It doesn’t matter what your business is, the more people you meet and get to know the more opportunities will present themselves to you and your business.
Mike Yoder is Co-founder & CEO of WinTech LLC, the developer of ALICE® Receptionist, a visitor management technology that is transforming how businesses and government agencies secure and process visitors to their buildings. Mr. Yoder is a Lifelong technology entrepreneur with over 25 years in the technology sector. Mr. Yoder launched his career in technology as a software engineer in the late 80’s and went on to serve as CTO and COO of the custom software development firm Advanced Information Systems (AIS) which he co-founded with his brother Frank Yoder. At its peak, AIS employed over 50 software developers and engineers who designed, developed and deployed hundreds of software applications and technology solutions for companies throughout the US and Europe.
Based in in Las Vegas, Nevada since 1995, Mr. Yoder has been an active member of the community and has served as president and board member on various technology industry organizations as well as community focused non-profits.
Mike is passionate about creating technologies that help businesses achieve higher levels of efficiency, employee productivity, process improvements and automation through technology.
Where did the idea ALICE Receptionist come from?
The idea of ALICE Receptionist was first conceived in the late 90’s when I was looking for a solution to manage our office building lobby without hiring a full-time receptionist. After doing researching and failing to find a solution, I built a simple application that met our imminent needs. Business people who used it when they visited our office frequently commented how it was a great idea and they would love to have something like that for their office. It was about 10 years later, that we revisited the idea and determined the time was right to develop a fully featured visitor management technology. That is when we launched WinTech and developed ALICE Receptionist.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
My day is frequently split between developing business relationships, working with our team on product sales, engineering, and support goals and making sure each customer experience with the ALICE system is a positive one.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Ideas originate from myself, our team members, our customers, new developments in technology and the changing needs of our customers. Bringing those ideas to life involves design, development and marketing. This can be a long process from idea conception to implementation in the product, but it’s also one of the most exciting aspects our business.
What’s one trend that excites you?
The advancements in technologies that help verify and secure a person’s identity is something I’m currently really excited about. The improvements being made in facial recognition, biometrics and the use of blockchain technology to secure that data are all exciting. I believe these technologies can be used to build solutions that make for smarter and more secure interactions between people and technology.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I’m a morning person and I like to get in the office early and have time to focus on the big picture items of our business. Once the day gets busy that is hard to do. Finding time to keep that focus on growth and long-term planning is key to building a strong business.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Network more. It doesn’t matter what your business is, the more people you meet and get to know the more opportunities will present themselves to you and your business.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Stay focused. I often hear people talking about failing fast and often, and I get what they are saying, but I feel there is real value to staying focused. Once you’ve done the hard work to come up with a good product, changing direction to chase every new opportunity puts you at risk of losing the identity of your product and confusing your messaging.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Listen to your target audience. If you are going to be selling a product or service, you need to know what your customers want. You have to listen to them and ensure it’s your product or service, and not your competitors, that is giving them the best solution to meet their needs. This is a never-ending process. Things change fast and often, and your product or service needs to remain the best solution to meet the needs of your customer.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Start small before you go big. Our goal with ALICE Receptionist was always to sell to large corporations and organizations, but we knew we could not bring a brand-new, unproven technology to the enterprise market. Instead we started by focusing on smaller companies when we first introduced our technology. This allowed us to show the benefits of our technology in a real-world businesses environment. It also allowed us to prove our technology was reliable and secure. Once we had that book of happy customers and acceptance of our product in the market, we were able to target and capture the large companies that were more risk averse to implementing new technology.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Early on we engage a hardware partner that was excited about our product and agreed to resell it. We had a successfully relationship for about a year and half before changes at the corporate level resulted in them eliminating the division we were working with. That resulted in the end of our partnership. In spite of that setback we’ve worked on rebuilding a relationship with new management and consequently have established a relationship that is stronger than ever.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I know there are lots of ideas out there already around this problem, but nobody has seemed to found a widely accepted replacement for using password to validate users. Passwords are ineffective and insecure. I do believe the blockchain technology offers some new and interesting ideas for this problem. I hope someone comes up with a widely acceptable new way for users to both verify and secure individual’s identity.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
Lunch for our team. We don’t do it often enough but taking time out of the busy day to foster and build personal relationships outside the office with our team members is something that is always a good investment in time and money.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
I would suggest two services together. Canva.com is a great online tool for creating presentations, and DocSend.com is a great tool to share and track who’s viewed those presentations.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Rather than recommend a book title, I would simply recommend to always be reading news that is relevant to what you are doing. That could be news about what’s going on in your industry, technology news, news about your customers, news about your competitors. It’s so valuable to be well informed about whatever subject matter your business is focused on.
What is your favorite quote?
“Always be closing” – Glengarry Glen Ross
As an entrepreneur you have be your own best sales person. You have to look for selling opportunities in every situation.
• Make time in your day for uninterrupted focus on the big picture vision for your business.
• Listen to your customers and find out what their pain points are. Only after you understand a problem you can provide a solution.
• Don’t go after your biggest target customers right away. Build a strong story with smaller accounts where mistakes have less impact. Once you’ve gotten your product really vetted, then go after the big accounts.
• Stay informed about the things that affect your customers. Become a source for information so you can speak intelligently and provide informed answers to customers questions and concerns.
• Be your own best sales person.
Mike Yoder on Twitter :https://twitter.com/mikeyoder
Mike Yoder on LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/mikeyoder
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.