Episode 6 – Chris Schalleur – Christo IT Services

Confessions of an IT Business Owner Podcast

Episode 6 – Chris Schalleur – Christo IT Services

Welcome to the Confessions of an IT Business Owner podcast. In this episode, you’ll learn about some profound struggles related to owning and growing an IT business from the perspective of Chris Schalleur, CEO of Christo IT Services.

This episode is sponsored by 5stepmarketing.com and BVOIP.com. Check out Josh Whitford and his offering at 5stepmarketing.com/audit, and learn more about the perfect channel only offering for your IT firm and MSP business at BVOIP.com.

Read Transcript

Dave Scott: Hey, everyone. Welcome to the Confessions of an IT Business Owner podcast, where we believe that healthy cash flow is critical for your IT business, automation is paramount, and building trust with your clients by looking more professional will help you grow your business. I’m your host, Dave Scott, and today we’re going to talk with Christo IT CEO Chris Schalleur about a lot of the things that he went through in terms of growing and starting his IT business.

 

Chris Schalleur: If you’re chasing money 60, 90 days down the road, you’re kidding yourself. You just can’t operate like that, at least not sustained, because if you stub your toe, you’re done.

 

Dave Scott: Here’s the podcast with Chris.

 

Chris Schalleur, sir, thanks for joining me. I really appreciate you taking the time today.

 

Chris Schalleur: Awesome. Thanks for having me, Dave.

 

Dave Scott: So Chris, we obviously know your name, since I just announced it to the world, but tell me the name of your company and where you’re all from. Give me kind of your baseball card stats.

 

Chris Schalleur: Oh, sure. By day, we’re Christo IT Services. We’re a 15 person MSP just north of Philadelphia, about a half hour north of city hall. We’ve been part of the community since 1999. We started really focusing on managed services and all of that fun stuff in 2005.

 

Dave Scott: That’s awesome. Are you typical Eagles fans, being that you’re from that area?

 

Chris Schalleur: Yes. Yeah, it’s definitely Philadelphia pride in the office here. I’m probably a fish out of water. I’m actually a Dallas fan located in the Philadelphia area. Most of my staff has begrudgingly allowed me that while still rooting for the Philadelphia Eagles every once in a while.

 

Dave Scott: Nice, nice. You love the team that America loves to hate.

 

Chris Schalleur: Yes.

 

Dave Scott: And your staff loves the team that you can thank us for your first round draft pick for, named Mr. Carson Wentz.

 

Chris Schalleur: Yes. Yes, absolutely. North Dakota, absolutely. He’s been a very … He’s been a new life blood in the Philly Eagles, yeah.

 

Dave Scott: Yeah. Brady, our CEO, and I talk almost daily about how the Vikings should have drafted him. That’ll be one we’re kicking ourselves probably for the next two decades on. So, Chris, we know a little bit about what you do and where you’re from. What was the passion behind starting your IT company?

 

Chris Schalleur: I was always a computer guy. I always played around with computers. I was always the go-to guy growing up and in my first couple of jobs in chemical engineering and marketing and stuff like that. Eventually got to a point where I started doing moonlighting, and then started a business. I like to talk about people coming to work for me as one of my biggest honors. They put their faith in me and in the business and our passion for things. It’s always such a big honor to have somebody come and put their livelihood and trust in us. I always tell people one of the first gut checks, about two or three years into the business, was hiring that first person. I still consider that one of the biggest leaps of faith that I had.

 

Dave Scott: Yeah, I love that. I think it sounds like, and just from knowing you a little bit outside of the four walls inside of ConnectBooster, you guys really pride yourself on that culture, right? That’s one thing I’ve always admired about you.

 

Chris Schalleur: Yeah, we have some really long-tenured guys that have worked for me for 12, 13 years, all the way through a couple new guys on the team. But our average tenure is probably five or six years with the team.

 

Dave Scott: That’s awesome. That’s awesome. Let’s transition a little bit. I want to know a little bit more about the day you left your old nine to five job for the opportunity of being self-employed. What was that like?

 

Chris Schalleur: Well, it started with a pink slip, which is always a great start to any story.

 

Dave Scott: Right?

 

Chris Schalleur: I was one of those huge startups that went from 50 person company to a 300 person company and then a year later they were back down at a 50 person company again. I had been moonlighting, so I had already … We just went for it. Funny enough, I think it was almost 60 days later we found out we were pregnant with our first one.

