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Tammy Lee - Small Ask, Big Impact

Nov 03, 2021
 
Season 2, Episode 39

Summary:

Covid forced Tammy Lee's medical device company to change its sales strategy. Since reps could no longer visit hospitals and clinics, she needed to find other ways to get Opal Cool for women and Onyx Cool for athletes into consumer hands. As the CEO of Xena Therapies, Tammy is creating new product uses as well as retail outlets for the core products, and her small ask, big impact approach to sales is an approach anyone in sales could incorporate. A lot has changed in the company since the last time Tammy was a guest on the podcast and this episode shares the challenges, progress, new thinking and participation in The Dayton's Project. 

 

Show Notes:

Tammy Lee

Opal Cool

Onyx Cool

Dayton's Project

Champion You Group Coaching

 

Transcript:

Michael Kithcart:  

Hello, I'm Michael Kithcart, high performance coach for sales leaders and teams and the creator of the Wynning Your Way framework. Welcome to the Champions of RISK podcast, where we examine the many aspects of risks so that we can all face uncertainty with more courage and confidence together. So we have a repeat guest today, I'm really excited to talk to Tammy Lee again. Tammy is a Med Tech founder and CEO of Xena therapies, makers of Opal Cool Products for Hot Women and Onyx Cool therapies for injury repair, recovery and heat stress. So Tammy was a guest last year. And in a year, I just know so much has changed. I know this a little bit because we talked before, but I wanted her to come back on the podcast to talk about what a difference a year can make, how the business has evolved, her sales approach project she's involved in; we just have so much to cover. Tammy, welcome back to the podcast.

Tammy Lee:  

Thank you. It's so great to be with you again. I can't believe a year has flown by. That was such a fun time. And I know today will be fun and freewheeling too. So thanks for having me back again.

Michael Kithcart:  

Ah, well, always a pleasure to talk with you. So let's just dive in. And why don't you remind listeners about Opal Cool and Onyx Cool? And really like where, like, tell us a little bit about the the technology? Because that's kind of a key, isn't it?

Tammy Lee:  

Yeah, yeah, thank you. So we manufacture Opal and Onyx Cool therapy products down in Red Wing, Minnesota. So we're a Made in America, made Minnesota, woman owned company. And we make cool therapy products for hot women, women who are going through menopause or who might be new moms who are breastfeeding and need to cool their breasts or might have mastitis or women with MS. We also make products under Onyx Cool therapy line, which are really designed for sports injuries for injury repair and recovery. And now we're branching out into safety products to really treat heat safety, heat stress for workers outside. So that's a new initiative. And we're really excited. We launched the company right before the pandemic. So what a year and a half it has been but we made it out to the other side. Not that the pandemic has fully ended. But but we see the light ahead and are now looking at new ways to bring those products to market, including into a retail space, which I'm sure we'll talk about today.

Michael Kithcart:  

Yes, we sure well, so let's go back to that beginning stage, like you said, no time to launch like a full blown pandemic. (laughing) And so in this, how has the company evolved, either because of COVID, or just because of market opportunity?

Tammy Lee:  

So just a little bit about the technology itself, because it kind of sets up how we had to pivot the marketing strategy. So we make cool therapy products that use phase change material, so it's not ice, it can go directly on the skin. Safer than ice, more comfortable, it can cool to 58 degrees. So these are show-and-tell products. And in a pandemic, you can't get out to show and tell about your product. So we did a lot of TV marketing, video marketing, to really showcase the products, we're on Good Morning America, the view QVC to try and get those into the hands of people that need them to go consumer direct. That was not our original business strategy. We really thought in January of 2020, that we were going to be reaching out to hospitals and clinics and physical therapists and chiropractors and, and family physicians to market the products through them. But of course, with COVID, you couldn't go that route. So we went the route of consumer direct, and now that the pandemic is is beginning to ease up and lift, we hope to be able to get back into those medical channels. But we're also going more aggressively into retail with a brick and mortar location downtown at the new Dayton's location. So our marketing strategy has whipsawed a little bit because of COVID. But we're still standing and looking at great new opportunities ahead.

Michael Kithcart:  

Yeah, well, I think it's fantastic that you had the nimbleness, you know, to be able to do that. And you know, maybe your launching ended up being right at the right time.

Tammy Lee:  

Who knows? My bank account wouldn't say that. (laughing) But yeah, we made it through. I don't think anybody would choose to launch in the beginning of pandemic unless you had the best personal protective equipment on the market, or respirators - we did not have that, we had cool therapy products. So, but it did force us as you said to be more nimble and creative about how we take the products to market.

