VOGSY is fortunate to interact with leaders and influencers involved in a range of professional services organizations (PSO). The PSO Knowledge Expert Series brings you their thoughts on the topics that matter most.
For this edition, we spoke with Leslie Camacho, our new vice president of customer success. From senior consulting work with service-based businesses to leadership positions at software companies, Leslie has helped organizations improve operations and team utilization, as well as increase financial oversight.
He’s done so with a particular focus on making sure customers are happy using “his” tools.
MVL: You may be new to the VOGSY team but you have a long, impressive history of leading customer success teams. When did you get your start?
LC: I’ve always had an entrepreneurial bent that revolved around making customers happy. My earliest memory goes back to the third grade when some friends and I discovered we could take our G.I. Joes apart and reassemble them in new ways, creating custom action figures to sell at school.
We’d write back stories on the characters, come up with game scenarios for the playground. It wasn’t just about selling. We wanted to play our own way – for the toys to be used and our classmates to be happy. I was the one the other kids usually discussed their ideas with, so I became a facilitator, and to some extent it’s a trait that’s given me a career.
MVL: That’s pretty enterprising and ethical for grade school.
LC: As the son of a teacher and pastor, there was a lot of talk about morals, and finances were tight. If I wanted something like a video game, I had to earn the money, so that introduced me to the power of incentives, too.
I was fortunate to have a lot of great influences. When I went to college, the Dean of the School of Business took me and some friends under his wing. He was a self-made success and his way of “giving back” was teaching. He was also a technologist and angel investor, so he turned us into a team that would learn by assisting him. I helped develop 70-80 business plans, attended countless investor pitch meetings – I had a front row seat to it all.
And I did it in a $50 suit from Walmart, not bad, huh?
That experience gave me strong career direction. I realized I’d have to be passionate about what I did or I’d lose interest. I also discovered the internet and found I enjoyed tech, particularly bootstrapped companies. I liked the idea of building companies through hands-on work, and of course, satisfied customers. You can grow fast when you’ve got serious financial backing, but sometimes customer service becomes secondary, something you worry about after the fact.
I need satisfied customers – to see them succeed. I don’t think I’d be able to do business any other way. Actually, it’s that ability to help companies help themselves is what attracted me to VOGSY.
MVL: So you still need the toys you offer to make people happy?
LC: I suppose so – that’s my passion. Right after EllisLabs’ introduced its weblog software, pMachine Pro, I saw how I could help customers publish, so I buried myself in it and became an evangelist. I started my own freelance pMachine services company in 2002, which led to a 300+ agency network devoted to other EllisLabs products like CodeIgniter and ExpressionEngine.
EllisLabs brought me on as vice president, and seven years later, I had risen to CEO. We went from a few thousand dollars a month to a multimillion-dollar valuation. Still, I was proudest that this was driven by happy customers who formed a really engaged, supportive community.
MVL: So how does your experience line up with PSOs?
LC: I’ve been a senior level consultant for more than 25 years – I’m a professional services provider myself. My clients have all been service companies, in fact, I’d guess 90 percent of them were strictly PSOs. I’ve had a lot of experience with these leaders and respect that “build my own” spirit.
For example, in the content management systems (CMS) space, I put together the first partner networks for ExpressionEngine and Craft CMS. Each involved hundreds of different creative marketing agencies and ensuring their customers were not only happy with implementation, but successful using the software, too.
That’s also what has me jazzed about this position. VOGSY just doesn’t just sign you up, hand over the keys and disappear. I’m tasked with making sure PSO leaders use these tools, and because I’ve been there myself and know the technology, I can help guide them to where they want to go.
MVL: So what are some of the biggest pain points for PSOs?
LC: The biggest single problem is losing money on projects because of a lack of visibility. Further, if you don’t have real-time key performance indicators (KPIs) – and an ability to compare these to past metrics – you’re going to stagnate. When a company adopts a new platform, it’s often because they’ve plateaued, and they need a higher level view to take it to the next level.
Professional services automation (PSA) is a good example to use because the path to greater success is in understanding your data to make better decisions. When you do have these data points, even just one, you can begin to go places. For instance, consider project margin revenue. If you’ve got that, there are five to 10 really important metrics a business leader can harvest.
From that, you’ve got insight into utilization, because in order to get your revenue per project, you have to keep track of timesheets. Then, you can compare planned hours to actual revenue. Next, you can start categorizing revenue and now you have lines of service. So, if you’re a marketing agency, you can understand if design or branding development generates more profit.
That leads to greater capacity planning, forecasting of resources, identifying and implementing best practices – you begin to unlock so much and the value of your data snowballs from there.
Still, bringing in a new platform, even PSA, won’t matter if a company doesn’t make a cultural shift. Leaders need to use the tools and so do their employees. The magic is in freeing this data and knowing how to apply it to your situation and vision.
That actually leads to one of the things I appreciate most about VOGSY. It was designed with G Suite simplicity in mind. It’s easy and familiar, so right off the bat, it can bring a company together because everyone can use it. Software that aims to produce business outcomes often miss that point. You need to meet people where they are, then educate them on how to get the results they need.
VOGSY’s success as a company really depends upon the success of its customers.
MVL: OK, final question. A personal one. You describe yourself as a nerd, why?
LC: I’m nerd enough to know there’s no single, agreed-upon definition. I think nerd has become an endearing term for many people. Leave it to geeks to change an insult to a compliment. To me, it speaks about acceptance, respect for knowledge, with a huge dose of passion and ability thrown in.
My grandmother was a nerd. She may have had no interest in making custom action figures, but she knew gardening inside and out. At its core, being a nerd just means you love something deeply, can do a deep dive on it, and are ready to share that knowledge with anyone who is willing to listen.
And I always listened to my grandmother.
Mark van Leeuwen is the CEO of VOGSY, the Google business software pioneers. Mark has held leading roles in software and service businesses on all continents and led growth in uncharted territories for 20 years. He’s also a stickler for simplicity and transparency and doing more with less.