 

Dave Scott: Oh man.

 

Chris Schalleur: It was always just a gut check there, which happens throughout the course of anybody’s [inaudible 00:04:56] participation in this journey.

 

Dave Scott: Yeah. That is stressful. Holy cow. So you were moonlighting, you got the pink slip, but let’s back up a little bit before that. When did you first have the notion that you wanted to be self-employed?

 

Chris Schalleur: I’m the son of an entrepreneur.

 

Dave Scott: Okay.

 

Chris Schalleur: So it was kind of cooked into me, because my father was working out of a fourth bedroom up in the upstairs and having clients visit and phone calls and things of that nature. He was staring an accounting practice up. So I can remember just being raised in that house of this is important. My mom worked for my dad at the time, as well, so I was kind of incubated into that entrepreneur mindset from a very early age.

 

Dave Scott: Yeah, that’s awesome. So what was your perception, as a little kid, watching your parents live through that and go through that professionally? Because for my kids … I have two daughters, and they’ve seen me do both. I’ve worked for large Fortune 500 companies where I punched in, punched out, eight to five, Monday through Friday. I was simply a number in the HR department, and I had an employee number and a badge and everything like that. They’ve also seen me struggle and work 60, 70, 80, 90, 100 hours a week some years, so it’s been crazy for them. One of my daughter’s perceptions is, “Hey, this is really cool, Dad. I’m glad you’re doing it.” The other one’s like, “Hey, this sucks. This is hard. I don’t want to do this and I begrudge you a little bit because you did this.” So what was your perception, growing up in that environment? What was that like?

 

Chris Schalleur: I don’t remember having any aha moments. Maybe when I got into my early teens, you get into middle school or high school. But as a younger kid, it was just the way things were. Dad works 80 hours a week. I remember getting in trouble once when I was a little kid when I said Dad was a workaholic. I didn’t know what the term meant. I just thought it was … Somebody said something on TV and I said … I was over at a friends house and that got back around to Mom real quick, of course, and, “What do you mean by that?” I was like, “I don’t know, I just thought it was funny.” “You don’t say that.” “Okay, well.” But it was just kind of how our house was. I mean, this was … You work really hard. We always had great times together and everything like that, but it was …

 

There was no aha moment probably until high school, when I think what started to click for me was … I was a swimmer and had swim meets and stuff like that, and my dad as always there. So part of what clicked for me was having that flexibility as an entrepreneur, as a business owner. He was working so that he had that flexibility to show up for a swim meet in the afternoon. That kind of clicked for me as what I want to do for my kids.

 

Dave Scott: Yeah. I think, for a lot of self-employed people that move into the season of entrepreneurship, because there is a difference. There’s a Carol Roth book … She’s a businesswoman and an author. She wrote the book The Entrepreneurial Equation, and she talks about the difference between somebody being self-employed and having one or two employees versus somebody who’s an entrepreneur. But I think the freedom that either one of those categories, either one, a person who’s either self-employed or entrepreneurial fits in. I think the freedom that you get, that being that digital nomad, so to speak, or unemployable, as I like to call it. I think there’s a lot of value in that, in not being tied down. Yes, you have to work. Some weeks it’s 40, 30, 40, 50, 60 hours. Under 40 or 50 probably doesn’t happen, truthfully speaking.

 

Chris Schalleur: Sure, sure, sure.

 

Dave Scott: But I think anything over 70, 80, 90 hours a week is probably the norm. But there’s a lot of value that comes with that, right?

 

Chris Schalleur: There is, as long as you’re not lying to yourself, Dave. I mean, you’re going to go through spurts, especially as the business hits certain tiers, as you get out of that hundred, $200,000 tier and you get into the three or four employee tier. Then you get into half a dozen tier. You’re going to hit those tiers where you’re going to have to put a sustained time of, “I don’t see any daylight ahead of me.” You’re going to hit those black periods, but as long as you keep true to yourself and that, “I’m going to get through this, and this is why I’m doing this,” and you’re not lying to yourself that, “Well, the next level is just [inaudible 00:10:04] the next level,” you’re going to be okay.

 

Dave Scott: What gets you through all that? Talk to me a little bit more about that, like what gets you through those seasons or those periods?

