Just say Yes! – Anupam Satyasheel of Occams Advisory

Anupam Satyasheel, CEO of Occams Advisory

Anupam Satyasheel, CEO of Occams Advisory, grew his company’s revenue from $410K in 2014 to $5.1m in 2017, a 1,154% increase, and now they are on track to hit $7m to $8m this year.

Occams Advisory provides advisory services helps small and mid-sized businesses compete, grow and avoid pitfalls.

In this interview with Eversprint‘s Malcolm Lui, Anupam shares how he and his team accelerated their high value sales by:

  • Almost always saying Yes! when a client asks for their help, even if it’s a service they currently don’t offer.  
  • Dropping everything when a client is unhappy to make it right as quickly as possible.  
  • Developing a platform to provide expertise on demand.  

Occams Advisory Interview - (computer generated transcript)

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Malcolm Lui here. Welcome to Eversprint.com. Today we're speaking with Anupam Satyasheel, the CEO of Occams Advisory, a fast growing company whose advisory services help small and midsize businesses compete, grow and avoid pitfalls. We'll be discussing how he grew his company's revenue from $410,000 in 2014 to $5.1 million in 2017, 1,154% increase and how they are on track to hit $7m to $8m this year. Welcome to the call Anupam.

Thank you Malcolm. It's pleasure.

So Anupam how did you do it? How did you grow your company sales so fast?

I wish I had the capsule which they can give to everybody who is listening. It is old fashioned. So you go work towards it. When you falter, fix it and keep going.

Okay. Is your growth primarily from acquiring new customers or were you able to increase the amount of business you're doing with your existing customers or clients. Was was growth coming from acquiring new clients or from getting more business from your existing clients.

We are very proud to say that in seven years of being in business we have almost never lost a client. So that be logical to conclude that most of our revenue actually comes from British business. We would estimate this to be about 70 percent repeat and 30 percent new revenue would last year

Can you share how you're able to get the repeat business

I love the question. I love this question every single time. Kim's advisory was built with the mission to provide onestop service to our clients. We have stressed ourselves in several ways few people on be one stop shop getting into areas which really were not our core competency. But we have become good enough at those areas like marketing or SC old to continue to serve our customers under one brand because we are so committed to not lose a client when we need something additional. We are able to continue to have them. The reasons people have customers are Klans leave them is because either need a service which they can provide or the quality of our service has been good enough or any other combination of those. We lose some customers whenever we have to either ignore it which completely made them unfit for us or us unfit for them or if it has been a situation where they went out of business. I think what happened once the gun company left us as we continue to be thriving and to be overseas. So you have to do to pastu our success. One is to be willing to stretch ourselves to provide all the services that we are customers like it and second of course is to continue to ensure that we are customer obsessed to get them everything which they can possibly ask for. And a the standard which we really got used to

Now knows how you refer to your clients as customers in your mind. How does a customer differ from a client.

That I would say could be a trick question again not Netrek question but somehow I relate to the word customer and maybe it's not real. I do my mind is more like a B2C environment. Client is more like something which I think of a business which we're dealing with. That being said I really am not fully sure if a distinction is something we make on a daily basis. We use these words interchangeably within our company.

Ok. In regards to your new revenue 30 percent new revenue new clients how are you finding them. How are you finding your new customers.

In the history of our company we have not gotten no customer by spending money and marketing dollars on revenues have come from customers knew or maybe will be acquired through either word of mouth or my network. We are extremely good in terms of getting our existing clients to offer new plans to us. So our account and our CPA is our attorney is our existing clients. They've been very kind about reffing plans to us and I do think that the word of my recommendation even though sometimes called Old-Fashioned is a phenomenal way of getting customers. So clients who really really understand who we are what we can do for them and work with us for the long term

Right now do you have any programs in place to encourage referrals and recommendations.

We have a financial incentive we offer to people who are known to us who to first client. But I would say that that almost never happened the reason why people refer to clients actually they have left clients because they have liked the work we did for them.

Okay so no formal program where you might be reaching out to your partners or your vendors your lawyers and accountants and say and say you know would you like to do a joint marketing program to reach to cross each other services. Nothing like that.

No we have discussed that in full sincerity but we haven't really implemented that as yet.

Right. All of the growth you've been seeing it doesn't seem like you need to do it as of yet.

We do. We do Warley

When do you think you're going to need to start spending on marketing to continue your growth rate of your business.

We have spent money on marketing in terms of trying to build the brand. It's not a lot but I think in 2017 we spend close to fifteen thousand dollars maybe a little more 25 maybe on our social media presence on our Web sites or trying to create content which we can use for our brochures and Email Templates and things like that.

Ok.

