Lars Helgeson is the CEO and Founder of GreenRope, a CRM software designed for small-and mid-sized businesses. GreenRope is the world's first and only Business Operating System, a cloud-based platform that simplifies and consolidates a company's sales, marketing and operations. Lars sits down with Chris to share how he has designed his own success for both himself and GreenRope despite overwhelming criticism.
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Chris Snyder [00:00:43] Hello, everyone. Chris Snyder here, host of the Snyder showdown president at Juhll.com and founder of Banks dot com. On the show, we talk with industry leaders and entrepreneurs about what's working and what's not with their growth programs. In addition, we want to hear how industry leaders are guiding their teams through this tough time of COVID-19. Of course, we'll cover a lot of other business issues on top of that. Just a quick message from our sponsor. Juhll is a full-service digital consultancy, and we focus on helping executives solve their toughest digital growth problems. We do this while working as an extension of their executive team. We quickly identify the biggest problems impeding growth. We propose solutions that give you the best opportunity for success. Finally, the work has to get done. So we bring a private marketplace, a vetted World-Class talent to execute your plan. To learn more, go to Juhll.com. That's Juhll.com. Or you can email us directly. It's Chris at Juhll dot com. OK, without further ado, today we have Lars Helgason. He is the CEO and founder of GreenRope, a CRM software designed for small and midsize businesses. GreenRope is the world's first and only business operating system, a cloud-based platform that simplifies and consolidates the company's sales, marketing, and operations. Lars is an Internet marketing veteran who is also the author of CRM for Dummies, part of the globally acclaimed for Dummies book series. Welcome, Lars. Thank you for having me, Chris. Absolutely. Absolutely. Thanks for being on the show today. We'll kick this off. Why don't you tell us a little bit about your upbringing, where you grew up, and how you got to where you are today.
Lars Helgeson [00:02:36] Sure. So I was born in Hollywood, of all places. Sort of an auspicious beginning.
Chris Snyder [00:02:45] We didn't cover that. I was the flipflops and paddleboards when we started this gig.
Lars Helgeson [00:02:51] Yeah. So my dad was a, at the time, a food chemist and living in L.A., met my mom at UCLA and then we moved to living in a little place called Newbury Park, then lived in beautiful Bakersfield. Anyone.
Chris Snyder [00:03:07] Hey, my daughter was born in Newbury Park.
Lars Helgeson [00:03:11] Really?
Chris Snyder [00:03:12] Yeah. Up there. I can't remember the name of the hospital, but Newbury Park up Woodland Hills or in the Valley, quote unquote.
Lars Helgeson [00:03:19] Yeah, absolutely. So yeah. So I lived there for a while and lived in beautiful Bakersfield for a while. I don't know if you've ever out.
Chris Snyder [00:03:30] I pass through Bakersfield.
Lars Helgeson [00:03:31] Yeah. I think most people do. I'm sure it's really hot there right now. Lived there for a few years. Makes really good friends there as a kid. Still friends with some of the people I met back then and then went to high school down here in San Diego, went to college in upstate New York, got a degree in mechanical engineering and then a master's in biomedical engineering and was hoping that I would be able to use that. But I had an Air Force ROTC scholarship. And so with that, you have to go in and serve. Which I did. So I spent four and a half years in the Air Force, did most of my work in the space program and got out after being in the government for a while. And it actually was very formative because I learned a lot about just about how to do large complex projects and manage people and eating and all that, which it was great experience. But the one thing that was frustrating to me was that it was part of being in a huge organization. The Air Force is a giant, enormous, massive organization with tons of bureaucracy, and some people thrive in an environment like that and enjoy it. I don't, which is why I got out and I had to do something different. At the time, I wasn't really sure what I wanted to do. There was a guy that I met when I was getting my MBA, so I got my MBA while I was in the Air Force from the University of New Mexico, actually played hockey for the University in New Mexico. But don't think that that was awesome because we were pretty bad stuff.
Chris Snyder [00:05:06] But it was really hot, hot and in a desert place. They have a hockey team, but.
Lars Helgeson [00:05:11] Yeah, yeah, it was yeah. We got sometimes, you know, there's those things in life you're not correct about. You might think you're good at something. Yeah. There was I never thought I was really good at hockey, but I really was. You know, you get surrounded by people who are very, very good.
Chris Snyder [00:05:30] Well, going to school in upstate New York. I'm actually from Rochester originally. Got a lot of family up there and a lot of our friends are from there. But you must have learned how to play hockey in upstate New York. I didn't learn that in California. Did you?
Lars Helgeson [00:05:44] No, no, no. That's exactly what happened in college where I went to school, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. It was it's a very good engineering school. But the ratio of guys to girls players, five or six to one. Yeah. There's really not a whole lot to do in the winters. There are just brutal. It's just it's cold. You don't see the sun and the town that it's in Troy. I think it's a little better now. But back in the day, it was pretty dismal. And so hockey was life.
Chris Snyder [00:06:11] Don't forget Rolling Rock or some variation of or Genessee Light, actually. Genessee and Genessee Light.
Lars Helgeson [00:06:18] Yeah. Yeah, of course. Of course. Yeah. Yeah. Back in the day. So but hockey was sort of a thing that I did. It just goes to have to be fit and active. And, you know, I mean, when you're in an engineering school like that, you're working so much. A lot of people turned to alcohol and beer to get through the winters. I tried to kind of go the other way. And so I did cycle. So. I learned to play hockey out there, which was fun. And then when I got to New Mexico, I was able to keep doing that. I actually - I still play hockey.
Chris Snyder [00:06:50] Yeah. So if I drew a triangle on the map, this is I'm trying to visualize this. You went to high school in California and went to school in New York. So you went from one extreme to the other. Not only culturally but geographically temperate, like demographically. That's got to be a huge change for you. And then you came right back down to the southwest in New Mexico, right? Yeah. How did you go from...well, you were in the military, so I'm assuming you went to get your..was it your MBA after the military?
