Meet the Coaches: Brian Duvall

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Brian Duvall is the CEO of Duvall Consulting LLC, the nation’s leading authority on Mind$hare Multipliers. He helps businesses position as THE leader in their industry by creating a massive presence of expertise, winning mind share and dominating market share.In 2002 he was named one of the region’s Top 20 Under 40 and he was named the 2011 Small Business Advocate of the Year. In 2011 he donated nearly a quarter million dollars in cash and services to the local community.

Brian and his wife Carol were featured in Valley Business Front as Entrepreneurial Parents and in The Roanoker as Hometown Heroes for their work as foster parents.

We had the opportunity to ask Brian some pointed questions about his experience working in technology and startups. We’d like to share his answers with you so you can get to know your coaches before the event.

1. What is your background in relation to startups?
I helped businesses raise more than $32 million in venture capital before I became the CEO of two chambers of commerce which I ran for nearly 8 years. During that time we won a micro-enterprise grant that allowed us to help more than 200 small businesses get started. I have also owned and operated my own start-up in the extreme sports industry which I built to national distribution and helped launch new markets in Mexico, Brazil, Argentina & Poland until we sold the company to a group of Canadian investors. I then launched my most recent start-up Duvall Consulting in 2007 that I still own and operate today.

2. Why are you excited for Startup Weekend in Roanoke?
It’s amazing to be a part of the energy and momentum of Start-up Weekend events. I love the energy and focus. It’s very motivating when you see businesses go from idea to implementation in a single weekend. Forces you to re-evaluate your own business processes and motivates you to take immediate action.

3. What were some flops or blunders others can learn from you?
Don’t start a business just because you love your own idea. Just because you CAN do something doesn’t mean your SHOULD do it. Check the viability of your market first. In the extreme sports industry, customers are fiercely loyal to their brands and their specific sport. They take personal offense if you try to introduce new ideas, new styles, new anything. You need to hook early adopters (tribe leaders / brand advocates) early on and have them build your fan base organically. Otherwise you will get a backlash from potential customers.

4. What are some success stories you have?
Be a fan of your own business. Before I became the CEO of Dirtsurfer USA, I was a fan of the product and blogged about the sport because I was having fun. In 6 months I built an global readership of my blog about the Dirtsurfer. I had direct, insider access to the Australian inventor of the product and sport as well as his investment partners. My blog became THE official source of everything Dirtsurfer. Within 18 months I was offered the CEO position to run their U.S. business and 6 months after that to help launch new markets. Our retail distributors loved our service so much that I received numerous calls to help them with their businesses after we sold Dirtsurfer. That’s why we started Duvall Consulting… to meet the needs of our network.

5. In your opinion, what is the biggest mistake a startup could commit?
Not positioning themselves in the market properly. Improper positioning can kill your ability to sell your products / services and it can ruing your ability to compete resulting in poor cash flow which is the life blood of your business.

6. What key skill or experience did you lack when you started that has caused you the most problem?
I lacked understanding of how important your network of contacts really is. If I had understood the value of my contacts better then I could have greatly increased the speed at which my company could grow. I would also have systematically built my contact list so that it continually grows.

7. Which do you think is most important: the right market, the right product, or the right team?
You must have a market with the desire for your product / service and the ability to pay for it. Next, you must have the ability to deliver the product / service to that market in a timely / quality fashion. Having a good team goes a long way to making that happen. Finally, your product needs to be able to deliver on the promised benefit or you’re dead after the initial sale and refunds will drive your business into the ground.

8. When did the business model become clear for your business? When should it?
I’ve been running Duvall Consulting since 2007. Since then we have tried several different business models. It wasn’t until late 2012 that we discovered a business model that has finally transformed our business. It would have been nice to have started with our current model so that we would be years ahead of where we are now but we have experience behind us now and we now what not to do.

9. What will you do if you fail?
Failure is essential to success. It’s how you improve and grow. We simply refine our business based on new data and experiences and then make the needed changes. It’s quitting that is a killer. Quitting is not an option.

10. What would be the single biggest indicator to you that you are doing the right thing?
Profits with repeat customers. If you’re not profitable with customers buying more and more from you then you’re not in business. Poor quality products can be extremely profitable short-term but nobody buys a second time. If you’re profitable and customers keep coming back for more and referring your business to their contacts then you’re doing the right things.