Episode 147 – How to Recover from the Unexpected Departure of a Key Employee – Member Case by Phillip Acosta

Small service firms are overly dependent on a few key employees. The departure of one can cause much pain for the Founder and impede the progress of the firm, especially if it was unexpected. Attend this session and prevent this trouble from stinging you.


Greg Alexander [00:00:10] Hi, everyone. This is Greg Alexander, the host of the Pro Serve podcast, brought to you by Collective 54, the first community dedicated to the boutique professional services industry. On today’s episode, we’re going to talk about key person risk. Key person risk is when a small firm is overdependence on a person or a small group of people. And that increases risk in our firm because if someone leaves, it tends to create a large gap inside of a small firm, and then we find ourselves in panic mode to try to improve that. And we have a member with us today. His name is Phil Acosta. And Phil recently experienced this and significant successfully navigated his way through it. So I thought he could share with you what he shared with me because as much to be learned in his story. So, Phil, it’s good to see you. Would you introduce yourself, please? 

Philip Acosta [00:01:08] Hey, thanks for having me. My name is Phillip Acosta. I am the principal here at GuROO LLC. We’re an enterprise I.T. company, primarily based in the DC area, but providing support all across the lower 48. We also have a virtualization platform that’s a SAS offering called Ibos. So that’s kind of what we do. And I’ve been running this company for about a decade. 

Greg Alexander [00:01:32] Got it. So Philip, why don’t we start off with telling the audience what happened? 

Philip Acosta [00:01:38] Okay. So basically I have had the same structure of how we’ve been run the company corporately probably for about the last 5 to 6 years, and that is myself. And then I had a number two as an operations manager, and then we had some people beneath that, but it was mainly me to him at the top. That person told me that they were going to be retiring at the end of 2024. So I kind of had a plan for that, but they moved it up to the end of this year. So 20, 23 calendar year. And I found that out a couple of months ago, three March, April. And so from that period, I started thinking, okay, what are we going to do here? Are we going to just replace the person that’s in that spot, which I think would be impossible because of the institutional knowledge and stuff like that that’s been associated with that. So, you know, you could get pretty close, but probably not a perfect fit to replace that, or at least it would be challenging. Or I looked at it as like, okay, we are in the forties going into fifties at that point. Now we’re over 50. You know, maybe this is an opportunity to restructure the company for the next stage of what we’re going to do here, because even if that individual had stayed, we probably couldn’t around the company the same way for very much longer. I chose the latter, and now I’m in the process of implementing that change. You know, the new person as a board and the person that was here prior, they’re still here overlapping currently. But you know, like as Greg was saying, we’re we’re making that transition. And so far it’s it’s going okay. 

Greg Alexander [00:03:15] So that’s it’s a great story. Thanks for sharing that with me. And I think it’s very real. I mean, I think, you know, this has happened to several of our members and, you know, what are you going to say to somebody when they want to retire? I mean, they they’ve done a great job for you. I’m sure you’ve got a great relationship and you want them to have a happy retirement. So it’s a it’s a tricky situation because on the other side, you got you got a business to run. And this creates creates a gap. Tell me short term, so you get deliver this news. You know, now you’ve been able to digest it, remove emotion, think logically, make a sound business decision, which we’ll get to in a moment. It sounds like that’s working out. But in the moment when that happened, you know, was there any fallout? Was there you know, did the business take a hit? Was there a lot of stress placed on you? Kind of bring us back to that moment. 

Philip Acosta [00:04:05] Um, yeah. I don’t think the business necessarily took a hit. There was a lot of stress placed on me. 

Greg Alexander [00:04:12] Yeah. 

Philip Acosta [00:04:13] You know, it goes. You know, the timing is just, um, you know, not to get into my personal life, but I have a bunch of small kids that I just, you know, I just had recently disasters in our family, so you got to know the personal side of it. But, you know, I try to have some structure in how I do things. And I had a plan to start this process at the end of 2023 and basically to give myself the whole calendar year of 2024, to make this a smooth thing to, you know, you know, go out, interview, look for people, figure out the right, do the integration and it kind of crunch that entire timeline. So I was a little upset initially. And I think one of the things that I’ve tried to do is not take one moment, which I kind of looked at, is like you told me you would do one thing and now you’re kind of going back on your word. I tried to do that. Take one moment and allow it to define what is a 19 year working relationship with this person, which is mostly been really good. And so to me, I wouldn’t want to take that moment and allow that to, you know, you know, take away from all the good things that have happened over the years. So I’m not going to lie. I’m an imperfect person. It took me time to process and get to that point to be able to look at it that way. But, you know, that is the way that I’ve helped myself get through it. And then, you know, it’s like, okay, now we got to refocus and figure out how we’re going to do this. Yeah. 

Greg Alexander [00:05:42] Well, it’s very mature of you, and I appreciate you being honest and vulnerable. I mean, I’ve had this happen to me before in the past, and I reacted very emotionally initially. And then, you know, once I said, okay, it is what it is, I got to deal with it. You know, I brought some clarity to the situation. And listen, we got to acknowledge that we are people and, you know, emotions are going to be part of it because the implications of this, as you just mentioned, not just professionally but personally, you know, can be traumatic. You know, you’ve got a plan and all of a sudden the plan goes up in smoke and that can be very, very disturbing. So you talked about your two options and the criteria upon which you made the choice, which, if I repeat back, was you didn’t think that you could replace this person as is because of all the institutional knowledge. And that would be really tough to replicate. And then you were peeking into the future and you’re saying we’re a 50 people now in a few years will be at 500 people, like what do I need going forward? Which is a very good set of decision criteria. Sometimes there’s a third choice that people consider. And I want to ask you if you did consider this and why you ruled it out, and that is you could promote somebody from within. And that sometimes works because that tribal knowledge issue, that institutional knowledge is less felt if it’s an internal promotion. So did you consider that and why did you decide against it? 

Philip Acosta [00:07:01] Yeah, I did consider it. I think the problem is that and it’s a it’s a fault of something we’ve done here. We didn’t build anybody to take that role and we should have done that. And I won’t make that mistake again because like you said, it makes it easier to have an internal hire. But when I look at the things that I needed, there was nobody that had been dealt to take over in that capacity. Yeah. Without creating a hole in some other area and then basically just playing, you know, whack a mole of replacing people. So to me, that’s the reason that we didn’t go that route. Yeah. 

Greg Alexander [00:07:39] So, so the lesson for members is the talent supply chain concept, right. Which says you should be developing, you know, everybody along the chain, if you will. So if one person leads, another person steps in. But that Whac-A-Mole concept we are creating holes throughout the org chart isn’t an issue because, you know, everybody gets pulled up accordingly. Now, listen, I understand how hard that is. I know we’re all super busy and it sounds great in theory and it makes a ton of sense. Meanwhile, you’re working 50 hours a week, running around trying to serve clients like it’s hard to compartmentalize these things. But if you’re learning anything from Phillips story is it’s really important to have that talent supply chain in place so that if something like this was to happen again or happened to you for the first time, it’s not that big of a deal. It doesn’t mean that you’re going to promote from within, but it means you have the option, it’s a viable option. And then you can compare the internal promotion to the external recruit and make a good choice. So I just wanted to point that out. So let’s move to the the external recruitment. So this is a big job that you’re you’re filling. This person is going to play a huge role in your success going forward. So how did you find this person and how did you decide on who to hire? 

Philip Acosta [00:08:50] So I really turned to people that I knew in the industry that were either mentors or, you know, I know had had this experience in prior, you know, interactions because honestly, it was brand new territory for me. You know, I’ve made a bazillion hires in this company, but I’ve never hired someone to kind of run the company. And so trying to figure out the right choice for that was challenging. So I reached out to people that, like I said, that I trusted. I asked them if they knew people in the market. That’s another thing is it’s kind of a word of mouth thing, not saying you can’t go higher. A CEO often bandied, but it’s certainly not as common as like going and hiring a network engineer. So, you know, you kind of want to ask what they’ve done in the industry and be able to vet some of that stuff. So, you know, with the person that I ultimately landed on, you know, it came from a source that I trusted that I felt like it just didn’t work out. I could hold accountable. And it also, you know, I vetted a lot of their there are folks that they gave me and asked them about background, you know, not really to ask them, was this person good for the job? Because anybody you put down for a reference, I got selected for the job or probably shouldn’t put them down for reference, but I just tried to pull out of them, you know, what they had done and line it up against what I thought we needed and wanted it to be clear on a theme. One of the big things I wanted to hear is what their growth story where had taken a division and grown it and how they scaled that, what they did and what they left in place and how they got there. 

Greg Alexander [00:10:24] What was the pitch to the candidate? Because it sounds like these are big shoes to fill and how did you convince them to take the job? 

Philip Acosta [00:10:34] Oh, well, I mean, he actually really liked the company, so, I mean, it was helpful that, you know, when I presented what the company did, he thought it was attractive. He thought it was ripe to go for. But, you know, I did One of the big things that I told them is that, you know, you know, I’ve ran this company even though I had a number opportunity before. It’s kind of been like my way on everything for a very, very long time. I’ve kind of been the driving force for this company. I said, But I’m not looking for someone to come in and report to me. I said, I’m looking for someone to be a partner and grow with me. And I am willing to step back and embrace your ideas and not be saying, Well, that’s not how we do this here. So I think part of what made the job attractive was how open I was to new things. And, you know, that’s I mean, I’ve talked with Greg about it and that’s proving hard so far and practice to do. But but I mean, I’m working at it. I’m trying not to, you know, get in the way too much. 

