This week, the experts at the University of Maryland’s Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship help a start-up sharpen its message to customers. –Dan Beyers.

The entrepreneur

Marie-Louise Murville studied mechanical engineering at MIT so that she could invent products that would make the world a better place. After graduating, she became a consultant at a top global firm. She advanced quickly, managing projects and making sales. She learned that the key to successful client engagements was the ability to motivate individuals and manage multi-disciplinary teams.

Murville never forgot that as she moved from consulting to venture capital investing, and then to starting and building several companies. She’s seen the challenge from many angles – managing and mentoring employees as well as setting and managing expectations with boards of directors. Now she’s tackling it with her D.C. start-up, Delight Me, Inc.

The pitch

Murville, chief executive of Delight Me

Marie-Louise Murville, CEO for Delight Me Inc., a Washington area start-up Marie-Louise Murville, CEO for Delight Me Inc. (Marie-Louise Murville)

“Delight Me solves the $20 billion problem of knowledge worker attrition and disengagement at work with our cloud-based goal management and coaching platform. According to Harvard Business Review, only 13 percent of workers are engaged at work. And according to research, the majority of leadership development programs don’t work because they are not connected to the real world. They aren’t real time, they aren’t connected to real projects, and they don’t measure return on investment. People graduate from really good schools, take a job, and often become bored or stressed out and leave for another opportunity. This forces companies to spend time and money to replace them.

“Delight Me has a super, easy-to-use, cloud-based platform where workers can set annual goals with managers and then break them down into quarterly, monthly, weekly and daily action steps.

“Bosses/mentors help workers set goals and action steps needed to advance their careers. They can also enlist coaches or buddies to support them. The Delight Me platform aggregates data that makes it easy to track and analyze an employee’s progress toward goals. We make it easy to get more regular feedback from coaches, buddies, and colleagues to make individuals and teams more successful.

“We’re focusing first on professional services firms – management consultants, accountants, lawyers, real estate agents – to help reduce turnover and increase engagement. We are solving a huge problem, but the challenge is explaining what is unique about our solution versus other players in what people think might be a crowded space.”

 

The advice

Elana Fine, managing director, Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business

“Let’s start with your initial pitch, it is really hard to know what you mean when you say you are solving the “$20 billion problem of knowledge worker attrition.” This is just too macro of a problem to really help capture someone’s attention and be interested to learn more. You need to be able to communicate the specific problem you are solving in the market in one line. Be more granular about it. What is the problem an employee has? How does this problem play out on a day-to-day basis for companies and employees?

Murville

“I’ll try again. People don’t know what they need to do on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis to get promoted. They are on a treadmill, unsure if they are doing the things at work that will get them closer to their career goals. They often don’t have the mentorship they need to get promoted. People think, ‘I’m really smart, I work really hard, I should be able to make partner next year.’ But when they don’t get that promotion, they don’t understand why.”

Fine

“That is a much clearer way to describe the problem. Tweak your sales pitch to focus on the basic problem — that people don’t know what to do to get promoted.

“Investors, employers and potential users can all relate to the ‘average worker’ who wants to know what to do than attacking the vast knowledge work attrition issue you initially mentioned. Provide specific examples from your target markets in real estate and law. Show how Delight Me can help companies and individual workers define metrics to meet goals.

“We see that with a lot of entrepreneurs, particularly when pitching investors, think they need to lead with this very macro market and major problem they are solving, but think about it more bottoms-up: Solving the problem of the average worker who wants to get promoted and doesn’t know how. All of us can kind of relate that.

The reaction

Murville
“Thank you, Elana! Our message is key. We believe the average worker will be delighted to get the just-in-time guidance and motivation they need to achieve their personal and professional goals with their own private team of mentors. That is what really sets us apart.”

Looking for some advice on a new business, or need help fixing an existing one? Capital Business and the experts at the University of Maryland’s Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship at the Robert H. Smith School of Business are ready to assist. Contact us at capbiznews@washpost.com.

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