Michael Kithcart:  

Yeah, so I want to talk about kind of a gamble that you took, right, and knowing that you were gonna go into the consumer brand. Once you realized that you did try something like QVC. So tell us about that experience and what you learned from it.

Tammy Lee:  

Yeah, so you know, QVC national TV appearances do at least one good thing For you, they get you great brand exposure, and they give you digital assets that you can use later. It was a long process to get on QVC. The QVC shopper really wanted the Onyx products, the shoulder, which we could demo seven different ways, my gut instinct was that we really should be on QVC with Opal. You think about the audience who watches QVC. She is in her 50s or 60s, she probably is going through menopausal symptoms. And she is up late at night or early in the morning because she's having a hot flash. And she's ready to use her credit card for anything to provide relief. We were not talking about menopause, we were talking about shoulder knee hip injuries with with that particular show. So well, it got us some great national exposure. And every time we're on TV, it opens another door, it was not the right product for that marketplace. So that was just another key learning. But then we pivoted because we had so much inventory that we had made for QVC into some other consumer direct channels like 40 boxes, which was kind of an offshoot of some of the stuff that we did on Good Morning America and the view. And that was another great opportunity to reach a whole new segment of customers. So every, I would say, rain cloud and storm that we went through kind of ended up we found a rainbow at the end of it or kind of made our own rainbow to make that that promotion work for our benefit.

Michael Kithcart:  

Yes, that, well, I just think that that that's really marvelous that you are able to like, you know, find different outlets for it. Because just in reading about what it takes to be on QVC, you know, like the amount of product that you have to have, and the amount of time and if you don't sell a certain number quantity, right, like they yank you. I mean, it's pretty hardcore,

Tammy Lee:  

it is hardcore, they have a permanent goal. And it's not just a goal, it's a requirement, I mean, you've got to sell a certain number of dollars per minute. And you're really - Your fate is really tied to the hosts that you're working with too. So before COVID, you could be in studio with the host demoing your product. During COVID, you had to be in your own home studio, and be demoing over like a zoom call. So it's very difficult to interact and sell product in that eight minute segment in that kind of a format, especially if your host is not really familiar with your technology. Coming back to the beginning of this podcast, this is a show and tell product. And if you can't accurately describe it, it's very difficult to sell. So I felt like I really had to kind of become the host of that segment, and really kind of hit on the features and benefits. But, out of that, you know, we put it on LinkedIn, we put it on our social channels, we ended up making new connections because of that national appearance that we wouldn't have otherwise. So I kind of view it as paid advertising. But for people that think that that's going to solve some of their problems, it's a long road because we are a medical technology. Even though we're class one, we had to have our products tested in Asia at a testing lab to make sure that all the claims that we were making were accurate. There are certain words that you can't use on TV on QVC, you have to go through training that's really rigid. And if you say the wrong word and make a health claim, it's almost like a swear word they'll beep you. So you got to be really careful when you're to appear on a segment like QVC. So it's long and expensive. And talking about Champions of RISK, it is a risky proposition to businesses.

Michael Kithcart:  

So Tammy, you're also kind of the Chief Revenue Officer for Xena Therapies as well. So tell me kind of how your sales strategy has evolved in this last year as well.

Tammy Lee:  

Yeah, that's a great question. We started out really, we had one full time salesperson before the pandemic started. And then we had several independent reps around the country that were working for us. Independent reps couldn't get into the sales channels, we thought they would be going after the hospitals, clinics, etc. And our same with our full time sales person couldn't get in. So that's why we kind of pivoted to the Consumer Direct strategy and really marketing to the masses through television and other opportunities. But what I found as my own chief salesperson, I had to find other people to be arms and legs and really connectors for me and everybody has a vast network of people that they know - like you, you know a lot of really interesting people. You've been in sales and business development yourself. And what I found that's been really successful for me is asking people that I know in my network, who they might know that can help me. And I call it the small ask big impact. So I asked them to open up their network to me and make some connections and for that, let's just say we hit a whopper together if you and I landed some big national account like Target Baby, or maybe it's Hot Mama, or maybe it's somebody else that wait, we haven't even contemplated yet, just for making that introduction, I would give you 5% of the deal. So small favor, big impact. And what I found is people are really willing to do that, because you're not asking them to be your full time salesperson, you're just asking them to do for you what they probably would do anyway, because they like you, they respect you, they want to help your business. But there's a time associated with that you've got a full time job, you've got a podcast. So for you to do that, you're incentivized to want to help me because who knows? It's like, it's like buying a lottery ticket. Maybe it goes, maybe it doesn't. But all it takes is an email and in a couple of intros, and maybe it could happen.

