Tag Archives: CMO

Private Investment Funds in 2020

Private Investment Funds in 2020: Focus on Optimizing & Streamlining Existing Portfolio Company Investments to Grow amid Volatility

The whirlwind of 2020 has rattled businesses across the country, and it has been no different for the private investment/fund industries. Even prior to this year, trends were moving toward funds (private equity, venture capital, family office, etc.) establishing platforms that focused on a suite of key business functions, such as business development, marketing, finance, PR, etc. to assist their portfolio companies with scaling their operations. Some funds have stood up internally1, while others have engaged external strategic partnerships.

In the first half of the year, a slowdown in new deals was caused partly by valuation discrepancies between buyers and sellers, resulting in a 63% decrease in activity in the Americas region2 after the onset of COVID-19. According to a PitchBook report, U.S. private equity exits dropped by 70% (1st 6 months of 2020 compared to year-ago period) because private equity firms marked down portfolio companies; they chose to hold investments rather than sell them3. Although this may sound alarming, a study by consulting firm Willis Towers Watson showed that despite a drop in exit transactions in the first half of 2020, there is little evidence of forced exits at least3. Furthermore, private equity firms raised $348 billion in the same time frame, which is only 10% shy of what they raised during the first half of 20192.

If funds have the capital raised but are not deploying it because of the risk of an unfavorable valuation or investment, the question must be raised: what have they been doing in the meantime?

In addition to simply boosting investments for current portfolio companies, funds are increasing aid in the strategic side of these businesses as well. “Increasing returns during ongoing fiscal and geopolitical uncertainty pushed top executives from PE firms to maintain focus on value and digitalization, and a commitment to developing the organizational and business models of their portfolio companies.”4 Many Funds have turned to delegating these duties to outside firms.

Outsourcing operations, sales, marketing, and other core functions provides a new perspective for funds. With another set of eyes on current investments, funds can squeeze every penny of revenue out of their portfolio companies to boost chances of success. Outsourcing allows current portfolio companies access to the same professional team as their fund, which consolidates consultants, agencies, people, and expenses for a more efficient operation filtered through a single entity.

Furthermore, with investment funds specializing to extreme degrees these days1, funds can focus on what they have specialized in, while letting the collaborative agency facilitate other aspects of the business. This allows them to keep the main thing the main thing so they can keep investors happy and informed, as well as assist their portfolio companies with more high value activities.

Not only does outsourcing provide more expertise with experienced professionals, but it tends to cost less than hiring someone within the fund or directly at the portfolio companies to manage these responsibilities. VC start-ups are staying private for an average of eight years longer than they would have back in 2000. It only makes sense to provide them with an experienced team for business development, marketing, and more. Without a team, the firm must manage all of this themselves or, for example, hire a business development manager. The average venture capital business development manager salary is nearly $80,000, not to mention additional benefits and expenses. Eight additional years of paying this salary (not including escalators and other contractual advancements) raises that investment to $640,000 allocated towards one person, when a team of experts can be hired to do an even better job.

Over the last decade, the appeal of going public has decreased as companies do not want to deal with inevitable scrutiny after releasing financials and other information. There has actually even been a shift of public companies switching back to private, with 8 out of 10 of the largest buyouts being Public 2 Private (P2P)4. Many companies would rather stay private, or be bought out through M&A, than to receive heat from the public. If a start-up does not go public, having that business development manager can continue as a growing yearly expense (regardless of value), even if the business isn’t in a growth or blitzscaling stage. Similar to the recession from a decade ago, companies are thinning out and hiring more contractors because it is a more manageable and flexible commitment.

Further along this line, “We are starting to see some changes that may signal a strategy shift by private equity to help struggling portfolio companies amid the crisis. Additional stake purchases by private equity investors are up by count and volume compared to same period last year and second- and third-round funding’s are also up from last year. Both are ways to inject cash into companies that need it most now.”5

In volatile times, more of the focus should be on what can be controlled. “Leaders should identify digital innovations such as business intelligence, big data analytics, machine learning, and business processes automation to help companies evolve and gain the skills needed for better performance and outpacing the competitors.”4

While not every business model is 100% perfect, and there are pros and cons to each, there are certainly many advantages both financially and operationally to leveraging a consulting firm to assist funds and their portfolio companies with scaling. Regardless of whether the macro environment is volatile and capital is tougher to come by, or when conditions are great and capital is flowing freely, running a tight ship focused on streamlining, growth, and ROI will always be in style and appreciated.

Written By: Mike Simmons and Evan Shirreffs

References:

1) https://tomtunguz.com/is-venture-capital-worth-the-risk/

2) https://www.institutionalinvestor.com/article/b1mqkqqx3g0k5v/Private-Equity-s-Answer-to-a-Frozen-Deal-Market

3) https://www.pionline.com/private-equity/private-equity-deals-tumble-20-2020s-first-half-pitchbook

4) https://bspeclub.com/2020/04/17/private-equity-2020-outlook-the-start-of-a-new-decade/

5) https://news.bloomberglaw.com/bloomberg-law-analysis/analysis-how-is-private-equity-optimizing-the-downturn

The primary mission of WIMS Consulting is to help your fund and its portfolio companies generate a higher ROI not only internally, but on behalf of your investors as well. We can assist with scaling your investments to help increase valuations in advance of additional funding rounds, liquidity events, exits, or IPOs. We can provide a lot of different services, create and implement a robust strategy, and execute each tactic, but everything that we do truly boils down to that one single objective of adding more value to your firm.
WIMS Consulting for Funds and Investors

Introducing WIMS Consulting for Funds & Investors: Private Equity, Family Office, Venture Capital & Their Portfolio Companies

Your Fund and it’s Portfolio Companies’ Future Partner for

Marketing, Sales, Finance, Operations, Investor Relations, Development, & More.

