Protecting the Lifeblood of Business – Greg Samuels of Solvaria

Greg Samuels, CEO of Solvaria

Greg Samuels, the CEO of Solvaria, grew his company’s revenue from $2.3 million in 2014 to $3.7 million in 2017, a 63% increase, and to around $4 million in 2018.  

Solvaria is a consulting firm that leverages technology experts to support the the data and the people of their clients.  

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

  • Hiring additional senior database administrators in excess of their near-term needs, which in turn allowed their sales team to successfully go after larger clients.  
  • Productizing their database management process so that it can be applied on different technology platforms, and become a point of differentiation.  
  • Benefiting from cloud computing and remote access, which has resulted in lower costs and better service for both their clients.  

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Malcolm Lui:
Welcome to the High Value Sales Show of Eversprint.com. I'm Malcolm Lui, the Managing Member of Eversprint, and today we're speaking with Greg Samuels, the CEO of Solvaria, a consulting firm that leverages technology experts to support the the data and the people of their clients. Welcome to the show Greg.

Greg Samuels:
Thanks Malcolm

Malcolm Lui:
Greg, you grew your company's revenue from $2.3 million in 2014 to $3.7 million in 2017, a 63% increase, and in 2018 you hit around $4 million. Before we talk about how you grew your company so fast, can you briefly share what your company does beyond my quick intro, and how your company differs from the competition?

Greg Samuels:
Sure. Solve area. Founded in 1997. We're really divided into two sides of the house. One side is the strategic leadership division where we serve as I.T. leaders for other organizations. So we serve as that senior most person accountable on the executive team. So we serve as chief information officers and chief technology officers for other companies on a fractional basis. The other side of my firm is the data services division where we provide 24/7 monitoring maintenance and troubleshooting of customers database environments. As you know Malcolm almost every piece of software in the marketplace has some database behind the scenes and those databases require maintenance and they require a specific set of skills known as a database administrator we serve as the database administrator for other companies. So both both sides are very similar in that we we play a key role in the business for other companies and play a key role in technology but very different in terms of the skill sets that I hire that I use.

Malcolm Lui:
Now in terms of database management database administration. Can you give a idea as to the size scale magnitude use of these databases that you're managing and administer and administering

Greg Samuels:
Sure sure. So we serve. We have one company where we serve seven of the locations globally it's a large multinational organization and so they have a laboratory information management system that they use in their manufacturing process. So every single facility has this has this limb system running and this limb system has a has a background or has a back end database of Microsoft sequel server. So there's a lot of lot of there's terabytes of data and these laboratory systems require to have fast response to be tuned to have reporting against them. So our RDA spend our time making sure that the database is performing at its optimal level to give the workers the information as quickly as possible. And that's that's on the large side. We also deal with businesses where they have one major system it's more of a smaller company and they have one system that is their system of record for everything that they do to conduct their business and while the company is a smaller smaller in nature the database is critical. So having that DB a skill set available on demand and when there's when there's issues we work harder when there's no issues we make sure everything is stable. That's that's a boon to smaller companies so our customers are really really all over the board.

Malcolm Lui:
Right now for the smaller businesses businesses to have you said one database that manages everything. What kind of database you talk about in that regard typically

Greg Samuels:
I mean

Malcolm Lui:
Crm

Greg Samuels:
That could

Malcolm Lui:
Is

Greg Samuels:
Yeah

Malcolm Lui:
At a

Greg Samuels:
Could be could be an ERP system as an enterprise resource planning system it could be. So one of the one of the CRM is one of the older style CRM arms that have an on premises database. It could be a database in the cloud and they could be looking to do more advanced analytics advanced analytics in nature where they're there trying to build reports off of this database suite. So yes it could be accounting could be a human resources system. We really see a lot of different uses and again all major software packages have some type of database on the back end.

Malcolm Lui:
Right. Got it. So sounds like you don't really have a real cookie cutter product or service because every company's database sets gonna be different.

Greg Samuels:
Well we do have a standard. We have a a 24/7 monitoring and maintenance agreement that we have that customers pay us monthly to provide management of their environments. This is actually an area and a product that is is was one of the it was instrumental in the growth of our company as we took on more and more of these managed services for the four companies. But yes every customer has their own different databases but the premise of having multiple DB days available on call when there are issues being able to troubleshoot and rectify issues as they arise being able to put in standard monitoring so that when an alert goes off at 2:00 in the morning my team is the one that answer him. So there is there a lot of similarities between the different customers. But the nuances of the actual data and the actual environment is different

Malcolm Lui:
Right. So if a client has a software package that you currently aren't working with so hence the database the technical issues around this database would be different. What do you do in that situation. Easiest to get your team the speed and that product