Lars Helgeson [00:07:23] No, I was in. And while I was doing it. Oh, OK. I was stationed at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque. And so, OK, I was right there. And so I would go on base and I would work and then I would come off and take night school and get my I got my MBA.
Chris Snyder [00:07:39] That way, yeah. I was a military brat. What division were you with in the military?
Lars Helgeson [00:07:46] So I was in the Air Force and we were doing. I was attached to the Air Force Research Laboratory. So just did some research work there. Worked in this relate to the space program. So there's a little kind of an honor because I wanted to be more in biomedical. I wanted to help people more directly like that. But, you know, when you go into the military, they go where they tell you. So, yes, you do this and say, this is what I want to do. And they say, well, no, we have a need for you here. And so you go there. So it was really very interesting. I mean, I was completely outside of anything I've really ever studied when I was in college. But when I was a kid, I had always wanted to be either an astronaut. I love space. Like when I was the kid, PBS showed the Mars landing. And this guy, Al Hibbs, was the guy on TV and he was narrating the whole thing and showing pictures and describing what we were seeing and learning about the space missions, all that. I just thought that was so cool. And it was funny, you know, how life kind of brings you in different circles. I was thinking I would go medical and then I went right back to space and, you know, and then I realized after I'd been in there for a long time that, you know, it's a huge machine. And the guys that I have friends now that still work in the Air Force are still in the space program that do all those things. And the work that they do is absolutely amazing. And it was you know, it's they have all these different Passey different choices that you could go. And I just kind of decided to go off on my own. And as an entrepreneur without really any money, I mean, I graduated or Guy Cali Air Force and saved up a little bit of money, but it was yeah, I don't come from money. My dad was a teacher, so my mom was home and she was a social worker. So, yeah, we didn't come. I was on a trust fund kid and I couldn't bankroll a company or anything. So I had to figure out what I was going to do. And from that angle, I figured that I would get in the Air Force or get into programming and software.
Chris Snyder [00:09:45] And that you're 27, 28 years old at this point. You know, enough to be dangerous. You know how to work. You ought to get up early. You know, to put a chemical weapons suit on at this point, probably. Right. And then you decided, okay, I want to be an entrepreneur, which is you know what there is someone told me one time, some people just you have to be dumb enough to try like you knew. If you knew then what you knew now would be like, OK, anyone who tells me they're if they're like 50 years old, you and I are not that all I can tell. And you just, we're similarly aged but we're not that old. Someone tells me I'm going to start a company. They're like 50 years old. I'm like, dude. I started doing this when I was 28, 29, 30 years old. That is a good spot. You have a little bit of experience, but if you try to - this is hard stuff. Yeah. So tell us about those first years. Like, what did you what were you programing? What were you interested in? What did you want to do?
Lars Helgeson [00:10:47] I didn't even know. I just I knew that I wanted to go off and be an entrepreneur. I got this book that was called Teach Yourself CGI Programming in a week. Oh, my God. Like, way back. I mean, that's like it's ancient history stuff. But it was fascinating to me. And I thought that there was a lot of potential for the Internet. You know, way back in those days there, there's the boom and bust me before that, the dot com boom. Everyone was like, oh, it's a fad. It'll go away. No, no. No one ever needs to use the Internet for anything. So I thought it would be different. So so I kept focusing on building ideas around how you could leverage the Internet. And so I was doing. I helped start with my business partner. I had way back in the day, I had this idea of selling original art online. And so we had this site called Just Originals, dot com, where you could go in. And he had hired a bunch of kids to do scanning of slides. And I built software that you could go on the Web site, you could search forum. And this is all like old school stuff before really like established databases, architecture and frameworks and all that stuff. So we were just kind of trying to figure out how to make it work. And I learned a lot about technology. I learned a lot about business, learned a lot about managing people and keeping up with different technologies and everything, and learned a lot of lessons through that, unfortunately. Well, one of the lessons that we learned was that people don't buy art. Original art from what they see on a computer screen.
Chris Snyder [00:12:23] Yeah. Back then, they didn't. They might. Nowadays, you guys were well ahead of your time.
Lars Helgeson [00:12:28] Yeah, I think that was part of it. You know, I think, you know, there's an emotional connection that goes with art. There's this especially when you're talking very expensive, high-end pieces. There's an emotional connection that goes with walking into a gallery, seeing it and talking to the person in the gallery, feeling like, you know, the art this. There's a connection there that we just at the time, the technology wasn't there and society wasn't there to replace that. So so so, you know, he sunk in a good chunk of money and it didn't go anywhere. But through those lessons, we learned a lot about software development, learn a lot about managing a business remotely, the whole thing. And so we kind of split. He went up to Portland. I went down to San Diego, and we kind of started this idea of trying to figure out where we were going to do next. And I was doing some consulting work for other people, just kind of other software projects and stuff to kind of put food on the table. And I lived in this dirty little apartment and on a beach that was like it was. Yeah. So living off my savings and trying to make things work and eating a lot of macaroni and cheese and trying to figure out what we were going to do. And then came up with the concept of cooler e-mail, which was an e-mail marketing company. So did that for a few years and had some ups and downs. You know, like with every business, you know, there's going to get some successes and failures. But we grew that a little bit. And then around two thousand eight had some had a little bit, you know, like with all business partners, you're going to have differences of opinion, differences and strategies and the whole thing. He wanted to keep doing email marketing. I wanted to keep I wanted to expand. I thought that email, as in e-mail marketing as a service, is pretty much a commodity.
Chris Snyder [00:14:25] Yeah. Cheetah Mail, Bronto, Constant Contact, MailChimp. The MailChimp guys have done a great job. Like to catch any of those guys right now. I mean, they're so good at what they do.
