Welcome to the Rialto Marketing Podcast. Today's episode is a Revenue Acceleration Series Interview where we talk to seven-figure B2B professional service firm owners that are actively trying to grow their business and get to the next level. We talk about the good, the bad, and the ugly so that you can learn from their experience.

Join Tim Fitzpatrick and Philip de Souza for this week’s episode of The Rialto Marketing Podcast!

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Discipline Must Be Set Early



Tim Fitzpatrick
Welcome to the Rialto Marketing Podcast. Today's episode is a revenue acceleration series interview where we talk to seven figure B2B professional service firm owners that are actively trying to grow their business and get to the next level. We talk about the good, the bad, and the ugly so that you can learn from their experience. Hi, I am Tim Fitzpatrick with Rialto Marketing, where or we believe you must remove your revenue roadblocks if you want to accelerate revenue growth. Thank you so much for taking the time to tune in. I'm really excited to have with me today Philip de Souza from Aurora IT. Philip, welcome, and thanks for being here.

Philip de Souza
Tim, it is my pleasure. Thank you for having me.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Yes, I can't wait to dig into this. You've got a very interesting past that I think a lot of people can learn from. When we did the initial pre interview, I love how you think and your thought process. So I can't wait to dig into some of this stuff. But before we do that, I want to ask you a few rapid fire questions to get things started.

Philip de Souza
Let's go. Yes.

Tim Fitzpatrick
So very quickly, what do you do and how long have you been doing it?

Philip de Souza
Philip De Souza I am president of Aurora Enterprises and I consider myself in this role as a supporter for an amazing team. I've been doing it for 30 years.

Tim Fitzpatrick
That's a long time.

Philip de Souza
Yeah, it is.

Tim Fitzpatrick
What's the most important lesson that you've learned in that 30 years?

Philip de Souza
Simple. Communication. I believe strongly, Tim, that communication can solve for world peace. If we take the time to express what we need and in turn, also take the time to just be quiet and listen. That's a recent lesson that comes with wisdom. Communication, for me is key.

Tim Fitzpatrick
That is an amazing insight because, gosh, I don't know anybody that doesn't struggle with communication at one point or another. Gosh, it seems like such a simple thing, but it's really not. There are so many variables that can go into it. And depending on what the situation is, sometimes you need to do things a little bit differently.

Philip de Souza
You're the one that took us off rapid fire, so here goes. Right?

Tim Fitzpatrick
Yes.

Philip de Souza
There's this story, this fable about the blind men and the elephant, right? There's an elephant in the forest. And this is the one I always give when I'm talking to leaders and boards of directors. There's an elephant in the forest, and blind men run upon this elephant. Why there's an elephant and why there's blind men? That's for another episode. And one guy grabs the elephant's trunk and says, oh, it's a tree sorry, leg, and says, It's a tree trunk. The other one grabs the trunk and says, It's a hose. Someone grabs a tail and says, it's a rope. That's a moment in our daily business lives, right? And if leaders choose to stop and say, hold on, let me correlate let me get all this information from all of you and let's put it together and figure out that it is actually an elephant is halfway the battle one in terms of communication. And if we're passionate about communication and if my team here is that by the way, we've grown from the time you first introduced me, it's actually eight digits in terms of revenue numbers and I'm not counting the decimals, so I joke that. But if I tell them that, look, I need to hit this revenue number, it means a lot to the organization and I'm clear and passionate and they feel the need for alignment and the communication is clear. We've got an aligned team in sales. So that's the reason why I take the onus upon myself to say communication is critical.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Yeah, I love that. Thank you for expanding upon that. So in your 30 years, I'm sure there's been plenty of ups and downs. When you're going through one of those down periods or trying to really push through roadblocks, do you have any type of mantra or something motivational that you tell yourself, share with your team? What's the first thing that comes to mind there?