 

Chris Schalleur: For a couple of those periods I had the blessing of having my wife work with me. A lot of people kind of go, “Oh my god, how was that?” I was like, “Well, it had its bad days and its good days.” Because you’re with each other all the time, but at the same time, when you get home at night, you know how the day was already. If it was a bad day, you both had it, so it was experiencing that together. So there was a lot of positives that came out of that. Since then, my wife’s gone back to quote-unquote her “real job” or her real career, but it is working with my team in the office that … Hey, this is what we’re working on now. That gets you through those solidarity pieces. Then coming home and obviously getting a hug and kiss from the wife and the kids is obviously going to get you through just about any bad period in your time.

 

Dave Scott: Yeah, no doubt, yeah. Yeah, amen to that. Truer words have never been spoken. Tell me the story of what draws you back into your office every day. You put your feet on the floor and realize, hey, this is a new day. What draws you back to it every day?

 

Chris Schalleur: Over the past year or two we’ve been working on new cloud solutions and new ways of talking to clients about technology. Since we’re obviously in this industry that’s constantly changing, having that something new to talk about with people. Or, everybody’s seen the headlines recently with cyber security, and having that ongoing conversation of like, “This is constantly evolving and I have something to tell you about. I have something to talk to you about.” That’s really kind of what really gets my jets firing.

 

Dave Scott: That innovation piece, that creativity piece, it sounds like, is really important to you.

 

Chris Schalleur: Yes, absolutely.

 

Dave Scott: Yeah. Looking back on everything over the last, what, 14, 15 years of business, you got to put your feet up on the desk every once in a while and go, “Man, it feels good to be here at this point that we are today.”

 

Chris Schalleur: Every once in a while. I’m a little bit of a blushing boss on that kind of stuff. I get thank yous from clients and I get thank yous from staff and stuff like that. I appreciate it, it’s always appreciated, but if we’re not constantly having that conversation, having that, “Here’s what value I can bring to the table,” it’s going to be short-lived. I kind of always have that whisper in the back of my mind of, “We got to be bringing something new, otherwise we’re yesterday’s news.”

 

Dave Scott: Yeah, no, I hear you. I think I’ve never met an entrepreneur that likes self pats on the back. It’s just not in their DNA. To your point, if you’re not sleeping, you’re working. If you’re not working to think about something innovative to bring additional value, there’s something missing. So I hear what you’re saying on that.

 

Chris Schalleur: Yep.

 

Dave Scott: I know firsthand how hard and tough it can be owning and running a business. Talk to me about some of the struggles in owning your managed service practice. You talked a little bit about the struggles of maybe working with a spouse, or in your case it sounds like it was a blessing, the struggles of hiring good people, and things of that nature. So talk to me about one or two things that’s hard about running and owning a managed service business.

 

Chris Schalleur: Part of it is what we were just talking about, keeping up with everything new, because it is so constantly changing. One of our biggest struggles, in the beginning, was to come up with our quote-unquote “stack”. This is what we’re going to bring to the table. Because it’s so easy to get distracted, and we didn’t have a value internally for what consistency meant to us as an organization. What I mean by that is, well, we had these eight different solutions, as opposed to, here’s the value in just having these two solutions and here’s the value in just having this one solution. That was really one of the biggest struggles, is bringing all of that together. It took literally years to finally consolidate all of that and have one solution stack that we’re going to be able to provide to our customers, and it was absolutely invaluable.

 

Something else that we really kind of worked on. We had a number of acquisitions through the years, and that didn’t help on the consistency, because when you acquire things you don’t really have the luxury of bringing in exactly everything as you have it now and as you would want it. I’ve talked numerous times in numerous pieces about all the different acquisitions that we had, and all the pains that go along with assimilating those clients as well as assimilating the staff that comes along with them. It was really a growing point for both my business partner and myself as far as who we were as leaders and what we wanted to become.

 

Kind of the most recent struggle for us was we finally had a sit down with ourselves and said, “Look, we can’t continue to grow the way we’re growing and still be able to provide service to time and materials clients.” We had a number of clients that had been with us since the very, very beginning, and we finally just had to have personal sit downs with them and say, “Look, we’re not going to be the … I know you put your trust in us over the years and when we were little guys, and you helped us grow, but unfortunately, we’re moving on from this and we’re going to need to move on from you as a relationship, as a vendor.”