Greg Alexander [00:11:32] Well, good for you for being aware of that. That’s an issue. You know, entrepreneurs and I’m one of them. We all struggle with that, right? It’s the control issues. And in order to get a company to a certain level, you have to have talented people and empower them to be successful. And it’s really hard to let go. So and it’s not like you flick a switch and it happens overnight. Just it’ll happen over time. And then once this new person and underline the word new, that’s the issue. Once they demonstrate their ability, your your trust in them will go up and up and up, not the you don’t trust them now. I’m sure you do, but it’ll be an earned trust and you’ll sleep better at night knowing about your delegation decisions. All right. My last question would be, so you have somebody leaving in the next six months and you have somebody who just started within the last two. How have you structured their relationships so that the transition goes as smooth as possible? 

Philip Acosta [00:12:24] And so one of the things I did immediately is I wanted them to marry up and spend a lot of time together. In fact, as we’re doing this podcast, they’re in the conference room right now. We’re working on some stuff together. So I told them basically in week one, I said I just kind of wanted them to spend time together because I had talked a lot with the candidate before he ever came here. So he kind of knew what I wanted. And I also had the benefit of I’m probably going to be here for quite a long time and I want to make sure that we get as much done in figuring out a transition prior to them. You know, with us having our person that’s in place moving on. So they’ve you know, I’ve encouraged them to go out, have lunches together. They seem to genuinely be getting along and doing well. I think another bonding point is talking about me, not necessarily in a bad way, but, you know, things like, hey, does this, you know, kind of the challenges of working with me or the good things and, you know, different stylistic things that I like to see. I think they’ve kind of bonded over that. But I’ve tried to make sure that they spend a lot of time together. And I said, I had this person that’s taking the job now that’s been in place. I had these two talking throughout the interview process, so they already knew a bunch about each other before the job, so were accepted. 

Greg Alexander [00:13:44] You know, and it’s fortunate that it was a retirement situation which gave you some runway. It gave you an opportunity to have the retiring person participate in the interview process. But imagine a scenario, listeners, where that’s not the case. You show up for work one day and your key person walks in and gives you two weeks notice now. So it’s a it’s a very different situation in that. And that that just puts you puts an emphasis on bond. This key person risk issue and making sure that you’re building that talent supply chain. So, Phillip, we’re out of time here, but I appreciate you sharing your story with us. It’s incredibly relevant and I appreciate you being in the community. Every time I speak to you, I learn something. So. So thanks for being here today.

Philip Acosta [00:14:29] Oh, thank you so much for having me. She has. Have a good day. 

Greg Alexander [00:14:33] All right. Couple of calls to action for listeners. If you’re a member and you’re listening, look out for the meeting invite. So Phil will do his Q&A session with us. If you’re want to be a member and you’re not yet, go to collective 54 dot com and fill out an application or get in contact with you. And then if you’re not ready for either of those two things, you just want to learn more. Go to Amazon. You can find my book. It’s called The Boutique How to Start School and Sell the Professional Services Firm. Okay. Thanks, everybody. Take care.

Episode 146 – Brand Building in a Professional Service Firm – Member Case by Chad Prinkey

Your brand matters. In the professional service industry, Founders need a brand for the firm, the service offering, themselves, and their talent. This session will explain how brands are built inside small service firms, and how they help boutiques punch above their weight class.


Greg Alexander [00:00:10] Hi, everyone. This is Greg Alexander, the host of the Pro Serv Podcast brought to you by Collective 54, the first community dedicated to the boutique professional services industry. On today’s episode, we’re going to talk about brand building inside of a boutique professional services firm, and I’m joined today by someone who’s done quite a nice job with this. He’s a Collective 54 member. His name is Chad Prinkey. Chad, would you please introduce yourself and your firm to the audience? 

Chad Prinkey [00:00:45] Sure. Thanks for having me, Greg. It’s a pleasure to be here. I am the founder of a consulting firm that focuses only on the construction industry. It’s called Well Built Construction Consulting, and we’ve been around now for coming up on three years. 

Greg Alexander [00:01:07] Congratulations! All right. So the reason why I wanted to have you on the show is we had spoken. You told me about a lot of things that you were doing to build the brand of your young firm. So I’ve got some questions here that I’d like to kind of run you through. The first one would be, you know, step one in building a brand is identifying your target audience. So tell us a little bit about how you did that. 

Chad Prinkey [00:01:31] Yeah, so what I know about our target audience, and I should be clear that I was, I’ve had this experience from doing what I do at a different firm, different meeting, different day, Greg. We could talk about what happened there, but at a, at a different firm that I, that I chose to leave a couple of, you know, I guess three years ago for. So I’ve had exposure to this market for the better part of 15 years. The market that I serve. So what I’ve learned about that market is that there are three different categories of potential customer. They’re on the small end, there are customers, potential customers for us that have under 50 employees, and these are contractors, general contractors or subcontractors, that have under 50 employees who when they hire us, it’s make or break. This is a big spend and it’s a lot of stress and pressure on the business. And they are really stretching to make ends meet when they bring us in. On the on the top end, there are companies with a thousand or more employees, and these are our organizations that really don’t need us for our full suite of services because they handle so much of what we really do, which, you know, in-house. They own this capacity internally. So our sweet spot really lies in between 50 and 1000 employee contractors, general contractors, and subcontractors, who can make the most use of our service, which is a fractional chief strategy officer offering, where we’re helping them to go to market. We’re helping them to address all the items in their business from really from A to Z, from in every silo, you know, in a strategic planning context, improving the business across every aspect of it. So if they are under 50 employees, we can have a massive impact, but it’s such a scary spend that it’s a dangerous it’s a dangerous spot for us to be in, a dangerous spot for them to be. Okay over the 51 employee mark, they really start to get and feel comfortable with what we’re going to deliver. And it’s not a small investment, but it’s not scary to them. So that’s our target audience. 

Greg Alexander [00:04:17] Okay, very good. So now that we understand the target audience and how you selected and that was very well articulated and that’s part of the brand-building process, you know, there’s different seduction tactics to reach the audience, and I know that that you’ve done a few a book, you do some speaking, you’re involved in some associations. So could you kind of explain to the audience what you’re doing to seduce that target audience? 

Chad Prinkey [00:04:39] I believe in authority marketing. I believe in the idea of positioning yourself as the go-to group for what you do. And one of the things, your listeners may be asking themselves, you know, geez, you know, here’s this consulting firm that’s focused on this really, really narrow aspect of the market. It’s over 40,000 companies that fit that description in the United States. And, you know, so for me, that’s more than I could ever hope to service. And what I found in my personal experience is that when you are trying to appeal to do broad an audience, they have a very difficult time finding you. Mm hmm. So when you’re talking about here’s how to be the best in selling, you blend in with a massive group of people who are selling that same message. But when you narrow that down to say, here’s how you can bring in three new general contractor clients this year that fit your target perfectly. There’s a very narrow group of people who that is focused, too. And they all care. They’re all they’re all really interested in that. So anyway, to answer your question, maybe a little bit more directly. Content–content creation Adding free value. From my perspective, I’ve never felt bad giving away great ideas. 

Greg Alexander [00:06:22] And I understand you’ve got a book. Is that correct? 

Chad Prinkey [00:06:25] A book is coming out, so the book is complete. We’re going through the publishing process, and we should be releasing probably by the time this drops in back. Something along those lines, though, like November. December. 

Greg Alexander [00:06:36] Okay, great. And then you’re doing some speaking. 

Chad Prinkey [00:06:39] I do a lot of speaking, Yeah. I averaged two speaking engagements a month between live events and virtual events. And that you mentioned associations, Greg, that ties in is that what I found is that inside the industry that I serve, there are associations that are desperate to provide valuable content to their members, and I’m there to help to fill that need. And it provides a fantastic, you know, receptive audience for me as well. There are just dozens and dozens of associations. Yeah. In the construction industry. So I’m partnered with many of those. 

Greg Alexander [00:07:21] You know, it’s a perfect tactic for you since you believe in authority marketing. The associations have built the audience. They need the content, and you come in with the authority. I mean, it’s just it’s hand in glove there. Makes a ton of sense. You know, let’s talk about positioning, because positioning is part of brand building. And sometimes small firms like our community, yours, young firms, they have a hard time making room for their brand. And the way that they do that in the in the mind of the prospect. That’s what I mean by making room. Freeing up mindshare that you can occupate, they have to reposition the bad guys, the competition. All right. So I know you have a long history in this industry and you’re new yourself with your firm. So how have you repositioned the bad guys and made yourself sound different? 

Chad Prinkey [00:08:11] Number one by a long shot is emphasizing the fact that this is all we do. There are folks who have construction industry practices, practice areas with one person who’s heading that up, who’s, you know, doing their best to try to appeal to that market. But if you dig deeper, you might actually find them marketing to software as well and financial services as well. And that’s our number one positioning strategy is the only people we’re talking to are you, and you are the hero. And don’t you deserve somebody who understands that? 

Greg Alexander [00:08:49] I love that. 

Chad Prinkey [00:08:51] We understand the villains that you face and we’re helping to slay those dragons with you every day. Yep. The other thing that we do is we stand for positive change in the building industry. So we are actively involved with all measure of diversity initiatives, of attempts to drive more progressive delivery methods, which that shock of shoptalk now. But the other two attempts to drive meaningful technological change and business process change. And we’re joining we are joining in voice with some of our competitors as we do that, and we actually will talk about, I think another one of our positioning statements, actually, now, the thing about it, Greg, is that we’re we’re the good guys in this industry. And if our competition is trying to make the industry a better place, well, then they’re our friends, too. Yeah. And and they don’t talk about us that way, which I think also sticks out. 

Greg Alexander [00:10:04] Yeah, for sure. I mean, it’s often overlooked, but if you’re advocating for the industry that your prospects and clients are in, then you’re on the right side of the argument, right? And you’re going to get some positive rub-off because you’re advocating for the industry. And the general positioning idea there is that if it’s good for the industry, it’s good for me. You know, we’re all going to win here. And sometimes industry participants don’t don’t do that. You know, they might even, I don’t know, say negative things about the industry. All they do is talk about everything that’s wrong about the industry. And then they talk poorly about the competitors in the industry. To rise above that and occupy a spot as kind of a brand ambassador on behalf of the client is a wonderful spot to be in, and it sounds like that’s just the spot that you occupied, which is pretty amazing given the fact he’s only been doing this for three years. 

