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Bootstrapping: make it easy to get a 'Yes'.

The other day, when I was flipping through my latest L.L. Bean catalog, it occurred to me that the company is an ideal example of how bootstrapping works.

Bean started with a shoe--the classic Maine Hunting shoe that's still offered today.

Legend has it that Bean started working on the shoe after he got tired of tromping around in the woods in his heavy hunter's boots.

One day he went out hunting wearing a much lighter pair of shoe rubbers and three pairs of ocks. although his feet stayed warm, dry and comfortable, his ankles ached. He took the shoe rubbers to a local cobbler and had him sew leather tops on them.

Bean liked the boots so much that he had a few more pairs made and got friends to try them. Everyone loved them.

He mailed out a circular describing the shoe and quickly sold 100 pairs with a money-back guarantee. Within weeks the shoes were retunred--the tops having torn away from the rubber. Bean and the cobbler went back to work, fixed the problem and sent the shoes back to be tried again. They were a huge success.

With the success of the hunting boot, Bean expanded to socks. A hunting coat came next, followed by a sharpening stone, belts, pants, flashlights, decoys, snowshoes and camping equipment.

Today, of course, L.L. Bean offers hundreds of items through its store and catalog. But this multimillion dollar company began with just one product, which was tested, developed and sold in classic bootstrapping style.

Bootstrapping is my term for testing ideas in incremental, affordable steps.

It menas trying out new ideas on a small scale, and in careful stages that allow for change, even to the point of dropping the idea.

Bootstrapping will help you sell your ideas to senior management. It's a great way to introduce a new system or technology to your company.

At Citicorp Savings of Illinois, several proposals from the telecommunications department to fund the installation of voice mail throughout the entire company were rejected.

Too much risk, that is, too much money, was involved.

When a new manager of technical services came on board at Citicorp, she agreed that voice mail should be installed throughout the entire company--eventually. She suggested first, however, that voice mail be bootstrapped in her department. Her proposal was accepted because she had found a way to limit the initial risk.

By bootstrapping, the new manager was able to test and refine the voice mail system away from the public eye.

She wasn't constantly putting out fires as management and other departments complained about glitches in the system. She was able to experiment and develop the best voice mail system for her department, which in turn led to a more problem-free system for the entire company.

Once senior management (and other company departments) realized how much voice mail was helping the telecomm department, they were more receptive to expanding the system.

As a businessman, I like managers who bootstrap. They're action-oriented, but they minimize the risk to the company when they try out new ideas on a small scale first. They also maximize the use of their resources.

Credible telecomm managers bootstrap.

After all, credibility is really just a measure of the amount of risk your company is willing to take with you--and bootstrapping minimizes risk. It allows you to test ideas using little or no money and to get feedback before you make recommendations to senior management.

By bootstrapping, you will position yourself as someone who makes proposals based on hard evidence and experience. That's credibility.

Bootstrapping will help you get approval for projects that might otherwise be rejected. Bootstrapping makes it easy for management to say "yes."

Next month: How bootstrapping will help you expand your area of influence.

Any comments? I'd like to hear from you. Write to me at P.O. Box 120545, Nashville, TN 37212 or call (615) 385-4413.
COPYRIGHT 1991 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Entrepreneurial Telecommunications
Author:Jewett, Jim
Publication:Communications News
Date:Mar 1, 1991
Words:655
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