Your Private Equity, Venture Capital, or Family Office fund is undoubtedly already great at its core functions. Between raising funds, selecting the right portfolio companies to deploy capital to, and managing the day to day operations we suspect that you’ve got those things covered, or at least you have a solid handle on them.

Where we come in is supporting your fund and its portfolio companies with everything else.

The primary mission of WIMS Consulting is to help your fund and its portfolio companies generate a higher ROI not only internally, but on behalf of your investors as well. We can assist with scaling your investments to help increase valuations in advance of additional funding rounds, liquidity events, exits, or IPOs. We can provide a lot of different services, create and implement a robust strategy, and execute each tactic, but everything that we do truly boils down to that one single objective of adding more value to your firm.

Our approach and work product is all meant to be measurable, KPI (Key Performance Indicator) focused, metrics-based, results-oriented, and top and bottom line enhancing. We are dedicated to staying ahead of the curve by always learning the latest and most innovative best practices along with the most efficient way to implement them.

The role we can play will vary based on your fund/company’s existing and/or desired structure. WIMS Consulting can function as various fully outsourced departments, or as your external CMO, Head of Sales, CFO, support team, etc. Or we can simply act as a consultant/solutions provider on a specific project.

It is our aim to provide concierge level service and be the “easy button” you press when you just need and want to focus on your core functions yet need to get everything else done too.

 

Our Value Proposition the reason we will make a great partner to your fund and its portfolio companies’:

  • Deploy us to help manage and scale your portfolio companies’ in any of the areas we highlight throughout our practice areas.

  • Consolidate various consultants, departments, service providers, and bring under one firm to help streamline operations, maximize areas of expertise, and achieve economies of scale.

  • We help aggregate data across a variety of sources, filter it, and convert these metrics into a compelling story to ensure your investors, board members, management, and stakeholders remain informed and happy with progress across the entire fund and its portfolio companies.

    • Further, when the desired results aren’t achieved and adjustments do need to be made, we ensure that story is told as well, along with preemptively bringing potential solutions to the table.

  • We are entrepreneurs ourselves, yet also worked in the corporate world too. We’ve operated and grown businesses and we’ve led funding rounds. We’ve worked with and for funds directly too. Our team has acquired quite a bit of experience across a variety of stages in the growth cycle of companies and across many industries as well.

Our Services Include:

  • Marketing Strategy & Implementation

    • Fractional CMO

    • Website Development​

    • Marketing Automation

    • Creative – Content Creation & Distribution

    • Data Analytics

  • Sales – Bus Dev/CRM Strategy & Implementation

    • Salesforce.com, Zoho CRM, HubSpot, Microsoft Dynamics, and more.​

    • Lead Generation

    • Sales Strategy and Deployment

  • Finance & Accounting

    • ​Fractional CFO​​

    • Financial Modeling & Forecasting

    • Financial Reporting

    • Accounting & Bookkeeping

  • Operations & Support

    • Investor Relations​

    • Project Management

    • Administrative Support

  • Software & Platform Development

    • Full Stack Software & Platform Development​

    • Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality Platform & Application Development

    • AI & Machine Learning

Visit our website for more information or to set up a call.

 

WIMS Consulting Logo Blue

The WIMS Consulting 2020 Rebrand

There is just something about transition, a new decade (even though January 1st seems like it was already another decade ago), and a new mission to undergo a massive scaling of one’s company that requires a bit of a shakeup. Huge transformative shifts force all involved to level up and evolve for the better. They demand a heightened sense of commitment to excellence and discipline.

As they say, the things that got you here will rarely get you there.

The first 6 years of WIMS Consulting have been great, the company has grown double digits every single year (with 2 years at triple), and despite the state of the market, this year is already on track to achieve exponential growth compared to last year (in fact it economy appears to be helping it along even more as companies go all-in on digital). That said, I have still been playing too small and remain far from where I want the company to be yet. It is time to ramp things way up and kick things up another notch.

A rebrand is often mostly symbolic, it is a way to re-engineer how you would like the public to see and perceive your company, and to re-calibrate the first impression for those that do not know you yet. It also allows you to set the tone for current and future employees, partners, and clients. It is an opportunity to recommit and reestablish your values of who you are and who you aspire to be.

Up until this point we have been far from perfect and have certainly underdone some growing pains along the way. As difficult as it is to admit, not every single client project has exceeded expectations for one reason or another. On the flip side plenty of them have gone really well too. Regardless of which side the responsibility lies solely with us for better or worse. Moving forward, that level of accountability and transparency must be the standard. A rebrand is a way to draw a line in the sand, a demarcation to demonstrate that whatever happened before going forward this is the way we will do business no matter what.

Now for a little background and insight on the creative. The spartan warrior is a deeply personal symbol to me since I was young. For one, I grew up attending a school called Milton Hershey (from kindergarten to graduation), and it was our mascot. We learned about their culture and their values (mostly the romanticized and positive version, not as much of the negatives side of it).

Then when I watched the movie 300, wow what an impact it made. To see a group of soldiers, and a King no less, willingly sacrifice themselves with such honor and grace for the good of their tribe, it really stuck with me. I know it was embellished a bit as all movies are, but that didn’t take away from the impression it left.

Between Milton Hershey and the culture resonating so much throughout my life I even got a tattoo of the spartan helmet. For those reasons and others, it sounded like a great place to start when considering what I wanted my company to look like.

