Manage episode 361698836 series 3363852
I had the pleasure of first meeting Aytul Ercil at the 2022 International Women’s Entrepreneurial Challenge (IWEC) Awards Conference in Madrid, where we celebrated the cooperation of women-owned businesses throughout the world. In addition to being a delightful conversationalist, Aytul is a mathematician, professor, scholar, applied research expert, and entrepreneur; in this episode she describes her move away from theoretical research and toward its real-world business applications. Even with applied research, she explains, universities specialize only in research and developing prototypes but don’t take the products to market, instead they find existing companies to take the lead and launch. Working in applied research fueled her interest in launching the products herself; she started her first company alongside two graduate students and sold it to a strong and successful German company.
Now onto her second company, Vispera offers image processing for retail stores. By providing in-store monitoring with either pictures or installed videos, companies can keep track of compliance with price and promotion deals, stocking levels, layout and display issues, and inventory reporting. It helps solve the major pain in retail of capturing information on the selling floor to maintain inventory and increase sales. The Vispera system’s speed, accuracy, and precision in gathering information on the selling floor helps clients better manage production, operations, and distribution. In addition, with retailers managing ecommerce, they have the information to manage the coordination of in-store and on-line ordering.
Before the Vispera platform, companies relied on sales reps to visit stores, count items, fix displays, and communicate information – all very tactical and manual work. Now, sales reps can be more strategic when working with customers.
Based in Türkiye, Aytul knew from the start that she would need to launch internationally for success. Since her first target clients were large, international companies, she chose to build an English-only website, knowing it would reach more people than a Turkish language website. The strategy worked; her first customer, based outside of Türkiye, found Vispera through an online search.
Now implemented in 35 countries with clients such as Coca-Cola, CircleK, and Unilever, Vispera’s technology solution requires custom buildouts and adaptation, so rather than adapting her website and content, she hires bilingual employees to handle in-country communications with frontline customers. Since she hires local bilingual employees, I asked if she needs to culturally adapt her messaging for geographic markets. She says that most clients are large global companies dealing with the same issues and problems; in India, however, the company may have to adjust its messaging to account for the large number of “mom and pop” stores. Similarly, she does predict a need for website and other translation for particular countries.
While Vispera currently markets only in English, and the company continues to optimize their website for English search terms, its technologies can easily be adapted to other languages; for instance, it provides a Spanish-language platform for clients in South America.
Aytul lists her biggest challenges as:
- Having enough money for development and expansion
- Marketing resources
- Hiring good salespeople
- Meeting in-person with global teams around the world
(I can certainly relate to these – how about you!?)
And her biggest mistakes?
In her first company, to support development they accepted project-based work, quickly finding that delivering said projects meant little time for development. Once they found funding, Aytul recognized that doing the project work for so long slowed down the larger development of their initiative. Gaining funding and working with a partner sped up their success.
She adds that even a PhD in Applied Mathematics from Brown University does not mean you will understand finance or accounting; asked for a P&L statement, she had to look up its meaning, and made a few unwise financial decisions before taking the time to learn about the numbers.
Finally, as all sales managers can attest to, Aytul admits that it’s been a challenge to hire good sales representatives. It is an expensive position to fill, and she’s made mistakes. Now more seasoned when it comes to hiring, for her international expansion she’s found highly capable Managing Directors in key markets to build the local teams and the pipeline. To keep the company aligned, she holds regular meetings with the Managing Directors from each country and weekly meetings with each company manager.
Her final recommendations?
- Hire good people in each country that can manage the team and build a pipeline.
- Have a good on-boarding strategy and process for clients and employees and have it all documented and ready to go.
- Communicate with the team so that everyone is aligned to the same goal.
Fittingly, Aytul’s favorite foreign words are “perseverance” and “resilience”!
Connect with Wendy - https://www.linkedin.com/in/wendypease/
Connect with Aytul - https://www.linkedin.com/in/aytul-ercil-b833b43/
Music: Fiddle-De-Dee by Shane Ivers - https://www.silvermansound.com