Photo:Sid Martin Biotechnology Institute
Florida Business Column
How to help entrepreneurs rapidly bridge the gap between vision and growth
A look at how the Sid Martin Biotechnology Institute and ExportAction help businesses form a plan and follow through to success.
Innovation is a hot topic. From groundbreaking technologies to the innovative ways companies tackle the market, we just can’t seem to get enough.
To help this along, business incubators and accelerators are popping up everywhere. There are some variations on the recipes, but it generally goes like this: concerned business folks along with a local government fund a meeting space; a director is hired and volunteers are recruited; a program is created that includes a bit of education and some sporadic mentoring; and free all-you-can-drink coffee.
Voila -- new startup companies are formed. Rinse and repeat.
Unfortunately, many times entrepreneurs get general advice and an environment that lacks a consistent process. And there’s no sense of urgency. Sure, we end up with a ton of new startup formations, but not much more. Few go on to attain success.
Recently a headline in the Miami Herald blurted, “Miami is bursting with startups. Problem is they aren’t growing, new study shows”.
It turns out that any multi-client facility that caters to young businesses and their success can suffer this malaise. So, how do you rapidly bridge the gap between vision and growth?
There are some organizations that are doing it right. They place an emphasis on action and real growth. Yet, there’s more to the “secret” of growing ideas into companies that soar – it takes a system, well-equipped facilities, and a healthy dose of no nonsense procedures and agreements.
The Sid Martin Biotechnology Institute and ExportAction are two organizations making this happen now for their clients. At first glance, they are at opposite ends of the universe, yet both apply achievement-oriented principles that help entrepreneurs grow their companies.
The Sid Martin Biotechnology Institute
It’s hard to imagine that a former cow pasture on the outskirts of a small town in Northern Florida is now home to the best business incubator in the world. Opening in 1995 as one of the first bio-business incubators in the US, in 2017 the Sid Martin Biotechnology Institute was given the highest award of the International Business Innovation Association -- Incubator of the Year. They were also awarded the Global Science and Technology Incubator of the Year in 2017.
It certainly has helped to be part of the University Florida, yet the real advantage is in their “whatever it takes” attitude.
From the beginning, the Incubator had focused on providing expertise and guidance. Plus the facilities, laboratory equipment, and a network of industry contacts to help their startups grow and prosper.
But there’s more. Each client company is on a plan from day one. They receive candid guidance and counsel, as well as annual reviews. Formal documents serve to define the relationship very clearly, in detail, along with a written record of interactions with clients. Is this why the Sid Martin Incubator so successful?
"Not a doubt in my mind," Mark Long said. Long is the director of the Institute and along with Merrie Shaw, the Assistant Director and fourth generation Floridian, guides the clients and operations.
“This is a unique program and atmosphere designed to allow our young entrepreneurial companies to flourish”, Long adds.
Growing these companies and the high tech jobs that come with that makes for a big impact on the local a regional economy. For example, one of the companies that started at Sid Martin is AxoGen. Now a global leader in innovative surgical solutions for peripheral nerve injuries, they have over two hundred employees and 2017 revenue of at least $60 million. Oh, and they are still headquartered in the same park where it all started, next to the Institute.
The Sid Martin Biotechnology Institute motto: We help entrepreneurs feed, fuel and heal the world.
What do you call an organization that helps market-ready emerging companies take their business global and land in the US? A landing pad seems to fit.
These entrepreneurial companies are more established than most startups that need the services of an incubator, but they do need help. Their challenge is they don’t know where to start in the US market and need to find an organization and people who can help them navigate the business landscape.
Meet ExportAction located on the west coat of Florida in Clearwater,
ExportAction works with United Kingdom based businesses, mostly tech companies, looking to break into the US market. Roger Frampton and Gail Holden started ExportAction in 2007 with decades of trans-Atlantic business, sales, and marketing experience.
They worked for two UK software companies to set up US subsidiaries and then were ask by the British Department for International Trade to do the same thing. But after seven exhausting years at a bureaucracy, they decided there was a better way.
“We discovered that young companies need lots of handholding when wanting to set up operations in the US”, Frampton remarked. “It’s much more than simply providing a real US address with someone to answer the phone.”
The programs ExportAction offers clients are wide-ranging. Aside from setting up banking, accounting, and legal relationships the team of fifteen helps with sales and marketing including product and literature fulfillment along with warehousing and distribution services, as well as tradeshow support. Plus much more.
Each of their hundreds of clients has unique needs. Yet when you speak with some of them it’s obvious that Roger and Gail care deeply about all of them and go the extra mile.
Growing these companies is important to Roger and Gail; they and their team take it personally. There’s a dynamic exchange of ideas with an emphasis on action. Plus, it’s easy to see the great pride everyone at ExportAction has in contributing to the creation of more than 250 sustainable, tax-paying jobs for Americans -- mostly in the state of Florida.
Sounds like ExportAction has a “whatever it takes” attitude too. And their clients benefit, helping them to grow.
Ron Stein is founder of More Customers Academy, helping business leaders build strategic messaging and positioning that cuts through the competitive noise to grow revenue. Ron has developed his own highly successful 5-step Stand Out & Sell More approach to winning new customers as a result of his twenty-five years of business development, marketing, and selling experiences. He works with a range of businesses, from startups to large corporations across industries including technology and healthcare, manufacturing, and financial services and banking. Ron conducts workshops, leads company meetings, offers keynote talks, and consults. He can be reached at 727-398-1855 or by email.