Greg Samuels:
Well

Malcolm Lui:
In their day to day. So do

Greg Samuels:
Yeah

Malcolm Lui:
You

Greg Samuels:
We Yeah. We come up. We. So every client has a different has different software. So while we're not application developers we're not the people who are going to build or maintain the applications. We are database experts. So what we find ourselves what we often do is work with customers development teams. So we're working with the development teams that are already at the customer and if the customer is smaller in nature and really they're relying on outside consulting services for maintenance or development of that application we're working with those consultants and we're working with those vendors to actually be the interface between the the application software environment and the database environment. Here's a common scenario Malcolm customer is running a piece of software that they've been running for several years. They've been running since 2015 and vendor X comes up and says hey we've got a new version of this for 20 19. You need to install you need to follow these things to install the software. And invariably what happens is there's an upgrade that's required. And usually the software vendor says Okay well you can install our new system on your this server but in order for your database to get upgraded you need to have you need to run this version of SQL Server or you need to run and have a new server you need to use this Azure cloud based service and your DPA can set that up for you. And what happens is the customer pauses and says wait I don't have a DPA. You guys did this for us the first time or we had a consultant help us out with this. This at one point. And so that's when we get the call we get the call to help those customers move on because we can serve as that April

Malcolm Lui:
Right. Okay got it. Now do you find most software packages out there they in general use a common database in the back end or you mentioned the Microsoft CEO database several times.

Greg Samuels:
Yeah. We're seeing so we we deal with Microsoft so SQL server we deal with Oracle's database. We deal with no sequel which is another we also deal with my sequel which is for a lot of the open source packages. And then there are a suite. There's a host of cloud service providers where they have their own proprietary database structure or a different type of open structure similar Salesforce would be an example Salesforce has their own database structure and when when we get pulled in we're not necessarily maintaining sales forces database on the back end what's happening is customers are looking to build reports interfacing that say that Salesforce data with something else in their organization. So in that case we're are where I have skilled reporting people who are working with those customers to actually take the data out of sales force and merge it and combine it with data that they have inside the business to provide one single report.

Malcolm Lui:
Right. Got it. Now you agree a business quite rapidly. Two point three million in 2014 and you almost doubled it four years later to four million. What were the three biggest drivers of your growth.

Greg Samuels:
So. So we always look at people process and technology we do it when we talk to customers and when we look at a problem in their business we talk about people process and technology for us it was the same it was the same way. So the on the people side. So when I bought the business in 20 in 2012 the business was founded by another gentleman and he was looking to retire. I joined the company in 2011 and I purchased the company in 2012 when when I bought the company we had 14 employees and our model was we were providing services to clients in our demand was always the employees that we had in the company. We're always a lot less than the customer demands. We are always making sure that demand was outstripping the supply. And while that's a good strategy to keep a small company and to end to not really not really push yourselves as an organization for us for me the key was we needed more people to really be available and to really help our salespeople feel confident in going out and going for the big wins and going for the big clients. And so we made a commitment on the people side to find the best senior talented database professionals. We opened a different line of business which was adding on the Microsoft Suite and we really invested in the people side of the business. The second arm is the process we wanted to make sure that what we were doing in 1997 we were maintaining Oracle instances for clients. We didn't call it managed services we didn't call it VBA services we had customers who were running Oracle on the background.

Greg Samuels:
Oracle is their database platform and we were simply helping them out Well by by product ties and database services and talking about our 24/7 monitoring in all of the pieces parts that would be included in that product that started to be part of our sales process to say we have a specific line of business that can meet your needs and yes you have a nuanced environment but the processes are the same in terms of setting up monitoring. Having a team of three senior level professionals with you and and really providing a roadmap for how we guide you down the path of managed services and then last is technology the technology has come a long way. Gone are the days where customers make half a million dollar one million dollar investments in hardware only to then spend two and three times that on consulting services and software etc.. So now with the advent of the cloud with the advent of being able to do remote monitoring I no longer have to send people on site to to monitor companies instances actually we don't even really care where the database platforms reside. They could be residing in a hosting center they could be residing on on prime at a client they could be residing offsite or they could be residing in the cloud using something like Azure or Amazon Web services etc. We can actually maintain those databases from anywhere. And it's really the technology has gotten to the point where we can provide 24/7 VBA insurance across the world which is what we did.

Malcolm Lui:
All right. Fantastic now for going deeper into each of the three drivers you mentioned on the people side. You made a choice the decision to hire more senior level DDA baby steps. That's your sales people be more confident and on the go after bigger customers. And then on the process side you talked about how we develop processes which of course each client has a separate set of specific needs but your process is generally the same right.

Greg Samuels:
Mm hmm.

Malcolm Lui:
You mentioned about.

Greg Samuels:
Correct.

