Force by Design
April 29, 2013 Issue
The Most Powerful Name In Corporate News and Information
Solely Focused on Cloud Computing and the successful use of all salesforce.com services, Force by Design, Inc. specializes in Implementing Cloud-Based Customer Relationship Management Systems for their Clients
About Force by Design:
2008, Force by Design, Inc. is a company solely focused on cloud computing
and the successful use of all salesforce.com services. At Force by Design,
we do not just believe in cloud computing, we live and breathe the stuff. We
like to say, “We sip our own champagne.” We do not own a single server and
we never will. All of the IT systems we use internally are cloud-based, most
of them on the Force.com CustomCloud and Google Apps clouds. We know that
cloud computing works because it works for us. We look forward to the
opportunity to help your organization leverage the benefits of cloud
computing just as we have done.
President & Co-Founder
Interview conducted by: Lynn Fosse, Senior Editor, CEOCFO Magazine, Published – April 29, 2013
Mr. Filkins: Force by Design is a Gold Partner with salesforce.com. We specialize in implementing cloud-based customer relationship management systems for our clients.
CEOCFO: What do you know that improves Salesforce that perhaps others do not?
Mr. Filkins: Great question. The reality is we know quite a few things. We have done this about 600 times. Over the course of each of those 600 implementations, we learn little things from each of our clients. When we do, we capture those. The important part is that we turn those into what we call a best practices configuration. We actually take the little tricks we learned, package them, and share them with our clients. Even things as small as turning what used to be a five-step process into a one-step process are included in the package. A fun example is an easy-to-use button in Salesforce that allows users to leave a voicemail and we include it in our best practice configuration. We have about 300 clients, and we can talk them through, at a very detailed level, how to set up their pipeline reviews and how to track their sales activities. At this point, when talking to a client, we can say, “We have done this with over 300 other clients” and for the people in the manufacturing space, for instance, it makes sense to do forecasting along these lines so that the manufacturer will produce those items at the right time.
CEOCFO: Are most new users of Salesforce aware that they really would benefit from your expertise, and how do they find you?
Mr. Filkins: I have been doing this for eight years. When I started, they probably needed us much less than they need us today from a technology standpoint because there was not as much there. I would say that anyone who is a savvy software buyer today knows that they need implementation expertise. I would argue that if a business is implementing one of their major systems, whether that be ERP or CRM or communications, it behooves them to seek out expert consultants. Today, when somebody looks at the huge system that Salesforce has become, I think it is more overwhelming for folks than it used to be. Savvy buyers today are absolutely going to take one look at this and think, “I am going to need some extra assistance.” Especially if they are talking integrations; they would be silly to take those on themselves because integrations are so complex. It is essential to bring a pro in for that. We work closely with salesforce.com and we are one of their most recommended partners. Many of our leads come directly from salesforce.com. We are pretty proud of our blog, which we post often to, and we get a number of leads per week from people reading the expertise and thought leadership on our blog. We are fairly active on social media, too, but I think that the blog is one of our bigger pushes today.
CEOCFO: Do you focus on specific verticals?
Mr. Filkins: Absolutely. We were born here in Silicon Valley in San Francisco, so we work with many high-tech companies, whether that be manufacturers of high-tech goods or software companies. We count about 50 software companies as clients here and just as many manufacturers. We tend to work a fair amount with professional services firms and nonprofits. On the nonprofit side, we work mainly with medium-sized direct service organizations. Also, Force by Design works with a fair number of media companies to help them understand the complexities around advertising sales.
CEOCFO: Are there many companies that focus the way you do?
Mr. Filkins: Salesforce has a deep ecosystem at this point so there are quite a few of us. We are a Gold Partner which puts us in the top 1% of the partners globally. I do not think there are many companies out there that focus on exactly what we do. We work with companies of up to 3,000 employees, so we work with mid-market clients. We are lucky enough to count two out of the ten fiscally largest companies in the world as our clients. We tend to work with the mid-market, which is unique because none of the other partners out there have really decided to focus on that segment. We see that as a strategic opportunity. There is no other firm out there that I am aware of today and there is certainly not a Gold Partner that has decided to support the small- and medium-sized companies, so in that way we are unique. There are many other firms focused on the same verticals that we do, but there is nobody else focused on the same market segment as well as the verticals that we are.