 

Dave Scott: Interesting. So it sounds like you guys have gone through a handful of M&A deals, or merger and acquisitions, where you’ve had some struggles not only from a resource perspective but, like you talked about, the post-merger and acquisition tasks. Like how do you assimilate people from their culture to your culture? Do you keep some of the team members? Do you not? What’s the revenue stack looks like? Do you offer more product offerings? You touched on that a little bit. So talk to us a little bit more about that, like what was your overall opinion of M&A? Is that something that you have a bit of a sour taste in your mouth about, or is it something that you’d recommend to other peers?

 

Chris Schalleur: Oh, so many lessons learned on that one, Dave.

 

Dave Scott: We’ve got time, so go ahead and regurgitate everything.

 

Chris Schalleur: Here’s the first one, and this actually relates to your world. One of the biggest lessons learned was have a very blunt conversation about invoicing, and how companies say, “Well, we invoice on the first of the month and everybody pays on the 30th of the month,” is a very different conversation from everybody pays before the first of the month. Very quickly with one of our acquisitions in 2009, we quickly ran aground almost in the first 30 days because the cash flow wasn’t there on day one on the M&A. That was horrific, to the point of where was that $100,000 that we were expecting? Well, we’re not going to get that for 30, 45, 60 days from now. That was quite a gut check there.

 

Second lesson learned that I had was really that the acquiring company really needs to be using some sort of system, a PSA of some sort, because having Excel and Calendars as a mechanism for delivering their IT services is … You can’t know what value you’re getting if the company’s not using a system.

 

Dave Scott: Right, yeah. Did you acquire somebody who wasn’t using a PSA at all?

 

Chris Schalleur: Yeah, actually, two of our biggest were Excel and Calendars. They had hit the point of four or five employees and were hitting those points that I’m sure a lot of the listeners have had where you reach that point and the wheels start coming off. You can’t manage beyond that point. So they were on the point of making the decision on investing in some sort of system, and instead decided to get out of the business.

 

Dave Scott: Wow, interesting. So invoicing was a huge issue post-M&A because cash flow wasn’t available, based on maybe the financial due diligence, and the acquiring companies didn’t really have a good process, or a software tool, I should say, for delivery, right?

 

Chris Schalleur: Yes. Those were absolutely huge for us. That cash flow was a very, very tough lesson.

 

Dave Scott: Yeah. Being shorted a hundred grand or whatever that dollar amount is, is not … That’s not a stressless situation, right?

 

Chris Schalleur: No, that’s a big oops.

 

Dave Scott: Yeah, right, exactly. Did you guys go through an M&A advisory firm, an M&A firm? Or did you use an attorney or a broker? How did you go through that process?

 

Chris Schalleur: When we first looked at M&As … We’ve done six of them throughout the course of our company lifetime, going on 20 years now.

 

Dave Scott: Okay.

 

Chris Schalleur: Most of them have been small, one, two, three person shops. They were all done with an accountant and maybe a couple hours with a lawyer just writing something up, and it was a pretty cut and dry kind of thing.

 

Dave Scott: What was the post-acquisition like? Was there a plan, or was it just, “Hey, here’s the keys to the new operation with all these new employees,” violent shove in the small of your back down a steep hill, and away you go with lots of bumps and bruises along the way? Or was there a post-acquisition strategy that you all had in place by working with an M&A team?

 

Chris Schalleur: The plan was always to have sit downs with each of the clients, sit downs with each of the new employees. Eight times out of 10 that worked.

 

Dave Scott: Okay.

 

Chris Schalleur: Sometimes the wheels came off just from a … The clients that you’re acquiring have businesses and timetables and things that are going on. Your interruption of that has very little validity to do with their day. Most of the time it worked okay. Our biggest lessons learned was that we didn’t get granular enough with the acquiring value companies.

 

Dave Scott: Ah, got it.

 

Chris Schalleur: When you’re our size … I mean, once you get up into the millions upon millions of dollars, that’s a different story, but typically in our MSP world you’re dealing with a couple million dollars and less companies. This is my biggest lessons learned in 20/20 hindsight, is there’s absolutely no reason why during the due diligence process and evaluation process, you can’t go line item by line item, company by company, and assign a value to each of those companies and what they are in terms of value that you’re going to be paying for, what the expectations are. You can assign a different plan to each one of those companies, based on what their needs are, based on what the history is, upcoming projects, what the owner of the business that is that client. You can get that granular. There’s no reason why you can’t.