Malcolm Lui:
Getting a

Greg Samuels:
Yeah.

Malcolm Lui:
Team and a few other things. And the last one is technology. All right. With the cloud the advent of the cloud advent of connectivity to people's databases that might be on premise it allowed you your team to work remotely which has some cost benefits right and you don't

Greg Samuels:
Absolute.

Malcolm Lui:
Need then people out and more scalable they can be they can do their work much more so as opposed to being on a plane going from site to site.

Greg Samuels:
That is correct.

Malcolm Lui:
Ok.

Greg Samuels:
Yep

Malcolm Lui:
So

Greg Samuels:
Yep.

Malcolm Lui:
On on the people side. I know you talked about adding more senior more senior advisors to help on the technical side of things when you did when you did that. What how did your sales salespeople take advantage of that new capacity and find more clients

Greg Samuels:
Well I think what it does is it legitimizes us as a company in terms of when I come into I come into the region and and I can confidently say when I sit down with a customer whether it's a large enterprise small or a small to mid-sized business I say you know we simply have the best days in the region and I've got 20 of them working with me all senior all 10 to 15 years worth of database experience or higher. My lead in my practice is coming up on 30 years working with SQL Server as SQL Server was barely a product 30 years ago. So the fact that I we bring the numbers of people that has certainly it certainly helps you as a company when you have a small business provider and you have five or even when we had 14 employees and my Oracle team were I had three high quality Oracle professionals scraped in and customers who used us and who knew of US relied on these Oracle professionals and felt and felt confident in the services we provided. What we didn't prove and what we couldn't demonstrate was scale. And for us adding more people and adding more individuals helps us really prove scale. So it helps us go after the bigger jobs and when you talk to when we're talking to a major multinational bank or we're talking to a major international manufacturer the question of scale comes up. And yes I can say well you know you're your client or you or your engagement will have three senior level professionals but I've got certain clients where I have seven eight nine senior level professionals available and working on different aspects of that client at any time. And for us to be able to demonstrate scale has really helped us go after the bigger wins

Malcolm Lui:
And I think to take comfort in knowing that if anything goes wrong at any hour of the day you have people ready to help

Greg Samuels:
Correct. Yeah. And that's that's great and it also helps us it helps keep us from burning out our senior level folks who have been here a long time and have been used to being the only person available at 2:00 in the morning so being able to have other people share in the pain of on call at 3:00 in the morning is has really helped prevent some of my other senior folks are saying look I'm the only person who has to answer the phone at 3 o'clock. That's a hardship on me. So it's given people a little better balance in the working life as well as their home life because they know that they're not the one always on call

Malcolm Lui:
Yeah and you know when I lose those guys

Greg Samuels:
No.

Malcolm Lui:
Or women.

Greg Samuels:
Definitely not.

Malcolm Lui:
All right. For a second once the processes took a bit more about how you develop them and how you refined them going forward.

Greg Samuels:
Sure. So we took what we prove was a great service in our Oracle business and we said okay well what is the commonality between all of these various clients to which we're doing database maintenance and we we broke it down into different sections whether we're putting our own monitoring scripts on or we are providing a team of three who all have connectivity who are all familiar with your account or we were and we took all of those pieces parts and laid them out into what what would be a working proposal as saying this is what is included in our services and then we also add it on and look at what optional services some customers believe it or not don't want 24/7 troubleshooting they're an eight to five business. There are always an eight to five business and they don't want that after hours monitoring they're never going to have people on their side who are going to pick up the phone and call us at 2:00 in the morning so that can be an option for customers so by taking all of these these processes and really making it a product. So we were able to take that apply and take it from the Oracle world that we learned apply it to the newer business which was SQL Server see we had zero SQL Server business starting in twenty eleven. Fast forward to today I'd say 90 percent of our database services is sequel server. So we've lost zero Oracle business we've lost zero of any of these other database platforms. It's just the Microsoft world had exploded on us and there was a real need in the marketplace. So we we answered that need. So by taking what we learned from another another product platform and turning it into a product that's really what we kind of laid the path the road forward for us to to grow

Malcolm Lui:
All right. Got it. And a third the third one. Technology of the web. The cloud basically is the Sunni. Increase the utilization rate in the service he can provide to your customers. How does that impacted your top line or bottom line. Because the cost have gone down for the customers right for maintaining

Greg Samuels:
Correct.

