Not Losing Sight Of What You Want As Your Business Grows

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 Amber Lowry for this week’s episode of The Rialto Marketing Podcast!

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Not Losing Sight Of What You Want As Your Business Grows

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 we believe you must remove your revenue roadblocks to accelerate growth and marketing shouldn't be difficult. Thank you so much for taking the time to tune in. I am really excited to have Amber Lowry from Syssero with me today. Amber, welcome and thanks for being here.

Amber Lowry
Thanks for having me. I'm excited.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Yes, I'm excited to jump into this with you. You have an interesting story that we're going to jump into. But before we do that, I want to ask you a few rapid fire questions if you're ready to rock and roll.

Amber Lowry
Let's do it.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Okay. Very quickly, what do you do? How long have you been doing it?

Amber Lowry
We support Workday, Full Suite, as well as Full Lifecycle, and we've been doing it for now seven years.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Cool. And so for people that don't know, Workday HR human capital management software, yes?

Amber Lowry
Payroll, finance, you name it.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Everything having to do with the people side of the business.

Amber Lowry
Exactly.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Okay. What's the most important lesson you've learned in running your business?

Amber Lowry
Your business partner is like a marriage.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Yes, it is. Pick your partner wisely.

Amber Lowry
Very wisely.

Tim Fitzpatrick
That goes personally and professionally, right?

Amber Lowry
Absolutely.

Tim Fitzpatrick
We all know, growing a business can be challenging at times. It's not a straight path. It can be a very winding road. Any mantra, motivational saying that you say to yourself, share with your team when you hit those challenging times?

Amber Lowry
It's funny. When I saw that you were going to ask this question, it went straight to what we usually tell our leadership is do what's right and the rest will just shake out.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Do what's right and the rest will shake out. That's a good one. You're never going to go wrong doing the right thing. Sometimes you're not sure how things are going to turn out, so you just got to have faith that when I do the right thing, it's going to be okay.

Amber Lowry
And sometimes that can cost you a lot of money, honestly.

Tim Fitzpatrick
That's true. But I don't know, I'm a firm believer in karma, so I don't think you can go wrong by doing the right thing.

Amber Lowry
Absolutely.

Tim Fitzpatrick
So you started your business back in 2016. And when we initially spoke, you said, Gosh, I didn't necessarily have a plan to grow quickly. Now you've on the Inc 5000 list the last two years. You've got over 50 people. What would you say are the top three things that have fueled your growth?

Amber Lowry
Goodness. Surrounding myself with great people, number one, absolutely. Number two is listening to those people. Number three is being humble enough to learn from those people. 

Finding Work Life Balance as a Business Owner

Tim Fitzpatrick
Okay. I love it. Because I know when you initially started, it was really more you were done with corporate, you wanted work life balance, and you're like, I know this, I'm going to start this business. Then all of a sudden it started to grow. Did you have to adapt and modify those initial expectations, or how did you adjust to that?

Amber Lowry
Yeah, it was really hard. I know we talked about it, but I think it's really important for others to hear is I built it out of necessity for me to have that work life balance as a mom, winning my career, trying to figure that out as a parent. And then it evolved into something so big that I had to evolve. Well, what does that really mean for me? What does that mean for an entrepreneur and a business owner? And how do I bring people to the table? Frankly, that's why I brought my business partner on because he's a dad, he gets it, he understands, and he's like, Hey, I see what you're trying to do. I can help build this with you. That's where we just honestly started finding people and employees that really wanted to say, Hey, I see this, too, and that's what I want. It was very organic, very grassroots, which I loved. But ultimately, I thought, maybe three or four people will just do this part time. This will be great. And now we're in this place of, okay, what's this going to look like for the next five years? And that's scary, terrifying, but awesome as well.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Yeah. Well, to me, it just comes back to you knew what you wanted when you initially started the business. And no matter what we want, we can create a business that will help us get that. Where I think a lot of us go astray is we don't know what we want. And all of a sudden, we've built this business and we're like, man, I'm not happy doing this. This isn't right. And it's because we don't know what we want. But once we understand what we want, we can build that. And look, whether you have a lifestyle business or a business that has 500 people, if you want work life balance, you can have that.

Amber Lowry
Yeah, absolutely. But there's things that are going to be you have to give to get there.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Right.

