Phil Krone: Obstacles & Accomplishments

by dortenberg 11. October 2013 13:00



I’ve been fortunate to have faced only two major obstacles in my life, one health issue and one major business challenge.  The health issue came years ago when I was diagnosed with a form of cancer that is often fatal. Even though I accepted the reality of the diagnosis, I never believed it would be fatal for me. Perhaps this was blind optimism but it helped me keep focused in a positive way and helped me encourage my family and the other people central to my life who depend on me.

My faith played a big part in responding to this challenge. I couldn’t imagine that I had fulfilled my life purpose; so I believed I would still have the time ahead I needed. I was lucky that my condition was caught early, and I made a full recovery.

My business challenge was in starting up a brand new business with nothing but an idea. Today the business is 17 years old and well established. At the beginning several factors helped me get Productive Strategies past the risky stages of business formation.

First, I was willing to let the idea of what the business was about evolve or float. Originally I was going to publish a marketing newsletter (I never did that after careful consideration); then I began helping large companies find trade partners in foreign countries. I made some interesting sales, but they were hard to come by because the people I wanted to call on were mostly traveling overseas. While I was trying to sell those services, people with a need for help with domestic marketing of b to b services and products would approach me and ask for help. One day it occurred to me that I should focus on the type of work that was coming to me rather than chasing work that was hard to come by.

Over the years I have let the market define what services and products we offer our clients.

A second factor that helped me survive the early years was getting a major client to take most of my time at the very beginning. Over time I cut back on the amount of time I was willing to devote to this single account; and that allowed me to diversify my client base in other industries and professions.

The third factor that helped grow the business was the amount of time I invested in helping other people become successful in their businesses.  A lot of that help was given free through networking or interviewing people looking for new positions. Like most professional service firms, we rely on referrals for most of our growth. The referrals often come from those we have helped in the past either as clients or as friends we have met along the way.

My three biggest successes were raising a family I’m very proud of, overcoming the health issue, and building a business that has helped so many other people be successful in the careers they have chosen. So many people love their work but are not good at or do not like the business development side of their profession. We have found a way to make those people successful in bringing in the business that allows them to practice what they love doing.


When most of us think about mentoring, we think of an older person mentoring a younger person or a superior mentoring a subordinate. Mentoring can be accomplished in other ways, too.

For example, when I headed up sales for a manufacturer, I was mentored by the independent sales representatives who reported to me. I was also mentored by the leaders of the businesses that were my customers.

The independent reps were all highly successful salespeople who taught me how important character, honesty, and trust are, especially in large-scale business-to-business relationships. What I admired most about them was how they had developed such wonderful relationships with those they served. They occupied positions of trust earned over years of hard work and excellent service. My customers, of course, mentored me by helping me understand the ways of their respective industries and markets, how they regarded salespeople, and how they thought as buyers.

Young people should be selective about who they allow to mentor them and on what topics. I often ask associates in law firms what they are learning about business development from their mentors. What they tell me is what their mentor—often a rainmaker—thinks has brought success. From training thousands of executives, salespeople, and professionals including hundreds of attorneys, however, we know most of their advice is not accurate. Even though they are sincere, successful business developers too often just don’t know what they do that makes them successful. Consequently, their advice can be misleading or, when following it reduces a mentee’s confidence, even damaging.

Today, I’m mentored by the people who take our consultative sales training course, FOCIS. I am always learning new things from them or seeing things from a slightly different perspective. Sometimes they reinforce the value of something I’ve been teaching. At other times, their questions or puzzled looks show me that I’m not communicating as clearly as I think I am. They help me adjust.

Finally, a lesson I’ve learned during my career is that mentoring can come from both traditional and unlikely sources. When I was young my mentors were the sales people selling on my behalf and some of my best customers. Today, I learn most from clients who have come to me as a consultant and, in fact, see me as a mentor to them.

Phil Krone is the president and founder of Productive Strategies, Inc. He is an experct contributor for The Legal Balance. 

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