Malcolm Lui:
Your database

Greg Samuels:
I said the cost has gone down for the customers the cost is all so gone down for companies like myself if you know you walk into my office in Richmond Virginia we have no servers we have no data center we have we have strong Internet connectivity and we have a lot of laptops and what you will find is if I were to start this business 30 years ago you know I have to run my own data center I have to run my own servers I have to send these people onsite on prem to all of the various clients to do health checks and make sure their databases are running correctly. The cost model is just not it would not be attractive it wouldn't be the kind of service that we would want to that we would want to sell because honestly it would be harder to make money at it. So by now having all of the technology at our fingertips and having all of the services available and at an affordable rate not only does it make us easier and more nimble to deal with customers but it also helps us from a security perspective because I know at the end of the day if one of my employees is traveling to a client and they leave their laptop in a cab and yes that's happened before they leave their laptop and they can have their zero customer specific information on that cab they could walk in there any Apple store any best buy or any other company that sells laptops buy a laptop and be up and running in a matter of an hour and be back and doing their job. You could not do that 20 years ago

Malcolm Lui:
Right and now has I put any sort of pricing pressures on your services.

Greg Samuels:
No it actually has made our services. It's made our services more attractive to customers because we are trying. We're trying to break the mold of what the traditional company offer. So in. In corporate America. If you have a database administrator you have one day MBA guys making a six figure salary. Let's say he's making one hundred twenty hundred thirty thousand dollars a year and that's on the low side but I'll just throw that out as an example. If that person is burning out from the company or gets a more attractive offer somewhere or that person decides to leave the company for whatever reason the knee jerk reaction from corporate America is OK. Well I have to go higher and they have that exact same that exact same role and what we're saying is we come in in between that process and say look you don't have to hire that person as a full time. You don't have to hire one individual as a full time individual working for your company. You could contract for our services cheaper and we're going to provide you better resources and we're gonna have faster response and we have multiple resources. So the we have not seen cost pressures of the the with the cost of hardware and the cost of technology coming down. We've actually seen it actually opening the door for us with other customers because they get it. The consumerization of technology has been wonderful for businesses like mine because people get the idea of cloud based services manage services etc.

Malcolm Lui:
Right now I know every client is different but roughly speaking what are they. Look at it from a cost perspective. How much are they saving says spending one hundred twenty K year on the low end for a DPA. How much might they be spending with your company. Perhaps it provides similar

Greg Samuels:
We've

Malcolm Lui:
Services.

Greg Samuels:
Seen you know we've seen as great as you know 30 percent less spend on on these type of technology services. Really if you think about that employee you join a large company. There's there's the lift right away for benefits. There's a lift right away for time and then what I mean by that time is if you have a contract if you have somebody who's a consultant working for your organization and they take an eight hour day they're serving as that consulting they're working eight hours on your client. So they're focused 100 percent on the service that they're providing for that client. Take a same employee who is working an eight hour day in corporate America and they're being pulled away for team meetings. They're being pulled away for company events they're being pulled away for the usual distractions that happen in a work environment. So we see a real time the companies are recovering a lot of time because we're being more efficient with the time that we're using with these clients. So you know rough numbers we've seen 30 percent or more but we could say I could say with 100 percent confidence that you're spending less than one hundred and twenty thousand dollars and you're getting more services and you're getting faster services.

Malcolm Lui:
Yeah. And if you factor in the twenty K ss on someone's salary you're right you have a fixed cost. You have benefits and salary

Greg Samuels:
Yeah

Malcolm Lui:
Can be easily new. A senior level higher can be multiples

Greg Samuels:
Yeah you're putting

Malcolm Lui:
Of that

Greg Samuels:
Another 30 percent on that just for benefits and for Yeah for all of all of what's included. Not saying all of our services are one hundred twenty thousand a year either I mean we have some customers who literally are paying us three thousand dollars a month to maintain their database environment. And

Malcolm Lui:
Right.

Greg Samuels:
So you know you can't you can't tell me that for thirty six thousand dollars a year you're going to hire a senior level professional to perform the kind of services that we perform in customer seeing and we've seen it in our growth.

Malcolm Lui:
Yep definite definitely. For 2019. What are your plans. What are your targets and how are you gonna get there.

Greg Samuels:
So we you know we're real. We're shooting north of four and a half million for 2019 as our targets. How do we get there I think for us we we continue to add great professionals to our team so that's building in capacity we also are expanding our sales team to make sure that we are spreading the message we're networking with the right folks and then we're building our contact lists off of who we know. So adding clients and also looking at opportunities for organic organic growth within our clients. An example would be of late a big concern of customers is database security so companies who go through any type of penetration testing or vulnerability assessments they're going with these companies who provide those services. One of the areas that we find sometimes is a gap is in the database security world. So we are again as a product we are offering a database security audit where we're able to go into customers database environments and look at potential security vulnerabilities that exist if they're with their data environment. And so by doing that that allows us to go into our existing business and from an organic growth perspective try to market new services to those customers as well as use that as a lead into other companies as an introduction to who we are and the kind of services that we have

Malcolm Lui:
Right now do you already have additional services to offer to your clients are or are there other ones that you're developing and testing right now.