Chad Prinkey [00:10:54] Yeah, again, I well, I have found is that it’s relationships. It all comes down to credibility. Yeah. And fortunately enough, I have, you know, many years of credibility that I’m able to, you know, build on from having developed a comprehensive relationship set over a long time. So thankful I’m able to pull on that. It’s kind of like I’m cheating. I’m not really, I’m not really brand new. Yeah, that makes. 

Greg Alexander [00:11:20] So let’s talk about credibility. Buying professional services is difficult because it’s an intangible. It’s not like you can take it out for a test drive or try it on in a dressing room. You know, ultimately, you’re asking a client to take a leap of faith when they hire you and you have to establish trust. So what stands in for as a proxy for a product sample or a product demo, because we don’t have that in services, is credibility. And you’re asking them to trust you based on your proof points. How, what are you doing around credibility to, you know, get those clients to make that leap of faith and trust you even though they haven’t been able to taste your wares, so to speak? 

Chad Prinkey [00:12:10] I haven’t been able to get the full benefit of the book, but I believe that’s going to be a game changer in that area when it comes to reaching well outside my current market area. What I can speak to in my current market area, which is really easy, is that we deliver phenomenal results for companies everybody wants to be like. Hmm, And that’s the easiest game in the world. McKinsey, I think, has always held this position that I can’t imagine holding, but I have the utmost respect for what they’ve done. But McKinsey holds this position that they never talk about who their clients are. But I think anybody who knows that. McKinsey, right, they don’t need to talk about it because other people do. And so that makes it big, you know, so here’s here’s my point, is that what I am able to do is I’m able to use lightning rod names that I’ve been fortunate enough to not only be affiliated with, but to have raving fans inside who will say, listen, and I literally have a testimonial to this effect is, you listen, if you want to build a better construction company and you’re not our competition, I highly recommend that you do this. You’d be crazy not to, and that that in in the market in which you serve, just I think most industries are like this. Construction I know for sure is very much like this. They all know each other. Yeah. And it’s on a regional and local level in particular. And so inside our home base market, which is DC. Inside our home base market, we are closely affiliated with names people want to be, and what is really nice is when we’re meeting our target audience, our target audience is often saying like, we would really like to work with you guys, but I’m not sure I can afford it. If you work with X or Y or Z, we’re nowhere near those guys. And then I’m able to come back and say they weren’t really there always either. Yeah. So the good news is we’re we’re priced perfectly to fit you guys and let’s talk about that. 

Greg Alexander [00:14:35] Yeah, I mean, what a perfect spot to be from a brand perspective. My last question is a little bit more tactical, and that’s around naming, you know, naming the firm, naming the service, naming the methodology, naming the book, etc.. So tell us a little bit about the name of your firm, how it was chosen, was that part of the brand strategy, etc.? 

Chad Prinkey [00:14:58] There is it was absolutely part of the brand strategy. And there’s there’s there’s an inspiration that I had for this. In a construction firm based out of Kansas City that is not a client. I would love to at some point, but they’re in that not they’re too big to take advantage of our core service. But we could do a lot of business with this company named JE Dunn is the name of the business and they’re an awesome, well-respected general contractor that does work nationwide and they have done a beautiful job. I noted they did this beautiful job with weaving, Dunn, D-U-NN, in their world, but “Dunn” into all of their, yeah, it’s like everything they have is branded “Dunn,” so it’s like this Dunn right or this, you know, Dunn It’s great. And and and I always loved it. I always thought that it’s an example I’ve used multiple times when working with my clients, like, I’m going to pull up a website. I want you to think about how we can do this with your brand, and how we can how we can really create consistency across all of your brand with with how we name things. So when I selected Well Built, it was to be able to say We do. We create Well Built construction companies, Well Built project teams, well-built estimating apartments, Well Built project teams I’m sorry, project management departments, well built, business development. Well, you know, all these different things that we can do. It all attaches to our idea of everything we do is Well Built and what were what we’ve done, what we’re doing. I shouldn’t say what we’ve done right. It’s it’s always a process. But I, I see signs that have me excited that when we talk to our clients, they will say we are a Well Built company. Yeah. And they’re proud of that. They’re proud of being able to say we’re a well-built company, which means we’re following the principles that our consultant teaches us. Yeah. 

Greg Alexander [00:17:00] Absolutely brilliant. I mean, it’s the ways you can use that are so broad, yet so targeted for your industry that you’re serving. It’s it’s just and we’ll talk about this when we have a Q&A, but that’s what’s called this brand architecture, which a name is part of. And it allows for an umbrella approach that Chad is using very, very well. So. Well, Chad, it’s so great to have you in the membership. Today’s session was really interesting. The private Q&A session I’m going to have with the members is going to be even more interesting because members will be able to ask you questions directly. But on behalf of the membership, just thanks for being part of our group. Thanks for contributing today. We very appreciate it. Thank you. 

Chad Prinkey [00:17:45] Thank you. Thanks for all you do and for what you and your team are putting out there. I very much needed what Collective 54 brought to the table when I first joined and the value continues to build, so thank you. 

Greg Alexander [00:17:59] Thank you. All right. So three calls to action for listeners. So if you’re a member, look out for the invitation that’s coming so that you can attend Chad’s Q&A session. I’m sure you got a million questions for him. If you’re not a member, but you want to be, go to Collective54.com, fill out an application. The application review committee will take a look at it and get back in contact with you, and if you’re not ready for either of those two things and just want to educate yourself further, go to Amazon and check out my book, The Boutique How to Start Scale and sell a Professional Services Firm. But until next time, I wish you the best of luck is to try to grow, scale and exit your firm.

Episode 140 – Lead Generation Inside the Small Service Firm: How It Is Different and What to Do About It – Member Case by Christian Banach

Small service firms need to generate leads but are constrained by limited resources. Budget and talent are in short supply. Therefore, what works in a small service firm is different than what works in a large service firm, or in a product company. Attend this session and learn what works, and what does not work, for small service firms.


Greg Alexander [00:00:10] Hi, everyone. This is Greg Alexander, the host of the Pro Serv Podcast, brought to you by Collective 54, the first community dedicated to the boutique professional services industry. On today’s episode, we’re going to talk about lead generation inside of a small services firm or an agency. And the reason why I want to have this conversation is because sometimes this term lead generation gets thrown around carelessly, and a lot of times the best practices that are available to people don’t apply to services companies only product companies, and they don’t really apply to small firms that are constrained by resources. You know, they sound great on paper. Then you go to implement them. You realize you need $1,000,000 budget, a team of ten, so it doesn’t work. So we’re going to dissect what is working for agencies. And we’ve got a great member with us today. His name is Christian Banach. This is what Christian does for a living and he’s got a lot to say about this topic. So. Christian, it’s good to see you. Thanks for being here. Please introduce yourself and your firm. 

Christian Banach [00:01:23] Thanks for having me, Greg. So, yeah, my name is Christian, but I am the founder of Christian Banach LLC. We are a business development and growth consulting firm. We work with primarily advertising and marketing agencies, but we work also with SAS companies, along with other professional services firm. And our job really is to help them get in the door with the types of companies that they want to do business with, and that’s oftentimes mid-market or enterprise level businesses. 

Greg Alexander [00:01:52] Okay. So very good. So I’m going to ask you a very simple question to start with, but it’s so important to get this definition correct. What is lead generation? 

Christian Banach [00:02:03] Yeah. Greg, that’s a great, great question that we do hear a lot of that thrown around in different ways to us. Lead generation is really the proactive engagement of prospects to generate a predictable pipeline of opportunities to a certain segment of a target audience. That’s what that means to us. 

Greg Alexander [00:02:22] Okay. So proactive, as important as what that means, is outbound outreach as opposed to just like receiving a referral or word of mouth or something like that. 

Christian Banach [00:02:33] Exactly. Yeah. So an inbound lead would be somebody who finds you through, say, a CEO or through word of mouth or through referrals. But when we’re talking about lead generation, it is more of a. A proactive approach in which you’re being really intentional about the types of companies and the types of people within those companies that you want to connect with. 

Greg Alexander [00:02:55] Okay, perfect. Okay. So with that as our foundation. Tell me how lead generation is different for agencies as opposed to product companies. 

Christian Banach [00:03:06] Yeah. So product companies, obviously there is a product, right? There is something tangible that somebody can hold that can feel, that can smell, it can touch. However, when you’re a professional services firm, you’re in most cases selling expertise. There is nothing to hold, nothing to touch, per se. So here you really have to demonstrate your expertise through case studies, through testimonials, through research, through various different ways where you can make a prospect, believe that whatever problem they’re looking to solve, that you have something that could help them solve for it. So it’s a little bit more challenging and much more complex than, you know, throwing a picture or an image up on a website somebody can click to buy. These are oftentimes also very much a consultative type agreements, right? So it’s very customized as well. So it’s much more complex than, say, a product. 

Greg Alexander [00:04:03] Yeah. Okay. Very good. All right. And how is lead generation different for small firms than it is for large firms? 

Christian Banach [00:04:11] Yeah, well, the biggest thing that I see here, the large firms obviously have much more brand recognition. So if you were to do some sort of lead generation or outbound call call or email and you work at IBM, the prospect is going to immediately know who you are and what you stand for versus if you’re a small professional services firm and you reach out, they have no idea who you are. So that barrier is much greater for a professional services firm that’s on the small side to break through, because I’m sure we’re all on the receiving end of emails and cold calls from various vendors. So we’ve been in our prospect shoes so we know what it’s like. And so how do you stand out? I’m sure with the work you do is great, but how do you stand out from all the other competitors that are out there? Yep. 