In terms of spending money on marketing to get new clients I would believe that this should be something we already should be doing. We have explored various options and most likely beginning first quarter of next year we'll be using probably closer to 2 or 25 percent of our revenue in marketing dollars. Trying to get new clients

Right. Any thoughts ideas as to how you spend your marketing dollars next year.

Are in dog thinking has been about creating content with the can share with our potential plans on free basis as they get convinced that we really know the space and we can provide the service the need when the right time comes. I'm sure they will talk to us. To one we keep creating content keep sending this out to people who really care about those things and then gently ask someone dying. Hello can I help you with us.

Right will you be generating the content in-house on your own or will you be outsourcing that

We will be doing it in-house. We already have been doing it in-house. We'll continue using.

Right. What about finding the potential clients in delivering the content to them. What's your plan for that would just be organic traffic that you'd be looking to to get that to to share the content to those who come and find your website to be searches or are you looking to do some paid traffic to have them come to your Web site. What's what's the plan there.

We have spoken to several data vendors who can provide us locked in needs of decision makers in our target companies which tend to be some 10 million dollar revenue onwards till a billion dollars. That approach has been limited to finding the source of data we haven't taught as far as to really how we will ask them business. We simply want to have a large list of people that we can send information to. It's I believe that if people know who we are and they write the content we create the chance that they will ask us when the time comes.

Sure. OK. On a pump you talked about getting a lot of repeat business from your clients and sometimes they might offer or need a service which your company doesn't provide. So what do you do at that point. Do you build the expertise in-house and provide the service to the client or do you outsource it.

So our first line of thinking all of this is if they can do it ourselves. At the same time for us to do it it has to be repeatable. So to give an example two years ago we got into having in-house graphic designers and reps and builders. We have been able to replicate that over and over again for our clients when they know that we do this. They typically have taken us as their new vendor or replacement vendor. Now if we get a request we believe that we cannot build a sustainable practice then we will look for the best possible vendor for them and depending on the clients preference either facilitate the work by being an intermediary or simply let them connect with the vendors that we found. We have a list of shortlisted list of service providers that we typically take clients to for what easily is at least 20 percent price break. And our objective in that regard is to be able to give our client a really good service and a really good price. And second half that margin for us to let the value add by involvement. So

Has there ever been a case when the client needed something and you just simply said no no no well not no outright but declined and said and say you know that's not something we can help you with. If yes where is that line. Is it simply the case where it's expertise that would be too specific to that. KLEIN It could never be used anywhere else. Or are there other areas that that you that you that your company won't go into service wise.

The answer is metic McKenny yes it has happened one of my clients wanted to invest in crypto currencies and we have an asset advisory side to our business under our local umbrella. Our belief as an organization has been that cryptocurrency currency investment is an untested area. And I don't feel comfortable in telling any of my clients to bring their money in any group the currency Bitcoin quite. So I. Two or four different decisions. I try to impress upon him that you know Warren Buffett also said he does not know this and hence he won't put his money here. Why do you want to put your money here now. Again it would not sound directional. It's a view that we don't know enough to ask him to put money in EVC currency so long and short eventually I had to say sorry we cannot provide you any guidance on this on which currency it would end if I don't say that I stand as an advisor and not with in cryptocurrency it's an unproven asset plus answer was No. Yes.

So what did your client do in that case that they take your advice and no longer pursue crypto currencies or that they find an alternate provider to help them with it.

These two people have decided to stay out of the market. The third person actually went and bought some bit went on his own and had a very good return for the first few months before it crashed and then he was missing. You're right. I said No we never said don't invest. We simply said we don't know enough to invest. If you to a bad mistake it so I didn't think the for the guidance because we're not saying that you should not be simply saying we don't know enough to invest. No

So when you're working with their clients and and you mentioned earlier how getting in repeat business is one of the core growth drivers for your company. Can you explain your process for learning what gaps they may have and and and how you're able to deliver them deliver the solution.

Vision could degrade for being that important in our clan service process. Unfortunately we have not. I'm painfully aware that there are gaps in our planned delivery as well as our hope no repeat service model which can be improved. We haven't built the metrics around that. That's one area. And for that matter over all across the business we attract many more things than we tracking rate now. So that's an area of improvement for us. I'm aware. Obviously it's a question of transition. That being said where we all really is when Atlantes lean ever then we actually drop everything else and make sure that we're really happy. So from that to happen we take them as quickly as we can. So at least understand that their unhappiness magots walk to us it doesn't happen very often but when it happens we absolutely absolute drop everything to make them happen. Now that

Can

Is not

You

The best model sorry just a company that sent us some of the best model ones should be able to actively anticipate what somebody can not like and prevent them from being unhappy. But it happens two or three times in a year and we deal with them using

Keiki sharing example with one of your customers when your clients being unhappy about something and how long it took for your team to resolve it and bring their happiness back.