Greg Samuels:
Well we always continue to to look at what potential extensions to our business are there but one thing Malcolm that I think we've done a great job of as I call it staying in our lane. It's not a unique not a unique term and not a unique proposition. But by focusing only on data services and focusing on the strategic leadership side that people. I want people to know that when they think of data and they think of data issues they think of us. So if it's something outside of that if they're experiencing hardware issues or they're experiencing development programming issues or they're having networking issues that while they can call us and we can say Yeah that's not what we do but we may have a partner or know somebody who can help you and we can refer you to them by staying true to data and leadership. And and if there's something that's naturally folding into the data world like last year in our data services area we started doing some data data science work. So the data science work it's a little different discipline than core DPA services but we have a couple of data scientists who have worked with some of our strategic clients. That was naturally it was a natural addition to our business because it's still focused it focused around data. So by staying in our lanes it's allowed us to to grow and spread our message. But it also helps us consider whether something does make sense for us to do I think what what I find and what I don't love about I.T. businesses and why it's hard to describe our business to people who aren't in technology is because a lot of I.T. companies are they'll take whatever they know if you call them with a problem. Yeah we'll do that. We'll find the right people and we'll help you out and we'll we'll take it on. And by remaining true to us and saying no that's not something that we do but we can probably find a partner or find somebody to help you do that. It's helped us. It's helped us stay on the right path to growth

Malcolm Lui:
Right now in regards to hiring more people to help you grow how far ahead do you go in terms of adding supply beyond your demand

Greg Samuels:
So we don't go that far. I mean we are always looking and talking to people who could potentially be part of our organization. And frankly I say on the strategic leadership side I meet at least every other week with somebody who's who's interested in becoming a fractional CIO or a fractional CTO because they're working for larger company and they want to make an impact in smaller companies and serve as part time leadership for other companies. So we we always have a working list of folks that we either know or have met with who would be good candidates on the database services side. I can tell you the market is extremely tight. And for us to want to hire a professional that has 15 plus years of data services experience it's gotten increasingly hard because not I think it's a combination of if it's somebody in this area who is that kind of professional we've probably met them talk to them hired them or we know we know where they are. We follow them in their career so when there's opportunities to come work for us we can jump on it. And I think so for us we have to expand the net and we've started working with some other outside firms and outside companies to help us identify talents who can eventually you do contract work for us who can eventually come hire and come work for us full time

Malcolm Lui:
Right. So would you like me right now. Imagine you say you're your you your team now is at full utilization rate with the current demand so you would just hire one more person to give you a bit more excess capacity so that your team can then

Greg Samuels:
Yeah our team. Currently we've just recently hired a couple of folks so our team currently we've got good capacity for growth

Malcolm Lui:
E

Greg Samuels:
But we're always looking about six months out now. Come on on the work and we're trying to have look at the production schedule look at what our deviates are involved and look at how many people are wrong call at night look at how many people we can how many clients we can confidently service. And from that six month production schedule we can really determine okay we know that we need to start hitting the pavement in the next two or three months to find that next great add to our team. So it's been a controlled growth. I'm never going to be the company who's going to go out hire six more people all at once. It's never happened for us. I think for us over the years one 1 and two employees over you know over a certain period has been has been our model and frankly we went from it was very shocking to me when I saw and I saw we had 41 people building in our system because we would always hire one or two folks and it was it was never a large number of people that were that were coming on board at the same time only in the past couple of years has it been we've hired one or two folks every quarter and that's been something that's been it's been very strange for me but it's been it's been very good for the company

Malcolm Lui:
Right now for the second factor behind your growth you mentioned about your sales team expanding your sales team having your team do more networking him then built the list give you more details about that you're looking to hire more salespeople

Greg Samuels:
Well I've always carried we've always carried a couple of salespeople. And for us you know how do you how do we sell this business. I'd say the easiest way for me describe how we sell this business is when you hire a seasoned sales professional. If somebody in my mind is worth their salt they're good. They're bringing with them a Rolodex which you know your younger viewers don't even know what a Rolodex is but they're bringing with it they're bringing with them a list of contacts in the network of people that they've had interaction with at their previous jobs. And so what I try to build is I'm trying to build this Venn diagram of salespeople who have some common some people they all know and they all have in common but really they're all bringing different contacts and different connections in the business world to the table to say hey give this company an opportunity to meet with you and talk about the services that we have and so the winning theme I feel in building a good quality sales team. And again I'm not a sales specialist I'm not a sales manager you know I've been a lifelong consultant. So all I know is that the winning theme for us has been you bring different people to the table who have different contacts who can reach out and spread the net in different ways. That seems to be how you start to win and how you start to get more clients.

