What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

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 William Hearne O'Sullivan for this week’s episode of The Rialto Marketing Podcast!

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What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

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. I am Tim Fitzpatrick with Rialto Marketing where we believe you must remove your revenue roadblocks if you want to accelerate growth and marketing shouldn't be different. Thank you so much for taking the time to tune in. I am super excited to have William Hearne O'Sullivan from Seabrook Technology Group with me today. William, thanks for being here, man. I appreciate it.

William Hearne O'Sullivan
Yeah. Great to see you, Tim. I'm excited about this.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Yeah, I'm excited to dig into it, man. You've been doing this for quite a while. I'm going to learn some things, and I know the people that are watching and listening are going to learn some things too. Before we dig in, I want to ask you a few rapid-fire questions if you're ready to jump in with both feet.

William Hearne O'Sullivan
Yeah, let's go for it.

Tim Fitzpatrick
All right, man. Very quickly. What do you do? How long have you been doing it?

William Hearne O'Sullivan
We help manufacturers go through digital transformation. I've been at Seabrook for over 16 years now, but it was founded by my dad in 1989.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Long time. You guys are doing something right. What's the most important lesson you've learned in running the business?

William Hearne O'Sullivan
There's a great quote that summarizes it. I learned it from Dan Martell, not sure where he got it from. But the quote is, It's easy to hire people and tell them what to do. It's difficult to hire people and have them tell you what to do. To me, that's been the most important learning for me. A lot of people expect that when they're a founder, owner, entrepreneur, CEO, that they have to be be all and end all. They have to know everything. That's not the case. You need to know what you don't know and you need to be able to bring in team members who can contribute and lead with you.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Yeah, it reminds me of one of the things that somebody shared. I don't know how many episodes back it was, but that our opportunities are in our blind spots. Very relevant. It's like when you bring in really smart people that know those aspects of the business better than we do. They bring visibility to those blind spots, and we can take advantage of those opportunities. Growing business is hard, man. You've been doing this long enough where you've been through ups, you've been through downs. Do you have any mantra or something motivational that you say to yourself or share with your team to push through those times where you're hitting roadblocks?

William Hearne O'Sullivan
Yeah. We have what we call our XCITE culture at Seabrook. You see a lot of companies with value statements and core values, but we really live ours. XCITE is an acronym, and it stands for Excellence in all that we do customer commitment, integrity, teamwork, and evolution. I've actually found that if we stick to those core values that we really can solve any problem that's presented to us.

Tim Fitzpatrick
I love that. When you hit roadblocks, you're just coming back to the core values.

William Hearne O'Sullivan
Yeah. Our core value, if we've got a process that's not working or is broken, we say we should be excellent in everything we do. We're not being excellent right now and we should be evolving. We need to evolve the process to be excellent. It's cyclical.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Yeah, I love that. They're like a guiding light. When you run into those issues, you go back to it and what do we need to do to meet them.

William Hearne O'Sullivan
Exactly. And the second someone says to me, we've been doing this way for a while. I said, that's fine. But we're a fast growing company. We constantly need to grow and to evolve and change the way we do business. So we need to learn, improve, repeat. So evolution is really at the core of everything that we do. And learning from what we've done in the past and adding it to the future has been a major mantra for me.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Yeah. It reminds me, as you talk about evolving. One of my other favorite quotes is, What got you here won't get you there.

William Hearne O'Sullivan
Oh, that's one of my two.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Yeah. You always have to be evolving because that plan that got you to this place needs to evolve if you're going to get where you want to go.

William Hearne O'Sullivan
It's funny that you say that because at the start of this fiscal year, that was the title of my company presentation. What got us here won't get us there. And we just need to constantly think about how we're going to do things better, how we're going to improve, build our team. And there's three core tenets to that. I find people, process, and technology. You got to constantly be having the best people in our team, building that team, using their knowledge. It's great that it exists up here, but it needs to be intrinsic in the business. That knowledge has to become a process. We need to document our playbooks, be they sales, be they operational, be they finance, HR. That knowledge from the people needs to go into the process. Then we need the tools and technology to support it. PPT, people process and Technology, they all need to align together for the business to grow.

