Episode 176 – From Sidekick to Success: How a Trusted Number Two Fueled a Consulting Firm’s Growth and Exit – Member Case by Brian Albers

Episode 176 – From Sidekick to Success: How a Trusted Number Two Fueled a Consulting Firm’s Growth and Exit – Member Case by Brian Albers

In this session, we dive into the incredible journey of a consulting firm founder who found a pivotal ally in their number two. Join Brian Albers, the former COO at Data Clymer, and discover how his dynamic partnership with his founder drove the company’s growth, navigated the scaling challenges, and ultimately led to a successful exit. Through candid conversations and valuable insights, we explore the essential role of a strong second-in-command in transforming vision into reality.

TRANSCRIPT

Greg Alexander:

Hey, everybody. This is Greg Alexander. Welcome to the Pro Serve Podcast brought to you by Collective 54. The first community dedicated to helping founders of boutique professional services firms, make more money, make scaling easier and making an exit achievable. On today’s episode, we’re gonna look at scaling a boutique pro serve firm, eyes of the number two or in the EOS language, the integrator, and we have a Collective 54 member who played that role for one of our great success stories. His name is Brian Albers. And Brian was Aaron Climbers’ integrator at the company Data Clymer, which recently had an exit to Spaulding Ridge. So, I’m gonna hear all about that today and Brian is gonna share part of his journey with us. So, Brian, with that, welcome to the show, please introduce yourself and introduce Data Clymer.

Brian Albers:

Yeah, thank you, Greg. Happy to be here. Start off with Data Clymer, boutique services firm, and we are in the data and analytics arena. So providing different data services to our customers. My role there was started off in the operations side where I took on the title of COO, took on the financial responsibilities to CFO as well. And then initially moved into the president’s role. I came in and said, Aaron, I see what you’re doing. I like the space here and can I come in and help you? And Aaron said, yeah, won’t you come in and do that. So the last three and a half years, we’ve gone from that growth phase through the scale phase. Obviously some pieces in there that were up and down, but we were able to get them to the exit and we’ve had a great success with Spaulding so far.

Greg Alexander:

Awesome. Okay. So let’s start with the basics. I think most of our members know what the term integrator means and the EOS methodology. But for those that don’t can you describe, you know, that term and then how you played that role at Data Climber, and specifically what you did versus what Aaron did as the founder?

Brian Albers:

Yeah. When I think of integrator, I really think about handling the day to day, right within the EOS and the integrator there’s six pieces and that’s making sure we’re handling the vision and have that set. We’re making sure that we have our people and resources put together. We’re looking at our metrics. We’re looking at our issues. We’re looking at our processes. So taking those pieces and really owning it and driving it to make sure that we are accountable to each other, that we are aligned with each other and that we executed. And so Aaron’s role then could spend more time where he was really good at and that was on the sales side and the vision piece to bring in those components. And then we mesh together to drive the revenue forward.

Greg Alexander:

Okay. Sounds good. And, why and when did Aaron hire you?

Brian Albers:

So Aaron hired me at the very end of 2020. I think it was December 28. I remember the date specifically and he hired me because I told him to… we had worked together through a company called Matillion. So, I knew Aaron a couple of years and he had been spending his time just trying to grow the business and I have experience doing that. So I put together a job description. I put together exactly how I was going to come in and help the team. I didn’t call it EOS at the time. I wasn’t familiar with it, but that’s basically what I was doing and he looked at that model and said, yeah, I want that in my firm, I want to be able to make sure we have the right people, the right culture. I wanna make sure we’re tracking the right metrics. I want someone to track the P and L and keep us honest. And that’s why he said yes to me.

Greg Alexander:

Okay. Now there’s a lot of founders, and I’m one of them and a walking Lisa, everything applies to me there who resist hiring a COO type to run the day to day. Aaron obviously didn’t, what advice would you give a founder when considering bringing somebody like that on?

Brian Albers:

Yeah, it really comes down to trust, you know, Aaron trusted me and for me, where trust comes from is just integrity of doing what you say, you’re gonna do so each and every step along the way, if I said I was gonna take care of creating a process for recruiting, I did that and provided to them the metrics that we decided to track, I would report and have a system that we could regularly review them. So I had to continually build that trust. And as time went by, it allowed him to be more comfortable with giving me more pieces. And then it allowed me to just take more pieces as well. As I noticed this needs to be done taking it getting it completed. So, yeah, trust is earned. Does take that time. But really for Aaron is he wanted to do more of what he was good at within the business. Again, the vision part, the sales meeting with customers. He then was able to hand that off and know over time that I would be able to do it because I did.

