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Business Rx: Business offers a service, but can he turn it into a product?

The entrepreneur

When Norman Zalfa worked overseas in Brussels, Belgium, as a European director of security for ITT Corp., and then at DHL Europe, he helped many senior corporate employees overcome serious personal and business situations involving their families and estates.

“When someone would pass away overseas with their family back in the United States, our HR director would ask me to help out. So, I would contact the spouse and the family to see what they needed in terms of estate organization,” Zalfa said.

When he returned to the U.S. in 1992, he saw a need for the same service he provided overseas, so he created Organize Your Estate. He’s been running the one-man business ever since.

The pitch

Zalfa

“Organize Your Estate gives training seminars and works one-on-one to motivate and educate individuals on how to identify, locate, record and organize all of their personal and business estate information, assets and documents.

“Seminars are performed at an organization’s employee training session, or individually with employer-selected key personnel. I am targeting any organizations wanting to offer their employees a unique and valued service that no one else offers. Providing estate organizing guidance would be especially valuable at pre-retirement orientations.

“My main challenge is how to efficiently improve and expand my marketing to overcome the reluctance of corporations or individuals to discuss, or be involved in, the subject of personal incapacity or death. One of the benefits to OYE is the open training session because it makes it easier to confront, discuss and ask questions about the topic.”

The advice

Elana Fine, associate director,
Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship

“Have you thought of creating a product you can sell instead of or in addition to the service you are currently offering? I think it would benefit OYE if you could determine whether you can package this service and sell it to people or to companies so they can distribute it to their employees. You could still offer the seminars, but this way they can also refer their employees to you if they have further questions and you won’t have such a time commitment.

“Another thing you can try, since you have been successful at getting into corporations, is create a package specifically for each corporation. Create a how-to guide with a template that you can do at the seminar. People will come to one class and pay for the materials, then they can complete additional templates on their own time. If they need more help from you, they already have you as a reference and can contact. And if not, you’ve already received revenue from selling seats in the class. This will allow you to have a product specific to certain organizations while keeping a scaled-down service component to OYE.

“As far as spreading the word about OYE, I would suggest going after small businesses rather than the large corporations you’ve been aiming for in the past. Fortune 500 companies have a lot of bureaucracy to get through, so the process would be easier with a small or family-owned business. Also, try reaching out to community centers. They have a diverse population that could be very interested in what you are offering.”

The reaction

Zalfa

“This all sounds really good. I think you’ve given me a lot of new ideas for my business and I’m excited to try some of them out. I really like the idea of formalizing this information and putting it in a book form so people can have something to leave with. I think that could be a great next step for OYE.”

© The Washington Post Company