Malcolm Lui:
How many regards to marketing to help provide leads for your sales team to proceed. What are you doing on that front

Greg Samuels:
So in the past so I started five years ago I hired my first marketing person and I hired her on a contract basis and I am not sure what I would do with this marketing person. And so I brought her on contract for approximately I think I brought her on. The agreement was for three months. Well after the first three weeks my my lead salesperson and I said I don't know how we live without this person and I can't believe this company has gone this long without hiring a full time marketing person. So within within three weeks we already started talking to her about coming to work for us full time. And I think after month two we did make the full time offer. So I had one marketing person and the first thing that we did was we were using an old ver an old antiquated CRM system. So what we did is we migrated and we went to one of the newer cloud based CRM. And that was our. That was step one for us so we could actually do active leads we could do e-mail campaigns we can have marketing be the top of that funnel and so that was kind of step one and then step two was we were always involved in in having an intern work with us. We hired a marketing intern and then this year we had a we had one of our marketing interns and we were so happy with her we've actually expanded our marketing team to a second person. And so now we've got this division of labor where somebody is focused on that marketing funnel focused on getting leads into the door so our salespeople can be more productive with their time. And we also have someone who can also serve as at inside sales and marketing person who can help coordinate events who can help the salespeople with statements work and contracts et cetera. So again trying to make the team more efficient and bringing internal processes so we can so we can just keep pushing down the road.

Malcolm Lui:
Right. So I took a look at your online presence from a advertising perspective and the tools I have I didn't really see anything in the paper click side and I didn't really see much being done on the SDL side as well. What's your thoughts about that

Greg Samuels:
Yes. So we're in the midst of a digital transformation on on our Web site. We want to have one of the things that we found that we've gotten the most. Where do we get the most play online the most play online for us is through our thought leadership it's through our articles and our blog post. We released an article about an upgrade to Oracle that was causing a lot of problems and one of our one of our DB days wrote a wrote a great blog post about transitioning Dell Oracle twelve and what problems that he saw that has gotten more play online than any other campaigning any other dollars etc.. So we really have have try to focus on more thought leadership activities so that we are giving to the technology community we are seen as leaders in those areas. And so that's that's part of our new strategy. Another part is by redoing our Web site we are going to make more pages that are that will help us on the FCO or the PPC side. So we could actually direct people directly to database services or direct people directly to sequel server services. So that's a that's a engagement that's in process right now. We actually have been working with several agencies and several outside entities helping us kind of revise where our strategy needs to go on the digital side. I can tell you though our business is always about has been about the network of individuals who we've met through the marketplace who we've met in the community who we've met through our participation in other networking events and other non-profit endeavors. That's how we have one business over the years somebody out in Oregon very rarely is going to Google search for a company like ours and find us at the top of the list. And you know am I looking to change that well regionally I want to compete a little bit better nationally not so sure that that's worth that's worth the dollars but that's yet to be determined.

Malcolm Lui:
Right. Got it. Now in regards to your second I got check my notes he just sure I have a story in regards to the expanding your services. I know you talk about security audits. Is there one area that when opportunity looks especially attractive to you. Does that add on services to your clients

Greg Samuels:
Well I think one thing that we've seen a lot over the years is we've had we've been participating in a lot of cloud migration projects that everyone throws around the word the cloud and companies even say we want to be in the cloud. We don't even know what that means. And so you know there's a lot of education that goes within that. But what we've seen over the years is a lot of software providers are now offering the option of having their database environment cloud hosted. We've had companies who have been traditionally and on premise companies start to do more hybrid projects where they have some of their data is residing on prem some of their data is residing in the cloud. That area I think we've seen a lot of growth in companies wanting to move to more cloud based services because they realize that availability and reliability and scalability are all improved by pursuing those type of endeavors. So that that's been an area that we've seen a lot of growth that's been an area that again we look at how can we how can we product ties that how can we help them make an easy transition how can we help them really think about this in the right strategic manner so that they're just not it's not as simple as just lifting it up and throwing it up into the cloud as there's a very there's a strategy that you have to employ to get there.

Malcolm Lui:
Right now how are you letting your existing clients know about all these other additional services that you can provide them.

Greg Samuels:
So we do we do several things One is we've created a customer advisory board that customer advisory board is made up of 15 representatives from some of our some of our clients all over the board. So some of our large enterprise clients some of our mid-market enterprise some of our other small business companies and that Customer Advisory Board we provide them one an opportunity to interact with one another and share ideas about what they're working on in their own businesses but also to give us feedback on what areas they would like to see us focus more so that that's one area that we've. I think that's been a win for us is our customer advisory board. I think another area is we are active in the sequel community we are active in seminars we're active in presenting out to our clients either or through our clients or through potential prospects online and kind of pursuing again back to that thought leadership trying to bring new ideas to the table and participating in in seminars as speakers for some others sometimes other companies other partner firms who we partner with will ask us to come speak about database specific topics and so by being involved in those activities has helped us really illuminate and think about what other offerings we can we can bring to the table with our clients.

