Steve Stencil | Crain's Washington D.C.

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Steve Stencil

Background:  

Leap offers a data management application that digitizes every stage of the in-home sales process including estimating, financing, contracting and real-time communication. Leap’s application helps businesses eliminate errors and increase efficiency by simplifying and automating the day-to-day sales process. Based in Hanover, Maryland, Leap was created by Steve Stencil when he was working as an in-home sales professional and grew tired of cumbersome, dated processes. He taught himself software coding and spent years developing and testing the application before taking it to market.

The Mistake:

My mistake was not thinking big enough soon enough.

The Leap application came about out of necessity. I did in-home sales selling exterior remodeling, and I built the app because there was nothing like this out there to make my life and my job easier. I had no intention of taking it to market.

Other coworkers saw what I was using and said, “This is better, let us use this software,” and then a dozen people were using it. Sales reps and coworkers would go on to work for somebody else and continue using the software.

When you’re selling home improvements you’re doing the same steps over and over to get to a contract. I realized that I might be onto something with this software and decided to test the waters by going to other people I knew in the industry, including competitors.

When I decided to take it to market, it was still a side business. I really didn’t think there could be market-wide adoption across the country. I didn’t take it that seriously because I never thought it could be that big. So when building the infrastructure and the software I never took any of that into consideration.

We had to go back and make changes because the application wasn’t designed to be able to grow like it has. It was designed to be used by one sales rep in one company, but then I had to go back and change it so it could be used by multiple users at one company, then change it so it could be used by companies with more than one office. We kept going back to make it more and more customizable.

My mistake was not thinking big enough soon enough.

The Lesson:

There has to be a process in place for each function in a business. Processes really helped us grow—I wish we had more in place in the beginning.

When we took this to market we were just figuring things out as we went along, but eventually we realized that things are much easier when you put a process in place for each function of the business.

At first I was doing all the sales, but when our chief operating officer came on board he helped assemble the sales processes, which really opened my eyes. When we hire a new sales rep we tell them this is what you need to do and this is how you do it.

Companies want to scale and grow bigger and bigger. We see this every day because companies want to use this software because it’s a sales process. It encapsulates the entire sales process into one application. Companies come to us and think this will help their sales process, but they have no sales process in place. So now they’re creating a sales process to implement our software, and we’re helping them do it.

We deal with companies as customers all the time and see so many companies where the entire operation depends on one or two people who do everything. Part of that is because they don’t have processes in place.

I think it’s very important in every function of your business to have a process that can be followed. That way it can be easily replicated by anyone in the business. You put a process in place, you follow it, and you keep improving your process and find ways in which the process, and the business, can be better.

Leap is on Twitter at @leaptodigital.

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