Neal Cook was a senior sport and recreation management major at Temple University, who had high hopes of spending his vacation time working for the National Hockey League (NHL). But a NHL rejection was a blessing in disguise. Cook now works for Online Sales Board, a start-up based in southern New Jersey, and his title is not intern. It’s CEO.
Neal and a fellow intern expected a summer filled with researching and running errands for Front Rush, a sports recruitment software company. But after a week, they were running their own start up.
Online Sales Board was conceived by the owners of Front Rush and uses the concept of gamification to motivate sales teams and increase productivity. Time constraints led to passing the product onto interns to develop.
Online Sales Board makes it easy for small businesses and sales teams to track their sales online. Their web-based app allows managers and sales reps to have instant access to their performance with their real-time Sales Board and Sales Leaderboard. They took the ancient office whiteboard and put it online and in your pocket.
MO: How did it feel to go from intern to entrepreneur so quickly?
Neal: It felt like winning the lottery. Coming into my internship, I didn’t know what to expect; I thought I was going to be a regular “intern” – making coffee, running errands, researching. Being put in the position to make all the decisions like company naming, market strategies, pricing models, SEO optimization, and pitching to investors forced me to learn and to grow on a whim.
MO: Did you feel that you were thrown in at the deep end or did you enjoy the challenge of suddenly having the full reigns of a new start-up company?
Neal: It was a mixture of both. My initial response was “Why would they entrust me with this? I have no extraordinary business or management skills.” I took a second to reflect and couldn’t help but grin at the opportunity that was presented to me. Though I had no idea where to start, or what steps to take at first, I knew that it was going to be a once-in-a-lifetime learning experience. Any doubts or questions I had about myself were quickly overtaken with the idea of the unlimited possibilities that were in front of me. I had full reigns of a new SaaS (I didn’t know what this was initially) company. My only thought from that point on was “What can I learn today?”
MO: What kind of feedback have you received so far? What are users favorite aspects of using the leaderboard model to track sales?
Neal: Our initial feedback has been enlightening. We took the Steve Job’s approach of providing users with a product they need although they were not aware of such a need. The managers and sales reps that use Online Sales Board are the early adopters of new technology, and they love to tell you what’s on their mind (positive or negative.) The positive comments make my day, but the negative comments provide me with priceless information that I can use to improve and grow Online Sales Board.
All companies use some sort of sales tracking tool to track the company’s growth and the performance of their sales associates. It’s usually an Excel spreadsheet, an accounting program, or an office whiteboard. No one has bridged the gap between sales tracking and employee motivation, until now of course.
Our users rave about our mobile web app; they love having the ability to pull up their Sales Board and Leaderboard with the touch of their finger. Managers love being able to check at an instance, how close they are to closing or beating their quotas. Sales reps love that they are now being recognized for each and every sale they add to their Sales Board. They also like the extra motivation that the Leaderboard provides them as it pushes them to compete against their co-workers to become #1 in the office.
MO: Did you have any interest in being an entrepreneur before being thrown into running a start up?
Neal: That’s a long story. I have always thought I had a “calling” to do something big, something that would change the world and help out those in need. I know it sounds cheesy, but I’ve always had an urge to help out others. As a sports management major, I did not know how I was going to use my degree to do this. My positive outlook on life and optimistic personality reassured me that this would happen sometime; all I needed to do was continue on the right path and grab the chance when I saw it. So to answer your question, no I did not think I would be an entrepreneur, I thought it would just work out on its own.
MO: Did you feel that you were essentially prepared to start a business or were there specific skills or experiences you would have liked to have had?
Neal: I would have loved to have more business experience when I started running Online Sales Board, but , if I had, this crazy journey of starting up and running a company would not be as fun or challenging as it is today. These past six months have been up and down; I’m used to things working out easily for me, but you can’t just rely on your past experiences to guide you to success. You need to get bold and crazy and try things you’ve never done before. One skill that I’m still trying to perfect is my writing. When you write papers in college, you’re writing to get an assignment done like a book report, research paper, or summary. When you write as a CEO, you’re writing e-mails to the press, crafting up a product launch press release, writing website content, creating Google Adwords, sending out marketing campaigns, writing blogs. Your grammar needs to be top notch; you can’t afford to look stupid in front of potential customers; that’s a major turn off. I have greatly improved my writing skills, but I gladly passed the day-to-day blogging and PR work to Omer Saleh and Jonas Skovdal, Online Sales Board’s two interns. They have been an unbelievable help, and they’ve done an amazing job. In addition, the skills I’m learning from managing them will help me manage a larger team in the future.
MO: Now that you’ve embraced being an entrepreneur is there anything that you’re currently developing or working on that we should know about?
Neal: I don’t want to spread myself to thin. My singular focus is running Online Sales Board and making sure it is the simplest, easiest way to track sales online while focusing on motivating and engaging sales teams. We have really nifty things in the pipeline for Online Sales Board. Gamification of the workforce is going to take off in the next couple of years. People, especially sales reps, have a natural tendency to play games and to compete. That’s what Online Sales Board brings out in sales teams, and that’s something we are going to continue to expand on down the road.
I have some personal ideas that will change and shape the world for the better, jotted down on a piece of paper in my bedroom, but you’ll have to wait a couple of years to see them pan out.
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