Amber Lowry
Like giving out part ownership. That was how I got my business part. I was like, look, I can't do this by myself and still get that work life balance I want, but I still want to call the shots. I still want to make sure we're doing it in the right way. I still want to have controlling, hey, this is how I want this business to look like because my name is tied to it. But I have to say, look, you get it. You understand it. Come with me. Let's do it together.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Yeah, see and i think that's such a great... You knew what you wanted. My business is growing. I could keep it small or I can continue to allow it to grow. But if I'm going to allow it to grow, what kinds of things need to happen for me to get what I want? And like you said, sometimes that means giving certain things up or making certain sacrifices. And that's okay as long as you're going to get what you want out of it.

Amber Lowry
Yeah.

Investing in Marketing

Tim Fitzpatrick
Thank you for sharing that. I want to shift a little bit and I want to talk a little bit about marketing. I want to preface this by saying this worked for you. As a marketer, selfishly, I'm going to say, I don't know if you should necessarily I'm not saying everybody should do this. So you didn't have a website for the first three years in your business and you didn't start investing in marketing until after year four. What changed at that point that pushed you to start investing in marketing? And where are you investing your marketing dollars in that one?

Amber Lowry
Yeah, that's a great question. I think it's really about that moment. And I think everybody that as an entrepreneur starts feeling it where you're like, everything's funneling through me. And you're thinking to yourself, how am I going to be in all these places at once, all these projects? There's no way, and especially because of my mantra of like, hey, work life balance, I want to be the mom and the career woman that I want to be. I couldn't have it all. And so it was really a necessity to say, okay, how do we make this a brand that's not just Amber's referrals? And how do I make this into something that's a reality? And that's really what was the driving force around it. I actually funny story because I think this is really important for other entrepreneurs to hear. Our name wasn't always Syssero. And so I thought it'd be really funny to have us called Traval, which is to work in French. I was told once we got our name revamped and did the website, they're like, Hey, you should change your name because everybody thinks you're a travel company. So to your point, as much as I was doing referrals and it was really great, when I finally got consultative approach, it was a, Hey, maybe you should think of something else to get you actually in a different mindset and helping you out, not only from a branding perspective, but also who do you want to be? What does that look like?

Tim Fitzpatrick
That trigger point you talk about is such an important point that some business owners are not there yet. But at some point, if you want to grow your business and scale, you hit that ceiling where you're like, Oh, my gosh, I'm spending too many plates. I can't continue to do this. And if you're going to build a business consistently with a system that's repeatable, you got to have a sales and a marketing process. That trigger point is where we end up getting involved with a lot of clients because they're spinning five plates, marketing is one of them, they're trying to manage it, but marketing is not their thing. And because it's not their thing, it's difficult to hold marketing providers accountable. It's difficult to ask the right questions. It's difficult to guide and mentor people that might be working for you that are doing it. And you just reach a point where you're like, I got to do this. I can't do this. Either I need to level up my skills so that I can, or I need to say, you know what? I'm not going to do this. I'm going to focus on other areas of my business that are higher and better use of my time and bring somebody in to do it. But the benefit now, compared to even 10, 15 years ago, is there's so many different fractional or part time outsourced executive level people that we can bring into our businesses, whether it's a marketing person like me, or it's a finance or an HR or an operations, those people are out there and we don't need to have to hire a full-time executive at a high salary until we're ready to do that. Thank you for sharing that because you got to the point where you're like, if we're going to continue to grow this, I have to pull myself out of these processes, right?

Amber Lowry
Exactly.

Tim Fitzpatrick
When you started pulling yourself out of marketing, what did you do? You have 50 people. Do you have some inhouse people? Is it outsourced? Is it a combination? What does that look like?

Amber Lowry
It's a combination for us because, let's be honest, I think most entrepreneurs are a little bit of a control freak because that's usually when we start a business. I like to have internal processes on what that is. But there is a sense of, hey, you only know so much. And let's be honest, we're usually pretty frugal and we want to make sure our dollar stretches the furthest. So we have a mixture between using an agency and having internal individuals that are helping not only formulate the strategy and where we're going, but also, hey, does this align with what we're doing with other internal projects? Where is this going? Is this actually hitting the rubber on the road? Are we sales out of it? Because you know this, it's easy to say, hey, you need to spend time and money on marketing. Everybody tells you you need to do that. And then you're like, but where's the sales? Where is it coming in? What do I make sure I'm doing here? And so I think that was honestly the reason I took so long to make that decision because I'm like, we're getting the sales, so why should I spend money on marketing? And also, A, okay, I need to do this. But something you said that I think is really important is those processes. Things that I think entrepreneurs do really well is we've just innately found a way that works well with you, like how we work, how we think, but we don't have anything written down. There is no actual process. So bringing in consulting firms to say, Okay, let's get what's in your head into something that somebody else can actually go do. That's the key.