 

It is going to take a little bit more time, but it’s absolutely … If you lay that out during the evaluation and the due diligence process, you will come back in spades as far as being very, very clear with both who you’re buying, the owner of the company that you’re buying, as well as yourself and not peanut buttering the value over however many companies that you’re buying.

 

Dave Scott: Yeah, no, and I think you hit the nail on the head when you talked about doing and going through the due diligence process. What I hear often in M&A world is people that go cheap regret it. Don’t go cheap. Spend the proper amount of money and time to do it right, up front. Go through that really fine … Take a fine toothed comb to the due diligence process to make sure that everything is set.

 

Chris Schalleur: Yeah. Us being entrepreneurs, we have a tendency to kind of gloss over those details.

 

Dave Scott: Right.

 

Chris Schalleur: What you want to do is you want to bring those detail people to the table with you, those lawyers that are going to go over every single line item, because we have a tendency not to.

 

Dave Scott: Right.

 

Chris Schalleur: We have a tendency to rely more on gut check and looking in the eyes of somebody and handshake and really what your feeling is. When you go to that table, this is not the place for that. You want those accounting lawyer people by your side that are going to be those detail people.

 

Dave Scott: Yeah, no, I think that’s really good wisdom.

 

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And now, back to the show.

 

Dave Scott: Let’s talk about the value of automation inside of your business. I think we all can agree that it’s critical to the health and success of any IT company. Talk to me a little bit about what processes and systems that you’re automating today.

 

Chris Schalleur: A lot of what we automate now really comes from our ConnectWise PSA system. It pretty much runs our entire business. It runs everything from the ticketing to the invoice. A lot of people in the MSP world are familiar with it, but we’ve really automated a lot of that to take away the need for more overhead in our business. We are really kind of expense conscious in our MSP, so wherever we can avoid having a person do something, even if it only gets us 80% of the way there with automation, we’re going to automate it rather than having somebody sit there and do the busywork, for lack of a better term. We really, really abhor throwing a warm body at something. We’re really going to automate the hell out of it, instead.

 

Dave Scott: You talked about PSA. What sort of things are you all automating through your PSA? Are you automating everything from delivery to support tickets to quoting? As you know, we use ConnectWise here at ConnectBooster, and we love it. We use it for quoting, our sales guys and our marketing team uses it for quoting purposes. What are some of the other things specifically that you’re all automating through that?

 

Chris Schalleur: We board, B-O-A-R-D … We board the hell out of just about anything that we can compartmentalize in the business. We automate everything from the quoting process … We actually use the ticket system for our sales pipeline. We use activities and stuff like that, and my salesperson does all of that. But once we get an appointment, once we have somebody who wants to sit down and meet with us and we’re actually going to spend some time with, that moves into a ticket. We start automating that process all the way through a qualification state, through a tech assessment, automatically attaching those checklists and due diligence processes during that courting phase and vetting phase for a new prospect, all the way through to the quoting phase and getting that proposal in front of the prospect and getting them to sign.

 

Dave Scott: That’s the beauty of automation. You talked a little bit about the why that you’ve done it. What do you feel like the improvements have been by automating a lot of these what I would call manual tasks or manual time sucks?

 

Chris Schalleur: In most small businesses, you typically have some sort of champion of XYZ, whatever it happens to be. This person knows how to do this, or this person knows how to do this. One of the really big benefits that we’ve seen out of the automation of it is that it doesn’t … If that person goes on vacation, or they’re just not in that day, that excellence that they have, those little nuances, can be part of that automation, and it can be done the same way, the same excellent way, by any member of the organization.

 

Dave Scott: Yeah, and I think that efficiency speaks for itself, doesn’t it?

 

Chris Schalleur: Yes. You can’t put a price tag on that, because once it becomes part of your culture and that, it’s just how things are done. The expectation level just rises, and that’s your new baseline. So new people coming into our company, new employees, even new customers, you get that wow factor.

 

Dave Scott: Yeah.

 

Chris Schalleur: You can’t put a price tag on that. Well, on day one I had this, this, this, and this. It just happens no matter what. If somebody’s out sick, if somebody’s on vacation, like I said, it still happens. As much as they’re awesome, you don’t have to rely on human beings. You can rely more on your processes and allow the team to get things done instead of an individual.

