From Leads to Ledgers: The Foundation of eClouds

In Lead Management by Mikael PeterssonLeave a Comment

In this first blog post, I am attempting to describe the eClouds journey from 2 to 48 employees and share our experience in building the optimal Techstack. I am also sharing some lessons learned from mistakes made, how we set up our terms and conditions for the best financial outcome, and more.
Enterprise Cloud Solutions, Inc. started operating in the spring of 2018. At the time I was engaged as an Independent Consultant for a licensee of Energizer branded products, but this contract was coming to an end. A business acquaintance was aware of my many years of experience with Salesforce. He asked if I was interested in assisting with developing a specific solution for his Professional Service business. I used Salesforce daily in my two previous companies, Carkit.com, and www.ibolt.co I owned since 2004 when developing an advanced CPQ solution for Cingular Wireless, and later Motorola, being an owner of a dedicated Salesforce consulting company was always a goal.
An interesting sidenote… When I started using Salesforce in 2004 (Cingular project) I was 100% convinced that within a few years most companies would move to this kind of platform where they could essentially run their business in the cloud and have all employees/contractors working from anywhere. Boy, was I wrong! Still, 18 years later and it is surprisingly still somewhat of a novelty to run the whole business in ONE cloud-based data silo.
As we all know, sometimes “timing” is everything… Enterprise Cloud Solutions, Inc. d/b/a eClouds was born, and together with a friend, who had a fantastic skillset as a developer, this first engagement with a friendly customer allowed us to get started and be cash flow positive (on a very modest basis) from day one.
  • Limiting fixed overhead: In the beginning, it was clear that the company was going to have a “distributed workforce”, meaning that no dedicated office was needed, instead, we found success in signing up for the $99.00 a month plan from https://www.regus.com/ that provided access to any of the “open space” office locations (44 in Manhattan alone and virtually any major city), whenever a meeting needs to be scheduled with Clients.
  • Building the optimal Techstack: Essentially the whole organization has been operating on Salesforce from day one, allowing for awesome analytics (=Dashboards) for all aspects of the business. The concept of having 3-5 different systems to run your business is not only inefficient and outdated, but it is also extremely expensive as there is no “central record of truth” for basic things like Accounts, Contacts, and communication with potential employees, vendors, customers, etc.
To build your optimal Techstack on Salesforce there are three different main approaches to take. There is no “right or wrong” approach, each need should be analyzed together with your preferred Salesforce Partner. Most companies end up with a mix of these three approaches. See our separate slide on this in the presentation.
  • Paid Native Apps: For virtually every business need there are great applications available on the Appexchange, which is kind of like the Apple Appstore but for Salesforce. When buying these applications you are incurring a monthly subscription fee per user, which is obviously negative. However, the positive is that you are installing a “ready to use” application that will be updated and supported by the company. It is usually very easy to configure and get started so startup cost is minimal. As this is a “managed package” you may “outgrow” the paid native App if a high level of customization is desired but it is usually a great way to get started.
  • Connect to Salesforce: If you have already invested a lot in learning and customizing a separate application that works really well, or if you have an industry specific application or have developed your own platform connecting this solution to Salesforce is usually a great approach. We often see ERP, EHR and Financial systems that are deeply “entrenched” and changing this to a Salesforce native solution would be disruptive and not desirable. Your Salesforce Partner can (usually) integrate this system to Salesforce using API’s, middleware or Bots.
  • Connect to Salesforce: If you have already invested a lot in learning and customizing a separate application that works really well, or if you have an industry specific application or have developed your own platform connecting this solution to Salesforce is usually a great approach. We often see ERP, EHR and Financial systems that are deeply “entrenched” and changing this to a Salesforce native solution would be disruptive and not desirable. Your Salesforce Partner can (usually) integrate this system to Salesforce using API’s, middleware or Bots.
From a technical standpoint we started with buying four Salesforce “Enterprise License” back in 2018. I set up a good but pretty basic Leads to Opportunity workflow so we could track new incoming Leads received from the website and from Salesforce Account Executives. For email, calendar and document storage we choose to go with Google instead of Office 365, although this is equally a good choice. Integration with Salesforce is super easy, just “click and connect”. Having all historical emails and meeting notes related to the right Contact and Account is obviously extremely useful. We also keep a “Next Step” updated weekly for every sales opportunity in the system to make sure we follow up promptly.