Tim Fitzpatrick
You also touched on something to Amber where you were like, hey, we're getting the sales. Why should I make this investment? And to me, it really comes down to taking a much longer term approach because it's like everything's okay now. But what typically ends up happening when people don't invest at that point is they hit a ceiling because one, it's where are the sales coming from? In a lot of cases, a lot of the sales are coming from referrals at that point. And referrals is not a scalable, predictable way to build a business long term. It is a great lead gen source, but long term, if you're going to consistently and repeatedly build, you have to have other marketing channels. And the other thing, too, is it reminds me of somebody said, I can't remember exactly how they put it, but the time to go get a bank loan is when you don't need it.

Amber Lowry
Exactly.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Because when you need it, odds are you're going to have a really hard time qualifying for it. With marketing, it's the same concept. It's like you need to invest in it before you feel like you really need it. Because if you start to invest in it when you feel like you really need it, you got a 6 to 12 month window of ramp up because marketers, in general do a horrible job setting expectations. And most people come in going, I need to generate leads tomorrow. And marketers are like, Oh, sure. We can help you do that. And they disappoint people because, yes, there are short term things that we can do to generate leads. There's low hanging fruit, but most marketing takes consistency over time to start yielding results. So if you're coming in going, We need it now, you're screwed for the next 6 to 12 months, I think.

Amber Lowry
Easy. And I think, Tim, you said 6 to 12 months. I would add an extra 6 months to that easy because, let's be honest, as entrepreneurs, you're dating the field. You're seeing who's available. Does this work well with you? And that takes time to get them people schedules, do RFPs out there, getting those proposals back in. So now all of a sudden you are now an extra six months behind and you're like, Okay, now what? Because now you're going to have a slump in your business and let's be honest, nobody wants that.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Nobody does. But it's so hard as humans were wired to think short term. Where's the short term gratification? How can I get this immediately? But man, gosh, well, I think this is appropriate to our personal lives as well. But thinking longer term is just we are far better off. We make much better decisions when we think long term.

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Investing in Things that Don't Work

Tim Fitzpatrick

So along this vein, we all invest in things that don't work. Do you have any just a failed growth initiative that you can share with us that we might be able to learn from?

Amber Lowry
Oh, my goodness. Where to start? Well, you mentioned it earlier, and I think for me, it was really hard trying to find... Because when you're a startup, you wear all the hats, right? Yeah. So how do you find people that are relatively part time but have that level of thought, what I consider that level five strata of thought, where they can think five plus years and with you on those things? And so to your point, there are some organizations that do financial planning and what that looks like. I'll just say from a services industry perspective and consulting firm perspective, there's not a lot of CFOs or CHROs that work in that space that are willing to work with you to say, hey, how can your consulting firm grow? It's not there. And even the financials people, I will say from my own experience, I can't tell you how many firms I dated brought in part time resources over and over and over again to finally find somebody that was frankly junior that I just taught up because it was one of those, they came in, they said, well, your books look fine. Oh, well, I would advise maybe these two or three things. I'm like, Why am I spending 15 grand on you when I'm like, You're just making me... I feel like you're placating me. That's what I feel like. So that was some of my frustrations and some of the things I felt like initiatives. I'm like, I know I need to do this. Everybody tells me I need to do this. But from my experience, as I was dating the different vendors and trying to get an idea for myself, I just realized I need people I can trust, and I need somebody that is hungry, that I can train up, and I'd rather spend that time than the last 6 to 12 months that I've spent with other vendors and other firms trying to get that advisory that I really needed.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Did you feel like they were telling you what you wanted to hear?

Amber Lowry
Oh, yeah. I don't know know if that's just normal for other entrepreneurs or if it's just me, frankly, maybe it's being a woman, everybody's like, Yeah, you're doing a great job. I'm so proud of you. And I'm like, I want to be challenged. I want to go where the next step is. Tell me what I'm doing wrong. Let me learn from this.

Tim Fitzpatrick
I think there's multiple reasons of why that happens. Some of it might just be, look, people are there afraid to alienate a client. But I also think some of it, too, is when you go into certain relationships, it's just important to communicate like, hey, this is why we're doing this and this is what we need from this. I don't need you to tell me what you think I want to hear. I need you to tell me what I need to hear. I just had a podcast interview I did earlier this week with a life coach, and she was like, Look, our opportunities lie in our blind spots. That's why we, as business owners, are hiring these people. It's like when you're hiring a consultant or an advisor, it's like, I'm hiring you because I have blind spots that I'm not aware of. And I need you to point those out to me. No matter how difficult they may be to hear, sometimes when you point those out to me, now I know where the opportunities are. And it's hard to hear that. But I don't know. I don't think we ever get anywhere when we placate people, do we?