Greg Alexander:

Okay. And then from your perspective, you know, when you think about the founder, so you had to learn how to work with a founder, you had to learn how to practice kind of upward empathy for those that are listening to this or watching this, that are in the COO, integrator role, what advice would you give them to help them work with founders who at times can be a little eccentric?

Brian Albers:

Yeah. It’s just understanding that they’re gonna be a little eccentric and sometimes they’re gonna find an area that they want to go after and it’s just sitting down and having an honest conversation. We put together this plan. We put together this formula. We want to stick with that plan in that formula. And here’s why, and here’s the reason why we decided and having that open up open conversation because it’s very easily. I’ve worked lots of entrepreneurs who just get excited about the next thing and you have to reel them in and bring them back and just be able to have that honest conversation and be able to say no to each other and, you know, overall, you’re just being respectful, it’s their business. You know, they’re going to want to do at the end of the day, it is their decision by giving them that honest opinion and being able to push back at times. It’s extremely important because you can’t be honest with each other and have those businesses. If you can’t be honest with each other and have those business discussions. You’re probably not going to succeed. Yeah.

Greg Alexander:

Now, when you, when it sounds like if I understand your journey correctly, and thank you for walking me through that, you came in kind of in one role and then responsibilities kept getting added as you earned Aaron’s trust which led you to the integrator president role. First off, is that accurate? And secondly, do you recommend that? And do you think that helped you perform as well as you did as the integrator, or do you recommend hiring somebody into the role of integrator right away?

Brian Albers:

It worked for us well in this case, in a couple of other service companies where I’ve taken on the operations role, that’s also the way I did it there. And part of that was I was really the first person to come in from an operation standpoint and take over. So it made more sense to earn it over time rather than just hand over everything because there’s also the opportunity or there’s also the need for training. I need to understand the business. I need to understand how was going about these processes like an integrator can’t come in and just start changing things, right? You really need to understand from day one and that takes time. So, yeah, for my seat start small and then grow and take in more and more pieces over time. It also gave iron that ability to again the trust. And I did what I said I was gonna do and then we could grow. Yeah.

Greg Alexander:

Okay. So now let’s talk about the exit. So, you guys went full circle which is great. You know, you started it, you grew it, you scaled it and you sold it and you sold it to a great firm, J labs and Spalding Rich. So what was your role during the exit process?

Brian Albers:

Yeah. My primary role was to work with the Spalding Rich team on providing a lot of the documentation, the information we had put together, you know, a lot of time was spent with P and L, the financials, a lot of time was spent on the processes. How do we go about the methodologies? How do we go about the day to day and provide? It probably was over 125 different pieces of material that they wanted to have and take a look at. And so they have lots of questions. So I would provide a lot of the information about how we’re doing it, why we are doing it as well. Another big piece that they had asked for the think is important is really that… the other piece that was really important is, the other piece that’s really important is the sales pipeline. You know, there is a lot of time spent on the pipeline. A lot of time, a lot of time we spent reviewing the forecast just to give them an accurate picture of what we see coming down the pipe because they’re gonna be taking that over. So a lot of time spent allowing them to understand where our business was going as well.

Greg Alexander:

Now, sometimes founders are reluctant to involve their president slash integrator in the exit process because usually, which happened in this case, and we’ll talk about that in a moment after the sale happens, the integrator leaves the firm because there’s duplication, you know, the things that you do for the firm exist already with the new acquired company. So, how early did Aaron get you involved in? And were you worried about, you know, if the deal closed, you’re gonna lose your job.

Brian Albers:

Yeah, I’ve known about Spalding Ridge for a couple of years, you know, people reach out to me, they reach out to Aaron. We’re in a really great space where a lot of companies were interested in buying. So we’ve had discussions in the past about that possibly happening and knowing what my role is comes with the territory a little bit as well knowing that, hey, I might not be coming along the ride and so, you know, personally, you want to be a part of that, you build it to a certain point, you want to help take it to that next point. But, the nice thing is I know I can take it to the next point with another firm.