Malcolm Lui:
Right. Got it. Now we talk about a number of ways of growing your business from around 4 million in 2018 to four and a half or more in 2019. From a marketing perspective what he thinks the biggest number one challenge that your team needs to overcome to get to your target

Greg Samuels:
I think for a small business and I still consider ourselves a small business I think for a small business it's awareness that you exist. I think that's one that's that's one you always struggle with. I mean in the in the Richmond area I've been a part of the Richmond I.T. community for many years and so in the Richmond area people know me people know my company we've done a great job of being active and people know who we are but if we travel to our south to another major market so the Tidewater area Norfolk Norfolk Chesapeake Hampton etc. and you ask Company X on the street you know Dina who solver is the answer is No I don't know who they are. And again it's not my goal to be a household name but to bring awareness and in the region of who we are and what we do. I think that's a that's a big challenge for companies. And so trying to really cross the I guess cross the cross the boundaries of of your home office and where you are in and getting get awareness and so that's that's been a challenge for us. And so from a marketing perspective we try to think about what activities we can endeavor in to help bring us into another community and how to bring us into the thought of any any buyers anybody who's interested or who has experienced a problem with a particular service

Malcolm Lui:
Right now what have be tried so far to build awareness. What let's work and what hasn't worked outside of your region.

Greg Samuels:
Well. So the I'd say what's worked has been for us to become part of the technology community. So for example Richmond has its own SQL Server users group. So Hampton Roads has had it has a sequel server Users Group. And so by participating in those meetings by being part of the technology community down there and being involved in different activities and trying to build your network of people who who who either know you from your work with them elsewhere or who you who have made contact with one of your salespeople in a prior and prior career or prior life so being able to exploit those and being able to work through that I think that's been good. I think what hasn't worked for us is trying to insert ourselves into a community by saying OK well we're hosting a seminar on something some topic companies. I'm not going to say be so bold and say the seminar. The traditional seminar is dead but I think there's such a demand for people's time and what people can gather online and through webinars and webcasts etc.. I think the traditional face to face seminar doesn't doesn't work anymore and is very hard to do as an unknown coming into coming into a company. Now if we co branded with a local firm that seems to work. OK so if you're used to using company X and all your services and you have a joint seminar with them that seems to work. Okay but if you're coming in under your own power we find that the attendances and even the response in attendance isn't even enough for us to hold the seminar. It just doesn't seem to want to work

Malcolm Lui:
Yeah yeah definitely. It's a critical mass that's needed for it makes sense although I imagine that the people who are willing to make the time to attend a seminar and learn about the seminar and assuming that you don't do it in a fancy venue and that just end they're just trying to get a nice lunch for free. Right.

Greg Samuels:
Yeah. Here

Malcolm Lui:
Right. I imagine those two are coming purely for the knowledge those might actually might be really good prospects for you. Right. Because

Greg Samuels:
Oh yeah.

Malcolm Lui:
They're are

Greg Samuels:
I mean

Malcolm Lui:
Not enough

Greg Samuels:
Look 50 15 years ago you could have a seminar and you could have seven people attend your seminar and if one of them bought free from you it paid for the prices seminar

Malcolm Lui:
Yeah

Greg Samuels:
And that's you know that's the numbers don't hold true as much now. But but it's still the investment of time but I think that you know if you can get if you can get a critical mass attending any yes you get somebody one person buying from you it will justify the cost.

Malcolm Lui:
Yeah. If you tried going the online route for holding seminars online

Greg Samuels:
We

Malcolm Lui:
Webinars

Greg Samuels:
Do. We do some webinars we've done we've done some webinars. My I don't know my my problem with some of the webinars and again we we're looking at different type of software to actually be able to host these host these webinars because some of them allow people to come in anonymously or people to register and then not register their names or people come in without you being able to identify or market to them afterwards that I have. I have a problem with that you know. So there's there's technology now that lets us control that and we're working through what would be the best. But you know honestly it takes a lot of time to put original content together and if we are going to spend that kind of time then yeah I want to make sure that I've got the maximum amount of eyeballs that are going to that are going to see that presentation and that are going to want to look at it at a later date. So we've we've done webinars where we have it. We record it. We have it pre-recorded so that somebody else could log in identify use their name to convert to us and then be able to be able to download that content.

Malcolm Lui:
Right. Has that worked well so far.

