EditorialsBy Matt Bud, Chairman, The FENG

Some of us dream the dream, others have actually done it. When I was in St. Louis last month I had the pleasure of spending time with Don Ficken, our St. Louis Chapter Chair. The story he told me about what he was doing I thought you would find of interest as well, so I asked him to write it up. I hope you will send him your thanks for sharing this exciting tale with all of us.


Regards, Matt


From Don Ficken, St. Louis Chapter, Don writes:


It was September 2001. For the first time in my career, I didn’t have a job. Naturally, being unexpectedly unemployed, my thoughts turned to the next phase of my career. I took an inventory of my assets – my skills, experience, who I knew and my financial situation. I also took an inventory of the outside world – the business environment and job market. Most importantly, I thought about what I would really like to do if given a choice. I had worked in large and medium-sized corporate environments, but had always wanted to try my hand at being an entrepreneur. Fortunately, I was in a financial position to seriously consider this as a real option.


Rather than spending months looking for a company to buy, I decided to build a better mousetrap. In my previous life, several companies in the incentive industry had tried building web-based sales and employee motivation systems. I liked the idea, particularly with the internet coming of age, but felt that these companies had made the products too complex and too expensive. I wanted something simple and high-quality, yet cost effective enough for even small companies to use.


In conjunction with developing this idea, I established four personal goals for my new venture. 1) Have fun with the business. Not just myself, but everyone involved — a principle sometimes lost in business. 2) Be scalable with no more than 10 employees. I didn’t mind managing employees, but wanted to outsource everything reasonably possible to keep the fixed overhead low. 3) Be able to operate the business from anywhere in the world. In short, I wanted to travel and run the business from anywhere. 4) Be cash flow positive after the first year – an obvious financial goal.


With these plans in mind, I incorporated the business in February 2002 with the name of Leapfrog Performance Services, Inc. — a name that I thought captured the idea of “fun” set forth in my business principles. In the tough post 9/11 business environment, I found a technology company hungry for business to build a quality, technology platform for a great value. I found a recently retired merchant from a competitor to build a high-quality redemption catalog. Rather than inventory our product, we decided to drop ship items directly from our manufacturers to people participating in our programs. I found a 24/7 call center to handle customer service calls. Importantly, I found sales people with quality contacts willing to work on commission only. After 12 months of pain-staking work, the infrastructure was finally ready in March 2003. Since we had been prospecting customers all along, we already had our first major customer in hand when the product was launched. We were off!


Within just two months of launch, one of my sales people brought to my attention a web-based training product called TrainingDepartment.com™. Built on the same philosophy as our core product – simple, cost effective and high quality, this product was a natural addition to our business because training and certification are often an important element in creating effective sales and motivation programs. By August 2003, I acquired the product using seller financing and added a new product and an attractive base of customers to the business.


Within 12 months of launch, I was successfully operating two businesses (www.ileapfrog.com and www.trainingingdepartment.com) that had met all of my personal goals including being cash flow positive. Through hard work, a little luck and being in the fortunate position of being able to live without income for year, I shifted my career from working for someone else to being an entrepreneur. I have learned more than I ever imagined and have had the opportunity to work with some really great companies. It is an experience that has been both fun and rewarding.

If you are considering the same type of career switch, I welcome an opportunity to talk with you about my experience. Email me at dficken@trainingdepartment.com or call me at (636) 825-9445.


Regards, Don


Don_Ficken, President

Leapfrog Performance Services, Inc.


1001 Craig Road, Suite 260

St. Louis, MO 63146


Ph: (636) 825-9445

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