Philip de Souza
This is a tough one. So, yes, we're an IT company, we're a cybersecurity company. We've like the guy next door reinvented ourselves about eight times in a 30 year period. And when you're down, Tim, it's like talking to someone who's got a grain of sand in their eye and you're preaching salvation. Right. It's the last thing you do. I mean, you're in the heat of the moment, you're trying to fix things. But in hindsight, I've learned that that's the moment when leaders have to be collaborative to understand what's going on with the team. Again, communication stands for me during those times. It's a sense of discipline, right? This is what bankers actually don't do best. They give you an umbrella all year long and take it away when it's raining and there's going to be a few more cliches like that. The discipline has to be set early such that it will hold you in times when you're down and when you're down is not the right time to put the discipline in. So building that rhythm, which is, by the way, a great book if you haven't read it, rhythm. Yes, it's building that cadence in good times such that it will hold you through bad times. And that, I believe, is number one for me and a major reason for our success.

Tim Fitzpatrick
I love that. So discipline and setting it up early. And frankly, setting it up when you don't really need it.

Philip de Souza
Absolutely. I've talked to many coaches, mentors, leaders, strategists, and one of the things that they say consistently is that leaders fail for lack of discipline. And we're only human, right? You tell me not to eat carbs, it's going to last about two weeks. I need that coach right behind me to maintain that discipline. And therefore we're human. We are subject to the frailties and the absolute greatness of being human. And there's no way that we could maintain this discipline ourselves. And therefore we use external sources, coaches check in with ourselves. But yes, discipline is a key factor.

Tim Fitzpatrick
I really like that because it applies to marketing, certainly. Right. We talk in marketing all the time about the best time to start marketing is not when you feel like you really need it because at that point you're a little late. It's going to take some time to get that flywheel going.

Philip de Souza
Absolutely.

Tim Fitzpatrick
So one of the first things I want to dig into you dig into with you today is that you sold your company. That was in 2021, correct?

Philip de Souza
Yes.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Let's talk about that because I don't know if some people certainly start their companies knowing that they want to sell it. A lot of people don't, but that's the path they end up going down. Tell me about that experience when you first started. Was that your end goal? At some point in the process, did it become your end goal? What was that like?

Philip de Souza
Well, that's an easy one. So I always talk to business owners and say, know your exit strategy. Right. You just got to know. I mean, it could be a legacy business. I've been early in our years accused of being club met, but we've actually had a SWAT team come in and turn us around. But know your exit strategy, whatever it is, is it going to go to the grandkids? Is it going to be a lifestyle business? You're going to sell it? So you get to pick and you'll get to change, and there's going to be buyers remorse or sellers remorse or whatever it is, but know your exit strategy. And once you do, in our case, it was to sell the business at a certain point. The answer, Tim, as to how to go about it is extremely simple. I'm going to take you back to the time when you asked your potential data to prom night appear appealing. It's very simple, right? You appear appealing in always finance and your differentiators and your team, and you set this up beautifully such that the buyers will come. And added note, ask the prettiest girl first. Ask the biggest, most appealing company first, because if you do get rejected, you have the honor of saying you got rejected by the prettiest one. So what the heck, nothing to lose. So, yeah, that's the way we went about it. And Aurora was bought end of 2021 by Pluralock Cybersecurity, startup firm that's absolutely rocked the environment, stood up to everything that they said they would do. And actually, Aurora has maintained its double digit growth post acquisition. And I'm still here. There's no reason for me to be here or not. It's done. Everything's done. I do it because I am absolutely fueled by the excitement and the growth.

Tim Fitzpatrick
How long were you planning before you actually sold?

Philip de Souza
Subliminally? Always when I say not all 30 years. The first few years went to make sure that we've got the right stationery and the right letterhead and the right logo. And then we built a certain momentum and evolved into a stage of maturity. And then in the last, I would say five to seven years, the thought crossed my mind that I'm growing a little tired of just running the business and it gets to a certain value. And as business owners, then we've got to worry about everything. Right. The margin on your largest deal, if the kitchen sink gets clogged or if someone wakes up on the wrong side of the bed. I don't care if you're $100,000 business or 100 million dollar business. Problems are of scale and great similarity.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Yeah. So when you sold, were you approached or were you proactively looking for a buyer?