Yes. So we had a client we have the plan a very happy client who was not getting his reports on time. So we have a monthly reporting process through which we tell them how things work which you got to the area we're helping them with and it was both the quality of the reporting and the timing of the report was coming the 20th of the next month while he wanted this before and and it was not as intuitive and easy to work with as we write ourselves in. So there wasn't there when he stopped the weekly meeting and said look we're happy to my report before the end and it has to be something which is improved. So that day I said sorry to him very specifically I took Antal on that one the next three hours. That report myself sent to him when that for the action of his. And then the bid was used. This is not what I'd like to do. I like to people to do what they do with the team to keep delivering what they deliver and improve that work. This was an exception where I really felt that I had failed a leader and I had no choice but drop everything and do this. Otherwise the mostly will. So this was an extraordinary measure taken for a very special client. But the big lead will be go back to a team have analyzed what's not happening right. We know that the more we make sure that things can happen the way they should have.

Right. So you mentioned to me before about your revenue targets forward for this coming year you're looking for seven to eight million dollars this year. That's a pretty big increase from 5.1 million last year. Did you do anything different to get this growth or is it again coming from just more repeat business from your clients.

So it's a bit of an answer which you might not expect but for transparency I must share with you. 2017 was probably the worst year in the history of ICOM. We got into too many things too quickly. We hired too many people had seen their positions. We didn't enough spend enough time in either understanding if their aspirations and philosophy were aligned to our organization as they need to be for someone to be number two or three in a practice. And that led to a lot of revenue lost none of last overall. We didn't have a good ear in terms of what we were trying to do our target for 2017 was 10 million dollars. So we had five who were really a disaster. That being said we learn from our mistakes. Like any organization should we fix our pieces we let some people go. We cut out some business lines. We became more focused on our core competencies and that's why to be gold. If you had asked me in 2016 I would've said 22 70 will be about 25 million dollars. So an 8. We are far behind our crazy targets. That's full confession.

Right. OK. So pretty good. You know it's a case of you know aiming for the stars and landing on the moon right. It's still a good result.

That's true.

So what's your outlook for for your industry. How's it looking overall.

So we didn't spend time on defining per se what industry is we are primarily an advisory shop. But within that we have built significant diversification so we have three major tranches of what we do. One is what we call Ockham advisory which is a combination of our amany and their consulting business. The second tranche is a commonwealth which deals with asset advisory in terms of where people had massed in terms of tax advisory what planning and managing as well as we give guidance on insurance. Decisions for individuals and businesses. The third vertical that we are in is we got outcomes money but that's got to do with the financing needs of companies including merchant options and other payment processing options. Now in 2019 we plan to split up Kim's advisory into Uphams capital which will be investment banking business and advisory into the consulting business. That's a strategic objective or a roadmap that we already have defined. Now from where we see our industry is an actual services and I know some point you might ask my ultimate dream is to be able to build a one stop shop model for a new middle market companies to come to us for all that financial services needs. I'm not a big fan of brokerage or retail banking but otherwise for all the value added financial services that people and businesses see you like to be a provider at a very very large scale. So that being the case the outlook for the industry should be always good. When things are great people want to invest in things that make people want to cut losses. So if we are a full cycle and full circle advisor then hopefully the outlook although the good I'm not immune to cycles like we had had the longest bull run as of last week in the history of America. To some that things are going to get out. That being said we really have to look at what we can do for our clients and not worry about advantage

Right. Are there any factors at play that might be disrupting the advisory market.

So I can think of a couple. There have been lots of progress in artificial intelligence arena. Now we obviously are just scratching the surface if at all what it can do for people. But if somebody were to be bold enough to attract businesses as to what to do and have pre-programmed inputs where they're tripping and in order cost mechanism then obviously our expertise might get challenged. The other area where this can happen is that there have been platforms both and we are we have been working on building one of our own. When you can have expertise undermined so in terms of as if it's like you know you can simply go to site X or Y or Z and speak to somebody on one area for a few minutes a few hours and work with that model. Now the second one is actually the extension of what do I call the deception because people will start thinking off advisory business that are national business. It never can be advisory business has to be a relationship based business. So yea and people trying to make a connection are the two factors. And what are you about in terms of disrupting this in the negative sense not in the positive reception since

Ok. For your competitors who what are your best competitors doing really well in your opinion and what are they doing really poorly.