Embracing the Changes in the Business

Tim Fitzpatrick
I love it. William, one of the things that I immediately connected with you on was the fact that you had worked with your dad. In the pre-interview, I told you I worked with my dad for over 10 years. It was an amazing experience. You worked with yours for about 14. How did that start? What was that like? And what did you enjoy most about the experience?

William Hearne O'Sullivan
Yeah, I'd say it started reluctantly. I didn't really want to get into the family business or my dad's business. In 2007, I graduated from my undergraduate degree in University College Cork in Ireland. And at the time, Seabrook was a very small company with, I think, maybe seven employees just implementing systems in Arlet. All our entire customer base was in Arlet. And even before I finished my final exams in college, my dad said, You know a lot about software development and server infrastructure and that stuff. That's what I had learned in college and what I've always been passionate about. I come from a technical background in that regard. He was like, Could you just come in and help me fix this one server that we're having an issue with? I thought it was going to be a day thing, and it turns out it was a couple of weeks project. And then I got to the end of the semester, end of my college education, undergraduate education, and I started to know the team there. I'm really good at problem-solving, so I would interact with the team that was there and help them solve customer problems. I spent that summer of 2007 getting to know our customers and the issues that they faced. I'd intended to go back and do a Masters, Masters in Information Systems, starting in fall 2007. But I met with the faculty at the university, and they said, You're probably going to learn more in one year working with your dad than you are from a master's degree. I said, Okay, fine. My dad needed the help at the time. I could start to see the value that I was adding to the business and to our clients. I agreed to do one year. Here we are, 16 years later. I started working with my dad at that time in 2007. Going into 2008, that's when things got difficult, right? And I think we went from seven employees to five employees. The purse strings really started to tighten for our clients in 2008 to 2009. At that point, I actually didn't have an option because no one was hiring. I couldn't leave my dad and his company. So I stuck with it. And I really got to learn a lot about survival in business, managing cash flow, managing your investments very wisely, managing the way that you motivate people in the darkest of times, the most difficult of times. And that recession lasted a couple of years, so I stayed there. But at that point, I moved from that support role into more of a consulting role with our clients. And I was spending a lot of time working with our customers in Ireland and the UK, traveling a bit to see them and do implementations. I started to love the manufacturing side of it. Coming out of college, I didn't know anything about manufacturing, but because our clients are all manufacturers, I got to do a deep dive into a lot of their manufacturing processes and really start to see the value of what we now call digital transformation. Back then, I think we just call it systems integration. But we just started to see how that can transform manufacturers, particularly our client base, which is medical device, biotech, pharma. They're highly regulated, but they use a lot of paper in manufacturing. If you saw it, you wouldn't believe it. So it's really tangible results. And I really started to love it. So I learned a lot from my dad about the business aspect of it and how to interact with clients and how to manage projects. And it was really a fantastic 14 years that we worked together.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Is he retired now?

William Hearne O'Sullivan
Yeah, he retired in 2019 and 2018.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Was that an interesting transition for you? What was that like?

William Hearne O'Sullivan
Yeah, interesting transition for all of us. Leave and go of a company that you built for the past 30 years, I think, was very challenging for my dad. He had just turned 70 and he'd been working at that point for, I think, 54 years. He started working in a factory when he was 16 years old. So transitioning out of the workforce after 54 years was very challenging for him. And he's the type of guy who got up early in the morning, showered, combed his hair, shaved, clean cut, put on a suit and tie. And he did that for 50 plus years. To stop doing that was a challenge for him. And he slowly but surely got into retired life. He's still sitting on our board of directors. But another reluctant part of the journey for me is I did not want to take over a CEO or running the company. We had a COO at the time who was planned to take over that CEO role. But unfortunately, he then decided it was not for him and moved on. So the board were left with the choice of either hiring externally or internally. And I ended up with the bag, unfortunately. At the time for me, I didn't feel I was ready for it. But what I learned from that is you're never ready. You just have to jump in and solve the problems as they come up.