Greg Samuels:
I think it's worked okay I don't like I said 90 plus percent of our business is been through our contact network through who we know through people who we've done business with at other places who then go to different companies so it's I'll put it as a TBD as well as what I'll put it down

Malcolm Lui:
Yeah I'm a big fan of automation like right now as we're talking I have a campaign running right.

Greg Samuels:
Huh.

Malcolm Lui:
And

Greg Samuels:
Yep

Malcolm Lui:
Even before we started talking I had to have some people reply to me from the campaign and I

Greg Samuels:
Right

Malcolm Lui:
Just quite frankly yes. Face to Face conversion rates can be a lot higher but if you're getting some conversions running in the background that require you to do much other than set it up. I mean that's as

Greg Samuels:
Yeah.

Malcolm Lui:
I see

Greg Samuels:
Be great.

Malcolm Lui:
It.

Greg Samuels:
It's a winner. Yep.

Malcolm Lui:
Yeah.

Greg Samuels:
Absolutely. Mm hmm.

Malcolm Lui:
All right. Three last questions for you. If so the area where to have a billboard in say the Richmond area or maybe you want to go beyond that you want to go into a new region. What would be your billboard message. And keep in mind that people typically drive by a billboard in six seconds. So you don't have a lot of time to get your message out there.

Greg Samuels:
Yeah I think for us it's protecting the two most important aspects of your business or managing the two most important aspects of your business which is your data and your people. So providing sound leadership and providing sound data strategy data guidance. I think those are those are all messages I would like to see on a billboard. It's short and sweet but everybody knows. Data is the lifeblood of an organization. Maybe we should even change about them and say data is the lifeblood of your organization. Who are you relying on to protect it. And who are you like relying on to manage it. That's a that's a really interesting message and the reason why is because over the years companies who invest a lot of money in a lot of time in gathering data from their customers and from their their constituents and their partners and then they find themselves relying on one individual to manage that data environment and that one individual and not not the best talent that you've ever hired and that's you know that that's a scary prospect for us because you know Data is everything for a company.

Malcolm Lui:
Oh

Greg Samuels:
So.

Malcolm Lui:
Yeah

Greg Samuels:
So that's why I'd say that I'd say that's a good short message we could address.

Malcolm Lui:
Yeah. Protecting the lifeblood of your organization. Yeah that's a good one. And my two final questions for you. Who are your ideal customers or rather who are your ideal clients and what's the best way for them to reach your team

Greg Samuels:
So our ideal customer that's an easy one because our ideal customer in the on the data services side is companies that have either zero or one day MBA where they have a single point of failure in the organization so they have either no database expertise or they have one D.A. who is is the one who's supposed to be responsible 24/7 for their environment. So that's an ideal customer for us. Another ideal customer is companies that have a team of DPA but they may be more junior in nature or they've experienced a lot of turnover in that area. We we insert ourselves as a senior member of that team and kind of help build quality database departments. So that's that's our ideal customer on the database services side. On the strategic leadership side really we look at companies where all the I.T. decisions are being made by the CEO the CFO or the CEO so they don't have an I.T. leader. That's where we come in on the strategic leadership side and we can really help manage and build an I.T. department for companies who either might be growing and start to need a bigger technology presence or companies that are going through some type of transition where their current I.T. leadership is gone or is suspect of really not being able to do the best job they could do so that's kind of where we go from a customer perspective.

Malcolm Lui:
All right. Got it. And what's the best way for them for them to contact your team.

Greg Samuels:
The easiest way is going to solve every dot com and hitting contact us and and really talking with and we we are we are all infinitely approachable so customers can certainly can certainly e-mail any of us directly and they can they can really reach out to us and our website has all that information.

Malcolm Lui:
Would you like to spell out the name of your Web site so areas. Doesn't sound like

Greg Samuels:
Oh

Malcolm Lui:
It's

Greg Samuels:
Sure

Malcolm Lui:
A really word right. It's a created word.

Greg Samuels:
Is a hated word. Yeah. It was our nod to our guy former our former company name had solutions in the title so the essay well really was. It was a nod to our former name. The V.A. obviously Virginia is an area that we took so when we look at solve area you know so varied to me sounds like a place and when we went through. Everybody goes to a marketing exercise when naming a company and so various sounds to me like a place. And so we like to take a place where you know we have the highest level professionals. So yeah it's solve areas aswell. V.A. RIAA dot com

Malcolm Lui:
All right. And that's the Greg it's been awesome having all my show today. Really enjoyed hearing how you agree your company so fast

Greg Samuels:
Great. Thanks a lot Malcolm Take care.

Malcolm Lui:
We've been speaking with Greg Samuels, the CEO of Solvaria, about his company's rapid growth. For interviews with other fast growing, high value sales companies, or to learn how we can accelerate your firm's high value sales through automation, visit Eversprint.com.

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