Greg Alexander [00:04:56] Okay, so by the time this airs, it’s going to be autumn of 2023. We’re recording here the last day of August. So in that time period. So tell me, tell me what’s working currently and why. And then as a second part of your question, tell me what’s not working currently and why? Or if you want to do those in reverse order, that’s fine too. 

Christian Banach [00:05:17] Sure. Yeah. Let me talk about what what isn’t working? You know, maybe first, I think a lot of people, when they think about lead generation, they really defer back to what, you know, kind of old school methods where you might get a list and you just sort of call it dialing for dollars, or you get an email list and you blast out an email to hundreds or thousands of prospects that used to work years ago. It doesn’t anymore. You really have to be much more strategic and thoughtful and who you reach out to, what you say to them. You have to be very personalized in your outreach to them. You can’t come across as like a robot or check your email. People will see right through it. So that has definitely changed. So there’s a lot more effort that is involved. And what’s also causing problems is technology itself. You know, is these inboxes are flooded now. There’s spam filters, there’s robo calls that are you know, your phones are blocking robo calls now. So the technology is blocking it. So it’s a lot more challenging to get through these days. On the other hand, there are certainly plenty of firms that we work with and others that are out there that are excelling. And what are they doing while they’re trying to doing the opposite of what I just said? They are taking the time to personalize their outreach communications to these different companies. They’re taking more of a quality over quantity based approach. What we’re also seeing is more creativity in what you’re reaching out with. And what I mean by that is sort of the old school way might be to contact the company and say, Hey, we’d love to get 15 minutes on your calendar or do a demo of our product and tell you how great we are and where our office is and about our company dog. And nobody has time for those things, right? They you really need to give we call give to get right you need to give value before you can expect value back. And what you want back from them is their time, right? Their time is worth something. So we’re seeing some of them are higher performing firms in the space. What they’re doing is they’re coming up with something. So maybe they have done some original research and they’re going to reach out to prospects and say, Hey, we’ve done some research into your industry. We’d love to share these insights with you on a call or I’ve seen others that are taking the approach of they might be organizing a virtual panel. And by that I mean as they pick a topic that’s really a hot topic, let’s say maybe A.I. and they’re reaching out to different senior managers, senior decision makers at their target companies and saying, Hey, we’d like to we’re organizing this panel. We’re getting eight thought leaders together to talk about this hot topic. And they’re using that as sort of a Trojan horse way to start building a relationship and contacting these people and then using that again to start building relationships. So the companies that are really. Doing well with this are thinking more long term. They’re thinking more about building relationships than they’re thinking about short term and transactional type regeneration. 

Greg Alexander [00:08:14] You know, one thing I would add to you, add to your list is community participation. So something I’ve experienced with Collective 54. There’s some of our members that are in collective that whose businesses have exploded as a result of that because they’re participating in the community. They’re not selling anything, but they’re in the community and people are getting exposed to them with their expertise and they’re proactively reaching out and saying, Hey, I noticed that you do X, Y, Z, I happen to have that problem. Can we chat? And it’s been fantastic to see the amount of business that’s been generated in the community. So and our community is only one. So the the lesson for the people that are listening is there’s all kinds of communities out there. And if you become a active participant in them and you adhere to the code of conduct, there’s there’s lots of benefits that can come from that. So just another idea. Okay. Next question. So who in a firm or an agency, a small firm should own lead generation? 

Christian Banach [00:09:10] Yeah, I think about this a little bit, depending on the size. Yes, small agencies. But if you’re under, say, ten people, you know, it can be challenging, right? Because you’re the founder, you’re wearing a lot of different hats. You probably don’t have the budget to go out there and hire somebody full time to do this. So in that case, I think you really need to get smart about how you’re prospecting, right? You’re not going to be able to do as large or volume of prospecting as maybe a larger firm would be able to do. But there are still some really tactical type things that you could do looking at things like your website, visitor ID, people that are visiting your website, people are engage with you on social media. If you have an email newsletter, who’s engaging a newsletter? So being really smart about who you reach out to and strategic and I think the owner can take that on, you know, in a smaller type of firm. That said, you know, if you want to up level and go beyond that, you know, I think at that point then usually this is on this is maybe firms of ten or more. You might then have somebody that’s a head of marketing or a head of sales or something along those lines. And at that point, they could potentially, you know, own this process as well. The challenge there is I see a lot of these firms is when you hire, say, a VP of sales, they may not want to do the prospecting. They may think that that’s maybe lower level type work for them and they want to be in the pitch in the close and get the deal sign. So sometimes it’s hard to motivate those folks to to do that type of work. But but I will say, you know, if you’re a small firm, you need to push your your team to do that. And and you might want to look beyond just those people to how do you involve maybe others within your team, you know, to be involved in this as well? You know, there are certainly you can go out and hire more of a junior business development representative. That’s certainly something to explore. Or, you know, you may want to explore outsourcing, you know, essentially what we do. But with a firm like ours, you know, you’re able to get the technology, you get the tools, you get the people, you kind of get everything, you know, all in one, which is, you know, generally for smaller firms, you know, they can’t afford all of those different elements. But by outsourcing, that is certainly a possibility for growth as well. 

Greg Alexander [00:11:26] You know, a collective even for one of our features is the process of benchmark, and that’s where we collect operational and financial metrics from our members. We’re always looking at kind of the firms that are doing really well in comparison to the average. What are they doing differently? And not to just give you a blatant plug here, but I can tell you that as it relates to lead gen, the firms that are doing better than average typically outsource it. And the reason why they outsource it is because it’s not core to who they are and what they do. And the idea of hiring these people and training them and retaining them, installing all the instrumentation and all the tech is, there’s a lot and it’s a very specialized skill. So, you know, spending money and having an expert do that for you, it would be my recommendation that to those that are listening, are you talked about obstacles to success. So let’s go there next. So I’m a I’m a small agency or a consulting firm of some kind. Maybe I’m 25 people or something along those lines. And you’re right, I realize I need to do lead gen because I want that predictable pipeline. That’s the thing that’s eluding me. What are the obstacles to success? 

Christian Banach [00:12:31] So a couple of things. So if you’re a size of 25 people, if you’ve grown primarily through more word of mouth and referrals, but we oftentimes see is that you sometimes still don’t have your value propositions and your ideal company profile really nailed down yet at times. Right. And you’ve kind of taken what have come in through the door, which is fine, which as you should. But when you’re going outbound, you really need to be very specific and you have to have a niche that you’re going after just to come out and say, Hey, we do marketing and we’d love to work with you. Is it enough? You’ve got to really zero in on specific problems that you can solve for clients. So a lot of the companies that we work with initially, that’s what we’re doing with them. To start off, we don’t just start off sending out emails or making cold calls for them. It’s really getting clear on their go to market from an outbound perspective because that is a different lens to think about it. So to me that is probably the number one challenge, is then also changing the mindset and wanting them to specialize in something. Because if you don’t, you’re not going to see success with outbound. 

Greg Alexander [00:13:39] Okay, very good. So the flip side of that question is, let’s say that I do this and it works. What’s the payoff? 

Christian Banach [00:13:47] The payoff is really scalable and predictable growth. Well, we work with our clients on and anyone that really implements a program like this is you will eventually start to know the metrics. The metrics meaning how many outreaches do I need to do to land a meeting on average? And then of those meetings I get what percentage do I convert to an opportunity? Which one of those what percentage of those opportunities converted to do business wins? When you start to know those numbers, you have that predictability. So if you’re looking to grow double in revenue, in revenue next year, you will know I need to do this many outreaches to get to that point and to get to that those number of wins that I’m going to need. If you get very busy and you can’t take on more clients, you could pull that back. So, you know, we’re it’s not uncommon to see clients of ours, you know, giving a ten X, you rely on their investment. But it does take time. You know, outbound sales cycles are longer than inbound sales cycles. That is another mindset shift that people have to take. So if your sales cycle is six months on an inbound lead, it’s going to be longer for outbound. So you still have to give it enough time in order to start to learn those metrics and then be able to dial it up or ballot down as needed. 

Greg Alexander [00:15:00] You know, one thing I would add to that is what we’re seeing is a decline in referral generation. And the reason for that is because the world has gone to remote work. Word of mouth and referral generation is impacted greatly by geographic density and face to face interaction. You know, so back in the day you’d go to a networking event and, you know, you’d meet ten, 15 people and there was all kinds of introductions and referrals happen kind of naturally. That’s the way humans spread. B2B brands, it’s face to face. I share something with you. Oh, that’s interesting. Tell me more kind of thing. Well, we’re not doing that anymore. We’re not doing that nearly enough. So the referral rate has gone down, and that’s been the bread and butter for most of the professional services firms. So if if you are experiencing a decline in referrals, I hope you’re not. But if you are two things, try to reengage in in-person networking as much as possible. This fewer opportunities, but you can do that. And then add, you know, outbound lead generation to your mix as part of your marketing strategy because something’s got to replace those lost referrals. And what we talked to Christian about today as one possible replacement for that decline in referrals. All right, Chris, and we’re out of our time here today, but it’s great to have you in the community. Your expertise is very relevant because you focus on lead gen for small agencies, which is what we’re comprised of. So it was wonderful to hear what you had to say today. I very much look forward to our Q&A session, which we’ll have in a few weeks. So on behalf of the members, thanks for being here. 

Christian Banach [00:16:38] Thank you, Greg. It’s been a pleasure. 

Greg Alexander [00:16:40] All right. We got three calls to action. So if you’re a member, look for the meeting. Invite when you’ll get a chance to attend question session sessions and you can ask your questions directly. Even if you’re not a member and you want to become one, go to collective 54 dot com and apply and the membership committee will consider your application and get in contact with you. And if you just want to learn more, go to Amazon and find my book. It’s titled The Boutique How to Start Scale and Sell a Professional services Firm. When we talk about subjects like this and many more, okay, until next time, I wish you the best of luck as you try to grow, scale and exit your front.