#1 & 2. Marketing & Sales:

Fortunately, we never had to spend any real money on marketing as referrals from satisfied customers and Salesforce AE’s is “everything” in our business. We were lucky to find a handful of AE’s that constantly asked for our involvement in closing their deals and handling the implementations. So within 6 months, we were billing over $40k per month and we started to add additional employees. Even four years later we are still relying on word of mouth and the LinkedIn post made on May 12th, 2022 is our first “major coming out” event.

#3. Operations:

Instead of selecting a “best in class” solution for our Time Entries & Project Management type Teamworks, Wrike, Asana, Monday.com, Trello, etc we stayed on the Salesforce platform and activated licenses from the “native” solution www.taskray.com. This is an excellent Salesforce “plugin” for managing Projects and it ties the financial result directly to the estimated “Opportunity”, thus we could compare “Estimated vs. Actuals”. I also used TaskRay in my previous business iBolt. In 2022 we have moved to “Milestones”, which is also a native Salesforce solution. It is posted by Salesforce Labs so it does not have any recurring fees. We spent a few hundred hours customizing this to fit our operating needs, which included adding Gantt Charts, Project Overviews, an LWC component for easy Time Entries & more. Since the launch of the “eClouds Milestones” in January of 2022, an additional 4 companies have liked it so much that they have contracted with us to build out essentially the same solution but customized to their business flows and rules.

#4. HR-Human Resources:

In the area of hiring, we have deployed a Salesforce Labs solution and customized this so the hiring and onboarding process is pretty fluent and is 100% inside Salesforce. We have over time implemented a 3-step interview process with an offer letter, onboarding checklist, etc. Pretty standard and straightforward. Having salary and compensation information inside our Salesforce Org is highly useful as it allows for easy calculations when it comes to hourly “real cost” used in the Project P&L calculation.

#5. Customer Success/Support:

A core feature of Salesforce has always been “Cases”, which are available in Sales Cloud as well. Here at eClouds we have used the standard functionality without doing much customization as the default functionality for tracking a “support ticket” is really good. We are also using the opportunity to create a “Project” for tracking on a high level the status of the implementation and when it might be time to connect with the customer for offering a “Managed Service” agreement, a monthly support contract. All pretty standard and uncomplicated.

#6. Invoicing and Accounting:

At the end of our first year, we added the native Accounting solution www.accountingseed.com, which is essentially very similar to the QuickBooks Enterprise version. We switched to doing the invoicing from January of 2019 directly from Salesforce. This enabled us to send monthly invoices in a highly streamlined fashion directly from the results in Project Management. With each Consultant having a billing rate for the Project there is no need to ever to into an Excel pivot table to figure out what to invoice. Perhaps the coolest feature is that with Accounting inside Salesforce we can send an invoice and include ACH and/or Credit Card payment link and when the customer pays the invoice the cash receipt is created automatically, closing out the transaction. Also imperative to our efficiency is the ability to track individual invoices' due dates based on individual customers' paying habits. If a large customer is paying their invoice net 30 days instead of the agreed-upon net of 15 days there is no reason to send a pesky reminder, they will pay in their “own” time and that is how reality works.
Having Invoicing and Accounting inside Salesforce, along with Time Entries and Project Management is an absolute must in my opinion for any Professional Service company. We can do a demo for anyone interested in how it all works…
Thank you for reading this long blogpost and until the next one…. Stay safe and take care!
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MIKAEL B. PETERSSON

Co-founder/CEO Manufacturing, sales, and Service Cloud

+1 (657) 352-3165

mikael@eclouds.co

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