When you sit down and start a conversation with a true entrepreneur, it is equivalent to watching a well-produced suspense thriller where the story unravels in ways you never expected and in the end you can’t wait for the sequel. That is the exact feeling you have when you hear the journey of Andy Atkins, the CEO and Founder of CRM Manager, which is a leading salesforce.com cloud application implementation, integration, and customization firm.
An entrepreneur is always ready for a new beginning.
Andy may have started his post-college career on the corporate side of business as an account executive for Xerox, but the entrepreneurial tugging within him led to his first endeavor, ExecuTrain of Philadelphia in 1990. After growing his business, which became the largest and most successful ExecuTrain franchise globally, Andy took a new approach and purchased the corporate assets with a few other franchise owners. It wasn’t long until Andy would see his first entrepreneurial efforts that brought growth, success, expanded opportunities, and new partners come to an end with the sale of his ExecuTrain of Philadelphia franchise in 2005.
- Established in 2005
- Grew from 1 to 40 Employees
- Began with 1 Client to Now Over 1,000 Global Clients
- Generates Over $4 Million in Revenue Annually
- Started in a Single Shared Office Space Expanding to 3 Offices in Malvern, PA; Pittsburgh, PA; New York, NY
Not being one to let grass grow under his feet, Andy searched for the next new beginning. He soon came across a new technology that piqued his interest, salesforce.com, and a group of executives that had a vision for a cloud-based CRM solution that provided on-demand access. Andy shared the same belief that the view of technology would change and people would use the internet for almost everything in business. So in December 2005, with one client on board, CRM Manager became one of the first integration partner’s for Salesforce in Philadelphia. He worked as a one-person company for a couple of years, immersing himself into the technology and focused on smaller implementations of Salesforce. As Salesforce grew, CRM Manager grew – and the relationship further cemented to the point where Andy worked with Salesforce to become a portfolio company in 2010.
Being ready for change is eminent for entrepreneurism.
Because of Salesforce’s wild growth, CRM Manager has gone through many gyrations with their business model. In the beginning, they were structured for quick and ad hoc installations with little support for training and business development. After about four years, it was apparent that there was a dire need to change the business and build out the staff at CRM Manager, since Salesforce had invested in new infrastructure which drove larger enterprise business.
Once again in 2014, Salesforce made additional measures to capitalize on the lucrative impact of enterprise business which required CRM Manager to restructure the sales team in order to compete with powerhouse companies such as Deloitte and Accenture. This resulted in a complete reorganization of the sales and management team, as well as retained consultants. Today only one person out of 40 employees remains from the original team. Additional actions, such as changing incorporations, creating a board of directors, and creating vertical customer segmentations, were necessary to keep growing and position the company amid an increasingly competitive marketplace.
Andy suggests, “If you are not nervous or paranoid, you shouldn’t be in business for yourself. There are always threats and you have to be ready to make changes, sometimes major changes. Whatever business you are in, if you are not changing or listening to customers, you cannot survive by doing the same thing. Every four or five years you have to shift your model or change the entire team in order to meet new demands.”
Building relationships and trust to be successful.
Andy stresses the importance of investing in relationships just as much as companies do for resources and infrastructure. Key relationships with the Salesforce executive team has provided him access to support and guidance along the way. For instance, when CRM Manager sought access to the Salesforce Venture program, the solid relationships that Andy had built with the executive team helped with the process.
As Salesforce continued to invest for growth, they shifted a group of executives to a new endeavor called Insidesales, which compliments the Salesforce platform. CRM Manager became the first integration partner similar to the start of their original partnership with Salesforce. To date, the Insidesales business is growing at an impressive rate and after installing an entirely new sales and implementation team it is quickly accounting for a third of the entire business for CRM Manager.
Amidst the changes internally and the addition of Insidesales, Andy is excited for the future as he now has the best team suited for CRM Manager. “Partnering with Salesforce and Insidesales has been a huge benefit to our continually evolving organization. They not only look at the technology aspect but look to the management capability of their partners and how we can help them achieve their goals,” he said. “We have evolved with them and that is what good partners provide. We aim to provide consistency, trust, and a good working environment, and now that we have the right team in place we can continue to create value.”