Tim Fitzpatrick
It's interesting you say that, William, because as you say it, I'm thinking about a lot of people when they get married and they're thinking about having kids are like, Well, when we're ready, when we're at this place, we'll have kids, right? It's the same thing. No, you're never ready. You got to do it. And you learn, obviously, reluctantly, you stepped into it, but you figure it out. And here you are. And we're having a good conversation. So the only constant in life is change, right? And you're planning, hey, this person is going to succeed and then course of shift and you got to adjust. And it sounds like you adjusted quickly and embraced the change, which is, I don't know, I think it's the only way to do it.

William Hearne O'Sullivan
Absolutely. And I've certainly learned a lot, not just about business and about sales, marketing and operations and everything that goes into business, but about the mental toughness that it takes to just jump in and undertake a task that you don't feel like you're ready for. It's a new year now, and you get New Year's resolutions. You want to jump in and do these tasks. And there's always tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow. But today is the day. You have to just jump in and engage things with both arms.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Well, and it's not... You don't have to be in this role forever. I think if you want a self-sustaining company at some point, you step out of that CEO role or President role. One of my good friends owns a distribution company with multiple partners, and within the last year they finally made the choice to hire a CEO to run the company as a whole. They're still doing their things within the company, and they're on the board. But they've stepped out of that day to day management role. I think it was incredibly... It was difficult for them in the beginning, but it was freeing once they did it.

William Hearne O'Sullivan
Yeah. It goes back to that learning that we talked about at the start. It's difficult to hire people to have them tell you what to do. Bringing in experienced managers, I hired an entire C-suite this year. For the first time, we grew to a point where we could do that. And it's scary. I'm bringing in people far more experienced, far more knowledge than I have in their different subject matters. And it could be scary. Just letting go of the reins and just handing parts of the business off to other people.

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Hiring a Fractional CMO

Tim Fitzpatrick
Yeah. So let's shift gears a little bit, William, and let's talk about marketing. We got to talk about marketing because I'm a marketer. So, and I think you're in an interesting position because right now you've got a team of five to six marketers somewhere around there, right? So tell us a little bit about how your marketing has evolved, right? None of us start with five to six people, and I think a lot of us as business owners struggle to as we grow, what's the next step for me with marketing? Do I hire somebody in-house? Do I hire an agency? When do I bring on an executive? Walk us through that a little bit. How has your marketing changed over time and what does your team look like right now?

William Hearne O'Sullivan
Yeah. Like I mentioned earlier, we started in Ireland and were just focused on Ireland for many years. But in 2012, we expanded to the US. That's when I moved to the US a couple of years later in 2014. It's my 10th year here. But in order to facilitate that expansion, we had to move from what we now call account-based marketing, which is identifying company and identifying the personas within that company and start to develop a relationship with them, convince them of the value and move on from there. That's something that my dad was fantastic at, developing those relationships. That is something that's very difficult to do at scale. That is something that you need to be able to expand on and really grow. So we've gone from account-based marketing, which we started with our first marketing hire in 2012, to building out that entire team. This year we've hired a fractional CMO, and she's come in and she's really stacked our marketing channels, right? So we still do account-based marketing is very important part of it.

Tim Fitzpatrick
I was going to ask you that.

William Hearne O'Sullivan
Yeah. Especially in what we do in the business to business space or enterprise, it's still very important and will always be a key component. But we've stacked other marketing channels on top of that. We've got a web presence, search engine optimization. We've got paid advertising and paid media, search and display ads. We've got LinkedIn ads as well as social type of approach. Right. So really, each one of those disciplines these days is very focused, right? So we've had to hire in people who know those different disciplines, and we've had to, in some cases, bring in the SEO agency or a web design agency, or we've got a PR firm that we work with. And you're right what you say. It's very difficult to make that buy versus hire decision sometimes. But what I found to be found to be very effective is start with that fractional CMO who really knows the overall landscape and can advise you and it goes back to that adage, right? Hiring someone to tell you what to do. And she's been fantastic in doing that. And I know you do a lot of this type of work yourself. So coming in and understanding the lay of the land and advising us have been very valuable for us.