 

Dave Scott: Yeah, no, and I love that. I think, too, and I have this conversation a lot with Matt Bitzegaio … He’s our chief technology officer here at ConnectBooster. We often talk about the value of either being small or embracing the chaos that’s going to come with growing as a business. One of the things that it’s easy to do is stay small so that you don’t have to automate and you don’t have to do a lot of these things so that you can scale and grow your business, because scalability is key as you grow. If you’re not, that’s a huge roadblock. But as you grow to your point, you can’t rely on awesome human beings to do a lot of the things that you did at 2 million or $5 million. Once you get to 7, 8, 9, 10 million and 15 million, 20 million in annual revenue, you really have to take a focus and take a step back and remove people from certain functions so that these things can be automated, so that you can grow and scale without people jumping off the rooftops. You know what I mean?

 

Chris Schalleur: Yeah, yeah. One of those ones is in your world. I mean, accounts receivable is … You could pay somebody to sit there and poke people all day long. Why? Why not automate that? Why not have something that pokes people automatically? I mean, I’m sure most PSAs do, but ConnectWise has an awesome university article of set up an accounts receivable board, set up automated statuses, and just let it run.

 

Dave Scott: Yeah.

 

Chris Schalleur: You might cringe at that, and I get that. When I first heard this, I had that cringe factor of, “Well, it might rub people the wrong way.” Nope, get past that.

 

Dave Scott: Really? That’s not truth? That’s not fact?

 

Chris Schalleur: When I first heard this, “Well, you got to treat your clients with kid gloves. Don’t ask them too often to get paid,” and everything like this, and always had that cringe moment with people. You got to get past that. You got to get past your own head trash of you provided services or you’re going to provide services, that they need to pay. Automating that is no way going to offend anybody. It just isn’t. You’re providing a business transaction and, “Oh, by the way, here’s your invoice.” A couple days later, “Oh, by the way, I haven’t heard anything from you, here’s your invoice.” I mean, there’s no reason why you can’t poke people like that.

 

Dave Scott: Right. I love it. I think sometimes we like to make things harder and like to think that they’re harder than they actually are.

 

Chris Schalleur: Yeah. Unfortunately, I’m probably … I don’t take offense when I get a notice in the mail. Why would any of my clients?

 

Dave Scott: Right. Me neither. I actually think it’s a point of pride, because it tells me that they’re focused on their customers and their followup is good. If I didn’t ever hear from somebody and I just got a random invoice like six months …

 

Well, here’s a story. About 10 years ago my wife and I were selling our home. We got into a bit of legal trouble, not anything on our end, so I hired an attorney. Everything worked out fine in the end. Everything was hunky-dory, albeit during my vacation, which was awesome, right? My week and a half long vacation, I’m having to deal with attorney phone calls and going back and forth. But all that to be said, everything worked out just fine in the end. But, literally seven months later, I get a bill, and we didn’t get a bill from our attorney. It wasn’t a lot. It was like a couple thousand bucks or whatever. And I’m like, “This guy has really crappy followup.” He is a bulldog of an attorney and I’m grateful that I worked with him and he’s awesome, but he is not that talented and that smart to be above good customer service.

 

As a consumer, as a customer that … and as somebody in marketing like I’ve been for a long time, I really pride myself, and I try to filter things through the lenses of good customer care and good customer service. When that doesn’t happen because people don’t pay attention to meticulous details through good billing or good invoicing, it just kind of shows up as a blight.

 

Chris Schalleur: It does, and I think that’s probably one of the biggest struggles in our little IT community, is that 99% of us have come out of the technical end of things. Providing that service, saying thank you to somebody, shaking their hands, fixing their problem, making their day better, and then leaving wherever it happens to be, either remotely or in person. Then exactly kind of the story that you … All of the other stuff happens. The invoicing, staying up at night trying to generate your time sheets and trying to do this and that and the other thing, and it isn’t done as well because less importance is placed on it. Because most of us came out of the tech field and that’s where the priority lays, is fixing the problems, not necessarily putting on the best face on your invoicing process or your accounts receivable process, because it’s typically an afterthought, for lack of a better term. But it really does … It’s as much as your presentation as how quick your service is and how good your service is.

 

Dave Scott: Yeah, I completely agree. I wrote a blog piece a few years ago. It was pretty therapeutic. It was called The 31 Things I Would Tell My Younger Self. If you could go back in time and you could talk to your younger self, after seeing what you’ve accomplished today and a lot of the victories and even defeats that you’ve had, what would you say? What sort of wisdom would you impart on a younger Chris?