Episode 136 – Why Podcasting Should be Part of a Professional Service Firms Marketing Mix – Member Case by Tom Schwab

Podcasting is a perfect marketing channel for boutique professional service firms. It allows a firm to authentically connect with its target market at scale cost effectively. Yet, many members are not taking advantage of this tool. This session will teach members how to leverage the podcasting channel to grow their firms.


Greg Alexander [00:00:10] Welcome to the Pro Serve podcast, the podcast for leaders of thriving boutique professional services firms. For those that are not familiar with us, Collective 54 is the first mastermind community focused on the unique needs of the boutique process of firm space. My name is Greg Alexander. I’m the founder and I’m going to be your host today. On this episode, we’re going to talk about podcasting and its role that it might play in your marketing mix as you look to grow your firm. And we have a collective 54 member role model with us who’s an expert in this area. His name is Tom Schwab. He’s with Interview Valet Time. It’s good to see you. Please introduce yourself to everybody. 

Tom Schwab [00:01:00] Greg, I am thrilled to be here. You know, I run the agency interview valet. And my my viewpoint is that today every pro serves business problem is obscurity, right? There’s thousands, tens of thousands of people you could help. They just don’t know you exist. And I think instead of breaking through the noise, it’s much more powerful to get in on the conversation that people are already listening to. 

Greg Alexander [00:01:25] All right. So so give us kind of a State of the Union on podcasting. I’m not sure our membership community, you know, has a full appreciation for how prevalent it is, how it’s growing, etc.. 

Tom Schwab [00:01:37] Yeah. And everybody thinks there’s, you know, millions and millions of podcasts. While that’s true, less than 450,000 have gone live in the last 30 days. So there’s always room for great podcasts out there. The other thing is that not everyone is listening to podcasts. If you look at the current data, it says 51% of the U.S. adult population listens to podcasts, right? And they’re above average income. They’re above average education. These are people that are early adopters, that are looking for answers. They’re looking to make their life better right there. There’s still probably a third of the people out there that are so proud They haven’t read a book in since high school. They’re probably not listening to podcasts. Right? The people that are listening to podcasts are looking for answers, looking for ideas. Look at looking for people that can help them. Yeah. 

Greg Alexander [00:02:33] I mean, if half the American adult population is listening to podcasts, I mean, that’s that’s a huge audience. So, I mean, relative to the other forms of media, it’s pretty new, although it is maturing. Why do you think it’s grown so much? 

Tom Schwab [00:02:49] It’s now, what, almost 20 years old, right? So it it’s you know, it’s going to stick around for a while. But I think it’s really because of the intimacy and also the authenticity. Right. We’re so tired of this little, you know, sound world. And while there’s a place for that to really learn, to really understand, something is going to take more of a longer conversation and it’s more authentic. Right? And we look at things that are on television that is highly edited, and we really just sort of want to see what what really happened behind the scenes. And in some ways, almost like a voyeur is a bright. You and I would be having the same conversation if we were sitting at a coffee shop or a bar. Right. The only difference is that there’s microphones and the whole world gets to listen in. 

Greg Alexander [00:03:44] Yeah, it’s really interesting. I like the concept of intimacy because if you think about our audience boutique process firms, I mean, they’re boutiques by design, which means they serve. You know, I like to say the riches are in the niches. So anything that you can do to build a more intimate or authentic relationship with the target audience and the client base is much preferred over maybe kind of mass communication techniques. So. So tell us why, in your opinion, podcasting should be part of the marketing mix specifically for the boutique processor firm? 

Tom Schwab [00:04:14] Yeah, I think it’s really because there’s this idea of you’re one funnel away and I don’t believe that, right. The best things in life don’t come through funnels, They come through conversations and there’s a great book called Clicks and How Digital Marketing is Ruining Your Business. And I love how Bill Troy says Big fish don’t swim through funnels and whales don’t click right. The people that are hiring processor firms aren’t going to hire you because you did a dance on Tik. If anything, that’s a reason for them not to hire you, right? So they want this discussion. They want to know who they are working with. And at the end of the day, none of us need more leads, right? We need more profits. We need profits come through great customers, right? So the idea of going out there and being able to communicate at length is really magnetic marketing, where it will attract the right people and retell the wrong ones. The other. The thing I love about this channel is that it becomes so easy to create and then so easy to reproduce and repurpose. Right. I’ve written a lot of blogs in my life. Most of them feel like homework assignments, right? But we can have this conversation and then take the take the audio and get a transcript, have somebody clean it up and make a blog. We can take video clips from it, audio clips so you can get a month’s worth of content out of one podcast interview. Yeah. So to my my sense, it’s it’s easy to create, it’s inexpensive to create, and it’s so powerful that you can use it in your marketing and even in your sales, right? You can for somebody who gets on a sales call, you can say, Hey, our founder did this interview. Right? And I think it’d be interesting to, you know, how they’re going to listen to 45 minutes of the founder before they even jump on a sales call. That that becomes a warmed up lead. 

Greg Alexander [00:06:10] Yeah, I agree. So there’s there’s two approaches. Should they be done mutually exclusive? Should they be complementary to one another? And the two I’m referring to is sort of collective 54 members start their own podcast or should they seek to be a guest on somebody else’s podcast? What’s your opinion on that? 

Tom Schwab [00:06:29] Well, I’ve always got opinions on everything, but I look at it, it’s like, should you be an Uber driver or an Uber passenger? Right. Say same platform, but what are your goals? Right. If you want to nurture your current clients and your current leads, then host your own podcast. And Greg, this is a great example, right? Because you take this content, we we dig into it each week in the community. Right. So it’s really for people that already know about it or part of it. Well, if you want to go out and find new leads, new customers, you know, if you build it, they will come. Doesn’t work. You really need to tap in where they’re already listening to. So I’d say be a host. If you want to nurture your current leads and customers, be a guest. If you want to go out and get new customers, new leads, new exposure, new backlinks. 

Greg Alexander [00:07:25] Yeah. I mean, so that’s I mean, and I should tell everybody that collective 54 is a client of Tom’s, and we do both. I mean, obviously here we are, here we are hosting our own podcast. And you’re right, it’s that is for our members primarily. And we are able to, you know, put role models in front of them through the podcast every week. And our members love that. But when Tom books me as a guest on another show, that’s an audience that doesn’t know who I am and I get exposure, you know, to that group. And then through that they find their way to collective 54. So I think, you know, being a guest on someone else’s show is a great acquisition technique, and hosting your own show is a great retention technique. At least that’s how I see it. I think that’s a good way to frame it. So, Tom, tell the audience a little bit about your services. And I’m giving you permission here not to be modest and humble, but, you know, your expertise is taking people like me and getting them on other people’s shows, which it’s hard to get on other people’s shows. I don’t know how people do it without somebody like you. So why don’t you tell us how it works? 

Tom Schwab [00:08:31] Yeah. So we’ve been doing this for nine years now and we have a team of 30 in Europe and North America and. When we first started out, it was almost like guest blogging, right? My background is inbound marketing and engineering, and I looked at it and said, Well, I guess blogs aren’t working anymore more. Could we? The equivalent of guest blog on podcast. And so we started with that. And Greg, the first three years, we built up the systems, the processes, and I went, I tell people about it. I’d get my elevator pitch and they’d go, What’s the podcast? Well, that changed about 2019, and people started to see the power of those. And so now, now one of our clients said, I love working with you because you let me be the guest and you take care of the rest. And I’m like, Oh, that’s good. Copy were taken that. But we’re working with thought leaders, right? Coaches, consultants, leading brands, not fiction, nonfiction authors to get them out there on the right podcast and really, you know, let them be Sinatra. And we do all the supporting work with that. So not only finding the podcasts, but prepping them for every podcast, giving in the best tools and processes for each podcast, and then also the feedback, right? I’m an engineer by degree, so, you know, in God, we trust everyone else bring data. So we license a whole lot of databases. And I think without that it’s more podcast guessing than podcast guesting, because at the end of the day, nobody comes to us and says, I want to be on a podcast, right? That’s that’s an ego thing. Now there’s always an overarching goal of I want to grow my business. Yeah, being on podcast. So that’s really what we focus on. 

Greg Alexander [00:10:24] Okay, so some of our members and I’d say quite a few are what I would describe as a brilliant domain expert. Whatever their domain is, I don’t know. Maybe they’re, you know, a brilliant creative director in a marketing agency, or maybe they’re an absolute brilliant technologist in cybersecurity or something like that. And that’s is what allowed them to get their firms to the point that they’re at. But they’re they’re not great at sales and marketing and they don’t like it. And they sometimes suffer from what’s known as the imposter syndrome. You know, they maybe don’t recognize how brilliant they really are. So putting themselves out there on a podcast can be very intimidating to that group, which is a shame because the world needs to hear what they have to say. So you mentioned that you coach them and you prep them before they get on a call. So how do you help somebody like that maybe overcome their fear and kind of hold their hand? So it’s a great experience for them. 

Tom Schwab [00:11:25] Yeah. And I think I’m going to correct you there. I think all of them are brilliant, right? They’ve all brilliance in different ways. And one of the phrase you hear me talk about a lot is what’s ordinary to you is amazing to others. Right? So that expertise that you have there that everyone knows that. And there was a friend of mine that actually helped me with this because I started out I had that imposter syndrome. I’m like, I’m not the expert, Right? I don’t think there’s anything as the expert, but there is a expert. And he said, you know, the legal definition of a of an expert is someone by their training, their education or their experience knows more than the average person. Trust me, as long as hard hours as you put in your business, in the industry, you have expertise there that others don’t have and that your clients are paying you for. And so I think to frame it that way, for people to also work through their one sheet to say these are the topics that you can bring expertise to, let’s focus on these. Right? Nobody’s going to ask you a question. You know, if you’re not in finance, they’re not going to ask you, Well, what do you think about the Fed’s move? I don’t know. That’s not my area of expertise. Yeah, right. So they want to bring you on. They they want to make you look good with that. So I really think it’s focusing that that light on where they can they can add expertise. The other thing is I love it when people come and they’re like, Yeah, I don’t like sales, I don’t like marketing, I don’t like promoting myself. Perfect, right? Because the worst thing to do on a podcast interview is to make it an infomercial. Yeah. And, you know, Rand Fishkin, who wrote the book Lost and Found Her, I love how he put out there. He said the best way to sell something today is not to sell anything, but to earn the respect, awareness and trust of those who might buy. And I would say, you know, on a podcast, it’s those who are ready to buy, right? If they listened to you for 30 or 45 minutes, they’re going to turn you up or turn you off. That’s fine, right? But if you’re the answer to. FRAYER You don’t have to sell them, right? You have to just tell them what you do, how you do it, and it will attract it to it. And, you know, the data shows that we’ve have for nine years that the leads from podcaster interviews tend to close faster for a higher initial engagement and less churn. Yeah, and it sort of makes sense. It’s not cold traffic. It’s it’s a warm referral. Yeah. 

