Customer Portrait: Lessons in building relationships with Chris Eustace

January 24, 2012

Ever wonder how other FreshBooks customers run a business and do what they love? Customer portraits connect you with your fellow FreshBooks peers to share guidance and inspiration.

chris eustace - FreshBooks

Chris Eustace is the owner of Eustace Consulting, which delivers Customer Relationship Systems, specifically, to all different types of businesses. Chris started out with little more than $4,000 in his bank account and after almost 3 years, he has turned his company into a successful business with a team working with him. Hear from Chris on what it takes to build great, long-lasting relationships:

How did you know it was the right time to go out on your own?

I didn’t, I honestly didn’t. I had been laid off from a job before and was able to pick up a little bit of side consulting work. When I decided to quit my job, I said, ‘I don’t care if I have to go make subs or sandwiches. I just can’t do what I’m doing anymore. I’m not happy doing this.’ Then I said, ‘You know what I’m going to do? I’m going to pursue my passion, I’m going to go back to school for 3D animation, and I’m going to do a little bit of consulting on the side.’

So I started back in school with 3D animation while doing some consulting on the side. I was responding to Craigslist ads and things like that. I actually started using FreshBooks right off the bat. Sooner rather than later, I really started to get some traction, and I was like, ‘Wow. I don’t really have time for school anymore. I’m getting so excited and getting so busy with this stuff that this could actually become my career!’

At this point, I can’t imagine not having done this. It’s totally reshaped the way that I look at life and the way that I look at opportunities. I never really got that being in a 9:00 to 5:00 job. It was just like, ‘OK, I’m just going to my job. I don’t see how this is the land of opportunity.’ You look back and people said I was insane; I had a well-paid, 9:00 to 5:00 job. It was stable, but I was miserable and that’s not the way to live.

It was nice to pursue something while I was young and didn’t have a wife. I didn’t have a family. I just said, ‘You know what?’ I had $4,000 in the bank.I then thought, ‘I’m just going to try something else because I can’t do this anymore.’

Tell us a little bit about your business. Where did the idea came from and what you and your team do?

We’re a consulting company with a primary focus on developing and deploying for customers. We’re mostly focused in the New England area, but we do have some customers in California and Texas. We’ve been in business since April of 2009 and since that time, we’ve worked with about 130 to 135 different companies.

I’ve been in CRM my whole career but had never worked with Salesforce until 2008. Once I saw Salesforce, I said, ‘I am never working with anything else. This is head and shoulders above anything else that I’ve ever seen.’ I have experience with, I would say, about eight or nine other CRM packages in-depth and in my opinion, Salesforce is the best.

From there, we’ve actually started to expand our footprint a little bit in that we’re not just doing Salesforce. Salesforce is always the core, but we’re expanding our scope and saying, ‘Wait, what do you do for email, what do you do for document storage?’ Because people are spending too much money on all these things when there are other more cost-effective solutions available.

For example, they can go to Google Apps for Business,which is cloud-based email, calendaring, contacts, and all the other features you would get with Microsoft Exchange.  All data is stored and hosted through Google, totally reliable, secure and saving companies significant amounts of money. And then, for document storage, we typically work with Dropbox or and work to migrate all of their data off old servers that they had previously had  to pay people to maintain.  We then move them up into the cloud and integrate everything into

What does a CRM do for a business you work with? And what is Salesforce?

CRM stands for customer relationship management. It encapsulates a lead all the way to a closed sale.If you choose to implement the service module, it has the whole service and support feature set where you can support your customer base, add trouble tickets, and populate and maintain a knowledgebase. With Salesforce, what we do is really look at how are you storing all your customer data. ‘What kind of analytics can you run?’  From storing customer data, tracking leads and opportunities, creating and maintaining Marketing Campaigns down to tracking internal activities going on with your sales department or any other department.

How did you learn sales?

It’s funny, I never really thought of myself as a good salesperson. But now I actually love selling. My favorite part of my job is going out getting new prospects, meeting companies, figuring out what their challenges are and then giving them solutions that are the best of breed and work for them.