Michael Kithcart:  

Yes, I love this. Because I, you're right, you know, we you and I, we've been in sales for a long time. And when you're a small business, and you're growing, there's kind of this old model of like, hey, let's find somebody who can do sales. And, you know, we'll give them commissions, or we'll give them a base plus commission or whatever. And it's such a, I don't know, anybody who's truly had a great experience with that model. If we're just really being honest. You know, as you know, like an independent contractor, because people still aren't that invested. It's different if it's employee based, right. So now you've essentially have an unlimited amount of business developers in, work- working with you, who can do something that can have a great result for Xena therapies, won't require necessarily a lot of time, and then you're, the paying it forward. And then you're, you know, you're helping them share in the reward as well.

Tammy Lee:  

Yeah, so it seems like a win win for everyone. And really, with almost everybody that I talked to, if you just have one or two really amazing contacts. So this isn't a lifelong commitment. It's a, you know, let's swing for the fences and see what happens. And that might open up another door that we hadn't thought about too. So there could be some trailing positive benefits, too. But people genuinely want to help each other out along their journey, too. And people feel good about that. And everybody wants to be part of somebody else's success story, at least I do. And so I get great joy, it fills my bucket to help other people. And I found that other people are really willing to do the same.

Michael Kithcart:  

Yes, I just think it's a smart way to do business. And I especially love the name of you know, the Small ask, or small favor, big impact. That's, and brand it. There's your million, next million dollar idea, Tammy.

Tammy Lee:  

There you go. There you go, I gotta finish out this million dollar idea and turn it into a 10 million idea, dollar idea, then everybody else could use this, I don't need to brand it. I'm happy to share it openly, open source it, anybody can do this. You just have to have willing partners that want to help you out.

Michael Kithcart:  

Yes, yeah. And I think that's a great challenge to the listeners of the podcast to is just think about how that approach could actually help you grow your business or your network, or whatever it is that you need to, you know, you're looking to achieve. So that was that's awesome. You mentioned that you are getting, going to be involved in the Dayton's project. So tell us about this, because this is super exciting.

Tammy Lee:  

This is one of the most exciting things to happen since the pandemic. And since the riots happened in Minneapolis after the death of George Floyd. So I'm excited to be part of a movement that is bringing business and shoppers back downtown to Minneapolis. So the historic Dayton's project was in the works pre-COVID. They had a developer and an architect that were working on redesigning and reimagining that historic Dayton's space. And all of us that live here in the Twin Cities area know that that's that's a rich history. Dayton, Dayton Hudson's, Marshall Fields, then Macy's. So what they've done is taken iconic space, and now turned it into a place for Minnesota companies, Minnesota makers. So it's going to be a great space that opens November 18. We will have Opal and Onyx products both featured down there. Along with 20 other businesses, a lot of them happen to be women owned businesses. Many of them have been announced. But there's another really exciting aspect of that that's coming up to that. I'll just say it'll be really a culturally interesting thing for Minnesota that will be part of that space and that will be coming up in the next announcement. So November 18. We are trying to get people encouraging them to come downtown to Minneapolis to shop local again and experience all of what these fabulous Minnesota makers have to offer.

Michael Kithcart:  

You kind of teased us. I want to know what what is it?

Tammy Lee:  

It will be fabulous. I will just tell you, it will be fabulous. They I think they've been making announcements every week. They have a new batch of vendors and makers that are going to be In the space so I expect in the next week or so that will become public and build up to that exciting launch. And, you know, many of us remember growing up going to Dayton's during the holidays and, and seeing the holiday decorations and the window displays and shopping in there and seeing those, those beautiful chandeliers which they rescued from the original Dayton's space. So those are hanging in the new Dayton's build out. And it's been fun to meet other great Minnesota companies. My friend, Bob Gardener has Gardener Builders, and he was the general contractor for that space, beat on a lot of other national companies to get the right and the honor to do that. So it's been fun to see how other great companies in Minnesota that that you know, are scrappy, entrepreneurial, who are really part of creating that space, which is just going to be a treasure for this year's holiday season.

Michael Kithcart:  

Yeah, I'm really looking forward to being down there and doing all of my holiday shopping for the Dayton's project. What else do you have on the horizon? Not like Xena therapy's isn't a full time job. But you're also an investor in Utepils Brewery.