Greg Alexander [00:14:04] I mean, that’s the experience that I’ve had for sure, and that’s why I’m so committed to the podcasting piece of our marketing mix. All right. Well, listen, we’re out of our time here, but for the members that are listening to this, I want to encourage you all to attend the private member only Q&A session, which we’ll have with Tom that will allow you to ask your direct questions to Tom and he’ll answer those. That meeting invite will come out shortly, but look for that and please attend. If you’re not a member and you think you might want to join, go to collective 54 dot com. You can fill out a contact us form and one of our reps will get in contact with you. And if you’re interested in topics like this and you want to learn about other things, I would point you in the direction of our book. It’s called The Boutique How to Start Scale and Sell a Professional Services Firm. But with that, Tom, I mean, I appreciate you and all that you do. Thanks for being a great contributing member to Collective 54. You give a lot as well as take. So thanks for that spirit and thanks for being part of our tribe. 

Tom Schwab [00:15:02] I thank you for putting it all together. It’s such a great community and like I said before, what’s ordinary to you is amazing to others, and there’s just brilliance in there. And when people share that, it’s amazing the magic and synergy that happens. 

Greg Alexander [00:15:17] Okay, great.

Episode  128 – How to Begin Building a Sales Team with Fractional Sales Talent – Member Case by Dan Morris

Scaling boutiques need to build a sales team yet delay doing so because of the perceived risk and expense. In this session, member Dan Morris shows us how to reduce the risk and ease into it by leveraging fractional sales leadership. Most boutiques use fractional finance, HR, IT, and Legal executives and it may be time for you to deploy the same approach to sales. 


Greg Alexander [00:00:10] Welcome to the Pro Serv podcast, the podcast for leaders of thriving boutique professional services firms. If you’re not familiar with us, we are Collective 54, and what we are what is known as a mastermind community. And we are different than other communities in that we focus on a single industry, the pro serv industry, and a certain type of firm within that industry, what we call a boutique, which is kind of post-startup at pre-scale. And we have a weekly podcast that we put on where we profile a role model, and that’s what today’s show is about. And we’ll talk on today’s episode about fractional sales leadership and sales teams. But before we do that, let’s do a couple of intros. So my name’s Greg Alexander. I’m the founder of Collective 54, and I’m going to be your host. We also have with us today Dan Morris, and Dan runs one of these fractional sales outsourcing companies. And I’m probably not doing it justice so we’ll give him a chance to introduce himself in his company. So, Dan, it’s good to see you. Please, please give us an intro.

Dan Morris [00:01:22] Hey, Greg. Great to be here. Yeah. My name is Dan Morris. I’m Managing Partner at Mindray, a consulting. We’re a boutique management consulting firm. We focus on growth, efficiency, and in our case, what that means is we support our clients by helping them to develop effective growth strategies. And then when it’s required, we implement those strategies by leveraging fractional executives and fractional teams.

Greg Alexander [00:01:47] Okay, sounds great. So because you are a member, you’re familiar with our membership, the profile of a member and many of our boutiques know that in order to reach their full potential, they have to make an investment in sales. They get to a point in their journey where, you know, referral generation and kind of word of mouth is not enough. They have to invest in convincing people to hire their firms. And those folks of those folks, many of them don’t know who they are, but they’re gun shy to make the investment in this nonbillable asset. So they’re curious about fractional sales leadership. So let’s start there. So define it for us. What is it?

Dan Morris [00:02:30] Fractional leader. Or in our case, specifically a fractional sales leader, a highly experienced individual normally north of 15 years of experience. They bill and they run sales teams and sales organizations before in the industry using the business model that the clients have. So they’re very familiar with both the industry jargon and the ways of doing the types of deals that the client is doing. That means that they’ve committed themselves to share their experience with multiple clients who are non-competing at the same time, which means that they can give the client access to their experience at less than the full rate for bringing that person in. And their scope could be from carrying a bag themselves to actually help win a couple of deals to help refine the process before they’re then able to start bringing people in around them and building out that commercial sales team. And they can look at new business, they can look at upsell and cross-sell to the existing client portfolio, as well as exploring potential for partnerships and channel business as well, depending on the opportunity. And so their engagements would range from supporting a founder who needs some help building their confidence to get some complex deals done all the way out. So implementing and managing a commercial sales team and developing an in-house leader. So it runs a very broad scope, but it’s about role and then walk and then run in order to get things right. You might go from one fractional leader to another. Well, in the next stage and all the while not investing the full amount that you’d have to invest for a full person to be full-time.

Greg Alexander [00:04:28] Very good. And I’m assuming that there’s a natural point in a firm’s evolution where it makes sense to engage in this model. When is that point?

Dan Morris [00:04:41] Though there’s two points that we most often get hired, and one is where you’ve got a CEO that does not identify as a salesperson who is committed to figuring out how to grow in a scale. They’ve got some initial clients and often that’s somewhere between $1,000,000 and $3 million in top-line revenue. The second use case is where they brought in a fractional CFO or even a full-time CFO, and that person has somehow inherited the responsibility for driving revenues and reporting on revenue growth. And they bring in a fractional because they need to be able to deliver in that period of time.

Greg Alexander [00:05:26] Okay. And then is there a point in time when they graduate out, you know, above this approach where fractional is no longer enough and they want full time? Is that a natural evolution or no?

Dan Morris [00:05:38] Yes, it is. So we’ve actually built a whole service offering review, refine, roll out, and then replace. And in between roll out and replace is a lot of repeat will go round that cycle several times to get an organization to where they want to be. And it might be three months and it might be three years to get them to the place where they want to replace most often. And then a fractional person would develop somebody from internally within the team to take over and lead that team using all of the best practices and processes that have been developed in that business.

Greg Alexander [00:06:16] Okay. And then as I’ve gotten to know you, I’ve learned that it’s not just leadership that can be fractionalized, but it can be a sales team as well. So please describe that to us.

Dan Morris [00:06:27] That’s right. So we’ve developed over we’ve done over 300 advisory and engagements with clients now since 2014. So we’ve been around this for a while, since before it was called fractional. And so recently we’ve been developing more and more things around the clients the way that they want them. And so we were doing business just with sales leaders, revenue leaders and supporting a lot of founders. We found that there are really natural partnerships with other people in the fractional ecosystem, such as Chief Finance Officers or Chief Operations Officers but within our pillar which is revenue, we are able to provide the sales leader, the marketing leader, the revenue operations leader, which is the sales and marketing technology implementation and process management and actually a turnkey sales team to get a client from where they are to where they want to be. So having access to that in a very flexible way is what the market told us that they wanted to do. And so we’re supporting more and more businesses to get there until they feel confident enough to bring in the full-time leader and begin to either rebuild that internally or take over some of the resources.

Greg Alexander [00:07:42] So I’m very bullish on this idea because. You as a firm goes through its evolution and they need to make this investment in sales. They’ve reached that point where in order to hit their growth targets, the law of large numbers says they’re not going to get there by kind of shaking the tree of their personal network anymore. They’ve got to do more than that. But sometimes if you go full-time, especially if you hire leadership in a team, they don’t have the capital to do it and they don’t want to go into debt. They don’t want to raise the equity because of the dilutive effects of that. So they end up not doing it. But by doing it this way, they can grow into it because fractionalizing would suggest it’s more cost-effective to do it. So. Why are more firms not doing this? What’s standing in the way of pulling the trigger on this? Because it seems to make such great common sense.

Dan Morris [00:08:35] You’re right. And part of that is that they don’t know that it’s an option. It’s becoming much, much more talked about now. And I think the most common fractional engagement today is still in the finance department because bookkeeping is one of the most natural first things to outsource then the Chief Financial officer involved in a lot of the CPA’s offices around that. And so that’s where it started. And then operations followed because getting things organized in the back of the business affects that profitability very immediately. And then after that, people look at this other pillar, which is a lot scarier to a lot of founders. You know, the reason they haven’t built out the commercial sales team is because they don’t identify as salespeople. They don’t really feel confident in building that sales engine right away. They want to make sure that everything is going to land properly first before they go and get a lot of new clients. And so that we think that there’s definitely a trend in the market right now with people talking about fractional, them becoming feeling more relaxed about bringing in people on that basis. But also there’s a lot of businesses out there that just restructured significantly, right? They leaned out back or W2 based and are now looking to invest in businesses that can give them that level of flexibility. And so there’s been a lot of businesses transitioning to partner with us over that last few months for that reason as well. So one is more education and one is market timing.

Greg Alexander [00:10:05] So for those that are listening to this, that might still be afraid to do it after 300 engagements. I’m sure you’ve seen mistakes. What are maybe two or three things to think about before they jump on this fractional sales leadership concept?

