March 29, 2023

You’re the Boss Blog: Pitching a Surveillance System for Tugboats

Make Your Pitch

Film your business plan and send it to us.

In my last post, I reviewed a pitch for an employee-owned assisted-living facility. This week, I review a pitch for a safety surveillance system for tugboats.

You can view the original video pitch and my review of the pitch below.

Here’s the pitch:

Here’s my review:

In terms of the pitch, the TugCam video from Christopher Machut and GM Services hits on almost all of the items that make a great pitch.

What the company does: It creates a surveillance system that wirelessly transmits audio and video from around a large vessel back to the tugboat captain to increase the captain’s awareness of what can be seen and heard while navigating waterways. The platform can also be used in other industries, including fish farming.

While I don’t know enough to evaluate the scope of the problem, I do like that the company overcame potential objections by talking about adoption and by stressing that the platform needs to be rugged and easy to use. It also has to have cross-technology capability (BlackBerry, Android).

What problem the company solves: Tugboats push vessels through waterways with a blocked line of sight, which has resulted in vessels running into other boats (some with people on board). This was well illustrated visually with actual video — a big barge running over a smaller boat.

The secondary problem is financial. This solution helps avoid accidents, which solves a problem for insurance carriers, a clever thing to point out in the pitch and of course a catalyst for adoption.

My biggest question here is whether this solution is the right one for the problem. It seems as if there could be many ways to change the scope of a vessel’s views, so I would want to inquire more on this front.

Who is on the team: The team has decades of what sounds like relevant experience. The founder has nearly 30 years in the industry and has built and sold a business (experienced entrepreneurs give investors additional confidence). Mr. Machut, who is also a partner, has nearly 20 years of technology experience and has also sold a business.

What is the financial opportunity: The company showed revenue projections of $20 million without funding and $50 million with funding within five years. While more details are needed to evaluate the opportunity — How will that revenue be generated? How profitable will the company be? — the initial numbers create a large enough opportunity to pique investor interest.

How they will bring the product to market: The insurance company angle is the initial entry point being pursued for marketing. It sounds as if insurance companies may offer a discount to their clients for using TugCam. This needs more “meat” around it — How many companies have moved forward? What kind of results do they expect? — but the strategic thinking is sound.

The one thing the pitch is missing is a discussion of competition: Who else is offering solutions and why is the TugCam solution better? I also found the narration a bit stiff, but over all, I thought that this was a very solid pitch.

Now, again, I know nothing about safety-surveillance equipment or tugboats or the marine transportation industry, so I personally would have a hard time evaluating where the holes in the opportunity might be. That said, for the right investor who does know the industry, I think that this pitch — assuming the solution and the opportunity hold up — would definitely create investor interest.

What do you think?

Carol Roth is a business strategist who has helped clients raise more than $1 billion in capital. You can follow her on Twitter.

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You’re the Boss: The One Task I Can’t Seem to Delegate

Thinking Entrepreneur

An owner’s dispatches from the front lines.

The other day, three yearly license plate renewal stickers arrived in the mail for three of my company vehicles. This meant someone would have to put the stickers on and replace the registration card in each of the cars. Normally, that someone would be me. While I have become quite adept at delegating almost everything else, the combination of vehicles and stickers has long been a surprising source of grief, education and humor for me. I have given speeches about my failures to manage this process.

It started about 25 years ago. I had been in business almost 10 years, and I was trying my best to master the art and discipline of delegation (I had read a business book or two). Back then, in Chicago, car owners needed to buy a new vehicle sticker and attach it to the windshield every Jan. 1. I decided that this was a task that could easily be delegated, so I handed a razor blade to one of my employees and asked him to do the honors. Convinced that I was on my way to management enlightenment, I moved on to more important matters.

But when I got in my car that night, I was surprised to find that the sticker had been placed halfway up the windshield instead of in the lower right corner, where it would be out of the line of sight. I had to live with it there for a year — a constant reminder of my poor delegation skills — because getting the sticker off is next to impossible.

