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Small Biz: How we did it by getting a foot in the door
Wednesday September 3, 12:58 pm ET
By As told to Josh Hyatt, Money Magazine contributing writer

NAME: Vimala Anishetty, 41; Dennis Karl , 48, co-founders

BUSINESS: Environmental Compliance Office (ECO), a Detroit firm that helps businesses comply with environmental and safety regulations



HOW WE GOT THE IDEA: "I worked at Ford Motors for 23 years; Vimala for 15," says Karl.

"In our positions - mine as a regional manager for environmental compliance, Vimala's as principal engineer - we'd get calls from suppliers having trouble complying with EPA standards. We heard it enough to know there was demand."

GREATEST CHALLENGE: "We had no idea how hard it'd be to get the attention of larger companies," Anishetty says. "Thanks to caller ID, people rarely answer their phones."

BREAKTHROUGH MOMENT: "We reached our first customer through a referral," she adds. "That got us a meeting, which got us a commitment."

HOW IT HELPED US: "After that, we developed a system to try to get meetings," Anishetty explains.

"We call a potential client every three days and send e-mails in between. If we're introduced by someone, I mention it right away in my voice mail or in the subject line of the e-mail.

"In my first message I say I'm the president of ECO and ask for a call. By the third message I add four lines of background - including our experience and who we've worked with. We keep a war room in our office to track progress and keep us motivated."

ADVICE TO OTHERS: "When breaking into a market, be persistent, not pushy - it's a delicate balance," says Karl.

Need help with your business? Contact the editors of Money's sister Web publication, CNNMoney Small Business. Submit your questions to their experts and to other small business owners at cnnmoney.com/smallbusiness/getanswers.

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