 

Chris Schalleur: Wow. Stay away from the fried foods. No. Probably the biggest thing would be similar to what I had spoken about earlier. Get out of your own way. Stick with what you’re good at. As much as it pains everybody to part with that money, hire somebody to do that job, either a 1099 or an employee. Because they can, regardless of what you think, they can do it better than you. Because your part-time brain is just never going to be as good as somebody whose sole focus is to do that.

 

Dave Scott: That’s good wisdom. Knowing what you know today, would you do anything differently? I know you talked a little bit about M&A. Would you maybe not go through an M&A deal without doing one thing, or would you and to hire this sort of person? Or would you hire this sort of person, or would you do one thing differently? What’s one or two things that, knowing what you know today, that you’d do differently?

 

Chris Schalleur: I would get more into the process earlier. We relied a little bit too much on that individual excellence that I talked about earlier, where we put it down on paper as to why are they excellent? When they do blah blah blah for you, why are they excellent? Actually writing down all the little nuances of what they do and how they care. You have this fantasy, or I did at least, of, “Well, that’s some of the magic of what Christo IT is about. We have these wonderful people and they do this wonderful job,” and somehow, by writing it down, we were somehow going to kill the magic. I don’t know if I consciously or subconsciously thought this, but getting more into that process earlier would’ve absolutely been … If I could go back and whisper in my own ear, just write it down.

 

Dave Scott: I love it. Lastly, what’s the number one point or message that you could drive home to any of your peers listening to this podcast today? Imagine somebody in your shoes, maybe they’re just starting out or they’re in the middle of a interesting season. What’s the one point or message that you would want them to hear?

 

Chris Schalleur: I would actually have two. One, cash flow is everything, which is an easy one. It translates all businesses, but if you’re chasing money 60, 90 days down the road, you’re kidding yourself. You just can’t operate like that, at least not sustained, because if you stub your toe, you’re done. You’re going to have a major problem. So cash flow is absolutely everything.

 

The second thing I probably would highlight for everybody is to get granular within yourself. What I mean by that is, you can go line item by line item, you can go client by client, and get really, really specific about not only making sure that you’re providing the best service to them and going, “What do they need? What is their road map? How can I provide better consulting services to that client?” As well as granularity on your inside, for yourself. Are they a profitable client? Is there anything that we can do to get more efficiency out of that one client? We can talk about generalizations and things that overlap and umbrella the entire company, but it’s very rare that we have, once we reach a certain size, that we’re not going to that line item by line item detail and paying attention to those fine things. Because even if you squeeze just a little bit out of each one of those line items, it’s going to make a huge impact on the bottom line for yourself.

 

Dave Scott: I like it. Chris, where can people find out more about you and your business?

 

Chris Schalleur: I’m kind of a Facebook junkie, so I’m all over Facebook. ChristoIT.com. We have our cartoon characters there, so we talk about our unique selling proposition there and our different cartoon characters and what makes Christo IT different. That’s a great way to find out more about them, and on LinkedIn. If you could look up Chris Schalleur or Christo IT services, I’m usually on LinkedIn as well.

 

Sponsor Message: Before we end today’s episode, we’d like to thank our sponsors, 5 Step Marketing and BVoIP. Don’t forget to take advantage of your free one hour marketing strategy session with Josh and his team. That link, again, is 5stepmarketing.com/audit. That’s the number 5, 5stepmarketing.com/audit. And check out BVoIP if you’re looking to improve your telecom strategy. You can find BVoIP online at bvoip.com.

 

Dave Scott: Chris, hey man, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you as a person, as a friend, and as a partner, so thank you so much for being on this podcast today.

 

Chris Schalleur: Awesome, awesome, awesome. Thank you for having me, and always great to talk to you, Dave.

 

Dave Scott: All right. Thanks Chris, we’ll talk to you soon, buddy.

 

Chris Schalleur: Bye bye.

 

Dave Scott: Thanks again, everyone, for joining us on the Confessions of an IT Business Owner podcast. Thanks again to Chris Schalleur, the CEO of Christo IT Services. If you want to learn more about the podcast, download the show and even the transcript, and if you want to take a look at the case study that we actually published about Chris and his company and the automation tools that he uses to grow his business, you can check all that out at connectbooster.com/podcast. Thanks again, everyone, for being on the show and joining you us today. We’ll talk to you soon.

 

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