Dan Morris [00:10:20] Well, it’s an experiment until it’s not. Right. So you’re getting on board with somebody who can come in and give you a 5000 or 10,000 foot view of your business in 30 days. That’s the first thing that you’re doing with the fractional executive. Is not like making a higher W-2, where you have to figure out you’re going to give this person a year. You’re going to get the sales number. You’re going to try and work it out. The first 30 days of this is figuring out where the priority should and should not be working with that person. And that’s something that’s very bite-sized that a lot of founders and CEOs don’t think they can do but they can. And so, you know what we see one of the problems is when founders or CEOs try and buy a tactic that they’re not sure about, that we know we should be doing outbound sales. Okay. Well, is that the right thing for you to do first? They haven’t thought that through and they try and buy a vendor who will do that for them and they set fire to a bunch of money. What we often find is that they’re already trying to do too many things with the resources that they’ve got. And in that first 30 days, often we’ve identified businesses. There was one who were trying to do 17 growth strategies with four people on their team.

Greg Alexander [00:11:37] Oh my Lord.

Dan Morris [00:11:38] We help them focus on five of those growth strategies and they 5x that business in the next 12 months. Mm hmm. Do less with more, but the right things. And so a good way of protecting themselves is to get really clear with that front workshop, get the strategies aligned for what they’re going to do, what they’re already good at, and, you know, go with an individual who has less experience as a fractional or may not give them that straight away. And the risk is where a CEO is not familiar with hiring a sales group and brings in an experienced fractional or who just is being a really strong individual contributor. There’s room there for missed expectations, and that’s the biggest risk I think, out there in the world of fractional. Oh, we had this fractional when we tried out and it didn’t work. Yeah, well. There’s a better way. Yeah.

Greg Alexander [00:12:30] What do you say to the member who believes, in my view, incorrectly, but still very strongly held belief that what they do requires so much industry and domain knowledge that outsourcing it to a fractional sales team is just impossible?

Dan Morris [00:12:49] Well, we do run into a lot of business owners and CEOs who struggle with overcoming that, and they come back to us a year later in the same place. They haven’t grown. They’re still stuck there, they’re more upset about it. It’s a natural barrier for us to be overcome with a crawl and then walk and then run approach. And a simple way of looking at this is to say that one day if you want to exit your business, you have to solve this problem anyway. And getting the right support to do that in a fractional basis to help you along the way is one way of doing it. And I’ll give you an example. We’ve been working with a founder on and off for eight years. A super nice guy, really brilliant at what he does, and finally came to us in January and said, okay, let’s look at this a bit differently. And what we helped him to do was a Done with You program, which helped him to do the activities he needed to do to get out of his own way. And now he’s doing massive projects with his ideal clients. Four months later, he’s in that procurement process is where he’s never been before. Now we can show him what the roadmap is to have somebody else do those activities and gently begin to walk him backwards outside of that process so he can focus on the other parts of his business. Just one example, but it’s got to be crawl and then walk and then run with people who are really holding onto that mindset. Otherwise, they just never get down to that.

Greg Alexander [00:14:18] Yeah, you know what I would offer the audience is that, you know, we’re all comfortable now with fractional CFOs. Most of us are using fractional I.T. departments. We might call them something different, like a managed service provider. Pretty much most of our members use some type of outsourced fractional HR Leadership. A growing number of our members are using fractionalized chief technology officers as they attempt to productize their service offering. So I don’t think it’s a stretch to now expand that philosophy into the revenue growth engine, the sales team. And if you take the approach that Dan recommends today, which is the crawl, walk, run approach, it’s actually very little risk. There might even be more risk not doing it than there is to do it. So that’s what I would kind of conclude with. So Dan, we’re really happy that you’re in the group. Our community really needs what you do, so you’re adding a lot of value to us. So on behalf of all the members, thanks for being here today and we look forward to the Q&A session with the members and having them give them an opportunity to talk to you directly about this.

Dan Morris [00:15:22] Thanks, Greg. There’s been enormous value for us being part of this community, and so we’re really happy we’re here as well. And thanks for making the time to talk today.

Greg Alexander [00:15:29] Okay. Very good. All right. A few calls, action for listeners. So first, if you’re not a member of Collective 54 and you want to be, check out the website, Collective54.com and fill out the form. One of our representatives will get in contact with you. If you are a member, be sure to attend the session that we’ll have with Dan, the Q&A session. And if you’re not ready to join just yet, but you like content like this, I would point you in two directions. First. Subscribe to our newsletter that’s Collective 54 insights. You get three things a week, you get a blog, you get a video, you get a chart of the week, or you can check out our book, How to Start I’m sorry, The Boutique: How to Start, Scale, and Sell a Professional Services Firm, which you can get on Amazon. But until next time, I wish you the best of luck. Audience members. And as you try to grow, scale, and someday exit your pro serv firm. Take care.

Episode 102 – How A Young and Small Firm Became Monday.com’s #1 North American Partner in Less than 3 Years – Member Case with Noah Berk

Marketing and selling professional services as you grow and scale your firm is one of the most popular topics at Collective 54. You must focus on attracting new clients while generating additional revenue from existing clients. On this episode, Noah Berk the Co-Founder of OBO shares how he has mastered his go-to-market strategy to accelerate revenue growth.


Greg Alexander [00:00:15] Welcome to the Pro Serve podcast with Collective 54, a podcast with founders and leaders of boutique professional services firms. For those that are not familiar with us, Collective 54 is the first mastermind community dedicated exclusively and entirely to the boutique professional services space. And for those that are looking to grow, scale and maybe someday exit. My name is Greg Alexander. I’m the lucky guy who founded this place, and I’ll be your host today. And on this episode, we’re going to talk about leverage, all kinds of leverage, financial leverage, operating leverage, and how to use process and people and technology to increase the leverage ratio that you have in running your professional services firm. And we’ve got a fantastic role model, Noah Burke. And Noah is a member of Collective 54 and he’s got a lot to share with us on this topic. That’s why he was selected for this. So, Noah, great to see you. Please introduce yourself to the audience. 

Noah Burke [00:01:18] Thanks for having me here. Greg My name is Noah Burke. I’m one of the co-founders of OBO. We specialize in digitizing sales, marketing, service and operations for clients using CoSport, Salesforce one, an icon working with everyone from young venture backed companies to Fortune 500 firms. 

Greg Alexander [00:01:37] Okay, got it. Okay. So this topic of leverage, let me let me set it up a little bit. So. Couple of people hanging shingle. Start a firm. They know something that the rest of the world either doesn’t know it, doesn’t know it as well as them. And they shake the trees and they generate some referrals and they get their first set of clients. And every time they’re doing something, they’re doing it for the first time, which means it takes forever and it costs a lot and it’s lots of mistakes. And then over time the firm matures, the quality of the client improves. You start hiring some people, you start training them, and you wake up one day and you say, You know, I want more than a lifestyle business. I’ve already proven to myself that I don’t need a job to work for the man. I can work for myself and make a living. But now that I’ve cleared that hurdle, you know, I want to build a real firm, not a lifestyle business. And what that means is I need leverage. I need to create ways of doing things so everything isn’t dependent on me. Other people can do what I can do as well as I can do it. And therefore it frees me up to do other things to make money. That’s what the leverage is. And in the professional services space is actually a ratio for this. It’s called surprisingly the leverage ratio. And what it basically says is for every senior person, typically a partner at our world of boutiques, very often, if not almost always an owner, how many people can they keep busy? So for example, let’s say one person and I have ten people that I’m keeping busy. You know, my book of business is keeping ten people busy. I have a leverage ratio of 10 to 1. And how you create that is the key to to scaling your firm. And there’s lots of ways of doing that. So no, let me let me throw it over to you at 30,000 feet. Given that definition of leverage, how have you created leverage at Obio? 

Noah Burke [00:03:50] Well, I think it’s similar to what we do for our clients. I like to think of as a force multiplier and to create leverage in a couple of different ways. One is accountability and efficiency inside of the organization itself. So is having the systems in place to measure work, assign work and distribute work to individuals? Two, It’s also the type of people we have. So you just mentioned, you know, obviously senior people with perhaps junior people. So in our organization, we have senior people and then we also have junior individuals. And we spend a lot of time through what we call our residency program, training individuals to be able to take on the type of work necessary. And this particular residency program that we have. What’s really great about it is that they go through about four months of training and this is actually classroom training several hours a day. They go through real world examples, they take on assignments, and eventually at the end when they graduate from the residency program, they get assigned to a team that has more experienced individuals on that team. So they’re able to leverage those resources once they get on the team. Is how do you organize work in an effective way that your team is is billable and that you’re fully utilizing the team at any given time? That means now you need to have systems in place that you can actually measure work, that you can hold individuals accountable, but also see how work is getting done. So you can start creating systems and processes in place that make things easier to do. So I think you had mentioned earlier that when you’re just a two person shop, it’s it’s kind of simple, but when you have 45 people, it gets a little more complicated because you can’t do it all yourself. So you have to have people who you trust in a position who can do the work and assign the work and be able to follow through on what they do. And in this particular case, in our organizations around process, as much as training, as much as the team structure. So we work more in a team environment. Over here at OBS, there’s always a junior person, senior people who are working together. 

Greg Alexander [00:05:50] So the thing that kills leverage and let’s go there first and boutique process firms is two things. Number one, you have senior people who in theory cost more doing work that junior people could do. So therefore that work is expensive or more expensive needs to be. And that crushes margins and that ruins leverage and gives you a bad leverage ratio. And that happens all the time. Then you have the opposite of that. You have junior people doing senior work and they don’t have the experience for it. And the client gets upset because quality, depth and you end up losing revenue and that’s just as bad. You know, if we if we simplify it to that and I know it’s way more complicated than that, but if we simplify to that for a 15 minute podcast, what does OBO do in the first instance? How do you make sure that senior more expensive people aren’t chewing up their hours on kind of commodity stuff? 

