Early Youth (1967-1981)
I was born on June 30, 1967 in Hildesheim, Germany. My parents migrated from East to West Germany at the height of the political unrest leaving everything behind to give them a chance at a better life and start a family. This kept them both busy trying to make ends meet, which often left me on my own to discover who I wanted to be and what kind of life I wanted to have.
“I Want To Change My Life” (1982)
Growing up, we had little money, which made it difficult to fit in with the rest of the kids at school. We couldn’t afford the same things others had, so at age 15, I started giving electronic organ lessons to make some money.
I saved up and bought my first computer — a used Sinclair ZX81. This was the start of my fascination with technology. Looking back, I am grateful for this experience, because it made me hard and instilled in me a deep desire to want to change my life.
School Of Hard Knocks (1984)
In the 80’s, I didn’t have money for college, so I got an internship at electronic manufacturer Blaupunkt in Hildesheim for three years where I gained valuable experience in hardware and computer technology. It paid 500 Deutsche Mark per month and provided real world experience. But I recognized immediately, I didn’t want to do this for the rest of my life.
The Entrepreneur Is Born (1985)
While working as a technician at Blaupunkt, I realized there was technology that was good and technology with defects but still operational. When everyone went to lunch, I went to buy all the 2nd choice products at huge discounts. I invested my own money, bought it cheap and sold it for 4 times my monthly salary. I had to sacrifice my lunch break and run 2 kilometers to take advantage of the the opportunity, but it was well worth it. It was my first experience in sales and as an entrepreneur, which became engraved in my brain at the early age of 17.
The Nippon Electronic Corporation (NEC) (1991)
I was hooked on technology from day one and wanted to do something with computers. I got a job at the Nippon Electronic Corporation (NEC), in Hanover, Germany, as a service technician where I self-taught myself to develop code and started working as an application engineer to develop printer drivers for matrix, laser and thermal transfer printers.
The Value Of Sales (1992)
Sales guys started asking me to go to the trade shows. They did not have the technical know-how and needed my technical background to support their sales efforts. One day, I went to Bertelsmann to pitch them on buying 60 Thermal Transfer Printers.
I prepared all the demo files, carried everything to the meeting, did the technical sales pitch and they ended up buying all 60 printers. One printer back then cost 30,000 Deutsche Mark, so we’re talking about a 1.8 million Deutsche Mark contract. I was told: “when we sell these printers, you will get something“. When we left the meeting, the salesperson invited me to a german bratwurst with french fries and said, “there’s your commission”.
I learned very important lessons that day. I saw the value of sales and knew I could do it by myself. I was taught not to trust people and to get it in writing so things are clear beforehand. And most importantly, I learned sales success is a symbiosis of technical knowhow and sales skills. Sales competence alone will not make up for lack of product knowledge.
The Leap To Apple (1993)
I tried to convince my manager at NEC to give me a chance at sales. I was confident I could do it on my own, and saw a potential to increase my salary with a commission bonus. He said I needed to go to product marketing first. It was a step closer to sales as it was all about preparing the sales materials and presenting at trade shows, so I took the job.
I had a sales presentation with Apple to convince them to buy NEC screens instead of the Sony Black Trinitron. We had an inferior product, so they didn’t buy from us, but they saw my value and recruited me as Head of Sales for North Germany to sell Apple computers for desktop publishing (DTP), which were primarily used with graphic programs like QuarkXPress, Photoshop or Freehand.
Ceasing The Right Opportunity (1994)
At the time, Apple was the only computer with a Graphic User Interface, but they had few office applications and were searching for new ones to acquire. I got the opportunity to be a software scout to find software applications out of the desktop publishing market. I met with many developers and came across someone that developed patient administration software for doctors offices for Apple computers. Apple wanted to sell computers. He wanted to sell his software (Medys). So, I bundled them together and sold them as a package to doctors offices.
