“Sheldon said, ‘I don’t do slides,’ quipped Mike Colwell, Executive Director of the BIZ, of the man who sat next to him before the November iteration of the Business Innovation Zone Luncheon. “So I thought we should take an entirely different approach this month,” he explained as he became both chief questioner and moderator of an informal conversation with Sheldon Ohringer, CEO of Caleris and among the foremost of the state’s entrepreneurs in scaling companies to astounding levels of growth and profitability.
Eschewing the traditional presentation format of the BIZ luncheons, Ohringer had promised an “open dialog about growth” and the ensuing hour provided nothing less. A native Iowan, he has had an expansive career in entrepreneurial telecommunications which has taken him to Colorado, Texas, New York and Silicon Valley with multiple positions of CEO or President as well as executive titles in sales, sales management and acquisitions. He then came back to Iowa to purchase and scale Caleris and become a fixture in the burgeoning Central Iowa start-up community,
Early in the conversation he referenced to the four-legged stool that supports business growth. “Assuming you have a product, there is a constant battle as you build a company between money, operations, sales and systems,” he said of the challenges that face a company when it looks to expand.
Establishing that product development is not his field, he explained in response to a Colwell question about bootstrapping a company of one or two people with the frank declaration “I don’t like that stage, there are no chips to play with, it’s like going to Vegas without any money.” For Ohringer, whose sweet spot is growth, believes that it’s what comes after development that is most important. “Assuming the product is in place, then the key is distribution,” he relates, identifying distribution with sales. “It starts with a product,” he says, “but once you have that, it really starts with sales.”
Download a summary of the conversation (pdf file)