 2009 are now critical in 2010 but they just don’t want to hire back full time staff to do the work. Their account executives have been so busy keeping current clients happy and solving problems (when your “product” is a person, you will be amazed the issues that arise) that they simply do not have the time to reach out to the newer prospects. Our inside sales teams in both Raleigh and Chicago are seeing more and more firms contracting with us to provide that initial relationship development as their salespeople just don’t have the time to make 100 calls a day to prospects.
  • Marketing firms looking to expand their reach by partnering with us to provide solutions to firms who understand that sales and marketing should be working together for optimal success
  • Plumbing companies who are providing new services to clients—have you ever heard of Hydro-Excavation? Google “Hydro Excavation in Chicago” and you will find a video by C.J. Erickson Plumbing which will show their hydro excavator in action
  • Associations who are looking to increase advertising and sponsorship revenue
  • Trade show companies interested in increasing the return on their clients’ investment of the trade show by working with us to follow up on the leads they get at shows. Do you have any idea how many of those leads actually get followed up on? We found research saying about 30%, however one of our clients said their research showed it was more like 10%…10%? That means 9 out of 10 people they are currently meeting do not receive any type of follow up at all. We can make a pretty good impact on their bottom line by reaching out to those people and discerning the prospects from the people who stopped by the booth for the giveaways only.

March Madness indeed, but we wouldn’t have it any other way. We have continued to increase our staff to not only keep up with growing client demands, but also to allow our staff to continue to grow in their careers. Having “the right people on the bus” is always an important part of how we do things.

We continue to thank our clients for their faith in us and continue to look for more people that we can help, either in outsourcing the inside sales function, assisting with sales management and sales process, or getting them involved in our sales and marketing peer advisory groups.

I guess it was worth missing filling out my NCAA bracket this year; which reminds me of a joke I heard this week from a Duke fan which I will leave you with: “What does the NCAA tournament and a pair of flip flops have in common?   No Heels!”

…and the Oscar Goes To….5 Years as a Vistage Member

March 8, 2010

Last Wednesday I attended my monthly Vistage meeting. For those of you unfamiliar with Vistage, it is a peer advisory group for CEOs of similar sized companies. We discuss issues that are going on in our respective businesses. Sometimes you are the teacher, explaining how you handled a particular growth issue and sometimes you are the student, learning from what others did to solve a similar problem.

Wednesday’s meeting marked my five year anniversary as a member of Vistage. Upon my arrival to the meeting, our chair, Clay Garner, presented me with what looked a lot like a show box and asked me to open it in front of the group. Inside was my reward for 5 years of sharing my growth, challenges, issues, concerns, ideas, etc. with this wonderful group: a beautiful–and very heavy I might add–crystal award engraved with the following: “In Recognition of Richard Burghgraef. Honoring Your Commitment to Growth. Member Since 2005.”

Upon receiving this award, I felt a little like the winner of an Oscar…they like what I have to say, they really like what I have to say!

I have found the Vistage experience to be wonderful for me as I have grown Randolph Sterling over the last 7 years. During what has been the most difficult economic times in my lifetime and some would argue in history, we have not only held our own but have continued to grow. As we start to break out of this economic downturn, we are poised to continue to help more and more people implement strategies to their sales process that result in increased revenue and profitability due to some of the many lessons I have learned as a member of Vistage.

It was my Vistage experience, and my Vistage chair who inspired me to start our SAM Peer Advisory Groups and allow us to help salespeople, the lifeblood of growth to many if not all companies, learn form each other. Vistage also helped me to make decisions about my company that increased cash flow, morale, and productivity. Now if I can just get them to help me sell my house and maybe take a vacation!

Thank you Vistage and my Vistage colleagues for 5 great years!

Special Event:Lucky’s Pot of Leads

March 7, 2010

Lucky’s Pot of Leads

Order tickets via Eventbrite:

In conjunction with Business Club America and Randolph Sterling, Inc., Hummingbird Creative Group invites you to the second of a series of 9 roundtable events in 2010 to celebrate Hummingbird’s 15th Anniversary.

Friday, March 12, 2010 from 11:30am – 1:00pm at 1705 Prime, join industry expert panelists:
Wendy Coulter, President, Hummingbird Creative Group, Inc.
Rich Burghgraef, President – Randolph Sterling, Inc.
Sherry Mitchell, Director Brand Strategies, Hummingbird Creative Group, Inc.