Lars Helgeson [00:14:38] Yeah. I mean we started at the same time. They did. They just had all the money. They went got funded. They had a lot. They created a lot of awareness around who they were. And they're all good. It's good software. But what I realized that our company being small and we could continue to grow and we did. But the future and the real challenges the businesses face is the battle. Understanding all of the information that they get confronted with an information management and even the smallest business can be complicated. You think about what happens with even just marketing. You have email marketing, which is really simple, but you've got your website, you've got social media, you've got web analytics, and you're trying to track that on all those. You have forms. You've got different - you might have live chat. I mean, and that's just the tip of the iceberg. You know, you talk about - you throw in sales people running around doing things, making phone calls, sending emails on their own. You've got work, in-person meetings, going to conferences. When you think about what's happening in customer service. You think about, you know, your hosting events. You've got account managers that are doing things on the operational side. It just turns into a massive data problem. And so what I realized from talking to people is, is that capturing that data and making it useful is the real problem. And so rather than keep focusing on email marketing, I kind of shifted a little bit and went towards CRM. So then we knew e-mail marketing. We've been doing it for a long time and we continue to. It's still a big part of what we do because most businesses have to do e-mail marketing to communicate. And it's not it's just it's a part of doing business. But what we found was that we had a couple of options. We could either make our email marketing platform and focus on it, focus on that, or we could build a CRM kind of using email marketing with it and really focus on API eyes and trying to connect different technologies together. Or we could build something on our own and have all that functionality built it into the same platform. So I thought that that latter approach was the direction to go. I decided I like kind of in talking to people and thinking about what would really be useful for businesses. It would be finding ways to organize all that data, create it, had the platform so that you wouldn't have to go out and buy lots of different things. Yeah, but actually have the platform, have all of that in it. So.
Chris Snyder [00:17:11] So like a true engineer. Buy versus build. Build. Yes. Oh yeah. Now the good news is, is you have the talent in the background to actually build software that I mean I think about Xabier, I think about some of the connectivity tools that have been presented to us over the years. You know, the MarTech 12000 or whatever it is now, there's around, I believe, 12000 MarTech-related companies out there right now around varying categories. You seem to have created your own category. You've got HubSpot, Salesforce with sales cloud. There are crazy amounts of competition out there. So. Continue to talk us through, OK? Now, you decided to build this thing. Was this in 2008? So on the back of the last crisis?
Lars Helgeson [00:18:07] Yeah. Yeah, it was. And it took about two or three years to build the first prototype to launch our MVP. And so we started again, just like we did with Cooler E-mail, where we gave it away to some people and let them use it and give us feedback. And there were a couple of stumbling blocks. The first one was, I remember in the summer of 2010, just before we launched our MVP and started giving it away to our smaller people. I gave a presentation at a conference here in San Diego. And it was this thing called the M.I.T. Enterprise Forum, which still exists. And actually now our customers, but they posted me and it was a presentation to a roomful of experts talking about a business and a business challenge. And so I describe the history of our business. And I stood up on stage and I had a few other people there. Three other people and a moderator. They were interviewing me, gave my business case, and then let them provide feedback. And I have never been so skewered in my life. I stood in front of that room of 200 people, every single person in that room shot me down and said, you're trying to do something that's impossible. You'll never be good at everything. Your business is going to fail. Afterwards, there was an exec, I don't know who the guy was, but he walked. He was he walks up to me and he says, hey, I just want to let you know I'm such and such from Infusionsoft. And you are destined for epic disaster.
Chris Snyder [00:19:42] Oh, God.
Lars Helgeson [00:19:43] Well, thanks, guy. Like, I don't know who you are, but I'd heard of Infusionsoft at the time, but the guy he was looks like he just came up and he was like, you're going to fail. Why?
Chris Snyder [00:19:53] I don't. What's the motivation for someone? Like, look, if he's an exact Infusionsoft, he's probably making a couple hundred G's a year. He's got stock. He's got all of his benefits. He's he hangs out. His job isn't hard now. And what benefit is it to take a younger entrepreneur and just be a dick like that?
Lars Helgeson [00:20:14] I honestly, I've never understood that. I don't know why he did that. But it's funny because, you know, in my life, I'm sure it's happened to you, too. And to all of us. People say you'll never be able to do something, you can't do something. And you either react to that and kind of go, oh, you're right, I'll never make it. Or you say, you know, I think I can. I'll show you that I can do this.
Chris Snyder [00:20:36] And so that's what he did. He did it intentionally. He knew. Yeah, he knew your personality type. So he was actually helping you out.
Lars Helgeson [00:20:44] Yeah, maybe. Oh my God. The other guy. Thank you. But. But yeah. So it really lit a fire under me. And what I realized though from that was that if there was a whole room of people that out there and every single one thought that I was trying to do something impossible, that it would give me a head start. And because they're a company and it did there, it was probably it was several years before this concept of everything being included. Infusionsoft back in the day had started down that path. You know, and it's funny because with their new product, they've actually gone way backwards. They're deciding they've taken a lot of stuff out of their system. Now, I understand the wisdom behind that at all either.
Chris Snyder [00:21:28] HubSpot, would you say? Do you agree that HubSpot maybe did the same thing? I mean, they feel like maybe more B2B, maybe is years more focused on e-commerce or is it more focused on B2B, BDC?
Lars Helgeson [00:21:39] We do all of the above. We taught it in every industry where we're in, in 40 different countries and every different industry. So HubSpot is probably the closest thing. And it's certainly good software. It's just it's very expensive for what it is. I can attest to that. Yeah. And it doesn't include a lot of stuff I think should be in what people consider CRM. HubSpot does not include a project management system that doesn't include an event management system. It doesn't include real surveys, that doesn't include knowledge management system or so that.
Chris Snyder [00:22:13] So you add on Confluence, Jira, Survey Monkey. Right. Know, I see this is all the money I spend on this stuff. So my mind is spinning right now. When I read about like your total business operation package, we have to put together so much stuff. Right. And that's an honor. Yeah. And so to your point, you kind of said, well, wait a second, if nobody believes it can be done, no one's probably trying it. Right? Right. So I believe if we try it, we actually had a head start because if we're successful, no one believes they can actually do it. Right. In HubSpot, to your point, was probably like the only company that had tried it. And you guys were probably like equally capable of doing this. You wrote a book about this. When did you write the book? Tell us about the book thing.