Philip de Souza
We were approached.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Got it.

Philip de Souza
We appeared appealing. We were approached and the rest of the history. Went down pretty quick.

Tim Fitzpatrick
I want to dig into appealing. When you talk about being appealing, here are some of the things that I think about and I want to expand upon this, if I'm missing, but appealing obviously need to be profitable. Right. You need to have a lot of systems and processes in place. The business cannot be solely dependent on you as the owner because they pull you out and the wheels come off. Right. What other things should a business owner be thinking about to be appealing?

Philip de Souza
I'll definitely give you that the owner should not we've made a few mistakes and subsequent acquisitions. Your business should not be owner dependent. We always look for that. 100%. Processes, documentation, scalability is a big one. Right. You want to make sure that these trends can be maintained. Revenue and profitability are highly subjective in the startup world, in the SaaS world, sometimes businesses in that area go for multiples of revenue and are not necessarily profit driven. So we live in exciting and crazy times. People are buying SaaS businesses for ten and 15 and 20 X revenue with very little profitability. And because they're looking to leverage the customer base, they're looking to reference reach. In general, what holds true is the fact that this business should be scalable in a technology that is tenable and appear appealing is look, it fits in with my greater portfolio. The customer base is aligned, there's potential to cross sell. And he's a strong team. Right. People matter most. A strong team that will work through acquisition, integration of systems. All these are second tier but equally important

Tim Fitzpatrick
How long was the due diligence process for you?

Philip de Souza
Oh, quick, three months.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Okay.

Philip de Souza
And again, it goes through the fact that we had everything organized, we had all the answers, we had a strong brand platform from which we were operating and had all the documentation good finance team that could deliver on this. It was not in any way easy. It was brutal, but it was fast.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Yeah. When somebody's going to buy you, they want to know everything that's in the closet.

Philip de Souza
Burn every rock. And I'm so glad they did, right? And so one more piece of advice. If this is a conversation about selling business, besides appearing appealing, ask for everything, however minute. If you like a pink stabler, don't take it for granted. Put it in your list of asks. So that's the big lesson.

Tim Fitzpatrick
So let's transition to start talking about marketing. To get your business to a place where it was appealing and it was something that somebody who actually wanted to buy. To me, marketing has got to play a pretty big role in that. Can you talk about how marketing has played that role in your business growth and how you thought about marketing?

Philip de Souza
So when we first started, we're ready to conquer the world, and marketing, in all honesty, was secondary for us when we started. It was a tough lesson, right? You can only go so fast, so hard with just purely a sales team till you reach a certain point when they're like, look, we need more leads. We need to be known. We've got to have a strong social selling. So we had a well trained sales team. We had a well trained engineering team. We had great infrastructure labs and all of that, but we were missing the glue that puts us together, and that was a strong brand platform. That was a hard lesson for us. As soon as we entered into the next level of our evolution and we were dealing with huge vendors like Broadcom and McAfee that we realized that, look, you know what? We've got to invest in ourselves. We've got to make sure that we've got to have a strong brand platform, as I mentioned earlier. And let's break that down, right? Social selling very critical that we appear on social media where our customers are. If our customers want to buy, they no longer put a classified ad in the back of The New York Times, right? They're looking online. They're searching. So there's SEO. There's an SEO component. There's having level two conversations, and I refer to that as your potential buyer and certain LinkedIn groups. And if we don't appear in those groups and we are not proactive educating those groups, then we fall back in terms of what our potential is as an organization. So no doubt marketing is very critical. A very structured marketing program that I strictly measure by ROI and qualified leads has held us in good stead. And we always look to our vendors for MDF money. We match those with internal funds and internal resources, internal employees. And so we are very committed to our marketing program.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Remind me, you have about 40 employees, is that right?