Tim Fitzpatrick
I want to break out a couple of things because there's some great stuff in there. One, you're expanding your marketing channel. You've expanded your marketing channels. You didn't stop doing what you were doing, right? Sometimes with information overload that's associated with marketing, we get so excited about new tactics that we stopped doing what was working. And so you've kept that foundation of, hey, this is still important for us for account-based marketing is something we need to do, but we need to take more of an omnichannel approach and generate leads from multiple marketing channels. And so you looked at SEO, you're doing paid ads, you're doing paid social. But you said, hey, look, each of these is its own discipline, and you're a hundred % right. And it is so easy for most people to overlook that that marketing is so broad at this point. You cannot hire one person. I see a lot of people go, Oh, yeah, I'm going to hire a Marketing Manager. And they expect that Marketing Manager to be a unicorn. I can tell when I see the job ads, job ad for a Marketing Manager, it's a laundry list of stuff, and it's like, This is completely unrealistic. It is never going to happen. And so thank you for bringing that up because you said, Hey, this is what we're going to do. This is one of the marketing vehicles we're going to use. We need to hire somebody, whether it's internal or outsourced. Who knows this? Who's going to get it done for us? But your fractional CMO is the one that's putting that strategy and that plan together and then coordinating all these moving pieces, right?

William Hearne O'Sullivan
Exactly correct. Yeah. I think it goes back to that saying, what got us here won't get us there, right? Yeah. But a lot of what got us here we need to keep. So we did great with the someplace marketing for many years. We need to keep doing that. We need to do more to get us there to the next point. And that's where we brought in the SEO, PPC, content marketing. We've got freelance copywriters that we needed to hire web developers, etc. So there's a whole different set of skills in the modern day of marketing.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Yeah. But you need that quarterback or that coach who's bringing it all together, and that's your fractional CMO, right? But I think, look, there are a lot of businesses that aren't ready to hire a fractional CMO. Most fractional CMOs are five, 10 grand a month or more. I think there is also a stepping stone there, too, that people overlook or they just don't think about. Because prior to hiring your CMO, were you the one that was driving marketing?

William Hearne O'Sullivan
No, we had a Marketing Manager, but I made that exact same mistake that you just talked about. I thought the Marketing Manager could be the person who runs the webinars, writes all the content, all the blogs, manages the website, manages PPC, manages SEO, and does all the account based marketing. Completely unrealistic expectation.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Yeah. Oftentimes, when you bring in a Marketing Manager or you hire an external agency, you're still the one as the owner managing those people. And it's really challenging to manage people when they're doing something that's not your core skill set, right? And so I think there are ways around that where I think you can bring in a marketing consultant that's more strategic to help guide you until you're ready to hire a fractional CMO, right? Because where consultants can help with that stuff is they can help you avoid the common missteps that you don't see, right? Or, hey, I've hired an agency. What do I need to do to hold them accountable? How do I hold them accountable? What questions do I ask them? Somebody that's working with you from a strategic standpoint with your marketing can help you with that? And you don't have to hire a fractional CMO if you're not ready to do that. I think it's important for people to just realize there are stepping stones to get there. And even if you're not-

