On Starting A Global IT Company And Doing $5M In Sales
Hello, my name is Christopher Carter and I am the founder of a global IT company called Approyo. We are an SAP partner and specialize in providing SAP software as a service to customers around the globe. SAP is a company that provides ERP software, and we not only sell SAP solutions but provide these solutions as a managed service. We do the work behind the scenes to keep your business running successfully. We provide consultation, hosting and managed solution services, as well as specific SAP platforms, such as SAP HANA, SAP S/4HANA, SAP Leonardo, etc.
The IT landscape is growing even more complex every day, and with that, businesses need to implement more complex systems to organize their company. SAP systems help businesses of any industry or size stay ahead of the competition with advanced data collection, real-time analytics, and streamlined business processes. Basically, SAP solutions are able to make any business more reliable, efficient and scalable, and what company wouldn't want that?
Today we manage over 300 live SAP environments around the world. Our headquarters is located in Brookfield, WI, but we have data centers in Europe, India, and Brazil with over 107 employees scattered throughout. We did roughly $3M in sales in 2018, $5M in 2019, and our goal is to reach $10M in 2020. We are on track to bring in 30 new deals this year.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
I had been retired for a few years when a buddy came over to the house, who just so happened to work for SAP as their Vice President. Funny enough, we started talking about his work life and the business side of SAP over a bottle of scotch. He pretty much convinced me right then and there to come out of retirement to create this company.
Start and go, don’t let anyone try to stop you, there will be roadblocks but you can jump over them or crash through them if you just try.
At the time, SAP HANA (Which is one of SAP’s growing platforms) was just at the beginning of its time, so with all the information he had given me, I saw the opportunity, and I took it. There was also a lack of solutions providers in my area, which made me want to start the company even more so. Although at the time I was retired, I have over 20 years of dealing with ERP systems and SAP experience. I’ve owned companies before Approyo, dealing with SAP, and with the introduction of SAP HANA, I wanted to jump back in.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
SAP’s systems are already designed and ready to use. What we did have to do though, is to take the intellectual property already in my possession and have the ability to encapsulate SAP into a vmWare based container for rapid deployment and usage.
As we learned how to organize our company to provide these services, over time, we were able to expand based on the results we provided our customers. When a business experienced success with our product, we knew that we should capitalize on it. We came up with our own customized solution, Cloud Ignite.
Describe the process of launching the business.
Our initial years were good, but not great, as we were trying to navigate and position our cloud-based solution to a world that was still trying to understand what the cloud was.
That was the point where most CIO’s and organizations just scratched their heads and thought the cloud was a fad and not a production platform. We had and still prove them wrong.
What works to attract and retain customers?
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers is our ability to provide exceptional support excellently. Our staff is the best in the business, we do not hire just any fresher off the street who can spell SAP. We want customer service, we want SAP knowledge, sure. But they must be willing to help the customer to be their absolute best. We provide free training on SAP, on clouds, databases, etc., you name it we make sure our staff is trained to get the best out of themselves.
We retain our current customers by providing quality service and trust among our business relationships. We pretty much do anything and everything to bring in new sales leads from a B2B perspective. We are on every social media channel, we have our own blog’s where we share our knowledge with the world, we run advertisements on LinkedIn and Google. We send cold emails and cold calls. Another big thing for us is that we benefit heavily from our partnerships with other companies. We provide our services for them, sort of as an external team, and so whatever business they attract, we also benefit from it. I and my sales team travel a lot, you can find us across the US or in Europe, meeting with partners and new prospects and customers.