Philip de Souza
Well, glass count was approaching 80.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Okay. 80. Okay. What is your internal marketing team look like?

Philip de Souza
So we've got marketing analyst, marketing manager, we've got a support team for website stuff inside, but for the rest, consultants. So the SEO stuff, the Domain authority, and whatever else, technical, the metrics, the responsiveness, the broken links and whatever else. I'm sure you can wax eloquent on that. And the various components, we go to external sources because we can only do so much internally. This is my mowing the lawn analogy. Are you ready for this?

Tim Fitzpatrick
Yes, I'm ready.

Philip de Souza
We're all enthusiastic. We buy a new house and we're like, oh, yeah, beautiful backyard. I'm going to start mowing the lawn every weekend. So at the time, I went to Sears and bought myself a nice land lawnmower, and it lasted the first week and the birds were chirping and the second week, and then by the third week, I had something better to do, and by the fourth week, I've neglected it. And so why not give it to people that do this best? And so long comes a knock on the door with that proverbial card saying, I can be your favorite gardener. 20 years later, my garden is immaculate. And that's what and it's mode every Saturday morning, right? So that's what consultants do best. That's their job. Specialists do best. I'm not saying you cannot hire internally, please do, but that you continuously sharpen the saw when you rely on consultants. So the blend of internal and the hybrid model of going out to consultants serves us well, because consultants like you, in turn, are much like butterflies, pollinating, flowers. You pick information from one place, bring it to another, there's group learning, and there's a general elevation of standard.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Yeah. I always like to ask this question because so many times, I think from a marketing standpoint, business owners struggle with gosh, how do I build out my marketing team as my business starts to grow? And inevitably, a lot of people make some marketing higher missteps. And you don't need a high level marketing person as your first marketing hire. For a lot of people, it just doesn't make sense. So thank you for sharing that because I totally agree with you. I think having you need to have people on your side of the table that are looking out for your interests. But marketing is so broad at this point. You can't be good at everything. You can't expect to hire a unicorn in house who can do content marketing and email and paid ads and strategy. It's just that person doesn't exist. So you do have to be able to build it out. So thank you for that.

Philip de Souza
My pleasure.

Tim Fitzpatrick
So as you've grown, how has your marketing evolved? You touched a little bit on it, started most of it was really started with outbound. Right? Outbound sales, really proactive lead development, and then you're transitioning to social selling and a lot of digital techniques. How has that evolved and how did you know when to pull certain levers, if that makes sense.

Philip de Souza
It's all about ROI. And like I said, we're putting money into this. We're getting vendor MDF funds to drive this, and it's about what mileage you can get out of your gallon of gas. So the metrics are very straightforward. We hold this to a high standard, a high leash, that for every dollar we're putting in, we're looking to get qualified leads of a certain kind, a certain dollar amount. And as that momentum grows, there's need to put more gas or a better grade of gas, depending on what results you want. And so we are far from perfect, there's no doubt about that. There's still plenty of work to be done, but the learnings of the previous years held us in good stead as we get things together. We started at the very basic in terms of, hey, let's go build a decent website. And then that whole channel took a life of its own. We went on to SEO and help me. It is Domain Authority, isn't it?

Tim Fitzpatrick
Yeah. There's Domain Authority. Certainly. What keywords are you ranking for?

