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Last Update: Thursday July 29, 2021

Key Idea: Seek Critical Reviews

Learn that entering a contest will sharpen you and winning will bring in new customers.  At major technology shows, peers offer their many opinions.

Key Question:


Win a well-respected competition.

Constructive criticism works but it hurts too. Most of us try to avoid criticism although Errol and John asked for it. The experts who gave them an evaluation said the concept is great but the execution stinks. This is true about most new products and services and it is the reason only the patient leaders and innovators make it to market. Bill Tobin said in another episode of Small Business School that the idea is only 2%. Success comes in the 98% which is the execution. Only the naive think they just need one good idea to hit the big time.

Q: Why go to the world's largest technology show (CeBIT in Hannover, Germany) in the world and risk being tainted by a bad review?

A: Brookstone Technology is Australian-based but it has the world as its target market. Really. To continue working on their product under wraps and in seclusion would have yielded an inferior product. They needed global criticism and as a result of the criticism, they are able to say in their marketing that the experts said their idea is great. This is called "spin." You can lead with any good information then work to improve what the experts didn't like. These two are grown-ups. They have strong egos but they are not arrogant. Errol and John know that the ideas of others will improve their product and they went through the pain in order to get the benefit of great insight.

What happened because they submitted themselves to critical review?

A: They gained respect and won a big award! Respect within your industry can lead to being "discovered" from unexpected sources. We found out about Brookstone Technologies because they won an international industry award. There are thousands of software developers as Bill Gates fears, working in offices and even garages, trying to invent the next new "killer app." It's one thing to be named outstanding by your Chamber of Commerce as a great corporate citizen, but it's even better when the product you make is seen by your peers to be the best in its class.

What does it take to be best in class?

A: Creative thinking, hard work and persistence. Errol said he saw the vision of Virtual Office, a decade ago. For Brookstone it also took a merger to get to the winner's circle. Forming a partnership for Errol and John seemed like the best way for them to get where they wanted to go but they had to work out the way they would treat each other. Both came from being their own boss so both had to give in order to get. With offices a four-hour plane ride apart and clearly defined roles, these owners are happy and productive.

We are convinced that company size is not an issue because over and over here we see some of the biggest breakthroughs made by two or three-person teams. When you see a company recognized for excellence, on the stage you see almost nothing. You see a couple of people walk to a platform and accept a trophy. But what was the path that brought them to this place in time? A strong will to achieve.

Many of the companies we have studied on Small Business School have won awards. In fact, that is one of the ways we find these outstanding business owners. Everyone admits it takes time but going for awards can be a great employee motivator and when you win, it will help you attract new customers. First, find the awards you want to win. Next, form an "Award Winning Team" that is given the mission to put together the presentations needed to apply. As the owner, you should be on the team but try to let others take the lead.

Think about it

What would the smartest people in the world in your field say about your products and services? What action can you take to find out what they would say? What awards are given in your industry and what can you do to win one? Is it worth the time to go for it?

Clip from: Brookstone Technologies of Australia

Run Your Office From Your Pocket.  Be anywhere!  Be everywhere!

Perth and Sydney:  Meet the folks of Brookstone Technologies. They created virtual office software so they could be anywhere and still have their entire office with them.  

Perth is the most remote, largest "big city" on earth (three hours by airplane to another city over 1M), yet it is in a time zone that is home to half the earth's population!  It is known as GMT+8 (Greenwich Mean Time plus 8 hours). This time zone includes Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Taipei, and more.

John Stockbridge and Errol Pollnow merged two struggling information technology companies to form what is now a strong, creative enterprise with customers all over the world.

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Brookstone Technologies (EP)

Errol Pollnow, Founder

20/443 Albany Highway

+61 (0)8 6467 7788

Visit our web site:

Office: +61 (0)8 6467 7788

Business Classification:
Information Services

Year Founded: 1987

Seek Critical Reviews

HATTIE: (Voiceover) Errol and John run Brookstone from both ends of Australia.

JOHN: So I've got some contacts that I've still got in Malaysia that I'd need to call.

HATTIE: (Voiceover) This day, we found them in Perth, a city that shares the same time zone with over one-half of the world's population and some of its fastest-growing economies.

JOHN: Brookstone Technologies was a combination of two companies. So a company called Netsource, which has been formed since 1987, and then my partner, Errol Pollnow, had a company called Brookstone Pacific. And it was Errol's idea to create this concept of the Virtual Office, and so we basically found each other at various trade shows, and we met over the years. And then we came together and decided there was a good partnership to be had from the two organizations getting together. So that's what we did.

ERROL: One of the reasons for the merger was the difficulties that I had in getting this thing properly built. I had a number of attempts at it using various other companies to build the software, and I really couldn't get it to a standard that was adequate.

In 1998, as far back as '98, we took a prototype of the software, or shall we say an initial version of the software, to CeBit in Germany, in Hanover. And the purpose of that was to get an international reaction to the concept and to the software. And the reaction that we got was two sentences or two concepts in one sentence.

One is the concept is great; the second was the execution was terrible. And I said to myself at the time, `Don't be upset. The purpose of coming here was to get the reaction, and you certainly got it.' And so based on the reactions that we got over there from the international community at the CeBit fair in Hanover and subsequently in the UK was that the execution needed to be improved significantly. And that was a very constructive suggestion, and so I set about attempting to do that.

HATTIE: And that's where you thought John may have the key because he had a team that--and you respected John or what? Because up to this point, people promised something and couldn't deliver it or you.

ERROL: That's correct. I think what John was doing with his team here in Perth was the other side of the same coin of what I was doing. What I was seeking to do was to develop a Virtual Office to facilitate the conduct of business electronically in geographically dispersed circumstances. And what John was doing was developing software which served as the engine which was capable of delivering that.

JOHN: But really what you've got to try and create is what somebody's going to buy. So there's no point trying to create something that you think's wonderful because everybody else just might not use it.

HATTIE: (Voiceover) While John and the development team are in Perth, Errol meets in the Sydney office with Allister Forest, founder of MarketMeasure and a Brookstone customer.

ERROL: The new server just arrived in Perth, and the guys are busy working on it.

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