Lars Helgeson [00:23:05] It was it's funny. It's kind of a funny story with it. I published it in with Through Wiley in the summer of twenty seventeen. It's about three years ago and it was when I went to Wiley I was gonna self publish my own book. I was gonna, you know, just kind of do that. But I thought, you know, maybe if I could get a big publisher behind me, I would get more recognition that more people would know about it. It would be more people would learn what I'm trying to talk about, because I'm trying to convince the world that CRM is a bigger problem than just a sales thing, that it's CRM is the whole relationship. Everything all the things I was talking about, you know, they don't, you know, web, social video, what all those things. Right. So. I went to Wiley and I talked to a friend of mine, it's sort of an acquaintance who had written a book for Dummies book before you said, hey, talk to this person. That was a person I worked with. So I went to talk to her and she said, well, how many people really follow you? I mean, are you a big name or anything?
Chris Snyder [00:24:09] Yeah. I gave a presentation in front of a bunch of experts, like six years ago. So does that count?
Lars Helgeson [00:24:18] Yeah, it was. It was I think she was hoping that I would be a, you know, a Gary V level kind of influence or kind of guy. No, I just sent somebody out. And so she said, well, I don't think that there's really much of a business case for you to write this book. And I thought because there is but there was no CRM for dummies.
Chris Snyder [00:24:39] Lars, do you see a trend here?
Lars Helgeson [00:24:41] Yeah.
Chris Snyder [00:24:45] Let me pick the hardest thing in the world to do and then just go tell people I'm gonna do it. Wait for them to tell me no. And then prove them wrong.
Lars Helgeson [00:24:53] Yeah. Kind of my cycle. Yeah. It's a bag of snacks. So. So she wrote she directed me to somebody else. She said, you know, maybe it would be good for a technical book in the technical books division. So I went to. Were there and she said, well, how many, you know, we can write a technical book. But usually that's for specific software packages. So if you wanted to make like Salesforce for Dummies or whatever, because there's a lot of people use Salesforce, they recognize that they'd be worthwhile. She said, how many people use GreenRope? And I said, probably about five or six hundred companies. And she said, that's not quite big enough. So I went back to the original person and I said, Hey. So I talked to the other person, technical books. And she thought that it would be much more applicable to have it be a CRM for dummies. She thought it was a great idea, but that it wouldn't be useful as a technical book that you should be the one to really push this forward. I love it. So I so she talked to her boss who put together a business case, and then they bought off on it. So it took me about a year and I wrote it and you know, just based on what my interpretation of what I believe CRM is and I'm not going to say that I'm the world's foremost expert. I have a perspective based on my experience. And I believe that the big challenges that companies face has to do with the integration of all this information. So you need a central source that's going to manage all of those relationships, which is what a c r m should be. It's a customer relationship management by definition. Right. So in all those relationships, they're all different. Right. You've got salespeople that are calling leads. You've got people that are calling your customers, people that are visiting your Web sites, people interacting with you on social media. People that are watching your videos channel.
Chris Snyder [00:26:46] You have resellers. You've got. Yeah. Yeah. But you know what? It's all data, right? I tell my customers this all the time. They're like, well, have you sold A B to C subscription box service to females age. And I'm like, God, just stop it there. It's all the same stuff that you can hire a content person to aim at that demo. You can hire an analyst to plow through that data. You can set up a database at a field that says channel and make sure it manifests itself in front of a sales rep on their dashboard. These are some of this I feel like is really not your stuff. But when people come back at us and they act like it's a market problem, Uber solved the market problem right there. BMB solved a market problem. They opened up a brand new market. Some of what we're talking about is is a different take on an execution problem. It's just making it better. Right. Yeah. So now that's so that's really interesting. So you said you're the expert. So tell me about the book process. I'm super curious about this.
Lars Helgeson [00:27:59] Yeah. I mean, it's a lot of work to write a book. I had our deals our way. Yeah. I'd already written about one hundred pages. And when you write for Dummies, they have a very specific format where you have to kind of break things up. You have to title things a certain way. You have these little call-outs that you have to put in their little gotcha things that you put in there. So it's a very specific format. And I thought that I'd be able to take one hundred pages I'd already written, move them over to four dummies and that would save me time. And she said, don't even try. And I tried, of course, and it didn't work. And so I said, All right, fine, you're right. So I started over. And that's why it took me about a year. It was a year of writing and, you know, just conceptualizing how I wanted to communicate. All the elements of what a CRM really should be. And so what I call I call the concept complete CRM. So the idea that everything is that everything should be everything that you can possibly encapsulate in the relationship shouldn't be stored inside the CRM. So that was, you know, it's a little bit of a departure from the traditional model of CRM. Salesforce is an example, Microsoft's SJP Oracle. They're all based on a very sales-centric approach to CRM. And then they think about the other components as sort of add ons or things that you'll connect in and eventually. But then you run into this issue of which is the set, which is the comp, the contact of record. Where do you store the master file with all of the data about a particular contact or a company that you're working with? And the reality is in most businesses, that's like 10 different software pieces. Yeah, if you have a conflict, what do you do if someone needs to connect one to another? What do you do? And if you're a huge company, you go and you hire an army of developers and they work with APIs and or, you know, if you're being frugal, you might use Zapier or one of these other tools to kind of link these pieces together. But you still run into the problem of data moving from one place to another on its own. Things where it's generating data separately. So, like, you know, if you've got your email marketing system separate from your sales database, how how do those two stay in sync with each other? Because if you're a salesperson, you want to know if you if your marketing team sends an e-mail newsletter out. What did your league do with that? With that newsletter? Did they read it? Did they click on it to then subscribe to it? Did their e-mail bounce? And I mean, those are you know, those are things that are relevant to the salesperson. And even today, with as ubiquitous as just even simple things like sales CRM connected with e-mail marketing data that you don't find a lot of. Yeah. And, you know, and then and now you start storing in things like web analytics data. So, you know, if your lead has actually been on your Web site combined with survey data and then video watching data and all that, you know, like Essi mass data, phone data, like all this data that's, like you said, it's all just data, but you have to figure out how to organize it. And that's the problem is people in business, usually they did the concept as the inmates run the asylum. Right. So I have a junior marketing person and says I know how to use MailChimp. I'm only going to use MailChimp because that's what I know. And you have this V.P. of sales. It says, I only know how to use Salesforce. That's all I want to know. And then you have an account manager that says, I only wanted to use base camp four for my project management. And then somebody else, you know, so they each have their own separate software pieces that they want to use. And what happens is that's great for them in their department. But at the moment, you need to integrate that data. The moment someone needs to take a high-level view of what's happening and tracking people through all these different channels, it all breaks down because the marketing people person says, I love using my mark email marketing software, and that's great. But they're not the ones that have to figure out how to get that data in the hands of other people that really need to use it. And that's how this turns into a leadership problem. This is not part of it is a data problem, but it has to start at the top. A CEO, a CMO, a CTO. Those are the people, a CRO. Those are the people that at the top have to say the management of all of this data takes precedence over one individual's preference over using a particular piece of software because that one individual may love using that software. But the problem is much bigger than that one person.