Why does it work? It works because it’s a personal touch. No, we don’t just show up at someone's office and try to sell our product. We set up meetings ahead of time and sometimes we just make it a casual thing. We say, let's go grab lunch, and the conversation will eventually just flow into the business. People in the business world are always curious about the opportunity, so it’s likely that they will start asking questions. When I can sit there and explain all of the amazing benefits there are to an SAP system with someone face to face, it's much easier to sell them on it. But It’s not all about business for me, I enjoy meeting new people and I enjoy helping them. In the business world, it is always going to be about revenue, but I know that I’m not selling someone a product that doesn't work, I am selling them my team and a part of our soul. There have been thousands of companies who have improved their business processes with SAP systems like the ones we provide, so If I can help someone sleep easier at night, then I definitely will make the effort to do so.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
We are very blessed as we are adding more staff to our SAP technical team every week, our cloud team, our security and tools teams, and our sales and marketing teams. We are looking to grow our client base, in which we have added two already in January 2020, our goal is to add 100 new SAP landscapes in 2020 supporting their needs in SAP managed services, SAP upgrades/migrations, and long term support.
Our goal is to help as many of those SAP customers as possible in the ecosystem and to bring them into the modern-day and bring them onto S/4.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Oh my god have we! We’ve learned that by bringing in the greatest staff members possible, their greatness shows in the way they care about the customers and actually take it personally day to day to garner their success with their SAP landscape. We learned that by hiring the proper person they would fit into the culture we have at Approyo.
One of the best decisions we made was our development of cloud-based SAP solutions and support for organizations looking to move parts of their workloads into the cloud as well as driving development for their organizations.
Our partnerships with Azure, AWS, GCP, DELL, Nutanix, and Cisco have led us to provide our partners with the golden solution for their customer's needs. As such no matter the partner we can assist them and the SAP-based customer to success.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
Currently, we use a number of exciting tools in each area of our business. We run off of social media and our sales team. The biggest tool we use is Salesforce. The most important aspect for our sales and marketing team in the business is to bring in leads. Salesforce is able to integrate with LinkedIn and create contact lists, in which we can target through advertisements and updates. We use Mailchimp to send out our Email Newsletters and campaigns.
From a technical team aspect we use tools from SAP, Microsoft, Google and others to drive home success. From our helpdesk tool Zendesk to our Microsoft Azure cloud’s to our expense reporting tool Expensify, we look to the cloud-based tools to help our teams succeed.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
I love this question as it allows me to really tell the story of “How to win friends and influence people” by Dale Carnegie, it is a great book. I own the book and the audio of it and listen to it yearly. To really set your mind and direction on a path to success I highly recommend starting with it.
I listen to about 50 different books a year, all in the business, motivation and the next steps to get insight from the best and brightest such as Tony Robbins, Gary V, Grant Cardone, and Joel Osteen for motivation and next step sales. Then folks like Jack Welch and Suzy Welch or Arnold Schwarzenegger and Michael Caine, who took their life and took their destiny into their own hands.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
JUST DO IT!!!! Start and go, don’t let anyone try to stop you, there will be roadblocks but you can jump over them or crash through them if you just try. I believe in breaking through, I’ve had ups and downs, hell even my wife didn't want me to start a company, the corporate world would have been easier, but I would not have enjoyed it and would have been miserable.
Refuse to be mediocre, you have greatness in you... you can do it no matter where you start. Be a barrier breaker!
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
We are looking to hire! We are always expanding our technical team and looking to add exceptional character. Currently, we are looking to fill SAP Basis Administrator positions. These people are the core of our company, they are the ones who provide support for customers running SAP software through Approyo. Their daily tasks are taking help tickets and solving problems for our customers.
We also are always looking for experienced and motivated sales team members. We’re looking for four new pre-sales members, they are the first voice to our prospects, they would engage in pre-sales calls, online marketing, and advertising activities while working with the rest of the sales team to bring in new customers.
We’re also looking for several Sales Account executives, who would have a more hands-on role working with partners and customers, in bringing in new relations. We even hire interns to help out both of these teams, where you would learn hands-on about the full-time positions, before committing.
All of these positions are paid and full-time. We are currently looking for people to fill our Brookfield HQ, but would also consider remote workers if they fit the criteria.
Visit our career page to learn more about our open positions.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
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