William Hearne O'Sullivan
We had actually... Sorry to interrupt you. We had actually followed that step previously. A couple of years back, we brought in a marketing consultant to look at what our next steps and our strategy should be. It's different from a fractional CMO in that he came in and said, Look, in order to grow your marketing, these are the steps you need to take. These are the initiatives and things you need to invest in. Here you go. Okay, great. But now we actually need to go and execute all of those things. The difference with a fractional CMO is it's managing that execution.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Yes, it's managing it. Yeah, that's right. So what we do is we have a... So you had somebody that come in to put together the initial strategy. Now you've got a CMO who's actually either updated the strategy or taking the strategy and they're implementing it. They're... They're overseeing the implementation and execution of it. We have what we call an advocate on call program where we've already put together the strategy and the plan, but then we stay involved and it's almost like an executive looking over your shoulder as you do the work. We're not managing people, but we're guiding you through the process and helping you so that as you implement, you have questions. Well, that executive level strategic person is there guiding you saying, Here's the next thing you need to do, or, Here's some resources to push through this. It's almost like an intermediary step. Because without that, what I see happen is people make common and avoidable mistakes that cost time and money that you don't need to do.

William Hearne O'Sullivan
Yeah, it's great. I didn't know you guys have that service, but that would definitely have been useful for us a couple of years ago when we brought in a marketing consultant and they gave us back a plan. But we weren't held accountable to that plan. And having that level of accountability with a coach looking over our or an advocate, that would have been great at that point in time. I think that's the step before a fractional CMO.

Adopting a Sales Playbook-driven Approach

Tim Fitzpatrick
Yes, it absolutely is. It's the next baby step. Thank you for sharing that, William. One of the things we had also talked about in the pre-interview was your sales approach. And initially, you had mentioned, hey, it's very bespoke to a specific account. Right. It's custom. And you've now adopted this sales playbook-driven approach. Tell us how that works, right? Because in professional services, and I don't know, I may be wrong, but I think it's really difficult to have a set, This is exactly what we do. There still needs to be latitude in the sales process. How are you guys approaching things with this playbook?

William Hearne O'Sullivan
Yeah, you're right. We had a very much bespoke approach to each individual account, and that was great. But that, again, is something that's very difficult to do at scale. So we've taken the approach of taking all of that knowledge that we've developed over the years and building it into a sales playbook. Each part of the customer journey we have mapped. It starts with our initial engagement, which is typically through our marketing, where they're developing a lead through the funnels and channels that we talked about earlier, and then becomes a qualified lead, marketing qualified lead. Once it's a marketing qualified lead, there's a qualification framework that we use that qualifies whether the timing is right for this opportunity, whether they've got budget, whether we have access to the correct decision makers. The qualification framework we use is called MEDIC. I'm not sure you're familiar with it, but it stands for Metrics, Evaluation, Decision Criteria, Identified Pain, and a Champion.

Tim Fitzpatrick
I love that. So you guys basically... This playbook, it's your sales process, for lack of a better term. But you've mapped that sales process to the customer journey and the steps that they're taking once they enter the sales process. And within each of those steps, you've outlined recommendations or things that need to happen within that particular step to get them to go continue to move through the customer journey.

William Hearne O'Sullivan
Is that right? Yes, exactly. With each phase, there are different steps. It's like a subway map that you see the different stops along the way. And sometimes we have an express train that's going straight into the negotiation of price. Others, it's a slow train that breaks down a little bit along the way. But typically, we follow a process where we get the lead, we qualify it, then we need to bring it through this process. We'll do a demo, then a custom demo, maybe if we really want to get into a larger enterprise sale, then we'll start to propose pricing, negotiate pricing. Along each one of those steps, there are different tools and techniques that we use. So producing a business case, for example, objection handling, contract reviews. Each step along the process has its own templates and tools that we can reuse. So we're not reinventing the wheel every single time.

Tim Fitzpatrick
So you guys have support documents, materials, resources that your sales team can use throughout these various steps. The process is outlined, but they have latitude to do what they need to do within these guidelines.

William Hearne O'Sullivan
Exactly. Right. So if the salesperson is following the process and the next identified step is we're going to do a demo for them, and then we'll identify the economic buyer and make sure that they see the value of the software. If that's the next identified step and the customer says, Oh, no, we want to skip that step and we just want to cut you an order and buy immediately, we're not going to make them go through that process.