Chris Snyder [00:32:36] Yeah, it's almost like they have to be. Well, it's so funny. And you're right. It's the inmates running the asylum. Anywhere you go, if someone invested in humans are always trying to find the path of least resistance. So if you hire someone, by the way, that's why I usually standardize on tools here that are well known and prevalent, because it's usually easier and cheaper to find someone because they're just they have more. They're just more widely available to everyone at a lower cost. So you take, you know, you'd mentioned base BaseCamp, you know, Jira, for example. I think it's ten bucks, the license, or whatever. And they have a lot of documentation. It's like, OK, if I can't find a jury master that's been trained and organized, then geez.
Lars Helgeson [00:33:24] But you start thinking about some of these smaller software companies that don't have good documentation or they don't have a good business process or if you don't know if they're gonna make it. But I guess the point that I was going to make is we created software to become more efficient from a productivity standpoint. I kind of believe we've gone backward. There's if there's a bell curve on productivity, we've got to be getting on the other side of that at this point because of what you were just talking about. We may have accelerated and done a great job 10 years ago, but now the market is so confusing and so full of "me too" products. And honestly, if the executives, to your point, don't literally take a stand and go look, what is the process of this company and how are we going to run it? And we are going to train people on how to do this because it's almost like I know not everything needs to be customized, but all businesses are different. And I'm not suggesting you make a customized package for every single business, but this notion of running your entire business operation under one platform that everybody's in and accountable for, it seems I mean, it feels like a novel idea as we discuss it. But then I'm thinking about it as a business owner, Mike. This just makes sense, right?
Lars Helgeson [00:34:47] Right. Well, and that's why when I talk to people about CRM in general, I don't espouse GreenRope as the - I don't start there. I start with what do you need as a business. You think about it as a business. You need to know who you sell to. You need to know your market segments. You need to know what their preferences are. Buyer personas. All that stuff. Then you need to know process. You have to know the customer journey, the customer journey, mapping the flow charts, all that, understanding how you go from. Someone first finding out who your brand is all the way through, interaction with you to becoming a customer, and then turning them into an advocate. That whole process for all your different market segments. You're not talking software through any of this. This is all requirements, understanding how information flows, who's doing what in sales process this. And then you think about your data model. What do you need to store to support that entire customer journey? So you may have project management-related data. You may have event-related data. You may have marketing-related data. Web analytics related data, all that data. Where is that? What do you need to store and how does that how is that relevant to your whole buyer's journey? So you build a model of all of those things first before you even think about software. And then you start the requirements-based approach to looking at what software you should use. So naturally, what always happens is people say, OK, I know my market segments. I saw just the example you were saying before. I sell to maybe, you know, females in this particular age range as my main demographic, whatever. So you have a fundamental idea of who you sell to. You think about how you're going to take someone all the way through the buyer's journey. You think about the data fields you need to store, what information you need to store about them in the relationship. And then you say, OK, now I need software that will let me do that. And then you start with your CRM and you say, OK, now I need to figure out because the relationship is what's going to drive this entire process. We start with the CRM and we look at what do we need the CRM to be able to do? And that's where it starts to get complicated because you start thinking, OK, well, I need an e-mail marketing system. I need a Web site analytics system to be able to build landing pages on Web sites. I need forms I put on Web sites. So I'm going to cut coast videos. So I get a track from people, watch videos. I'm going to have events, you know, where I maybe they're Zoome events, maybe they're in-person events, whatever. I'm going to have salespeople that they're going to be calling people. And maybe you need to track phone numbers. You begin to automate as a mass messaging or I'm a mass messaging or maybe the audio broadcast messaging, whatever. And then you start thinking, well, I need to track information internally. I want to post a knowledge base. Is that for my internal and external use? I want to have a support ticketing system. All of the things are building and connected to the relationship. And then once they come up with all these requirements and they say, OK, these are the things I need to do. If you start with a company like a Salesforce, Microsoft, these traditional old school CRMs, they require that you have all the things you were talking about where you find another piece of software to do the email marketing, other pieces offer to do the video and the video tracking another piece software to do the landing pages. And so the project management, the support ticketing system, the live chat integration, all that stuff. So you start doing that and it turns into a giant spider web of mess.
Chris Snyder [00:38:19] And it turns into a frickin tech project is what it turns into. I want to touch on something, because after you started taking me down that hole of you really need to be thoughtful about what you need and how to, you know, how to structure it. Before you go there, I'll just make a comment like I've sold the small and mid-sized businesses before. I think it's a coin flip on the level of sophistication to get people to think through these problems properly. Some of them may have done it already, but they have preferences. Some of them have may have done it already, but poorly. Some of them may have never done it before. And it feels like there's a consulting component or some kind of component at the beginning of integrating your software that needs to happen or else. This is just not going to work.
