7/17/2003 1:47:03 PM
CRM Expert Speaks..
Interview with Stephen Ibaraki, I.S.P.
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
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 economic times.
Q: Can you detail your successes in the IT industry and what sparked you to
start a company in 2003, considering the current economic climate?
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 opportunity.
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 venture.
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
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 credit relationships.
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 them.
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
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
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
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
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 tools
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