The trio will address the differences between sales and marketing, as well as how they must support one another for either to be successful. Discover how to better qualify sales prospects through understanding why your current customers buy from you and using that information to build marketing messages that can help you sell! You will learn about:

~ the need for structured communication between your sales and marketing teams
~ the importance of knowing your competitive advantages
~ new online resources and opportunities to find and foster leads and fill your sales funnel
~ how selling is best done by asking questions, not selling what you have
~ budgeting for both sales and marketing, not one or the other, to reach your growth goals
~ qualifying leads to find more of the business you want through your sales and marketing efforts
~ using unique sales enablement tools to build brand awareness

1705 Prime
1705 E. Millbrook Rd.
Raleigh, NC 27609

Cost is $25 per person and includes lunch

Order tickets via Eventbrite by Monday, March 8th:
or call 919-854-9100 ext. 304

“The Performance is Only as Good as the Audience”…And We Have a Great Audience!

March 3, 2010

Remember back in the days of elementary school, on those special days when you would have an assembly? We would pile into the gym—or as our principal used to call it, the “all purpose room” to either see one of the other grades perform a play or an outside group come in to perform for the whole school? Mr. Campbell, the principal at Westmoreland School in Fair Lawn, New Jersey where I grew up used to start out each assembly by reminding us kids to be respectful of the performers…”the performance is only as good as the audience” he would always tell us.

Those words have never rung more true than at the SAM Peer Advisory Group meeting that we held in our office in Cary, NC the other day.

We had a great meeting, and, as with all SAM Groups where each member is an equal participant and can give and/or receive advice, the participants determine the value of the meeting. Since the value of the meeting is that the discussions are confidential, allow me to take a minute to tell you about some of the participants:

Draughon Cranford of Xpress Image: Draughon is very well connected throughout Raleigh. So, when an issue comes up, he not only has his opinion about it, which he offers in a very professional manner, but he also knows someone else through all of the networking he has done in all the right places, that he can usually offer a recommendation of someone he can bring in to help with the issue.

Will Webb of Dupree & Webb: Will is one of the first people I met when I joined Business Clubs of America. In a world where people sometimes blur ethical lines (especially in the insurance industry where he lives) Will’s ethics are beyond reproach. Will is the kind of guy who would walk away from a profitable piece of business if it meant he wouldn’t feel good at the end of the day when he came home to his wife and 2 year old daughter to tell them about it.

Rob Pulley of Talent Management Solutions: Rob is the second person I met when I joined BCA. Rob is the kind of guy who doesn’t just speak to hear his own voice. Trust me, he has a lot to say, but nothing he says is not the result of careful thought to the issue at hand. Rob is also a guy who is very well connected and will make a recommendation for what he truly feels is best for his colleague, looking for nothing to gain other than respect of his peers. He definitely has it.

Danny Worthy of North Carolina Central University: Some of you basketball fans might be thinking…wait a second…North Carolina? Worthy? Is he related to former Tar Heel and Los Angeles Laker great James Worthy? Actually, yes, Danny and James Worthy are brothers. Danny, after a successful career at Verizon, decided to come back to his alma mater, NCCU, with the sole goal of helping them achieve growth as their athletic teams move into division I. Danny works to partner businesses with the university through various sponsorship opportunities. Danny is one of the most polite and respectful people I have met. He adds great insight and experience into every topic and isn’t afraid to ask for assistance as well as give his opinion.

And, I can’t forget to mention our very own Angela King: Angela has been very helpful in getting the SAM Groups up and running in Raleigh as well as assisting me in facilitating the meetings. As a facilitator, it is our job to keep the meetings on topic, but to also know when to go off of the agenda if a topic is being bounced around where everyone is contributing and getting a lot out of the discussion. Angela’s vast experience, both professionally and as a working mom who runs a household of four kids ranging in age from 18 to four, allows her to not only give insight that many of us have not had experience with, but it allows her to keep us all in line.

These core members of our Raleigh SAM groups are class acts, every last one of them. I would have no reservation in recommending any of them and I certainly appreciate the assistance they give me every time I am privileged to meet with them.

We still have a few seats available in this particular SAM group and we are starting new groups every day in both Chicago and in Raleigh; and we are working on “virtual SAM groups” to be able to serve sales and marketing professionals around the world. If you would like more information, please do not hesitate to contact Angela directly at