I’ve always been good at public speaking; I’ve never had a problem with public speaking before. The thing that makes sales easy for me is that I 100 percent believe in the product we’re selling, and I know that this is the right choice. If they choose to go another way, I actually kind of feel bad for them because I know they’re going to revisit their decision of not going with and I can guarantee that, if they get the adoption that they need, there’s no reason they would not be successful. Having the confidence in the product, myself and my team are the key things that played into that.

 What’s the biggest learning you have had since starting your own business?

I think the most important thing is developing good relationships with people. That’s what it really boils down to. We can get the work done and there’s 1,000 other people that can get the work done, too. But if you can develop and cultivate relationships, that’s where you’re going to be successful.

Really, knowing how to partner with the right people, choosing the right tools, and building the relationships and continuing to cultivate those relationships is the most important thing. Some of them turn into friendships and things like that. Building those relationships is the number one most important thing that I think I’ve learned from this.

How do you get leads? How do you find your new clients? Is it all from cultivating relationships?

We get leads in a variety of ways. People will find us just on Google as we’ve done some SEO on our website. They search in ‘Salesforce consulting Boston’ and we get some leads that way. We get leads from customer referrals, so when a customer has a good experience with us they refer us. Then, thirdly, and probably the biggest, is through our partner channels.  Building the relationships with the companies you partner with, gaining their trust and providing a great feedback-loop for them is critical.

We enjoy spending time with our channel partners as well- dinners, drinks, and meetings. They’re good people and they know that we do good work so they trust us and we trust them. We’ve really built off of that to provide them a feedback loop. As we’re working through a sales process or a project, they’re getting updated all the time through different automated processes that we’ve built.

What’s next for you? What does success look like?

Success for me? Honestly, I never went into this business to make money. I just said, ‘I can’t do what I’m doing anymore. What I want to do is have flexibility in my day and make my own schedule.’ Success, for me, is being happy in my day-to-day job. I kind of had the luxury that I’ve been very fortunate, monetarily, with what I’ve done, but that was never the end goal for me. The end goal was just for me to be happy day-to-day. I would like to continue this success in growing the business while  maintaining happiness for myself and the happiness of my employees.

I ask my team, ‘What can I do to make you happier?’ Because at the end of the day, you’re going to do the best work when you’re happy. What is it? Is it an iPad? New equipment? Exploring new areas that you don’t necessarily have experience with?

I also like to spread the wealth of the company so when we’re doing really well, everyone will benefit. After all, they are helping my company grow so let’s provide them with what they need and ensure that they know their value and that they are instrumental in growing this company.

Ultimately, it’s just staying happy, continuing to grow, and really doing a great job for our clients. I know it’s a little cliche, but it really is really how I feel.

What’s the wackiest thing you’ve ever done?

Chris' bobble-head version of himself!

Chris’ bobble-head version of himself!

This is a little bit of a tough one but it’s about one of my rep that’s given us the most business. There is actually a bit of a story behind this.

The story is that this one rep believed in us and liked the work that we were doing and we weren’t really known at the time. When we went out for drinks with these guys, they were telling the story about how this one rep would always refer to us in the meetings and nobody knew who we were. His coworker started teasing him and printing out pictures of me from Facebook and pinning them all over his cubicle, which I thought was strange, but I laughed it off. For Christmas, on top of the gift I gave him, I had a bobble-head doll of myself made, and I sent it to him. It says, ‘Eustace Consulting loves,’ and it has to stay right on his desk so hopefully it will encourage people to ask questions about us.

Do you have anything else to share or anything else you want to include?

I would just tell people, especially when you’re in your 20’s. If you are young, pursue what you want to do because your 20’s should really be about experimenting, discovering what you do like and what you don’t like to do. Even if you are in a miserable job, just say, ‘OK. Well, I am learning. This is what I don’t like to do,’ and then take parts of that that you do like to do and try and explore. Don’t feel like you have to be doing this 9:00 to 5:00 or whatever because you don’t.

If they have the motivation and will power to start something on your own then really just go after something that you’re passionate about. You’re going to be way more successful with what you are passionate about rather than just trying to make it to the next Friday.”

about the author

FreshBooks is the #1 accounting software in the cloud designed to make billing painless for small businesses and their teams. Today, over 10 million small businesses use FreshBooks to effortlessly send professional looking invoices, organize expenses and track their billable time.