Tammy Lee:  

Yeah, so that's just kind of a passion project. It's a fun place to bring people to, it's a great location in Minneapolis where the old - another historic location, the old Glenwood water bottling plant used to be there, and the spring water that's under that building, we can pull up in and use in the brewery as well. So it's been a fun space on Bassett Creek, it's a business that continues to attract new fans and followers. And it's, it's in a great location. So that's just kind of a fun thing to be involved in. I also really get joy out of helping other women owned companies and businesses. So I'm an investor in Sofia Fund and Capita Three, which support women owned businesses and entrepreneurs. So that's the kind of stuff that that I enjoy doing. But yeah, I'm pretty busy with my own my own projects right now, too. I started out my career, the, you know, for 15 years of my career, I was in the airline industry. So there's that saying that they tell you when you're on the plane, you know, put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others. So I got a I got a lot of stuff to deal with on my own plate, but still happy to assist others on the way.

Michael Kithcart:  

Wow, that's great. And coming up just around the corner is Yes-vember for female manufacturers. I love that. Yes-vember?

Tammy Lee:  

Yeah, I kind of like to turn things into my own phrase. So yes, November, there's a great manufacturing conference coming to town, because conferences are back on again, which is great for everybody's business. And there's a group called Women in Medtech in Minnesota, and it's comprised of a lot of different business owners, but there's a panel on, it's called from the shop floor to the top floor, how women are rising through the ranks in manufacturing. So that'll be fun to participate in that. And my background isn't manufacturing, I started out my career in TV news, and then politics and then working in Global Corporate affairs. And my parents growing up told me work really hard, you know, get a good education, so that you don't end up working in a factory. Well, I worked hard, got a great degree, got an MBA, and now I work in a factory, but it's a little different when you own it. So there's a lot of opportunity for women in med tech, manufacturing and manufacturing in general. So it's fun to be part of sharing the message about what's possible and for women, and also really focusing on women of color and bringing more diverse people into the ranks for manufacturing.

Michael Kithcart:  

Yes. Well, I'm so glad that you're leading that charge along with some other fabulous women on on that, can people attend that conference? Or is it kind of closed to the industry?

Tammy Lee:  

You know, I think it's actually part of the MDM, a conference medical device manufacturing conference. And there's several other events going on with that. I think people can attend that. But I can follow up with you for your listeners, and you can post a link with it. If it's if it's open to the public.

Michael Kithcart:  

Yes, because I think there'd be some people out there that would be invest- interested in it. So you know, before we blink, it's going to be 2022. And what has you hopeful for the coming year?

Tammy Lee:  

You know, I'm very optimistic. I feel like we're finally getting this pandemic under control. Businesses are opening back, the economy's doing pretty well. And you know, there's a lot happening in Washington, DC to try and bring money to the states for a variety of infrastructure projects. So that'll put more people back to work too. As part of that. What I'm really excited about is the the White House announced about a month ago, some new regulations that they're looking at to protect workers from heat stress. And as somebody who is CEO of a pool therapy company, I get really excited about protecting workers from heat stress. And so you think about workers, everything from manufacturing construction, it gets pretty hot here in Minnesota, but think about how hot it is in Texas, you think about people that are working in the fields in California, whether they're picking strawberries or avocados, I mean, there are some hot places and for people to want to get back to work, and stay employed, stay working, you got to make them comfortable and make them safe. So I'm really excited to take our technology and hopefully be a big part of what can happen around protecting workers from heat stress. So the company started really focused on women's health and wellness and orthopedic sports medicine, and now we're moving into safety and industrial. So it's what I get excited about for 2022 is there's so many applications for this technology, and so many other great groups to partner with to help bring it to the marketplace.

Michael Kithcart:  

Yeah, that's a lot to look forward to. I'm excited for you as well. So Tammy remind people how they can follow you or get in touch with you.

Tammy Lee:  

Well, thank you. Yes, so we our websites are Opalcool.com and Onyxcool.com. Those are our sites and but we really love for people to come and see us downtown Minneapolis at the new Dayton's marketplace starting November 18. And going through the holidays, there's going to be a lot of exciting things happening down there.

Michael Kithcart:  

Well, Tammy, as always, thank you for taking time to talk with me. It's always a pleasure. And I appreciate you being a guest on the Champions of RISK podcast.

Tammy Lee:  

Thank you for having me back again and best wishes to you for the rest of the year and and for all of your exciting goals for 2022.

Michael Kithcart:  

Thank you. If you're like many you're high achieving and get a lot done, though it can come at personal expense. Wouldn't it be great to crush it and feel like a rockstar? Champion You Monthly Group Coaching helps high achievers shift to high performers so that you can have ongoing success with less overwhelm, and more satisfaction. Each month I go live with the members to highlight a high performance topic that shifts perspective with a cool new tool or a resource and helps you identify an action step to get you to a different outcome. If you're looking for a personal or professional development companion, come check us out for a month. See if you like us! If you do you can stay. We meet the first Wednesday of every month and I look forward to seeing you there soon.

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