CEOCFO: Would you tell us about the ongoing support that you provide?
Mr. Filkins: Initially, we come in and implement the system. Right after a client goes live, there are normally a few things that need attention. Sometimes there are going to be small tactical items like knowing how to create reports. Sometimes there are going to be deep things like learning how to use an interface. For both of those things we work with our clients through a managed service offering. We provide a significant discount on our usual rates, and we are on-call to offer support as needed. When they come to us, we customize their Salesforce platform and make it fit like a glove.
CEOCFO: What is a common tweak you make almost immediately?
Salesforce has done a good job at making sure useful tools are available on
the AppExchange, but we usually dig deeper into dashboards for our clients.
There are a couple out-of-the-box dashboards that Salesforce provides. For
instance, clients always find tracking of their pipeline important, but
really taking that capability to the next level is the thing we do on almost
every single project. The system itself is not all that useful on its own to
help you make better business decisions — that comes down to dashboards and
analytics you can create with your Salesforce data.
CEOCFO: What is ahead for Force by Design?
Mr. Filkins: We are deeply involved in some different mobile technologies. Right now we are working with a couple of our clients to design and implement iPad catalogues for the fashion industry. They kept coming to us saying, “I have a sales rep that goes into a boutique retailer and they carry a swatch book in one hand, samples on the other arm, and they’ve got a binder full of paper, too.” We immediately realized that streamlining the process and materials by using an iPad with all of that information that is also directly connected to their Salesforce system would be a huge benefit for our clients. So we are building extremely complex and flashy mobile fashion catalogues for those clients that will be easily used in the field. We are going to continue to move that direction, as we know that mobile is here to stay.
CEOCFO: What was the biggest challenge in putting the company together?
Mr. Filkins: Great question. We were founded at the beginning of one of the greatest recessions in the country’s history, which I think we needed a crystal ball to see coming. I think that also did us some favors, and we learned to run lean in an economy like that. It saved access to capital for a services company and that is always a challenge. We were committed to making this thing work, though, and we hunkered down and got through it.
CEOCFO: What do you look for in your people over and above technical skills?
When we go in to help a CEO and a CFO transform their business we have to
have a high level of empathy and we look for that in all of our team
members. We look for passion about technology. We are looking for the
smartest folks out there with high GPAs and folks that went to good schools.
Ultimately, though, we seek someone with passion and empathy who is going to
work hard on our clients’ behalf.
CEOCFO: Why should the business and investment community pay attention and why is Force by Design an exceptional company?
We are an exceptional company because we
always put our clients first. If someone starting calling our clients, I
believe that each and every one would speak passionately about the fact that
we made sure that they were ultimately the successful ones. We know that
when our clients are successful we are going to be successful in return.
We have done so many projects and we know so many businesses. We can
definitely take an organization that has an immature sales or service
process in terms of knowledge management and get them to the next level by
helping them understand their own industry in a deeper way. Based on what
they tell us, we can tell them how the Salesforce platform will work for
them. I think that is one of the things we can bring to the table. It has
been a long time since our first rodeo and we can show our clients the
ropes. I would encourage the CEOs and CFOs to think about us if their
company is not paperless today. I work with clients every day who are still
printing out paper forms. I would encourage the community to think in terms
of how to make their company paperless, how to reduce their IT spending by
investing in cloud technologies, and how they can run their business without
a single server. I believe all three of these things are possible and I
believe it strongly because we have done it here. We are Inc. 5000 and one
of the 540 fastest-growing companies in the nation. We do not own a server
and do not have IT staff. We literally have a single ream of paper that has
lasted us for eight months. We are living a dream. We have an IT-less,
paperless, and a server-less company. We encourage everybody to think about
whether that is possible for their own organization. I think the answer is
yes, and we would love an opportunity to help them figure out how to take
“We are an exceptional company because we always put our clients first. If someone starting calling our clients, I believe that each and every one would speak passionately about the fact that we made sure that they were ultimately the successful ones. We know that when our clients are successful we are going to be successful in return.”- Micaiah Filkins
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