CRM Expert Speaks...
This week, Stephen Ibaraki, ISP, has an
exclusive interview with CRM expert, Dean Guest.
In a challenging marketplace, Dean has found much success as one of
the founders of iFusion Solutions Inc.
Q: Dean, it’s a pleasure to have you with us sharing your insights
with the audience.
A: Thank you Stephen, I am very excited to have this opportunity to
speak with you about Customer Relationship Management (CRM).
Naturally being in this industry, I have very strong feelings about
CRM. I believe it is critical for companies of any size to consider
CRM as both a strategy and technology to survive in these difficult
Q: Can you detail your successes in the IT industry and what sparked
you to start a company in 2003, considering the current economic
A: I have been working in the IT sector for more than 9 years as a
Business Analyst, Senior Consultant and Project Manager. During this
period, I have implemented Enterprise Software Applications such as
banking systems, utility management and billing systems, enterprise
resource planning, and CRM for clients in various industries.
After becoming a high-tech casualty in the summer of 2003, I decided
that I wanted to explore the option of building my own Professional
Services firm with a focus on Microsoft CRM (MSCRM) application. I
approached several other CRM industry professionals with this idea
and quickly reached consensus that we were on the verge of a great
In building a solid business case and conservative financial model,
we assessed that MSCRM was ideally suited from a functionality and
pricing perspective and would be well received by our target market
in the Pacific Northwest. We also consulted with successful
companies in the IT industry to act as a sounding board and to share
their insights to help us lay a strong foundation for our new
When I consider our recent successes, I feel even more strongly
about our decision to enter into this venture.
Q: With so many recent iFusion successes, what lessons and tips can
your share with our audience? What advice would you give to other
entrepreneurs interested in starting a company—can you give your top
ten tips for business success?
A: We have definitely learned many valuable lessons along this path.
I would be pleased to offer you a top ten list of challenges.
1. Know Your Business - People who succeed are the ones who know the
most about what they are doing. Without exception, understanding
your industry is fundamental, expert knowledge of your industry
practically dictates your success.
2. Know the Basics of Management - Unless you can afford to hire a
lot of professional help, you will need to address many of the
basics of running a business. We have divided up areas of
responsibility between the partners including accounting, business
banking, payroll, and legal.
3. Have the Proper Attitude – Find something that you love and that
has the potential of being a successful business. Enjoy what you do.
4. Have Adequate Capital - The first thing we did was to secure
investment in the company. This included establishing financing and
5. Manage Finances Effectively – Cash flow is the pervasive
financial management issue for small business owners. It manifests
itself in ongoing capital, managing inventory, extending credit to
customers and closely managing expenses and accounts receivable.
6. Manage Time Efficiently - The long hours and variety of tasks
required to manage a small business demand excellent time management
skills. Every small business owner feels stretched, especially
during the start-up phase. Running any kind of business involves
many different responsibilities and little time in which to fulfill
7. Manage People Fairly- A positive representation of your business
has depends greatly on the quality and satisfaction of your
employees. My employees have to be in tune with my goals and must
know the image we want to portray to the business community.
8. Satisfy Customers by Providing High Quality - First and foremost,
commit to providing quality and long lasting relationships. This
establishes and maintains credibility with your customers.
9. Know How to Compete - My best advice for competing successfully
is to find your own distinctive niche in the marketplace. It could
be price, product, service or experience, but whatever it is build
your business around that core strength.
10. Cope with Regulations, Mundane Tasks and Paperwork - The person
who enjoys paperwork is rare in our society - and small business
owners are no exception. In fact, since people who start and manage
their own businesses tend to be "doers" - active people who like to
accomplish things - they may become the most frustrated and
overwhelmed by and paperwork.
Q: What must businesses and IT professionals know and what should
they do to be competitive?
A: In any business, honesty and integrity are two of the most
valuable assets a business can possess. At the end of the day, a
client must believe that their business partner is going to stand by
them through good and bad times. Service, loyalty and dedication to
making our clients succeed is something that all IT professionals
should always hold in highest regard.
Q: What do you feel are the top five hottest topics of interest to
both businesses and IT professionals today and what will be the
topics in two years and in five years?
A: IT solutions can help small businesses accomplish many of their
key objectives today. These solutions can:
1. Strengthen product and service offerings
2. Help companies capitalize on new marketplace opportunities
3. Open new sales and distribution channels
4. Improve responsiveness to customer needs
5.Help companies gain a strategic advantage over the competition
As far as predictions go, I believe that these points will continue
to be relevant and continually require constant improvement.
Q: Who/what do you think are the winners and losers in IT in the
next five years? [This could be companies, technologies, …and so
on.] What advice would you give to enterprises in their adoption of
technologies in the next five years?
A: Very good question. iFusion has developed its business as a Value
Added Reseller for Microsoft and in turn clearly sees Microsoft as a
leader in IT. One of the largest concerns in the sector today is the
financial viability of business application vendors.
As Microsoft continues to invest huge amounts of time, effort and
dollars into improving and expanding their suite of business
applications, many competitors will have difficulty keeping up with
Microsoft aggressive solution roadmap.
As far as advice to companies out there planning for the future of
their infrastructure and business applications, all I can recommend
is that they complete their due diligence tasks, and ensure that
solutions chosen can complement their IT platform.
Q: What are the top challenges facing businesses and IT departments
in the next five years and what are your recommendations to
meet/overcome these challenges? Please provide specifics…
A: I think that overall IT professionals are having a hard time
keeping up with all of the latest and greatest innovations being
developed by companies like Microsoft Business Solutions. In order
to stay on top of these advancements, companies would hopefully be
able to rely upon their business partners who act as an advisor who
will promote the right products at the right time. Some examples
that come to mind right away are:
1. Changing corporate philosophy so they think in terms of business
productivity rather than software when in comes to CRM
2. Staying on top of new product developments and technology
3. Adjust corporate attitudes so that business processes are truly
designed to better complement the needs of your customers
4. Ensuring system integration with corporate legacy systems
Q: If you were doing this interview, what six questions would you
ask of someone in your position and what would be your answers?
A: I think I would want to raise the following questions:
1. How did you develop your business concept?
2. How did you finance your operation?
3. What are your financial projections for 12, 24 and 60 months?
4. What is your strategy to scale your operations?
5. What is your strategy to expand your business offering?
6. Would you consider merging with another company?
My answers to the same list of questions would be:
1. I decided to exploit my knowledge of the industry and business
contacts to become the manager of my own destiny.
2. Private financing
3. I would not disclose actual numbers, but would estimate 50%
growth per year
4. Controlled growth, using cash flow primarily to finance
5. We are considering offering the full suite of Microsoft Business
Solutions products as well as other Microsoft Productivity Suite
6. Yes, if it made good business sense
Q: Thank you for sharing your valuable insights with us today
A: I really enjoyed speaking with you today and hope that we were
able to share some good points with your audience.