Tim Fitzpatrick
No, you've got to go through these next four steps first. Yeah, I love that. How long ago did you guys put that playbook in place?

William Hearne O'Sullivan
Just this past year, 2023. So it's been relatively new for us.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Have you noticed any tangible differences in doing it, even though it's so new?

William Hearne O'Sullivan
It's a lot more efficient. We used to have calls about every single account. What are we going to do next? Who do we need to talk to? Et cetera, et cetera. But now it's all mapped out, so it's clear what to do next. So we have a lot of less time wasted, really, because we know exactly what we want to do.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Do you think it's giving your salespeople some more clarity and confidence as well?

William Hearne O'Sullivan
Yes, absolutely. They know what questions to ask, when to ask them, what the potential objections are going to be, and how to handle those objections. We have a bank of specific questions that we're going to ask, everything from business reasons to more technical questions. So it gives the sales folks a lot more confidence and clarity in what they're doing.

Conclusion

Tim Fitzpatrick
Yeah. Since you joined the company, what would you say has been the biggest driver of your growth? We've talked about a lot of really great things that you guys have done as you've evolved. If you had to choose one thing, what would you say it is?

William Hearne O'Sullivan
Yeah, I think really focusing on the next evolution, right? So for us, that was the adoption of the cloud and software as a service, a traditional manufacturing software on premise was a big capital investment. The big driver that we've had is more towards software as a service. So it makes it, firstly, easier to deploy and implement. But secondly, on the business side, it makes it easier to approve. No longer are customers asking for a million dollar capital expenditure. They're asking for 20K a month to build in their operational expenditure. They can immediately see the return on investment in their manufacturing operations because the efficiency is apparent on the profit and loss statement. So the return on investment is much more visible and the time to value is much quicker. I think for us, that's been the biggest transformation.

Tim Fitzpatrick
I love that. Time to value. That is something so many people overlook. The faster we can get people value with engaging with us, the better off we're going to be.

William Hearne O'Sullivan
Yeah. It's actually a critical metric that we started tracking in this past year. The time to value TTV is really one of our critical metrics for our customer success team.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Yeah, that's awesome. This has been great, William. I really appreciate you taking the time. I want to ask you one more question, which is knowing what you know now. Is there anything you do differently?

William Hearne O'Sullivan
There's a lot of things I would do differently. But the main thing would be identifying those blind spots, knowing what you don't know. There's a lot that I didn't know three, four years ago when I took over a CEO. I wish I had hired sooner. I wish I had invested in marketing consultancy, fractional CMO sooner. And we still grown. We've doubled in size in three years. We've had a 25 % annual growth rate. And we'll continue again into the future. But had I invested in more solid processes for particularly sales and marketing, as well as our customer success and really taking that knowledge from up here and putting it down onto the system and into our processes and building playbooks, that would be that we would have accelerated our growth far faster.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Yeah. Awesome. William, where can people learn more about you?

William Hearne O'Sullivan
You can go to my LinkedIn. I think we're going to put the link here in the show notes. And you can also go to Seabrook's website, which is seabrookglobal.com.

Tim Fitzpatrick
Cool. Seabrookglobal.com. And then, William Hearne O'Sullivan on LinkedIn. Search for him. I'm sure it will come up, but we will make sure those are in the show notes as well. William, thank you so much for taking the time, fantastic interview. And I appreciate you sharing what you've learned along the journey. So I know people are going to get a ton of value from it. Those of you that are watching, listening, appreciate you doing so. If you want to connect with us, you can do it over at rialtomarketing.com. The other resource we have for you is over at RevenueRoadblockScorecard.com. These revenue acceleration series interviews focus on a lot of the common roadblocks people have in growing their business. At RevenueroadblockScorecard.com, we evaluate you on the nine common Revenue roadblocks that exist with marketing, and you can identify which ones are slowing down your growth in less than five minutes. So go check it out. Thank you again. Until next time. Take care.


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