Fortunately, when leveraging history to inspire the future you can learn from, and remove, the negatives in order to improve upon an ideal, allowing you to adopt the things that translate. Further, WIMS Consulting is not adopting ALL their values after all (for one we are very much capitalists). “The word “spartan” means self-restrained, simple, frugal, and austere” plus they were clearly pretty violent and brutal. So again, it is not exactly a direct comparison.

The positive side, such as their discipline, commitment, team-oriented collaboration and community are things you build a company around. Others include being strategic, thoughtful, well organized, and assertive. They were creative in their approach to problem solving. The soldiers in their army were only as strong as the person standing next to them and the collective unit as a whole. They tempered the potentially corrosive nature of outsized individual egos. They played offense and defense equally well. They had an unwavering obligation to do whatever necessary to achieve a desired outcome.

Now THAT is what I want the WIMS Consulting cultural values to represent and embody. I want the company to uphold its commitment and dedication to its community (clients, employees, and partners) to that standard of excellence every single day and in every single project and task. This is the mindset required that will subsequently lead to producing outstanding work and deliverables for our clients. It certainly won’t be easy, but nothing worth doing really is.

Hopefully, we nailed that impression and give this perception with the logo and throughout the supplemental components of the branding. More importantly however, is that we maintain the standards and values in a clear and tangible way. Stay tuned for more, but I would love to hear what you think so far!

WIMS Consulting Logo Blue     WIMS Consulting Logo Gold

Data Analytics Dashboard

How Anyone can Build a Custom Data Analytics Dashboard

If you could carve out an hour a month for analysis in order to save a dozen hours of work, the one-hour investment would be worth it, right?

How about if that same hour led to crucial details about your sales trends and customers insights?

On top of all that, what if that same one-hour investment came at no additional cost to you?

Seems like a pretty great deal.

Welcome to the benefits of an Excel-based analytical dashboard.

Benefits of an Analytical Dashboard

You’ve most likely heard of the powers and benefits of data analytics. You’ve probably seen examples from things like POS systems, Tableau, cloud-based software, and many others.

Some of these benefits include the following:

  • Saving you time and money through efficiency and more impactful insights

Spending time looking over your dashboard saves hours of debating anecdotal or piecemeal results and helps guide you towards the best path forward

  • Giving you better insights into your customer to improve marketing campaigns

Campaigns based on hard data are more successful as you can target your intended customer more effectively

  • Taking the guesswork out and make great, data supported, decisions in less time

The high end services all have their merits, but in a small business where you might not have the budget for those services (which are also potentially far beyond the capabilities you actually need), plus a large learning curve, those services don’t always make the most sense.

By learning (on a much faster learning curve) to make a dashboard in Excel, you can get the benefits you want in a completely customized dashboard at no cost (since you already have Excel on your computer).

 

Why use Excel for this

Let’s start with some common business questions.

How did your sales do last month? How does that compare to the same month of the prior year? How about compared to the pace you’ve been running at this year?

Now how about separating those numbers by project, item, or client? How about by distribution channel? Sales rep? What about the specific days you had promotions?

The first set of questions is somewhat easy to have a gut feeling for, if nothing else. You might even have some quick analysis created for you in QuickBooks (or similar software).

However, the second set of questions represents another level deeper. You might feel a bit less confident about your gut feeling. They require you to dive into the data each time you want to look, and maybe even anecdotally piece it together from a few different sources. It’s kind of a hassle, but they’re important insights, so it’s worth the time.

Here’s the good news from Excel – you can answer all of those questions, from top line revenue down to whatever level of detail you need, and have them at your fingertips in one place!

With a simple export of data from whatever source you need, you can populate dozens of custom views that you’ve templated and turn it into your very own analytical dashboard!

The only time intensive piece is building the template and framework for all your custom views.

After you create that, you’re essentially just updating with data each week/month/etc. and looking it over for trends. Making changes to it? Duplicating views with variations? Actually, all pretty easy.

The Excel Dashboard

Here is a very quick sample dashboard that shows that topline sales numbers (black chart) followed by a few, slightly deeper, analytical pieces that help evaluate performance (gray charts).

When I say “very quick” … this dashboard took less than an hour to fully create. Real life dashboards of this level of depth take a similar amount of time. Getting significantly deeper into the data does not necessarily mean significantly more time to create though.

Only a few “next level” type questions are displayed (although these may only be half a level deeper), but they are meant to be representative, and the great feature about the “behind the scenes” of the dashboard is that the building blocks for all levels of analysis can be VERY easily duplicated to get at any question you need.

Take a quick look at the dashboard, follow it along the yellow markers, 1 to 5. Any trends jump out at you?

You can likely see the following in a quick pass:

  • Sales are up in 2019! (Callout #1) – by 22.1% if we want to be specific

  • There seemed to be a change in performance starting in February (Callout #2). Perhaps a new item was released? Or a new marketing campaign?

  • All Sales Reps are selling more this year (Callout #3). Shawn leading the pack with a 28.7% increase over 2018

  • In Store sales have grown by over 60%! (Callout #4). However, Online sales have shrunk a tiny bit.

  • Further diagnosing, it looks like Jennifer and Oliver have really improved their In Store sales, while Shawn has faltered there (Callout #5). Perhaps there was a training that stuck with Jennifer and Oliver? Maybe Shawn has just focused all of his attention on Online sales?

Those types of insights are crucial to running your business and can be seen quickly from the dashboard. On top of that, there are still tons of different ways to cut the data… by product, by product and distribution channel, by sales rep by month, etc. All of these examples are (almost) as easy as copying and pasting.