Lars Helgeson [00:39:13] Absolutely true. Education is a huge part of what we do and we don't start anyone on an account with us without having at least three hours. I don't care how much experience they have at least three hours with us. And we have a certification program that we offer and it's normally we charge a thousand bucks, but it's free right now. And so it's about a 40 to 50 hours program where they go through and they understand a lot of the control side as well as the implementation side, just because there's so much that has to go into managing all the things that it takes to run a business.
Chris Snyder [00:39:50] So we could certify. So based on all your years of experience, you've you understand the services component of this and the software component of it. And there's probably ad hoc adjustments that you may need to make. We'll get into that. But you could certify potentially. You need to have a certain level of business acumen or sophistication or could we certify an army of people, take them out to, you know, million dollars a year donut shops or fifteen million dollar a year startups that have, you know, a Series A funding? And could we certify these people and get them on GreenRope? Like, how does that work?
Lars Helgeson [00:40:31] Yeah, I mean, it's like anything, you know, when you're talking to a business, you have to have a fundamental understanding of how businesses work and understand, you know, what is the purpose of the market? I mean, like marketing one to one, sales at one, basics of how to how do you operate a business? But once you have that you understand how businesses work, then it's just a matter of applying the technology to meet those demands to meet what the customer needs. And one of the big issues that we always talk about is understanding the total cost of ownership. I'm sure that this before or too you know where. Yeah, you could buy all these different pieces of software, but then it's much more expensive than just the subscription for the e-mail marketing system, for the subscription for the CRM. You've got all the training that goes with it. Yeah, all the integration that goes with it. Sometimes those APIs cost extra. And then you have to have developers manage those things. And then what happens when someone changes their API interface? And then what you've got to do is you got to rehire the out the developers to go in. What happens if something breaks? What happens if there's a conflict in data? It starts what seems on the surface to be cheaper. You know, I'm sure you talk to people that say, well, I'm using a free MailChimp account and of course and I can do that for free forever if as long as I send less than two thousand e-mails a month and which is true. But then they'll spend five days moving data in and out of MailChimp to try and get the data useful for other people. And it's the penny, whatever the penny-wise pound-foolish thing. You know, it's you know. Yeah. You can save a few bucks if you go for four cheapy email marketing services, but that's not your problem.
Lars Helgeson [00:42:18] Do you have models for this? So when you start to get into these assessments of your software relative to the options, you kind of stack it all up and you just do a mathematical thing in a Google sheet or whatever. And you say, look, guys, you can you're going to pay Xabier if you have this Binnie's apps, you know, 60 bucks a month. That's six hundred dollars a year you're gonna pay. Right. And you just take them through the list. Izarra, standard savings that you've kind of come up with that says, look, I'm going to show it to you. You can go off on your own, but you can say 50 percent by using our software, not to mention the unquantifiable time that you're gonna spend on training and other development.
Lars Helgeson [00:42:58] We have done the analysis. We actually have a page on our Web site that talks about it. And typically, it's over 90 percent savings. Oh, Jesus. Who says no to that flight? Right. Well, sometimes people do because they feel like they're married to this way of thinking and they're going to force it through. And, you know, we can't help everybody if they don't want to see the world that way, they can they if they want, hire all the developers they want and push all these pieces, you know, like all these pieces together and keeping this constant hamster wheel of trying to make all the integrations work. And they can do that. But that's most of the time when we show people. I mean, that's like. So our conversion rate when. One goes through and we talk to them about using GreenRope. We give them a demo. We give them a trial account. Once someone is qualified, they've actually locked in and they're a legit company. Our conversion rate is over 50 percent.
Chris Snyder [00:43:54] Oh, my God. Really? Yeah. Convert it. So convert from trial to convert to pay. Yep. Yep. Jesus, in your starter package, I'm on your Web site. It may have changed. Bigger starter packages. One hundred and fifty bucks a month. I think a similarly priced Salesforce, Pardot, HubSpot -name any of your classic larger companies. They were at least a thousand dollars a month easily. You know, maybe some a few hundred, depending on the deal or the discount. You've got an integration fee. You guys have integration fees now.
Lars Helgeson [00:44:33] Now we have a setup fee that just pays for training and we don't make money off that. That's just paying for our labor to meet with the new customers and show them how to how to use the system and everything.
Chris Snyder [00:44:46] How can you how can you do this for. I mean, it's a little bit of a rhetorical question because, you know, going back to the Uber and the air BMB example, these guys software used to be one of those things where if you could get the initial product built, which is a bit of a capital expenditure, the rest is kind of history apart from updates. I think we've fallen prey to a little bit of the salesmanship of Uber, WeWork - like some of these guys are positioning themselves as software companies. They have a software component, but people have to have a car to bring you around like WeWork, had to license, you know, or you don't lease commercial office space. So now all of a sudden, that is you're in the commercial office space business. You were not a software business. You have a software component. But maybe I'm answering the question, but maybe you can tell me how the hell you can offer a starter package for one hundred and fifty bucks a month when your next closest competitor is probably at least quadruple that or 90 percent more that. How do you do that? Is it because you're using your own software? Is because you have remote teams? Is it because like like why is that?
Lars Helgeson [00:46:07] It is all of those things. So, yeah, I mean, for one, I've never taken seed funding as I own 100 percent company. And my vision has been to build this as something that was a long term sustainable project that we and our small team can do for the rest of our lives and hopefully pass it on to our children. What we have built is a system that and we use it ourselves. So we run our own business. And so our little team is 20 people and we manage. I think I think we're over 15000 users all over the world. We do that through a lot of the automation and using our own systems and intentionally keeping the company small and focused on our customers. The moment, because I could get every week I get multiple emails from different private equity and v.c. Was it say, you know, we want to acquire, merge whatever, invest whatever? I don't need or want any of that. What I want is to stay focused on providing a quality product, provide a good lifestyle for our team and make the people that use our system happy. And it's a very simple way of looking at the world. The moment you take funding from someone else, you're no longer serving your customers. They serve the customers are no longer the master, the investors are the master. And you become you end up getting a very split personality inside your company because on one side you have investors that are pounding on you for profits so they can make their money back. On the other side, you have customers that are that really need the extra handholding, the continual development and the product. And so as a business owner, you're caught in the middle between what are often two very conflicting demands. I have never had to worry about that. And I'm okay with the fact that I never took a 20 or 50 million dollar buyout, whatever. I, I don't I'm not in this for money. Obviously, money is an important part of everything. That's what drives a business, is what allows me to pay my people and keep the lights on and all that stuff. But I'm not in this so that I can flip it and retire and have a huge bank account, whatever. My life is not going to be simplified into: Lars died with fifty million dollars in his bank account. Because I couldn't give a shit about that. Yeah, right there is. How many people did I actually help run their business? How many nonprofits did I actually help reach out and help other people as I as a provider of technology that enables other companies to grow and run more efficiently? What impact did I actually have? The amount of money in my bank account is not a measure of that. Yeah.