Brian Albers:

Another company in the future Spalding Ridge has been, you know, great to work with. I really enjoy the team over there, but I also understand from a business perspective, they already have several people in these roles that I’m taking on. So I’m just happy for our team as a whole because at the end of the day, we always talked about culture and growth and experience and learning we can provide a lot of that more to our people. And I think that’s what’s really important, what comes out of it. And I take more pride in that. And, you know, worrying about where my, where next paycheck will come from.

Greg Alexander:

Yeah, I was so happy to hear that you were landing with Spalding Ridge because I have a lot of respect for them and your clients and your employees have landed in a great spot and they both gonna be very well taken care of, right? So let’s talk about, your new initiative. So you’re now gonna go from the world of being an integrator to a founder yourself. You’re launching your own firm. So I have to ask why did you finally come over to the dark side?

Brian Albers:

Yeah. I’ve been on too many calls with you. They’ve told me how wonderful and it easy it is, to build up a consulting firm. No, I think I’ve always enjoyed working for myself, working with small companies decades ago. I started a restaurant, you know. So I’ve had a little bit of an entrepreneurial spirit and myself and I have a belief in myself and what I’m able to do and provide. And, and really that comes down to understanding entrepreneurs founders, where they’re at how they build a vision and taking that vision and really driving that. In a company, I really love working on the business and helping them empower and other people grow within that business that’s where I get the most enjoyment. So, yeah, I’m moving over to the dark side but very excited about it and I know the collective 54 will help guide me along the way.

Greg Alexander:

So, if I understand it correctly, you’re basically going to offer fractional integrator services to founders of boutique pro, server firms, people that don’t have an integrator or number two and want one, but they would prefer to rent one instead of buy one. Did I describe that correctly?

Brian Albers:

Yeah, that’s the thought right now is I see a lot of companies that just we talked to through the network that need help, but they’re not sure where they are in the journey. They’re not sure if they want to do that full-time they don’t know the right attribute. So if I can step in and take that over for them and help them show the possibilities of what an integrator can do, how it can be done and make that as efficient for them as possible. They don’t need to hire someone full-time but they can rely on me but I think it can be a huge asset to those companies and really help them strive more in the growth, get into scale and then prepare for that exit.

Greg Alexander:

Yeah. Awesome. I absolutely see the need and especially within our tribe, our community for sure. If somebody is interested in that, Brian, how do they get a hold of you?

Brian Albers:

Yeah, you can. Right now, it’s just my personal e-mail Brian, do, L, dot Albert at Gmail. Dot com. And then my phone number is seven, two, zero, two, five, zero, eight, four, four one. Those are the easiest right now. I’m in the process of setting up my own business entity. So this is moving pretty fast. I don’t have all my pieces in place but I am getting there shortly and I’ll be ready to roll starting august first.

Greg Alexander:

Well, you have two really important pieces in place. Number one is you have the success story of data climber, and our members know that firm, respect that firm and know what you and Aaron did together there. So that’s huge and you have our endorsement Collective 54. You know, you’ve been a very productive member. Always a giver, never a taker. So we’re rooting for you. We hope that you have a ton of success and we’re pleased that you’re gonna stay in the community and help some of our other members.

Brian Albers:

Yeah, I definitely look forward to more with the members are looking forward to, the founders summit coming up here in a few months. Now, I really enjoy everyone that I’ve spoken with and there’s so many different unique perspectives and, you know, even people come up, you know, Greg, you’ve been doing this for a long time. You’re a huge mentor, but people have that ability to say, no, I don’t agree with you here and I think those are some of the best conversations we have is to get those different opinions and everyone’s willing to bring that forward.

Greg Alexander:

100 percent. It takes a village for. Yeah. So all right. Well, listen on behalf of the members. I appreciate you being here and a few calls to action for the members. So if you want to have the participate in the Q&A session, look for that meeting invite, which will come out shortly and this will give you a chance to learn more about Brian’s story at Data Clymer and what he’s up to next. And you can ask questions of him directly if you’re not a member and you want to become one, go to collective54.com, fill out an app, and one of our representatives will get in contact with you. You’re not ready for either of those two things you just want to learn more. I would point you to my book. It’s called “The Boutique”, how to start scale and sell a professional services firm. Written by yours truly, Greg Alexander, and you can find that on Amazon. But until next time, I wish you all the best of luck as you try to grow, scale and someday exit your boutique.

Note: This transcript was generated by Gong.