Creating the Backend of the Dashboard – a General Guide

We start with one of the building blocks of an Excel-based analytical dashboard. Simply, the Pivot Table.

Depending on your level of familiarity with Excel, Pivot Tables might seem like “that complicated next level” or “that tool we use every day”.

The truth is, everyone can easily be at the latter, and if you’re already there, you could probably be using them more even more effectively. Investing just a bit of time can have a very outsized benefit to your business.

Pivot Tables are fantastic, for all levels of users, because of a few main pieces of functionality:

  • Very easy to build, use, and manipulate

Drag and drop methods, no complex formulas, no macros or coding

  • Ability to create charts and dashboards from the Table(s) easily

  • Build automatically updating formulas off the Table to create new data elements

It deserves mentioning that the quality of your data is very important. If the data is wrong to start, then there is no point is doing any analysis.

First… a few tips on how to create a Pivot Table

Feel free to skip this section if you’re already familiar.

For a detailed “how to” build a Pivot Table, I recommend watching from ~2:30 to ~5:30 in this video. The rest of the video has some good explanations as well, but for a quick guide, the 3 minutes is really all you need.

One piece I would highly recommend changing though, is in the data selection piece.

Important – select the entire column in the data, making sure the headers are in row 1. This allows you to add data in the future and have it included in the pivot table without having to change the data range.

The boxed-in range is okay as “ Sample Data!$A$1:$E$13 ”, but would need to be changed if you add more data to the end of it. The better version’s range “ Sample Data!$A:$E” highlights the entire columns.

Onto Creating the Dashboard

Start with creating a Pivot Table, and from there it is really just about dragging and dropping fields, copying and pasting, and picking a layout!

  • Let’s say you begin by creating a simple Pivot Table with sales by month:

  • From there, go up to the ribbon and find the “Pivot Table Analyze” or “Analyze” tab, depending on which version of Excel you’re working with.

  • Select the “Pivot Chart” option, and out pops a variety of options. Select your favorite chart option (bar chart, line graph, multiple types, etc.) and boom! You’ve got a working chart to help you analyze!

  • Any time you change what’s in the Pivot Table that created the Pivot Chart, the Pivot Chart will change accordingly.

Example, if you limited the data to just “Jennifer” (Sales Rep filter), you’ll see only her sales in both the Table and Chart.

Tip for the aesthetics of the Chart

To get rid of the “buttons” or ugly looking gray bubbles polluting your chart, you can right click on any of them and select “Hide All Field Buttons on Chart” and they’ll go away (as shown below).

If you don’t mind their appearance, each button acts as a filter for the Pivot Table. So instead of scrolling over to the Table, you can filter right from the Chart.

  • From there it is just preferences:

You can add a chart title, hide the legend, and a lot of other customization by clicking on the Chart, and then selecting the green “+” button that appears to the right of the Chart (shown below).

Once you’ve got your first chart, you can then start the duplication process!
  • To make another Pivot Table and Chart combo, you can just select the entirety of the Table, then copy and paste it elsewhere on the sheet

Copying the Pivot Table to be replicated
  • Drag and drop the fields (from the Field List on the right) you want to look at in the new Table (ex. Sales Rep in place of Month), and then go through the same quick process to create a Chart

The premise here is that each Table you create is referencing the same data. Each variation is just how you want to cut the data for that particular view.

Note – the formatting you select for one chart will not transfer to a new chart. The easiest method is to pick from Excel’s preset templates, which are normally visually appealing enough – both the black and the gray Charts above are in Excel’s preset templates. You can always customize the look of every chart individually to how you want though.

Best practice is probably to settle on a color scheme and layout after you’ve created all the charts you want, that way you can quickly go through each and select the same layout all at once.

After creating however many variations that get to your necessary level of depth, you’ve now just created yourself a dashboard! Congrats!

Best Way to Create Formulas Based on the Tables to get Additional Metrics in your Dashboard

You may notice that some pieces in the above dashboard (the tables with headers that have blue background and white text) are not Pivot Tables or Pivot Charts. These are created using the same information though.

Enter the GETPIVOTDATA formula. It is one of the most complicated looking formulas, but one of the most effective to use.

Note that it is simply complicated “looking”, but not actually that complicated to use.

Here’s an example. We’re going to walk through the Sales By Month table in the dashboard above (and referenced below).

Let’s say you wanted to get that 41.1% “Growth vs Prior Yr” for Feb from the information in the Pivot Table.

Naturally, you would do the following (referencing picture below) U10 / T10 – 1 = 41.1%

When you go to do that though, this scary looking formula comes out:

Let’s break it down and look at the first piece, before the “/”:

=GETPIVOTDATA(“Sale Amount”,$S$7,”Year”,2019,”Month”,”Feb”)

Translating, it is saying the following:

  • From the Pivot Table

=GETPIVOTDATA(“Sale Amount”,$S$7,”Year”,2019,”Month”,”Feb”)

  • Grab the metric “Sale Amount”

=GETPIVOTDATA(“Sale Amount”,$S$7,”Year”,2019,”Month”,”Feb”)

  • In the Pivot Table located in cell S7

=GETPIVOTDATA(“Sale Amount”,$S$7,”Year”,2019,”Month”,”Feb”)

  • Given the following criteria, Year = 2019

=GETPIVOTDATA(“Sale Amount”,$S$7,“Year”,2019,”Month”,”Feb”)

  • And the second criteria Month = Feb

=GETPIVOTDATA(“Sale Amount”,$S$7,”Year”,2019,“Month”,”Feb”)

You’ll notice the second GETPIVOTDATA (after the “/”) is the same formula, just referencing Year = 2018 instead of 2019.