Amber Lowry
No, I don't think so. I don't know. I'm sure you've experienced it as well, even on the marketing side is being able to be truthful and caring in the way that you deliver that is really key. Because even as a consulting firm, we do that with our clients and I'm like, I want them to know, hey, there's a better way, a different approach. And let's be honest, every client, every vendor is slightly different, has those little nuances, and what's going to work for you is not going to work for me. And so we need to have those true intentional relationships to build that out.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Yeah, and just have those conversations. It's like, Hey, this is what I see based on my experience. When I say that, what thoughts come to mind? What are you thinking? Do you have concerns? Let's just get this all out in the open and go. But as a consultant or an advisor, and I'm sure you see this as well, look, the final decision is up to the client. But I see it as our responsibility to say, Hey, that's fine if you want to make that decision, but here are the potential consequences in doing that. And if you want to do that, that's okay. It's your decision, but it's my job to make you aware of why that might not be the best decision, or why this is a better decision.

Finding the Right People

Tim Fitzpatrick

And then we go with it and we move on. Finding people. I talk about this and not every one of these revenue acceleration series interviews, but a lot of them. Finding the right people has been a roadblock for you. It is a roadblock for a lot of people. What types of things are you doing to push through that?

Amber Lowry
Gosh, if you give me a checklist, I'll give you 12 more checklist. I think... So I go back to we just changed our interview process, and of course, we got feedback. Maybe it's a little too long, but we've changed how we interview because we realized we were hiring probably the wrong people because they didn't understand our mission. They didn't understand the core values and what that is. So just to give you concept and for those that are watching in on this is we hire people that have been in the end client that have supported the software that we advise on because we find that those people know all the things or at least have Jerry rigged the system enough because they've had to live it and they're like, I don't have any more budget. And so they just made magic happen thing. And so we love those people. But outside of that, we realized transitioning them to consulting, let's call it for what it is. Anytime you're consulting, you're doing timesheets, you're figuring out your hours and things like that, it's not glamorous by any stretch of imagination. So we've really changed our approach on realizing here are the people we want and also calling out all the BS and all the crap that we do that, frankly, we don't like and they probably won't like either. And being able to call that out front has weeded out a lot of people because it has been a very clear mindset of, look, myself, I've always done timesheets, so it wasn't a thing for me. But being able to get that feedback from other people where they've said, hey, timesheets just suck. I never want to do them again. It was something that was really eye opening to say, okay, we need to make sure this is part of the interview process. Here's the day in the life of. Do you know you have to do this every week for the rest of employment? Are you looking for that? And those are the small things, but those are things that I think we forget, especially as entrepreneurs, because we're like, we've done all the things, and I'm so used to those. Those are something that comes natural to me now. And how do we make sure that for a new hire, maybe they've never experienced it before? What's going to be that differentiation for you?

Tim Fitzpatrick
There's a few things I want to pull out of this because I think you shared some really good stuff. And then I'm going to share some stuff that I say often when we talk about this subject. But one of the things you mentioned was, hey, we actively look for people that have worked at the end client and that's using Workday. So they know what it's like to be in the client's shoes. One of the things that I think is so important about that is similar to marketing, where you have an ideal client or buyer avatar, ideal client persona. When you are hiring, you've got that ideal employee persona, if you will, where it's like, hey, they've got this specific type of experience. Now, you've also figured out, we also need to let them know that they need to be okay doing these types of things as well. So that's just something that you've added to this ideal employee persona, which helps you find and hire those types of people. Because we all know if we hire the wrong people, we waste so much time and money. And so to me, recruiting and finding the right people, there are so many similarities to marketing, and it really is a marketing activity. One, it's a marketing activity because when you put out a job post, are they just immediately applying? No, they're going to your website. They're looking at what do you do? How do you communicate what you do? What are you doing on social media? So if your outward marketing sucks, you're not getting people to apply that might otherwise apply. On the back side of it, there's the marketing to the actual potential team member. What does your job post say? Frankly, it's not difficult to differentiate your job post from every other one because a lot of them say the same damn thing. So what do you say in your job post? What's your hiring process like? All of those things, knowing who your ideal employees are and frankly, what's important to them. Just like we message to our ideal clients, we also need to message to our ideal employees. So it's like, you have a huge benefit, you have 50 something employees. You can sit down and go, Gosh, let's interview our best employees and find out, hey, why did you come to work with us? What do you love about working with us? What are the benefits? And then all of that becomes messaging on the recruiting side of it. Because so many people talk about, Hey, this is our company and this is what we do and this is why we're great. What if the message ship again? When we market, our clients don't give a crap about us. They care about what we can do for them. How do we help them get from where they are to where they want to be? With team members, it's the same thing, right?