Chris Snyder [00:48:57] You know, there's a thing look at me. I think both of us being entrepreneurs, we know you know, we're not in this to be broken poor. But we do know that, like, I always wonder how much is enough right leg. And it's not up to me to say how much is enough. But I do I can say that, you know, I think over the course of the last 15 or 20 years, you know, those who die with the most toys, you know, win or they still die or, you know, all these cliches, oddest thing. You know, how much does someone actually need? You know, if you - I mean, we live in California, is it 10 million to not have to wake up every day with a panic attack? Or is it five million or is it two million? Is it. But is it a hundred million? Is it a billion? Is it. I just think we need to start thinking about sustainability in giving back and helping out a little bit more in understanding when enough is actually enough. Yeah, you need to get two blocks closer to the beach. I mean, where is this OK. Right. Do you need a Ferrari? And I'm not judging those people. I just I'm on the same wavelength as you. I'm not going to judge them and say that that's not the right way to live. I just think that if it's getting in the way of you doing things that are helping and that are sustainable, then it's absolutely not the right thing to do.
Lars Helgeson [00:50:26] Yes. Well, it's I saw this thing the other day. Is there I don't know how many - there's like how many hundreds of billionaires in the United States and none of them are bathmat. Oh. Many of them have given back like that. But, you know, you hear the stories about the people that are obscenely rich. Yeah. They spend huge amounts of money on their huge homes and their expensive cars and their private jets and all that. And at the same time, you know, they don't drive through downtown or don't drive through their cities. And how many homeless vets that sacrifice their lives so that we could stay safe? As a veteran myself, you know, I think about how we've sent young men and women overseas that come to that are that have been affected. Unfortunately, I was never shot at, but there I was. There are other people where we're not that fortunate, people that have suffered that still suffer with PTSD, that don't have the resources that the homeless population here in San Diego substantial. You know, how many of those people that have that level of money just casually ignore that problem? And, you know, and obviously I'm not one to tell someone else how to spend their money. I mean, it's up to them to spend their money, how they would. I have a hard time thinking that had I gotten if I were at that level, that I would ignore problems of that magnitude. So, yeah, well, I really choice.
Chris Snyder [00:51:47] I really like what Bill Gates is doing because he basically said, I'm not going to give people money. I'm going to start a foundation, I'm going to solve these problems myself. Like I'm going to get involved in this and solve the problems myself. Now obviously gives some people money, but at the end of the day, if it makes you feel better, you know, if it's Basso's or whoever it is, it makes you feel better to cut someone a check for ten million dollars rather than, you know, thinking about this the other day. And it may have been on a podcast, too. I don't know how many Amazon boxes show up at your house, but there's a lot that show up at mine. And what I'm thinking is. Well, Bezos and Amazon, given how large they are, they should be held accountable for picking up every single one of those boxes. Not if they're going to deliver them. They need to pick them up or they need to figure out a way to create a sustainable. Because I look at these boxes stacking up on everybody's doorstep and I'm like, wait a second. The trucks come by to drop them off. Why don't they have the trucks come by to pick them up, load them back on another truck, recycle them, and use them? No, it's more like, OK, we're gonna give that to the waste management companies, which we're gonna make the society pay for because we've decided to ship a pack of batteries in a box that's, you know, large, relatively speaking, packed with foam and plastic. So I can get my batteries the same day. That doesn't make any sense to me.
Lars Helgeson [00:53:19] Well, it's a shift of responsibility. And I think that we all, as business owners, have to have a certain obligation to our impact on this society around us and what we do. And so, you know, I think when you when you look at what you actually do for your business, how do you what work do you do to try and minimize the long term impact you have on our environment? I mean, as a software company, I'm lucky, right? Because I don't make any I don't create I don't there's no byproduct of what we do. We use it. How hard assets. Right. So so, you know, I can't say that. Well, we do all these amazing things and you should, too. I can just say that we are all as business owners, responsible for understanding the impact we have on the world and our society and our culture and our own and our environment. And so if there is something that we can do to minimize that, then we should as much as possible. But, you know, again. But, you know, it's going to be different for everybody. It's different for every business owner, every business. It's it's. And whatever impact somebody chooses to have. So, you know, one of those things we. Work remotely. We've never had an office. And it's back in the day. I remember a lot of people would be critical of that and say, well, how can you possibly have productive employees if you don't have an office? They don't get it. Yeah. And I have to say that I am so happy that we've never had an office that we've never had to worry about. No one making that payment, but then also worrying about people driving to work, sitting in traffic for. So it's a waste of time. It's you miss the time and you think about the old school mentality of someone is not going to be productive. If I don't have a manager walking around their cubicle and looking in on them and peering over their glasses and saying, what are you doing right now? That's not that to me is not a measure of productivity. If people are going to goof off and not work, they'll find a way to do it, you know, double. They'll put their phone under their desk and they'll scold, stroll through Facebook or Instagram, whatever, you know. Ultimately, you want to use the tools that empower and encourage people to be productive. And if you can save them from having to sit in traffic for an hour each day because it allows them to wake up, roll out of bed, spend some time with their kids, you know, and then and then go in their office and close the door and focus for a few hours, then have lunch with their family and then go back and work for a few more hours and then and then finish work and spend more time with their family. I mean, that is value to me. Yeah.