It is the same formula as the nice and easy U10 / T10 – 1 above, just bringing in the functionality of the Pivot Table.

So why on earth would you actually use the complicated version?

Reason #1: Let’s say you add in another filter and the bulk of the Pivot Table shifts down by one row. The U10 / T10 – 1 will remain but will now be looking at a different month.

Reason #2: What if you changed the Pivot Table to include each Sales Rep’s details in each month (like below)?

Now that “U10 / T10 – 1” formula would be referencing Jennifer’s sales in Jan… not even close to total Feb sales.

If you used the GETPIVOTDATA formula, you would still get the result you want (Total Feb Sales Amount, 2019 over 2018) because you’re telling it what criteria to look at, regardless of what cells the intended data ended up in. It would still do $26,070 / $18,470 – 1, or 41.1%.

Note – in a scenario like the above picture, make sure Subtotals are enabled in the “Design” tab that appears when you click in the Pivot Table

Reason #3: You can completely customize the look of your created table, whereas you have limited aesthetic flexibility in the Pivot Table itself. I choose a blue header with white text.

Reason #4: You retain the copy and paste functionality of the “U10 / T10 – 1” formula but increase the accuracy of the formula.

Notice in our summary chart with each month’s “Growth vs Prior Yr”, we have the month abbreviation in the left column, then the % growth in the right column.

To utilize the copy and paste functionality of formulas in Excel, we just have to reference the month in the formula.

It is the same formula as above in every way except for the P9 in place of “Feb”. This just tells the formula to take the value in cell P9 as the criteria needed to be found in the “Month” section.
You can then copy and paste this formula to each of the months, and the “Growth vs Prior Yr” will fill out for each month, regardless of how many other variables are in the Pivot Table, or where the numbers you want are located (cell-wise).

Summary

So now you’ve learned…

  • The benefits of a dashboard, specifically one in Excel

  • How to make a Pivot Table

  • How to make a Pivot Chart based off it

  • How to duplicate those efforts (for efficiency)

  • How to reference the information in it to get analytical metrics that aren’t directly called out in the Pivot Table

  • (Most importantly) How to build your own fully functional, completely customizable analytical dashboard!

Updating the dashboard is an exercise that takes mere minutes to download the data and add it into your data sheet.

Reasonable time investment to make the dashboard, small time investment to update it, big business benefits.

Entrepreneurs Zoho CRM

Entrepreneurs! Are You Aware of the Latest Offerings from Zoho CRM?

Forget what you think you know about CRM programs. It’s time for you to rethink the entire idea that you’ve been holding onto for years now. You know, that they’re too expensive, too complicated, and not useful enough to justify tackling those challenges. It’s just not true anymore. I understand why you think that way, but until you’ve seen the latest software package that Zoho CRM has been rolling out it’s simply misguided. Allow me to enlighten you a bit.

While I remain a raving Salesforce fan, I’m not going to suggest you take on a CRM program of that magnitude (unless your enterprise fits a certain set of criteria). I still love HubSpot as well but will save that for another post. Right now, I’m here to inform you about the crazy new suite from Zoho that you must at least take a few minutes to check out. If you’re a solo entrepreneur/freelancer, or you have all the way up to 25 employees it will help revolutionize and scale your business like crazy.

Now I was already geeking out a couple months ago when they launched Zoho One. But then they went ahead and added too more applications the other day which literally blew my mind. Zoho Flow “automates business workflows by connecting your apps. You can build smart integrations to break the information silos in your business.” This works for both internal Zoho apps and external ones as well, think Zapier or IFTTT. The other is Zoho PageSense, which is “the Complete A/B Testing and Website Optimization Software. Get ready to increase website conversions and skyrocket your revenue.”

Now, for transparency purposes I must inform you that a large part of my business is built around assisting companies of all sizes and industries to build and implement CRM programs like these. BUT, I legitimately use this one for my own business. It not only has helped me to get better organized with project management and more efficient and streamlined from an operations perspective but leveraging it has tangibly helped me to grow the revenue of my business significantly as well. I’m all about automating as much as possible and these new features allow you to do just that.

If you want to explore what incorporating a CRM program would look like for your business, reach out to me and I’d be thrilled to assist. Whether it’s Zoho or one of the many other incredible programs out there, we can certainly get you on the right track to implementing it correctly to start demonstrating ROI asap.

Before moving forward, to get a better idea of what all they have to offer, take a look at how they articulate it:

Zoho One is a revolutionary all-in-one suite to run your entire business—an unprecedented 35+ integrated applications on one account, with complete administrative control—for a price that will change the way you think about buying software.

Zoho One includes applications with complementary mobile apps so you can run your entire business on one suite. This is the real deal here: You’re getting full-featured, enterprise editions of the entire Zoho suite. That means being able to reach customers, grow sales, balance your books, and work in productive and collaborative ways from any device—all with a single login and password.

Zoho One connects your sales, marketing, customer support, accounting, and more, while also giving you contextual integrations to communicate and collaborate with colleagues, customers, and vendors. With an integrated suite like Zoho One, you’ll always have the right information in the right places, empowering your employees to do great work. Traditionally, this has required an astronomical IT budget and an army of consultants to force everything together. Zoho One makes all that cost and complexity a thing of the past.

