David Tang Interview
David Tang is the founder and CEO of Flevy – an online market place for high quality business documents and presentation toolkits. The editors of Family Business Experts.com conducted an interview with Mr. Tang to gain a better understanding of his Internet business and to get his perspective on the important services provided by Flevy.
FBE: What is Flevy?
DAVID: Flevy.com is an online marketplace, similar to eBay and Amazon, but we focus purely on high quality business documents. These documents include presentation templates, business training guides, Excel models, financial models, market research reports, and more.
FBE: How did the idea of Flevy come about?
DAVID: Prior to starting Flevy, I worked as a management consultant for many years. During this time, I consulted with companies of varying size (startup to Fortune 50), ownership (family to public), and industry. I noticed across all these organizations, a common bottleneck was the inordinate amount of time spent on creating business documents. In many ways, the process of document creation felt like re-inventing the wheel, as the same—or very similar—document has been developed countless times in the past, perhaps even in the same organization.
Flevy was founded under the principle that companies waste a lot of time, money, and effort recreating the same foundational business documents. Whatever document or business project you are working on, chances are others have faced the same issue before you. With Flevy, you don’t have to “redo” this work. Our vision is for Flevy to become a comprehensive knowledge base of such business documents.
FBE: What type of business documents and tools can be found on Flevy?
DAVID: As a marketplace, we accept any document that is used in the business world. Most of our documents fall into 3 high-level categories: business frameworks, PowerPoint templates, and Excel-based documents.
Thus far, our customer base has been most interested in business frameworks. To clarify, a business framework is essentially an in-depth training guide that instructs the audience on how to complete a specific type of business activity. As examples, we have business frameworks on Strategic Planning, Six Sigma, Pricing Strategy, Value Chain Analysis, Strategic Sourcing, and so forth. Typically, the business framework is presented in PowerPoint document. This document outlines a multi-phase approach to performing the business analysis.
FBE: What are some examples of business frameworks that would be helpful to family business owners looking to achieve sales growth?
DAVID: We have a number of frameworks related to the concept of corporate strategy and growth strategy. Specific examples of business frameworks that discuss approaches to growth include A.T. Kearney’s Consolidation-Endgame Curve, Blue Ocean Strategy, the Delta Model, Porter’s Five Forces, and Five Stages of Business Growth.
We also have a framework that is exclusively available on Flevy called the Fiaccabrino Selection Process. Developed by Charles Fiaccabrino, this framework is a proven methodology for creating an elite sales team of the highest performers and lowest turnover. Mr. Fiaccabrino was instrumental in growing Roche Diagnostics from a small business—he was hired as their first sales representative—to a billion dollar organization. In fact, internally at Hoffman-La Roche, Charles Fiaccabrino was affectionately called “Mr. Roche,” even by several former CEOs of the now $50B company.
FBE: What are the backgrounds of Flevy’s authors and contributors?
DAVID: The documents found on Flevy are of the same caliber as those produced by top tier consulting firms, like McKinsey, Bain, BCG, Accenture, A.T. Kearney, and Deloitte. In fact, we have contributors who have worked at all the aforementioned firms.
Most of our documents were developed by seasoned executives and consultants with over 20 years of experience.
The functional backgrounds of our authors span a diverse range of corporate disciplines, such as Corporate Strategy, M&A, Change Management, Operational Excellence, Project Management, HR, IT, and so forth.
FBE: Do you offer any free resources?
DAVID: Yes, both Flevy and our base of contributors regularly offer free documents for download. One of our most popular is a primer on strategy development and execution. Based on the premise that strategy without execution is merely theory, this 54-slide presentation introduces 12 powerful business frameworks related to strategy. The frameworks covered include: Porter's Five Forces, Consolidation-Endgame Curve, Hoshin Kanri, Product Lifecycle, Consumer Adoption Curve, Balanced Scorecard, Blue Ocean Strategy, BCG Matrix, SWOT, PEST, Marketing Mix, Organizational Hurdles.
This complimentary document can be found here:
FBE: What industries does Flevy focus on?
DAVID: Most of the documents on Flevy can be applied to all industries. This is true even for most of our business frameworks.
We do have documents that are industry specific. Most of these are our market research reports or whitepapers. Contributors have the option of tying a document to one of 20 predefined industries. When you peruse Flevy, you can find links to each of these industries at the bottom footer section of any page.
FBE: How many documents are available on Flevy?
DAVID: At the close of 2014, we had approximately 1,000 documents. Now, March of 2015, we have about 1,250 documents. We expect to exceed 2,000 documents well before the end of the year.
FBE: With so many documents, what’s the easiest way to find exactly what you need?
DAVID: That’s a great point. The easiest way would be to go to the business toolkits section of Flevy, which can be accessed by the link labeled “Toolkits” on the right side of the top navigation on every page.
The business toolkits section contains a list of over 40 business toolkits. This is a manually curated list. Examples of toolkits include: Business Case Development, Marketing Plan Development, and Workplace Productivity.
Each toolkit is comprised of multiple documents that, when used together, provide a comprehensive and holistic framework for the project. The documents within each toolkit have been handpicked.
The list of toolkits is also constantly growing. If you do not find what you need in our list of business toolkits, we suggest sending us a message with your exact business need. On the bottom right side of every page, there is a contact form you can use for this purpose. Someone from Flevy will reply back with tailored document recommendations.
How are you building the Flevy document library?
DAVID: We proactively seek out business professionals with the background and experience conducive to providing the business resources and expertise we need. We do a lot of recruiting through LinkedIn.
We also have a two-tiered referral program to incentivize our existing member base to refer others. To clarify “two-tiered,” this means you will earn commissions on the document sales of sellers you refer directly. In addition, if someone you refer goes on to refer others, you will also earn on the indirect referrals’ document sales.
Even if you’ve only been in the workplace for a couple years, chances are, you’ve already developed several documents that people in other organizations would find very useful and would pay for. This can be as simple as a Project Status Update presentation geared towards a specific type of deliverable, business activity, or vertical.
Most people have countless documents sitting idle on their hard drives. Why not capitalize them? Flevy presents a near effortless way for people to monetize their IP. This is an attractive value proposition for most people, as these days, everyone is looking for some side venture to generate supplemental income. The added benefit of selling business documents on Flevy is that it is a form of ongoing, passive income. You only need to format and upload the document once; and can then enjoy continual sales.
Are there other benefits to selling documents on Flevy?
DAVID: Yes, as mentioned, a large number of our sellers are consultants and consulting firms. These consulting sellers will typically brand their documents and use their documents as a way to upsell their professional services.
In general, as a business professional, any way you can increase your presence online—whether it’s through your own website, social media, or your documents on Flevy—is good for your career and business. Flevy presents another avenue for potential clients, employers, and businesses partners to find you. Having your documents on Flevy will also help establish yourself as a subject matter expert.
Furthermore, we allow our sellers to contribute articles on our business blog (Flevy Blog), offer free documents (for purposes of lead generation), and promote their social media profiles.
We would like to thank David Tang for making time to do this interview.
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