Noah Burke [00:06:52] Well, I think it comes down. We understand what work is, quote unquote commodity. We also understand what work is senior. Sometimes what we don’t necessarily want to do is miss an opportunity to train or teach our junior employees. So sometimes we do eat. Some of that time when a junior employee is working on the senior employee lesson integration project or a particular migration project that they’re learning in that particular experience where we may not actually be billing for their time. We’re really going for the senior person time and the junior person is participating with that individual on it. But I think. 

Greg Alexander [00:07:32] I’m sorry to interrupt you, but I actually do that, and I’m sure you do too. That’s why you’re doing it. I view that as an investment. Like to me, that’s what it is. That’s a positive strategy, not a negative strategy. So let’s stay on that for a moment. Is there ever a situation where that senior person is doing junior work? Not for the purpose of developing an apprentice. They’re doing it anyways. 

Noah Burke [00:07:54] Yeah. I mean, in any professional service organization, sometimes that can creep into the mix where they may be doing work that really they shouldn’t be necessarily doing themselves. They’re doing it simply because it’s either easier. The transfer knowledge is going to take a while and they’d rather just get it done right. And so they’re just going to do it. I think in any organization it’s human nature to be like, Well, I know how to do this, so let me just go ahead and do it. Yep. Versus well, let me spend a little bit of extra time here, not necessarily billing the client for the time, but working with the junior employee to help them get up to speed. And we try and really through our four month residency program, get the team members up to speed on what is that, quote, commodity work. So we’re trying to teach them how to learn, try and teach them how to fend for themselves and where to get information and knowledge and how to grow themselves. Because you can keep showing them and showing them and showing them, but eventually they have to be able to figure out things. On their own. So we hire for a certain degree of curiosity. Everyone in our organization will be curious. They have to want to learn. They have to want to absorb new information. They also have to be okay with the unknown. So the unexpected, especially when you’re new inside organization. Almost everything is new and you’re not comfortable with those situations and experiences. It’s very difficult to rise and grow inside a company like ourselves. So it is part of the culture of the organization to have people who want to learn and want to grow. And you are constantly looking for what else can I do to further my own career? And the senior people gravitate towards them. Because if you’re going to teach someone, you want to teach someone who has a thirst for knowledge. I mean, yes, quote part of your job. But it’s easier. The other person is really receptive to what you’re sharing with them. 

Greg Alexander [00:09:38] Now, a four month residency program, that’s a big investment. And I love it. 

Noah Burke [00:09:42] Because. 

Greg Alexander [00:09:43] Yeah, and most of the process firms at scale have some version of that. It’s a grow your own approach. Now the people that are in the residence program during those four months, are they completely on the bench. No bill ability at all. 

Noah Burke [00:09:58] On a yeah. On the bench and availability. Wow. So it is it’s an incredible investment that we made our program. Just give me an idea of the number of applicants. We’ll get anywhere between 800 to 1000 applicants for four open positions. Sure. And even then, sometimes even higher four. That’s how exclusive it is to get in. So we’re looking for people who have the right attitude, who have that desire to learn and who’ve excelled somewhere else. Hmm. 

Greg Alexander [00:10:28] Interesting. 

Noah Burke [00:10:29] And in in our space, it’s really difficult to find talent who while we’re in the technology space, we did have technology deployments where we’re HubSpot elite partners for money dot com North American Partners of the year we’re Salesforce partners. And it’s not just how do you implement and how do you take a task, but how do you think through process? How do you align people, process and technology? And that’s very difficult to find. It’s easy to find a pure dev, we’ll say is maybe easy to find a pure analyst. You can just say people. It’s hard to find people who can think through not just what the requirements of an individual are, but how that process should work and flow. And then how will that be translated to technology and how do we implement? And we have special specialists in and organization. So we have individuals who are more project manager roles versus individuals or individual contributors, all equally valued inside the organization. And individuals can pick their path. But more often than not, they have to have some customer facing ability. And that’s a really difficult skill set. It’s something you learn and you have it. And then you also need that type of fortitude as well. 

Greg Alexander [00:11:40] Yeah. Now, when we have the Fri member Q&A, I guarantee you all the questions are going to come around this residency program probably. Yeah, because it’s very unique. And so let’s give them a little taste. So maybe think like, I don’t know, a table of contents where you would spell out to me one of the chapters of this program or the components of this program at a high level. 

Noah Burke [00:12:04] So depending upon where and what particular path we’re looking for, so sometimes we have needs for more project managers versus individual contributors or how we gear the program. So I took my business partner, Rob, my co-founder, about nine months just to develop the curriculum. So the full curriculum that each week, every day they’re working on different items. There’s guest speakers coming in within the organization or lectures and it’s geared towards the different applications we work. And so you’re not necessarily and the reason why is four months is partly thinking through it. You know, we work with several different technologies and most of our clients have two or more of them. I mean, HubSpot and Salesforce, maybe they have Salesforce on Monday, they have HubSpot on Monday. And so they have to be able to understand how these technologies work, what’s the principles behind them? What is a deployment look like? What are the needs of the organization? So it kind of walks them through what is a sales organization, what’s a marketing organization? What’s a customer service organization? How does operations and project management work? What does that flow look like in the customer journey process? What are the needs of the different individuals and each side, each of those individual departments? So as you can kind of start building on top of one another, it becomes a it’s an entire education that they’re getting into the space. By the time they get on team, they can generally handle about 50% of the use cases that are thrown at them. But one of the beautiful parts of the power structure, there’s always someone on there who can help them. They get stuck. 

Greg Alexander [00:13:42] Your clients, do they know that you put your people through this process? 

Noah Burke [00:13:47] Sometimes I do talk about it. It’s very exclusive. We have incredibly high retention rate inside the organization. Both. I think that’s due to our culture, our training, our development and also the people that we tend to hire are just brilliant. I mean, we have brilliant team members over here. And they like the level and the type of work we do there, like how we structure our work. They like how they get to structure their days and how they get to work on these individual items. And there’s it’s always new. Yeah. For what they’re. 

Greg Alexander [00:14:17] Solving. I mean, if I was a prospect and I was considering you and, you know, 20 other firms that claim they do what you do and you explain to me that process, I’d be like, Damn. I mean, I would view that as a real differentiator and probably pay a premium for it because I would the implied quality lift that comes with that is is very real. How about your technology partners, the Mondays, HubSpot to Salesforce? Do they know that you put this program together? 

Noah Burke [00:14:44] Yes. Yes. So we’re one of hotspots. Half percent of partners worldwide. We’ve built a reputation inside the community as being the go to company for think of their biggest engagements, their most complicated engagements, simply because we built a reputation that not only can we get done what we need to get done, but we got the team to be able to do it and reposition ourselves as a really technology company for implementations. Whereas most of our competition in that particular space isn’t the same thing applies on Monday. Same thing applies to Salesforce. Salesforce the idea of companies like us is more, I’d say, readily known. Whereas in Hotspot on Monday less so. But the needs and requirements are expanding and our clients are now our clients. Our partners are aware of our talent. They know what we’re investing and we’re making enormous investments. And so our people, the training, development, getting them up to speed, we’re also one of the very few companies to have enough pipeline of talent to actually handle the work coming to us. Very few companies simply have the skill sets and have the it’s almost like an aptitude inside the organization. And I give a lot of credit to my my co-founder and his background being very tactical, process oriented and like to be problem solvers. So it’s definitely helped us considerably with our partnerships with all three of them because they are aware that we do and we make these investments. And it’s also important for them to know that their partners are making these investments. 

Greg Alexander [00:16:18] Yeah, and I would imagine that’s why they’re throwing you work because they know you’re going to get it done. I mean, that’s how you win the award. North American Partner of the year. I would imagine. 

Noah Burke [00:16:29] We pretty much our entire businesses via referral. Yeah. From from partners from travel our clients as we call them, people finding us through inbound you know, is a real it’s an awesome thing to have just all these opportunities coming our way, but that also means we have to deliver every single time because our partners revenue is based on how good are we at what we do and our partners leverage us to help and close more business. So we’re also known as closers. In that sense, when a client generally comes to us and they’re trying to sell them on working with that individual partner, we actually end up becoming a benefit to have on their call. And so it’s in our training, our team and just how we do work is, is a critical component of our success. 

Greg Alexander [00:17:19] Yeah. I mean, if I was a sales rep for one of those tech providers and I was trying to convince somebody to buy my software package and all the licenses that come with it, I would bring you guys on that call because the the prospect is probably wondering, like, am I going to be able to pull this off? And then they meet you. And there’s a great sense of comfort and it gets them over their fear. 

Noah Burke [00:17:42] All the time. Yeah, all the time. And there’s not very many of us that can do what we do. And so they when they when they get the opportunity, they do. 

Greg Alexander [00:17:53] Yeah. Okay. Listen, is is you have it is exactly how you have it. You want to create leverage in your business. You want to scale, you want to increase margins. This is how you do it. I mean, this one example and no problem has got 25 others of this residency program is how leverage is built directly into the business. I mean, just think about the recruiting number. A thousand people apply for four spots. You know, we’ve got a lot of members and collective 54 that their biggest problem is they don’t have enough people. And here you are, you know, turning away, you know, hundreds of people. You don’t have that problem. And that’s what leverage is all about and that’s how you scale an organization. So, no, I could talk to you forever. I can’t wait for the Friday Q&A with the members, but we got to cut it short here. But thanks for being here today and sharing a little bit of your story with us. 

Noah Burke [00:18:41] You got it. Thanks for having me. 

Greg Alexander [00:18:43] All right. All right. Well, if you’re not a member and you think you might want to be because you get a chance to meet folks like Noah and be in a community of real peers, go to collective 54 dot com. You can fill out an application for membership and we’ll take that seriously, if not quite ready to apply. But you want to consume some more content and educate yourself. Again Collected 54 dot com. Subscribe to C54 insights. You’ll get you get a weekly podcast like this one, you get a blog, you get access to our bestselling book and you’ll get some, some charts which visually represent some benchmarking data that I think you’ll find interesting. So check that out. Okay. So thanks for listening and I look forward to our next episode.