Zoho One is enhanced by Zoho’s growing developer ecosystem, marketplace extensions, and global partner network. We’ve made Zoho One extendable so our technology partners can customize our applications to meet your unique needs, across a broad set of industries. These custom apps and extensions of our already powerful applications are made available to you through our Marketplace. Meanwhile, our 1,000+ implementation and training partners are available to help you locally as needs arise.

CRM Revisited (Again): It Should be Your #1 2018 Priority

I’ve been harping on the importance of CRM programs for about a decade now (here’s the last time), yet it still hasn’t caught on the way it should. This is the year that changes. Like with most technology, competition, economies of scale, and innovation have driven costs down significantly. Not only are they cheaper, but the functionality and value has simultaneously increased dramatically. Now, you can even get basic versions of a CRM program for free. It’s why acquiring and implementing a CRM program is my #1 recommendation for every business, regardless of industry or target market, if you’re looking to increase revenue.

Whether you work for a large and complex company, or if you’re an independent freelancer, or if you’re a sales mercenary who is compensated by getting to “eat what you kill,” there is a CRM program out there for you. Regardless of your budget (or lack thereof), you can customize the level of sophistication of your CRM program, as they all have various subscription levels. Further, there was recently an absolutely game changing announcement from one of my CRM platform preferences (and the one I personally use for my business).

Zoho One – An Operating System for Business

“Zoho One is a broad and cohesive set of applications that work collectively to run an entire business on the cloud. It includes more than 35 web applications and an equal number of mobile apps—under a single sign-on, with centralized administration and provisioning—making it a true operating system for any business. While each application punches above its weight against the competition, collectively they deliver a knockout punch.

With Zoho One, we’ve put together all the applications a company needs to acquire and serve its customers (marketing, sales, and support apps); run its operations (finance, recruiting, and HR apps); and provide all the tools for its employees to work collaboratively and get their work done (office suite, mail, personal productivity, and collaboration apps). Almost any company has these same needs. With Creator, our drag-and-drop app builder, customers can even build custom apps for unique business needs—like logistics scheduling—and put them under the same umbrella that forms the single operating system for their business.

Zoho One is available at $30 a month—or just about a dollar a day, per employee. ($35 if you pay on a month-to-month basis).”

While WIMS, Inc. is platform agnostic (we work with all of them, including Salesforce, HubSpot, Microsoft Dynamics, and Insightly among others) it’s getting more difficult not to refer my clients and prospects straight to Zoho right now. There are of course exceptions, but they’ve built something special, particularly for entrepreneurs and small businesses.

Now, back to the more general CRM theme.

They all integrate with your email provider of choice, along with most social media channels, so tracking communications is easy (and automated). There are an incredible number of third-party add-ons you can incorporate depending on how robust your operations processes are to add additional functionality too.

Most importantly however, is that the ROI (return on investment) will more than make up for the expense.

CRMs help you automate your sales process. The more automated your sales cycle and follow up efforts can be, the greater volume of deals your business will be able to close. Further, the more accurate data you have about your sales cycle, the more deeply you can analyze it to gain insight that will not only help increase revenue, but ultimately help you improve:

  • Close rates,
  • Customer service and retention,
  • Length of sales cycle, and
  • Forecasting efforts and projections.

While implementing a CRM program can be a significant commitment initially, if you do it right, the benefit to your business is invaluable. With just over two months left in 2017, now is the perfect time to start planning and conduct your due diligence to start 2018 with yet another New Year’s resolution.

We’re here to help if you need it!

It’s Q4: Finish Like a Savage & Prepare for 2018 Domination!

There’s something about Q4 that is always exhilarating to me. Knowing that “the game” is coming to an end, each and every play is more significant, there’s less margin for error. Perform well during this time and you can make up for a lot of previous mistakes and setbacks along the way. Let up or fumble the ball, and you can destroy all the momentum you made thus far. No pressure, right?

All of this is going on while simultaneously a new game is going to begin soon thereafter. Endings are always thrilling, but so are new beginnings after all.

Despite the hectic grind I’ve been on lately, I made sure to take a little time to write up a quick “Q4 Manifesto” which is mostly for myself, but then I decided to add a few extra tips for others too, primarily applicable to your business or professional life.

  • Don’t wait for January 1st to start your New Year’s Resolutions, now’s as good a time as any. It’s a misguided practice that usually doesn’t end well anyway. You don’t need an arbitrary start date to work on self-improvement, that should be a daily practice as it is.
  • Get AGGRESSIVE – Close out ALL of those pending dream deals that have been lingering. Do much more outreach and lead generation. Don’t dwell on whether you’re annoying people or assume that they already have an expert helping them that does what you do.
  • Debrief/Reflect on the past year. What worked, what didn’t, what do you need to improve upon? Lay it all out objectively and identify opportunities to get better.
  • Strategize for 2018 now. Spend an appropriate amount of time writing out goals, sketching out project plans, be thoughtful and deliberate. But once that’s completed, start working on implementing that strategy ASAP.
  • Don’t eat and drink everything in sight just because it’s the holidays. Maintain (or in some cases start) your workout routine consistently and only indulge occasionally.
  • Enjoy time with my family and friends and BE PRESENT. Don’t spend that precious time distracted with your head in the clouds and worrying about things that are out of your control.

A few specifically for you:

  • Get and implement a CRM already! Seriously, how many times do I have to say it? If you need to spend some time asking a few questions on how to get started, reach out to me, that part is, and always will be, on the house.
  • Start a blog, a podcast, video/webinar series, whatever. Leverage content marketing to develop and enhance your brand and get your business’ name out there.
  • Finally start that business you’ve been day dreaming about for years now.
  • Or at least start working on that side hustle you’ve been planning.
  • Identify an organization you’re interested in and get involved in the community. This could be philanthropic or civic, doesn’t matter as much as simply taking action and giving back.