Philip de Souza
Correct. So our top ten keywords, we look at those metrics with the sales team every week, and the sales team says, Are you kidding me? Why are we even looking at encryption? It's outdated. Let's go to data leakage protection. So our marketing reports talk about all the broken links and reputation. So that's standard stuff, and that has a life of its own. On the other side, besides the website, it's our social presence. Are we putting the right kind of material out there, whether it's LinkedIn or whether it's Twitter or Instagram or wherever else? Are we doing enough of YouTube videos? Are we viral enough? Are we now having enough in person events? Are we talking to our potential customers at the level two in the groups that they're on, professional groups that they're on, and the meetings there, the forums there? So, yes, we're constantly evolving. Let me give you something that's absolutely shocking, right? Back in the old days, the old days, we took the time and paid the money to present a brilliant document, a white paper. And everyone said, hey, look, you know what? Your reputation and your expertise hinges on the fact that you put up enough white papers out there and Google will sense it and improve your ranking, et cetera, et cetera. Today, a three year old, while having her breakfast can do a little jig and have more followers than my best white paper. Again, we're living in stupendous times. We've got to take all this into account while we're designing our marketing program, and it's ever evolving. The one through to all this, Tim, is the fact that it's all about the customer. Listen to your customer, figure out where your customer is, hang out where your customer is, and know what your customer wants.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Yeah, I mean, when you think about the fundamentals of marketing are not complicated. It's very easy for us nowadays to overcomplicate things, but it's exactly what you just said. Everything from a marketing standpoint starts with our ideal clients and what's important to them, where they are and what we need to say to engage them. The other thing that you said that I think is so easy for people to miss, that is critically important here is you were touching on the metrics. So many businesses have no idea whether their marketing is working or not because they have not outlined the important metrics to track. And when we outline the right metrics, those can help guide the decisions that we make so that we make better, more informed decisions. And you also touched on this, which is like we're never done it's ever evolving. Marketing is not set of forget it activity. You're always testing. A lot of the things you do are not going to work. And if you're not tracking the right metrics and testing over and over again, you're never going to know what course correction and adjustments you need to make.

Philip de Souza
Absolutely. So, business plans, right? And I'll give you a similarity and structure here. When we're designing a business plan, the components of a business plan are extremely simple. It's know where you are at the moment or define where you are at the moment, define where you need to be. And the plan is how to get from where you are to where you need to be. Yet 80% of businesses fail in their first five years, and I'm sure a multitude of them have got great business plans. Right. The problem, Tim, is not being able to define exactly where you are. Oh, no, we're really good, we're fine in this. But the more accurate you are on defining where you are and this is where your conversation of metrics comes in, the more accurate the chances are that you'll end up where you need to be. And it's easy to say magically, we're going to be 100 million dollar company if we dabble in social media now. It's going to take effort. It has to be defined effort. Right. And this is where it's very critical to get the components right of where you are, what are the resources you need, and accurately define where you need to be.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Damn. It's that simple. I love it. I love how you break things down into very simple, easy to understand ways. Because again, complexity is the enemy of results.

Philip de Souza
Simplicity, it's easily stated, it's understanding this and implementing it. It's not easy to pick up the right metrics to define where you are at the moment. Right. That's where you've got to do the heavy lifting.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Yeah. So you touched on your sales team. With sales and marketing, there's this constant topic that comes up about sales versus marketing. Is it sales and marketing? What are your thoughts there? And if you really do what you can to keep them on the same page. How are you doing that?

Philip de Souza
I'm as confused as the next guy. I'm as confused as the next guy. So, for me, yes, it's sales and marketing. We hold them on par. Obviously, the sales guys are blue eyed boys in the organization. They are coin operated. We get it right. But they're the first to say that they wouldn't be able to do this without marketing. So, yes, on our meetings, sales and marketing on par, both are involved. We get to make a wish and say, hey, look, we want to have a webinar on continuous behavioral authentication on the 3 March 2023. Make it happen. And then the marketing wheels churn and designing campaigns and getting emails out and ensuring what's the open rate and whatever else design a great email with a perfect call to action. It's hard work. And again, it goes to my lawnmower analogy. Do it.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Yeah. Well, I just don't know how you run an effective organization if you don't have sales and marketing on the same page. Marketing can learn a ton from sales, and sales can learn a ton from marketing. Salespeople are having conversations with your prospects, your potential ideal clients all the time. The information that they glean from those conversations is invaluable, in my opinion. So if your marketing team is not trying to take advantage of that information, they're not getting all the fuel that they could be.

Philip de Souza
Sure. Couldn't agree more.

