It has been one year since I officially left my role as COO of Livelenz to start my own company and looking back, it wasn’t a logical decision. But it was one my family, friends and former coworkers supported me on.
One year into the business, the company has grown dramatically. As it turns out, the lessons I learned working at startups also paid off when trying to grow CloudKettle. Start small, lean and mean. Wherever possible (proposals, invoicing, time tracking, sales – everything), use a SaaS or outsourcing solution to save time, appear bigger than you are and scale quickly.
CloudKettle has no investors or board to report year-end figures to, but I think there is a lot to be gained from being open and honest. So here is a recap on how the first year in business went.
- Proposal win rate: 60%
- Revenue that is repeatable: 83%*
- Revenue that is directly related to Salesforce or Hubspot work: 36%
- USD vs CAD revenue: 46% vs 54%
The plan was always that CloudKettle would help B2B enterprise SaaS companies (generally startups) grow their sales and marketing machines, often with tools like Salesforce, Hubspot and Desk. I also wanted to build the company on a foundation of long term relationships. Larger one-off projects would be nice, but we wouldn’t spend our valuable initial resources pursuing them. Instead we sought clients that wanted us to become an integral part of their team. Sure we’d help design sales and marketing strategies and implement Salesforce (which we love doing), but we’d also help interview, hire and train staff, improve pitches and even jump on sales calls. Looking back over the year, our strategy of focusing on long term relationships with our clients and being a key part of their sales and marketing efforts has worked.
- Oldest client: Analyze Re – with us since March 2015
- Client we got to spend the most time with in 2015: Spring Loaded Technology
- Total customer churn: 1**
- Number of timezones our clients are in: 4
Working with Startups
- Clients that are startups or early stage companies: 70%
- Number of incubators and accelerators that we conducted workshops with, volunteered or taught at: 3
- Number of hours spent hosting workshops for startups: 170
- Favourite client startup shirt: Zora (sorry everyone – it was a tough call)
Built on Trust
- Sales that were the result of a referral, renewal or upsell: 100%
- Testimonials: 19
- Most Trusted Partners (partners we referred the most business too):
- IdeaNest – Graphic Design (largest number of referrals)
- Michael Egan – Web Design (single largest referral)
Why do we refer so much business to others? Because we can and because we know what our specialty is. We have worked for years with people we feel are the best in the business and we want our clients to use resources we trust, resources that we know so well and work with so often that it seems like they are already part of the team.
How the Business Grew
- Number of km travelled: 19,000 km
- Most used airline (km travelled): Air Canada
- Longest trip: (One week in September to attend Dreamforce and prospect for clients)
- States and Provinces visited to meet perspective clients: 6
- Longest delay at an airport: 8 hours (still no flight – had to return the next day)
- Most expensive Uber: $55.37
- Number of sales meetings (or similar) at a Starbucks: 85
- Website conversion rate: 2.65%
- Money borrowed to start and grow CloudKettle: $0
It may seem odd that a company that has grown its customer base on referrals would have to travel so much to close deals. But a referral is just a referral. Before entrusting the future of their sales pipeline to you, companies like to meet in person and that means getting on a plane. Additionally, when the business was started there wasn’t a magical stream of referrals. I spent months meeting with people to tell them about what the company was, who we wanted to service and how we could help. It worked. As time went on, the people I had those coffees with started referring clients to CloudKettle (and still are).
Why These Figures?
We spend a lot of time working with our clients, encouraging them to hit the road and the phones hard to close sales. We also ask them to be open and transparent with us. We know we’ve got some improvements to make; our proposal win rate, our website’s conversion rate and the amount of content we generate all need to increase. But we’re measuring everything and always focusing on how to do things better.
Have some thoughts on our first year? Get in touch by clicking here or use the comments section below. I’d love to hear from you.
A few notes:
*This is revenue that is part of a monthly retainer or similar long term monthly billing cycle relationship
**Number of customers that were part of a retainer relationship and did not renew their contract