By the time that year had passed, I owned a car and a van, so there were now two stickers that needed attention on Jan. 1. Should I handle it myself? No! I had learned a lot about leadership in the past year. Specifically, I had learned that you have to delegate and give instructions. “Put the sticker two inches from the bottom and two inches from the side,” I directed as I handed the razor blade to my trusted accomplice.

Thirty minutes later, he came back. “Are you done?” I asked.

“Yes,” he said. But it was a hesitant yes, and I could tell there was more. “What do you mean, yes?” I asked, mimicking the hesitant tone.

Well, the stickers were on, he said, but he couldn’t find the razor blade. What? You mean it might be floating around in my car or the delivery van? He shrugged. We never did find it.

Year 3: Would I give up and do it myself? No! I am a manager. Again, I had learned more over the previous year. Delegate. Give instructions. And follow up! Besides, the temperature was near zero, which is another strong motivation to delegate.

“Here is the first sticker,” I said. “Put it two inches from the side and bottom. Don’t lose the razor blade! When you finish the van, come back to me and I will give you the sticker for my car.”

Ten minutes later he returned. Victory! In fact, he had managed to get the sticker off in one full piece, something I have never been able to do. The right guy with the right instructions; I was becoming some kind of guru of delegation. I gave him the second sticker for my car. I moved on to more important things, the whole purpose of delegation.

Half an hour went by, and I realized that he had not come back for a final victory lap. I started to go toward the door, when I saw him coming out of the bathroom. He looked as sick as a frat boy the morning after a night of drinking.

“Did you get the sticker on?” I asked.

“No.” It was a weak no, almost an “I am about to cry” no.

“Why not?” I asked.

“I broke the windshield,” he said. “I used a blow-torch to get the sticker off, and the windshield exploded.”

Years 4 through 25, I put all of the vehicle and license plate stickers on all 11 of my cars, trucks, and vans myself. I enjoy it. It doesn’t take long, I get to make sure the registration and insurance cards are all in order, and I do it with pride. I am a picture framer at heart. I make sure that all of the stickers are straight and in the right place. I clean the glass professionally. And I don’t break the windshields. Luckily, Chicago has changed the replacement date from Jan. 1 to July 1 (maybe the city administrators felt sorry for me). Which gets me back to what happened the other day when the three new license plate stickers arrived.

I had these three stickers in front of me. Two of the vehicles were out on deliveries, but one was sitting in my parking lot. My assistant drives this vehicle, and I asked her for the keys, so that I could get into the glove box to change the registration card. “I can do it,” she said. “The plate has one of those plastic shields on it, and you have to take it off with a screwdriver.” And then she looked at me with a look that only someone who has worked with you for 20 years would give you, a look that says, “Get over it. Really. This is not brain surgery. I can do it.” But? But? I stood there for 20 seconds thinking. And then I broke. After all of these years — and probably 300 stickers — I decided to believe again. I gave her the sticker and I went home. What could go wrong?

The next morning, I pulled into the parking lot. I walked past her car, and there it was. The renewal sticker was on the plate — but in the top left corner (see photo above). The little indentation for the sticker is in the top right corner, along with five years of half-peeled-off stickers. NOOOOOOOOOOO! What had I done? I walked into the office and looked at her the way you look at your dog after he eats your favorite shoe.

“I know!” she said. “I was changing it this morning, and George” — our delivery and installation guy, who has been with us 17 years — “walks up and says, ‘Let me do that.’ I was scraping off the old stickers and he grabs the new sticker off the ground and says, ‘You can put it on either side.’ And before I can react, he slaps it on!”

Of course, the card clearly says to put the new sticker over the old sticker, and since these stickers are not intended to be removed, I’m going to be looking at this for the next year. And that is my sad, tortured story of failed delegation. Now, let me assure you, again, that I have successfully delegated far more difficult tasks. And I’m sure I could delegate this one, too, if I really wanted to. The truth is, I’ve come to enjoy handling this myself.

So, I have two questions: What lesson do you think I should take from all of this? And am I alone in this — or is there anything you do that you know you could or should delegate, but you choose not to because: a) it’s just easier to do it yourself, b) it’s too easy for someone else to mess it up or c) you have some other anal-retentive reason.

Jay Goltz owns five small businesses in Chicago.

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