James Kappen – Founder of Proposable

Call your clients on a regular basis just to follow up or to say hello. If there is something a client is dissatisfied with, you’ll have built up enough goodwill that you’ll be able to quickly resolve the issue without losing the client.

When James Kappen founded Proposable, he did so having already experienced some of the frustrations associated with drafting and then delivering sales proposals with little feedback regarding the impact it did or did not have on a potential client. In developing Proposable, Mr. Kappen is now able to offer sales professionals access to a web-based sales proposal platform capable of creating, delivering and tracking the proposal from start to finish.

The winner of the 2009 SproutBox Acclerator Program, Mr. Kappen has since continued to add to his lengthy list of exceptional entrepreneurial achievements, but he has consistently noted that no achievement is more gratifying than successfully assisting a client improve their overall business operations through the use of the sales proposal platform made available through Proposable.

With previous entrepreneurial experience in ventures that included an online bidding platform and a regional print publication, Mr. Kappen was able to apply various aspects of those previous endeavors to his current venture in Proposable, the company he founded in 2009 and for which he continues to serve as CEO. The Santa Barbara, California, resident and University of California graduate has developed quite a reputation in his field for his innovative efforts, and it is clear that he now has Proposable poised for consistent future growth.

Where did the idea for Proposable come from?

The idea is mostly the product of my own experience with creating sales proposals, which could often be quite frustrating.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

Most days typically revolve around software development and project oversight, but I also make a point to reach out to clients on a regular basis as well.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I’ve really bought into this idea of the MVP(Minimum Viable Product), where you have an idea, and you build a very basic version of it and have potential customers try it and give you their feedback. This way, you can ensure you don’t add features that your customers don’t care about and only build something that will be useful to the people who will eventually pay for it. This model is actually quite a bit harder than it seems because as creative people, we want to build all of our ideas into the product right away, but at the end of the day, you need to let your audience help you decide what’s next.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

A trend that i’ve been thinking about recently is the impending convergence of the traditional website and smartphone apps. The market is pointing to a time very soon when “apps” will be history and the internet and software will simply be one thing, distributed to various devices and connection points. As software creators, we won’t need to build special versions of our software for phones and desktops and watches, but will soon just need to to build it in one place, and the technology will distribute the software automatically wherever a user is trying to consume it.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

I don’t wait for a client to contact me with an issue; I try to reach out as often as possible in order to really stay on top of the efficacy of our platform.

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

When I was in publishing, I completely underestimated the amount of sales effort that would be involved and did not particularly enjoy what I thought would be a primarily creative endeavor.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

If I could start over, I would create Proposable long before going into magazine publishing.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Call your clients on a regular basis just to follow up or to say hello. If there is something a client is dissatisfied with, you’ll have built up enough goodwill that you’ll be able to quickly resolve the issue without losing the client.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.

We offer a free trial of our services to all prospective clients, which allows any potential client to experience firsthand what our platform can do for their business.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

I’ve had my failures over the years, but those failures always represented opportunities for me to learn and develop. The process of every entrepreneur is the same in that they started out with ok, or even bad ideas and execution, and over time through trial and error, their ideas get better and they build their skill set of how to execute those ideas. Being a better entrepreneur is just like being better at anything, you need to move forward, fail fast, and never stop learning and adapting.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

The big idea i’d like to give your readers is that ideas are extremely cheap. Everyone has them. So finding the perfect idea isn’t the thing you should focus on but finding the right “problem” is. If you can actually find a really good problem, chances are there will be people who are willing to pay you for the solution.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

I rented a yacht and sailed out near the Channel Islands in Santa Barbara with a few friends and co-workers a few weekends ago.

What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?

Well, I obviously love the web-based platform that is central to Proposable’s success, but I am always looking for ways to improve the interaction between us and our customers. One product that we love to use everyday for customer communication is intercom.io . This product has fundamentally shifted how web-based software companies engage and listen to their customers and I can’t recommend it enough.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

“Delivering Happiness” by Tony Hsieh. The book tells the dramatic story of Zappos and their marketing secret of going consistently above and beyond their customers expectations and how that simple thing, in turn, creates loyal “fans” instead of just “customers”.

What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?

I would say that Malcolm Gladwell and Seth Godin’s books have influenced the way I think about business more than anything else. they have broadened my approach to entrepreneurship and leadership.