What I’ve learned from visiting customers….

Customer visits

One of the things I really love about founding and running NuNano is that the opportunities to develop and grow professionally just keep on coming.  This has certainly been the case over the past year or so, since I’ve been doing more customer visits.

 
 Visiting the  Centre for Device Thermography and Reliability (CDTR)   at the University of Bristol

Visiting the Centre for Device Thermography and Reliability (CDTR)

at the University of Bristol

 

Being completely honest, this was never really something I had envisaged myself doing when I set up NuNano. I’ve always been more at home either in the lab, or working on product development, technical challenges, or just the day-to-day administration of running a company.

What has enabled me to take on this work is the fact that we have now formed a technical and manufacturing team in Edinburgh. As planned, more of my time is now freed up to focus on the commercial side of things, albeit in a more hands-on way than I had originally imagined….

Specialised selling

As founder and technical lead, I’ve come to the realisation that I am actually the best person to be representing the company and having those face-to-face engagements with potential NuNano AFM probe users.

This is partly because we are manufacturing and selling specialised products. I’ve been working on the development and production of the probes since the very beginning so there’s a level of technical knowledge that I can bring to a discussion that would be hard for anyone coming into the company cold to replicate easily.

 
 Talking to Filip Gucmann (one of our customers and CDTR research associate)

Talking to Filip Gucmann (one of our customers and CDTR research associate)

 

That, twinned with my passion for what NuNano is trying to achieve, means I’m able to add a level of credibility that I know I would be looking for in a supplier were I making those same buying decisions.

Natural affinity

Whilst I would never have said that being in a customer facing role was something I had a natural affinity for, the more I do it the more confident I feel and the more enjoyable it is!

I particularly enjoy learning what research people are doing and what experimental setups they have in place.  There’s some fascinating work happening out there using AFM, though most of it is commercially sensitive, so sadly I can’t break any exclusives here!

Visiting Lancaster is always interesting– not least because it’s perfectly positioned en route to Edinburgh and is therefore a great place for me to take a break on my journey north to see the NuNano engineers.

 
 On the road

On the road

 

The university has a new isolation lab (IsoLab), not too dissimilar to the University of Bristol NSQI building. They are currently performing a unique form of AFM – Ultrasonic Force Microscopy – and it will be intriguing to see what comes out of this work.

Living the sales process

Lancaster is also a great example of the learning curve I’m on in terms of developing the customer base – specifically the lead time between first engaging with people and those conversations translating into sales. As in this instance, it can be more than a year from first contact to first sale.  Whilst I knew theoretically that the sales process tends to have a long tail, living it has been quite different and, in its own way, revelatory.

Visiting Oxford University is a real pleasure too, for personal as well as professional reasons because there are a lot of University of Bristol alumni there. It’s great to see people moving on from their academic roots in Bristol to research careers elsewhere; catching up with them is always a bonus.

 
 Oxford

Oxford

 

One of the challenges of life on the road is of course arranging the visits in the first place. Just getting hold of very busy people is tough and then navigating our mutual availability can create quite a lot of back and forth before we are finally able to settle on a date and time.

UK first…then the rest of the world!

It’s been an educational year getting more involved in the commercial side of the business. I’ve enjoyed being the front-man far more than I anticipated despite my natural predilection for more lab and office-based aspects of running a company. I expect to be doing more of the same over the next 6 – 12 months and I plan to fit in some visits in Europe around attending the SPMonSPM conference in Leuven, Belgium next week.

It is of course impossible for me to do this kind of personal visiting further afield (at the moment at any rate!) so I’m delighted that we’ve also set up distribution agreements with companies such as Filgen Inc. in Japan and Shanghai NTI in China.

Who knows where the NuNano journey will take me next….?

If you would like to receive a visit from James to talk about your AFM probe needs and the latest work you’re doing, please do get in touch with us to begin that date and time negotiation process!

If you enjoyed this blog post you may also like: Why conferences are essential for academics AND entrepreneurs and Three things I learned from attending the 2018 RMS SPM meeting.