Tim Fitzpatrick
So we've dug into a lot of stuff, and I love this conversation. I want to ask you a couple more questions before we close things out. First thing is, what would you say has been the biggest thing that has impacted the growth of your company?

Philip de Souza
One factor that's influenced the growth of my company I would say it's my team. Funny story here I thought I could conquer the world by myself, right, and very reluctantly hired the first employee and just made sure that they were the right fit in the organization. That's critical. And creating a sales team. I'll give you a good one here, Tim. Reed Hastings, who is the CEO of Netflix. And you know the Netflix story. He goes to Blockbuster, says, Buy me for a few million, and Blockbuster laughs in his face. And then before you know what, Blockbuster is gone. And Netflix is Giant, right?

Tim Fitzpatrick
Yes.

Philip de Souza
But this great book that's titled No Rules Rule. And in that book, he says, look, every one of my employees, I just need two things. I want them to be loyal to the organization, to hold company interest first. And secondly, I want to make sure they're rock stars. And that's a tenant that we have held sacred. When we hire, we want to make sure that our employees hold company interest first. And the absolute rock stars are what they do. You set that up and you watch the magic happen. So I've got sales guys who are just highly motivated, who hold company interest first. We'll go out, we'll make the sale, we'll do what it takes to bring the numbers in, and their win is the company win in turn. Nice commission checks, and it keeps us all well organized and there's no need to yell and scream and BOP them in the head when they don't make their number because of these two tenants, they hold company interest first and they're absolute rockstars of what they do.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Again, you're breaking it down. Super simple. I love it. So the last thing I want to ask you before we wrap up, knowing what you know now, is there anything that you would do differently?

Philip de Souza
That's an easy one, Tim. Nothing. I am where I am today because of the set of circumstances, and I refer to a few miracles in my life that happened from the day that I stepped into this amazing country where the only thing between you and where you want to be is yourself and nothing else. And so no, nothing. I mean, I'm sorry, I don't mean to disappoint you.

Tim Fitzpatrick
No, it's okay.

Philip de Souza
Great wisdom. I have absolutely enjoyed my journey. 2023 is going to be different. It's going to be up and down and exciting. And every year I set our goals and I set one thing. What's my word for the year? And I go through things like leadership and servant leadership and support and gratitude, and I'll live that word through the year. I learnt this from another friend, but to answer your question, I wouldn't change a darn thing.

Tim Fitzpatrick
I'm trying to remember the quote, but your path, the good and bad parts of it, have brought you to where you are. So if you pull some of those out, you're probably not going to get to the same destination, right?

Philip de Souza
Yes, I think I like where I am and I just want to yell out that I'm the luckiest son of a gun.

Tim Fitzpatrick
I love it. Thank you, Philip. Thank you so much, man. This has been a great conversation. Where can people learn more about you if they want to connect with you?

Philip de Souza
DeSouza.com is a great place where I've got blogs and my personal life and my thoughts and leadership. Aurora IT is the company that I founded, created and now work for. And thank you for flashing that on the bottom of the screen. Tim, well done. Very slick presentation. I feel the white glove treatment here. So greatly appreciate being here. Thank you very much for the opportunity to wax, eloquent and share my experience and knowledge with the rest of the world.

Tim Fitzpatrick
It's been a pleasure. So, Desouza.com and Aurora IT we will make sure that those are on the show notes as well, for those that are listening, but go check it out. I was impressed the first time I spoke to Philip and I'm even more impressed now. So I hope you feel the same. Philip, thank you for taking the time, and I really appreciate it. Those of you watching listening, I appreciate you. Man growing a business is all about removing your revenue roadblocks. And if you want to discover and assess what your roadblocks are, head on over to Revenueroadblockscorecard.com. It will evaluate you on the nine common revenue roadblocks when it comes to marketing, so that you can start working on getting rid of them and accelerate your revenue growth. If you want to connect with us over at Rilato Marketing, you can also do that. Just head on over there. I'd be happy to chat with you. So thank you for tuning in. Until next time, take care.


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About the author, Tim Fitzpatrick

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