So one thing which I learned very well even before is started my business is that competition is from many sources we can imagine there is strong because we do so many different things. We obviously compete against many different companies was much larger much smaller than we are the people who are doing it. BELL I think in terms of cheap box in terms of how they come across to the world they come across as very well-defined service offering. The reason why we have been moving to nuclear sites and branding efforts is to essentially land well with a prospective audience. So how they receive as a brand value that's one thing we do very well. The second rule very well is in terms of the plan into action. So from a time you make the first inquiry you actually have somebody in an active plant who has a problem and troubleshoot to that process. It has to be a predictable process of seeking services getting service being charged for it and all those things. So the second point I'm making is about having a predictable service model to which people know what they are getting into and what to expect what not least we can do much better than we are not doing right now. Likewise in terms of branding we can do much better. The third part obviously is in terms of the internal processes when companies are growing. The focus is on revenue and go go go. But unless you bend down processes to scale it will someday have either promise or collapse. So those are three things which I believe Harper competition is doing very very well. So who are branding themselves. B how predictable the service model is and see how robust and done businesses businesses are in Dallas and in the whole management internally is you don't have assets they could be any matter they should be highly scalable. Two things we can do better.

Can you share a little bit about what internal processes that you have at Occams Advisory that allows you to scale

So we divide our and done well into strategy into each other as we got human capital into finance into operations into knowledge management knowledge management which is not a typical area of what people focus on. Last minute technology so we didn't. We have tried to have things defined documented and delivered to everybody dissipates in the process so people can access it as and when required. That being said we had to several times innovate to get better handle. But in terms of the operating mechanism we hyper focus on documenting what we do how we do it so that if things not happen what expectations the employee also understands that I was suppose to do it and not be unclear the expectations of what is good is the biggest reason why companies are not able to scale up in infrastructure. So when we try to define what good is in writing 70 people in writing so they actually can just follow that for baseline if they want to improve and innovate from that. More power to them but they definitely must come as good as what the baseline is so long it's a very short question but essentially document our desired workflow and share with people while thinking that what happens if we have you know a 200 percent growth each month or next two years how would we handle that. So we have again it's different for each other in finance and things like that but we have tried to build structures at what number an next employee get hired. So if there's one word they can use automation. So if I could predict that like you know for each area we try to predict that if we have so much business we need so many employees. If this happens and this person is promoted. So people know what they're playing for and the team knows as to when to say okay you know what we are eating here we go hide or we need to train or we need to do something else. So automate document share the feedback to be

Right. You mentioned before one of the key process is documentation sharing information making sure expectations are set. I took a look at your profile your your ink 5000 profile says that you have nine employees and take a look at the employees that I can find on your linked in at your company see that they're scattered throughout the nation. So are your nine employees remote workers working throughout the United States or the world. And if yes you know what was her thoughts be behind having a local team a team local to you in your offices as opposed to having them throughout the world.

So that number obviously is against can misleading for a simple reason that ink magazine requires us to declare the employees we are independence as the employees. On the day of application within the corporate entity which is participating. So it comes out about the benefits from the revenue stream of the entire group. It doesn't have them like under in that group because legally the only plan we employed and people on that and the like we have more than 20 employees in the U.S.. Majority of them are in the Maryland Office in Baltimore where I work from. And the rest are client facing those across the country. It's not a model which we really like to have said. We would much rather have people in one office where everybody can freely interact. But this is more a commentary on how we have evolved than how we want to be loved. So like 150 employees in India some of them have a new profile. And we also have multiple corporate entities that so show up on LinkedIn and then two of them to develop employee. So as long as that short question but we would like to have a single office who would like to have a of culture and communication. But in this growth stage we'll have to work with what it takes to get that

Ok one last question for you Pam or two last questions. I know your company works with small and medium sized businesses. What's your definition of small and medium sized businesses and so the first question and the second one is for the listeners out there of this interview who do have small and medium sized businesses can best contact you.

Through our Renford blindsides revenue 10 million dollars to we said billion. But we almost have no plans with more than half a billion. Our largest land is actually under half a billion. We had a client who was less than a billion. More than 500. So that's what we got. Everybody finds them in different ways. But again that's not technically correct. What I mean is that they are sliding something like 5 million to 250 then 250 to a billion. All those things we look at ten to five million as a sweet spot. We absolutely welcome all inbound inquiries. The best way to reach out to us is to email us from our website which is info at Hakims advisee not gone. You are welcome to directly emailing of them to Regidor arm. I get up EMA's personally based on various media release order on listings where my email was given out. But that process is slower than if it goes to info which is read by multiple people. So it has had on in many ways are welcome. We are mostly very capable in areas of service industry so any service company. We're much more able to help than companies are in manufacturing or the other heavy industry. One last one is that we are we work with several international companies but we do not work with any company which is in any way on that list or any of those questionable list. Otherwise we were happy to explore opportunities to work with any company anywhere.

Okay great. Thanks so much for joining us today on a palm and sharing how you grew your company so fast.

Thank you.

We've been speaking with Anupam Satyasheel, the CEO of Occams Advisory, about his company's rapid growth. For interviews with other fast growing companies or to learn how we can increase your firm's high ticket sales through automation, visit eversprint.com.

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