I’m sure there are plenty others I’m forgetting. And I will likely revisit this some more over the next few months to continue tweaking it.

What are some of your Q4 goals? What about your 2018 goals? How can I help you achieve them? Please let me know, would love to hear from you!

The Potential ROI of Social Media

By now I shouldn’t have to articulate the value or justify the need for a social media strategy for your business. There are literally thousands of articles, white papers, and studies that have been written and distributed highlighting facts, figures, and metrics galore. Rather, I wanted to share a couple recent social media success stories and provide some tangible action steps for you to implement because that’s what this blog is for. As I’ve mentioned publicly, the new mantra is: Add Value.

LinkedIn Is Still King (depending on your target market)

I get referrals on LinkedIn all day long, but then again, I’m fairly active and present on the network. It’s my obvious preference with regard to the long game of business development. Every time I meet a new person at a networking event, or get introduced to a prospect or potential COI (center of influence/referral source) via email my first follow up step is to connect with them here. It just works and compounds.

Another tip: if someone asks you to introduce them to someone you’re connected to: do it. What do you have to lose? Sure, there are exceptions to this, but if you’re not comfortable with that then why are you connected to them in the first place? Even if I don’t know them all that well, I just disclose that fact in the intro and let that person make the call to follow up or not. This simple act often leads them to reciprocate when needed, and is a good reason to reach out to the other person too. Try this: “Hey I know it’s been a while, but so and so reached out to me and asked if I’d make an introduction, figured was a great reason for me to follow up with you too.” The answer is always no if you never ask.

However, you can’t neglect the others such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter

Sometimes you spend days and weeks shouting into an empty vacuum of time and space. The social media vortex swallows your content and garners little more than a like or two, and maybe a share or a re-tweet. You have great content but no one is really seeing it, so you get discouraged and post less frequently or stop altogether. BAD MOVE.

Now these results aren’t typical, but in addition to managing my company’s social media accounts along with a few clients, I also do it for some of my joint ventures. Recently, a life-altering event occurred when we received an inbound lead worth well into the high six/low seven figures. And this deal came in from a single TWITTER post. No joke, you read that right. Even if I never get another lead from Twitter again, that one tweet will pay for a life time of tweeting. The point is keep sharing, and sharing, and sharing.

Ask and Ye Shall Receive

Make sure to be very specific about what you’re looking for. When asking for a general referral, it’s often answered with crickets. It’s not that people don’t WANT to help, rather they just don’t know exactly how, or even what you have to offer. If they have to think too hard about it, you’ve lost them. Therefore, its best to keep things simple and specific.

For example, I recently posted that I was looking for a referral to accounting firms with annual revenue over $5 million. I have an abundance of experience in that space and currently have a gap in my client portfolio. Literally within 3(!) minutes of posting it on Facebook I was introduced to a dream prospect that would be a perfect fit for my business. And 10 minutes after that I was introduced to another one equally as good.

Action Keeps You Top of Mind

Even if you do nothing but share existing content from sources such as Entrepreneur Magazine, Inc. Magazine, and others that regularly post timely business-oriented content online you could still see ROI. Take it a step further and curate it with a nugget of commentary and context and over time that’s enough to garner goodwill and establish yourself as a thought leader and resource. This really adds up and pays dividends over the long-haul. People in your network will appreciate your contribution to enhancing their education along the journey.

As always, if there’s anything I can ever do to assist you along your social media journey, please don’t hesitate to reach out! And don’t forget to check out the WIMS Blast Off Bundle: 10Kto10X if you haven’t yet.

10Kto10X The WIMS Blast Off Bundle

10Kto10X: The WIMS Blast Off Bundle

Whether you’re launching a completely new business, legitimizing a side hustle, or going back to the drawing board with an existing entrepreneurial endeavor, The WIMS Blast Off Bundle is the perfect solution to help you get started and hit the ground sprinting. Whether you’re a first-time entrepreneur or of the serial variety you know that getting your brand and marketing on point is crucial. So, while you focus on building your business and doing what you do best, leave that part to us.

The WIMS Blast Off Bundle includes the following:

  • Website (Created w/ Wix)
    • 5 pages: landing page, contact, about, product/service, bonus (client’s choice).
    • Mobile Friendly.
    • Standard SEO optimized.
  • Video
    • Corporate landing page video (up to 3 minutes).
    • Half day, onsite shoot.
    • Up to 4 interviews with partners, employees, clients, and/or testimonials.
    • Includes music/GFX, B-roll, editing, and post production.
    • Condensed version for social media (30 seconds).
  • Social Media Activation
  • Content
    • Press Release.
    • Launch blog post.
  • Creative
    • Logo
    • Branding Kit.
    • Stationary (Business Card, Letterhead, etc.)
  • 4-hour one-on-one strategy session to get launched. Time allocated for feedback, editing, etc. as well.
  • $250 cash commission for referrals (upon completion of project).

*Restrictions

The following options are considered upgrades and not included in the 10Kto10X package. However, we would be thrilled to accommodate you for an additional fee on an ad-hoc basis.

  • Website – e-commerce functionality.
  • Video – access to Drone and 360 videos.
    • Travel across the country is possible and negotiable on a case by case basis.
    • The specific package will be discussed prior to launch, and additional options are available on an appropriate basis.

**10X does not imply a 100% guaranteed 10X return on revenue.

Visit https://www.wims-consulting.com/10kto10x if you’re interested in registering.