Amber Lowry
Absolutely.

Tim Fitzpatrick
What can we do for them? And so if we interview our ideal employees and know what's important and what they gravitate towards, our message on the recruiting side can start to shift. And that can be a huge tool. So thank you for sharing that. It sounds like you've really honed in on who the ideal team member is.

Amber Lowry
Yes.

Tim Fitzpatrick
And that makes it much easier to be like, hey, when we're talking to people, are they checking the boxes or are they not?

Amber Lowry
Yeah, absolutely. And there's something you said, Tim, I want to make sure that interview process, just so people realize, we send probably out, I don't know, maybe six or seven questionnaires a year, minimum, to get that insight in, because not only departments are different, different people are different. As you are growing, you're getting more people in. What's the touch points? Where are people feeling? Like, making sure that you're constantly in tune with what are your team's feelings and do you need to adjust? How do you change those processes? That's really key.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Well, you're seeing that now you have 50 people. It's one thing when you have four, five people, then when you go to 10, right? But the more people you add, gosh, the more important it is to have those processes in place so that you can monitor how people are feeling, right? Because I don't even remember what the statistic is, but the majority of people leave their jobs because of their manager. So if you're not staying on top of that and in tuned to that, you can lose good people and you can lose a lot of good people fast.

Amber Lowry
Fast. And as a small business owner, you lose two, three people, that's a significant hit to your bottom line. You may take months to recover from that.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Yeah. Well, depending on the position, it can take a while to recruit and find the person. And in the meantime, everybody else is having to chip in. And that doesn't create a really strong work environment, does it?

Amber Lowry
No, it does not.

Tim Fitzpatrick
So yeah, that reminds me. One of my buddies is a Oracle database analyst, and he was like, Yeah, man, all of the team is on vacation and I'm flying solo. And there's all this tribal knowledge. I had three people trying to tell me about all these little things, and I'm listening to it and I'm like, Oh, my God. The wheels can come off this so fast. Tribal knowledge is not a good thing. So anyways, we could go down rabbit hole there.

Conclusion

Tim Fitzpatrick
The business has grown. It's taken off. What are your aspirations for the future at this point?

Amber Lowry
Goodness. Think keep going where we're going, which for me is sometimes the Inc 5000 fastest growing businesses we'll see this coming year. But the ones that get me the most are the best places to work because it tells me, hey, we're in tune with what the employees want. We're in tune with where we're going. And I think more importantly, I'd love to get to the size where I can actually implement Workday myself in house. But that's about 200 employees. So that's where we're shooting for so that we can do that in house. Frankly, my team gets to be in the system all the time because it stinks that we don't get to do it in house while we're advising for all these clients.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Got you. I love it. Knowing what you know now, anything you do differently, Amber?

Amber Lowry
Go back to the interview process. Find the people that you trust and replicate them as much as possible. Because finding people that are trustworthy when you're a business owner is hard to find. So it's, okay, how do you get to that DNA is really key.

Tim Fitzpatrick
So if only you could clone people, right?

Amber Lowry
I know. We'll figure it out. I mean, we've got AI now, so we're going to be fine.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Yeah, everything's going to be perfect. Amber, thank you so much for taking the time. I really appreciate it. You shared a lot of gems with me today. So where can people learn more about you if they want to connect?

Amber Lowry
They can catch us on our website. Also, follow me on LinkedIn. I'm happy to connect, give advice because honestly, I wouldn't be here if I didn't have the mentors and advice I got along the way and happy to pay it forward.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Yeah, cool. So syssero.com, that's SYSSERO.com. And on LinkedIn, it's Amber Lowry, L O W R Y. We'll make sure both those links are in the show notes as well. Amber, thank you again. I really appreciate it. Those of you that are watching and listening, I appreciate you as well. Amber's been sharing all kinds of great stuff that's helped her grow and accelerate that growth. If you want to know which of the nine revenue roadblocks are slowing down your growth, you can do that over at revenueroadblockscorecard.com. You can also always connect with us over at Rialto Marketing, which is Rialtomarketing.com as well. So thank you again. Until next time, take care.


Connect With Amber Lowry


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About the author, Tim Fitzpatrick

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