Chris Snyder [00:56:07] And that's productivity, right? I mean, that's what keeps our society going, is productivity. And I think to put everyone in the same box and basically just say. Look, I mean, we went to a fully remote workforce about two years ago. We always had remote you've always got talent that you have that if they're too far, it's too far to drive. And it doesn't make sense. You're like, we're not going to bring in. It doesn't make any sense. And then there would be always seventy-five percent of the staff in the office or 50 percent in the office, and maybe Fridays don't come in. And we'd be very casual about it. But talk about the payments. I mean, talk about 12 or 15 thousand dollars a month in, you know, Elsah Gondo. You've got to get the insurance is you've got to have, you know, coffee and snacks in happy hours in which, by the way, most of these people, they don't want that stuff anyway from based on my experience. They want to not drive the hour. They want to spend more time with their friends. Now, some of their friends are at work, clearly, and that's fine. But they just they value not doing that in where we live. Los Angeles and I know you have a similar problem. If you have someone driving an hour each way, they're the unquantifiable aspects of distress. The honking, the traffic, the waste of time, the time away from their families. It's not just two hours. It's, you know, that they go there and back. It's probably closer to like three hours or even more based on they're, you know, stressed out about picking their kid up from daycare because they got stuck in traffic and they had to be in the office to go to a meeting. How pointless is all of this?
Lars Helgeson [00:57:43] I think I think this COVID thing really brought this to light, that people can still be productive and happy and probably happier when they can work from home. And think about how many pets right now are stoked. Does their owners home all day? No.
Chris Snyder [00:57:59] I mean, those pets are going to be a pain in the ass if your boss calls you back to work. You're going to have chewed up furniture. It's on the floor. Yeah, cats are the worst. They're so vindictive, god.
Lars Helgeson [00:58:13] Yeah, I'm not a cat owner. But, yeah, it's interesting because you find that once people can perform and do what they need to do and still be at home and or in a better world without a pandemic, they can travel and they can say, I want to work from here today. I want to take my family on a trip. And we have some of our employees will do this where they'll travel and they'll go to some other part of the world with their family or girlfriend or whatever and don't work from there. Yeah, they're perfectly happy. They do what needs to get done. And of course, we use GreenRope to manage our own internal operations, everything. So we know what everybody's doing. Everyone's collaborating and working together. The things that need to get done are getting done. It's just they're now not in an office. They don't even need to be at home. They just need to be somewhere with an Internet connection. I would venture to say that there is a significant percentage of our working population that could operate that way easily, easily.
Chris Snyder [00:59:18] Not everybody needs to go to a warehouse. Not everybody works in manufacturing. There is a large percentage of our U.S. population that is knowledge, professional services, service work, and knowledge work based that we've candidly offshore. Unfortunately, in a lot of cases, we could bring that stuff back here for sure and just do it from home with a better cost model. Lars, I feel like we could probably do this all day. I'm going to put a wrap on this, but before we go. You've got a lot of experience and a wealth of knowledge. Can you give any of our listeners advice about, you know, entrepreneurship, business, starting your own company, how to deal with the recent kind of Kovik? What do you have for us to close this thing off?
Lars Helgeson [01:00:08] I think one of the things that I. So I recently gave a webinar talking about how this can impact business. And I think one of the big things that business leaders and I don't mean business owners, I mean anyone in business that's a leader. If you have people that work for you or even if you're just you may think of yourself as being in the bottom of the totem pole. You're a junior person, whatever. In some respect, you're still a leader in some way because people are going to look at you and see how you think and act and model all of that. And they're going to obviously they're going to have an impression of who you are. But people in an environment like this. Leaders are born in how they react to this kind of stress. And a business is either going to crumble because they feel like this is too much for them or they're going to figure out a way to get around the things that are happening and adapt. And I mean, this is a classic Darwinian exercise in business. Absolutely. Companies are either going to evolve by looking at how business is changing and go to where it's going to change. So don't think about business coming. All right. Back to the way it was before all this happened. Think about how things are going to change in a month, two months, three months. You know, I play hockey, so I love references to Wayne Gretzky. But that's one of the things he always says, skate to where the puck is going to be. Don't sit and think about how do I change the way I do business? Now, change about. Think about how are you going to change the way your business operates to adapt to where business is going? People are not going to go right back to work. They are not going to. I mean, there's all the protests. Everything is going on. There's all that stuff happening. But business is changed. People are changed. The way people think and act is going to be different. So figure out. And what you brought up about. About remote workforces. I mean, this is going to be a new reality, a new normal. I know people like to talk bad about calling things a new normal, but it really is a new normal. It is going. So as a business leader, what can you do to adapt the way you think, the tools you use, the way you communicate with people to where business is going to be in a month or two months or three months as things start to come back. You know, there's all this talk about the second wave. And, you know, the quarantine may be extended longer if we may not be able to travel for the rest of the year. Anticipate what's going to happen when all of these things start happening. Now, if you look out your business, right.
Chris Snyder [01:02:49] Yeah. Because you don't have control of when the government's going to open up the state of California. So you might as well hope for the best but plan for the worst. Don't worry about that stuff. What I'm hearing you say is be adaptable, skate to where the puck is headed, you know, be able to see around corners. None of us probably thought Tesla would be the most valuable car company in the world. You know, three or four years ago. And it is right. None of us probably thought that we'd be sitting at home and be able to even be productive for five or six years ago. And we are right. So your message is, you know, loud and clear. Well, Lars, this has been great. We've got to do another one, I think. Hey, everyone. Lars is the CEO and founder of GreenRope, a CRM software designed for small and midsize businesses. GreenRope is the world's first and only business operating system, a cloud-based platform that simplifies and consolidates a company's sales, marketing, and operations. You guys are kicking ass. I really appreciate your time today. We'll have to do it again sometime soon. Thanks, man.
Lars Helgeson [01:04:00] Great talking to you.