The Industries of the PRESENT

How many times have you seen articles about the industries of the future recently? Probably more than you can remember. This is especially true if you’re a futurist nerd like myself that loves researching trends, innovative ideas, and thinking of all the potential practical applications these ideas/realities are going to have on our day-to-day lives.

Therefore, I’d like to take a slightly different approach to this one. These industries aren’t abstract concepts that are in the distant future any longer. These things are going to disrupt, improve, and turn our lives upside down within the next few years. These aren’t industries to just keep an eye on, they’re industries that I highly recommend hustling and scratching and clawing your way into immediately, before another gold mine passes you by.

If I have to listen to another person say, “If I only invested in Amazon/Google/Apple back in the day…” I’m going to lose it. Here’s your last call. Take action, or regret it later.

 

CRM – Big Data / Data Analytics – Marketing Automation

This one is a much more mature market than the other but still extremely early in the cycle of what it’s going to evolve into. I know many of you despise Salesforce.com/Microsoft Dynamics/Insert other CRM program here from a user perspective. Well I suggest getting over it, take the time to learn how to use them effectively and embrace this technology as CRM, Big Data/Data Analytics/Marketing Automation are going to continue to get more deeply involved in your day to day operations if you want to survive and thrive as a company whether you like it or not.

Nowadays it’s crucial to be able to turn vast amounts of data into insights and competitive advantages, while simultaneously improving customer service. CRM systems can increase sales by improving lead generation activities, help you design better products and services, and reduce supply chain costs. It will improve your decision-making by identifying new markets opportunities, and by improving your business processes and communication throughout your company.

You’ve had your head stuck under the sand long enough now, it’s not going away so get on board. (*Yes, my company provides these services and is partially why I started here, the other reason is that this has been around for a decade already).

 

Augmented Reality – Virtual Reality – Artificial Intelligence / Machine Learning – Internet of Things

Notice how I listed AR first? Don’t get me wrong I do think there is a huge place in the market for VR and 360 videos, etc. That place is just dwarfed by the market impact that AR is going to have however. Again, industries are CURRENTLY being disrupted, and consumer/professional products and services are on the brink of mass adoption. I also lumped these together as they’re all related in a variety of ways and will supplement each other going forward.

Industries such as health care, real estate, education, military, public service, entertainment are about to be severely disrupted. Keep thinking these are all just entertainment gimmicks/Pokémon games if you must, but you’re going to wake up in a brave new world wondering what happened before you know it.

I am personally and professionally deep in this industry. I am a partner/co-founder of a company called Eolian which is a software/content development firm and systems integrator. We specialize in Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), and Artificial Intelligence (AI). We’re currently focused on helping government and large enterprise organizations utilize these technologies for critical applications. We are also launching a product called ARRE (Augmented Reality Real Estate) this week which will blow people’s minds.

To say we’re growing like crazy would be an understatement. This industry is the next wave of computing. Think personal computers, mobile phones, and tablets, now this could, and will, easily trump them all.

 

Block Chain – Crypto Currency – Bitcoin – Ethereum – “Smart Contracts”

Many of you likely don’t really understand what these things are. I’ll give you a brief definition of each. Blockchain is a complete record of every smart contract transaction executed, all of which are stored in a public ledger (the Blockchain) created by collaborating online computers. Bitcoin is a digital currency that was the first algorithm to utilize blockchain technology and encryption techniques to generate units of currency and verify the transfer of funds, independent of any central bank. Ethereum is a public blockchain platform that powers smart contracts via apps created by developers around the globe.

Essentially these technologies will allow for cross border commerce, enable complete transparency and trust between parties in a transaction, as well as prevent currency manipulation. They aren’t just ways to buy illegal contraband via “The Silk Road 2.0” like you’ve probably read about and think is the purpose. It goes much further than that.

This is another industry I’m putting my time and money where my mouth is as I’m a partner and equity holder with a company called GNEISS. Essentially, we act as your ultimate security companion in a free market transaction. You can create, transfer, mint, burn, exchange, tax, or pay dividends to any crypto-asset or smart contract on our decentralized blockchain-powered trading platform. And this is just the beginning. Check it out and register to take a look yourself.

 

Others:

Cannabis – Marijuana

I’m sure you’re much more aware of this one as its been getting a ton of mainstream attention these days. It’s another that’s already been growing like gangbusters. I’m not fully “in” the industry just yet but working on it by helping my friends on the team of The Kush Life/Kush House get funding to continue building out their luxury retail space and product line. They’re also developing technology to help others in the space operate more efficiently and transparently. They’re based in Maine and quickly growing a reputation as New England’s leading cannabis authority.

Renewable Energy: I.e. Solar, Water, and Geothermal

While I don’t have a meaningful equity stake in a company in the solar industry (other than owning a rather insignificant couple hundred shares of a public company) I would love to get more involved in this industry from each angle. Yes, I understand the current administration isn’t a huge advocate, but it’s all about the long game.

3D Printing

This is one where I have 0 stake in currently, but will be hunting down a way to get involved in 2017. Not only will the manufacturing and distribution industries be disrupted like crazy, but also retail, and likely countless others.

 

This was a long one, but if you made it this far hopefully you will be grateful you did one day. I’ve been so deep in thought, as well as taking action to get more involved in these industries that I easily could’ve written another 10 pages.

There are plenty other industries that intrigue me as well of course, but what others are YOU excited about and going all in on? Do you disagree with any of my predictions? What steps have you taken and/or are planning to take? Would love to hear your perspective!