Going On My Own (1994)
When Germany changed the health care system to allow Automatic Data Transfer, we knew change was coming. Doctors’ offices no longer needed printers to invoice the insurance companies (Krankenschein) as all patient data was transferred directly to them digitally. They needed computers, software and chip card readers.
The GUI Advantage (1995)
Apple had an advantage over MS DOS with its Graphical User Interface (GUI) where we could recreate doctor, hospital and insurance forms exactly as customers were used to seeing (WYSIWYG). I saw the opportunity created by this easy user interface and stopped working at Apple to start my own company selling Medys software and Apple Computers for doctors’ offices.
A New Opportunity: The Home Health Care Market (1995)
In 1995, the government changed the insurance system to install a care insurance, similar to social security, and the home health care business was created. It created a whole new market that didn’t exist before. Nurses went to work for themselves. Through my sales network, I met someone that developed applications for the home health care market and created MediFox based on FoxPro. It was an accounting and administrative software solution for the outpatient and inpatient nursing care market. At the time, the current software options were too complicated for nursing care providers who were accustomed to using hand-written notes and reluctant to use computers. I was convinced there was an opportunity to create a new software solution that was easier to use and more efficient.
Information Is Power: Mapping Out The Market (1996)
In 1996 I hired a developer to develop the CRM, which did not exist at the time, to support sales and customer service. Using File Maker from Apple, we created an in-house and proprietary full file database with all the information you needed to sell the product, which we continued to customize and update until the sale of the company and is still in use today (22 Years later). We did our research and mapped out the entire potential market giving us a competitive advantage. Now, we just needed to make a great product and execute on sales.
The Dynamic Duo (1996)
In 1996, I met my future wife, Natascha. She was my first outbound sales agent. She did the cold calls and set up appointments while I did the presentations and sold the product. We worked as a team and she shared in the commission. She put amazing pressure on me when I couldn’t close a sale and actually kicked me in the butt!
My First Big Negotiation (1997)
We were getting nowhere with the home health care software. But at this point (1997), it was not my software. I was just a sales guy. I decided to buy the code and name rights from the developer for $150k and started to develop the software with my developer, the way I like to have it.
I had experience working with Graphical User Interfaces (GUI) at Apple and knew we could create an exceptional user experience that was fast, easy to use and more importantly, looked good!. Unfortunately, the old code was spaghetti code and we had to develop a new software from scratch.
Bringing the Sales Team In-House (1998)
We were using the same independent sales team we used for the doctors office software, Medys, but it was not something we could outsource. They could not sell it the way I wanted it sold, and I could not apply the right pressure on them to improve. So we brought it in-house and stopped working with outsourced partners.
We Almost Crashed! (2003)
Sales took off and we hired people and more people and more people. We moved to a new building thinking we would be more comfortable with more space. Communication broke down because we weren’t all in the same room and we got into trouble. We had too many clients and too many service calls. Every update we released caused more service calls and everyone was running with their hair on fire. We tried to solve the problem by bringing in more people. But it’s not just about more people…It’s about the right people with the right infrastructure.
Pioneers in the Mobile Market (2003)
Microsoft .NET Roll Out We Got Slammed! (2004)
The new .NET platform was significantly more stable, and most importantly, scalable. Now, we had to roll out an entirely new software to our existing client base of more than 2,000 clients. We had an enormous amount of pressure from clients for the new version and we made the mistake of sending it to them. We got slammed! The data from the old software needed to be imported to the new one and 2,000 clients had to be retrained all at the same time.
Building the Best Sales Team In the Industry (2008)
A key success factor was the implementation of an intelligent sales process that incorporated Consultative Selling, which focuses on the customers’ needs instead of the product. In my mind, hiring the right people, training them with a commitment to excellence was the only way to provide exceptional value to the customers as well as the company.
The BFS Partnership (2010)
I formed a strategic partnership with Bank für Sozialwirtschaft (BFS). This new corporation, BFS Abrechnungs GmbH, quickly became the second largest invoicing and factoring service provider in the German out and inpatient nursing care market. In the same year, we sold 49 percent of the company to BFS Bank.