Make sure your solution is valuable. Real valuable. There are way too many examples of solutions in search of a problem. Will somebody pay for it? What is the value they will derive from it? Without a doubt your primary competitor will be “alternative use of capital”, not a direct functional competitor. So, you have to win 2 deals. The first is the external competitive deal. Once you win the competition for what you do, then you will then have to win another deal to get funded. Think about this, you will be associated with one of 10 different projects being considered. Your prospect can do 3 of them. You have to be really valuable, and you have to be good at communicating that value, if you want to win that 2nd competition.
As part of my series about the “5 Lessons I Learned When I Created My App or SAAS”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jim Berryhill, CEO & Co-Founder of DecisionLink.“Every deal we work on is associated with a customer project that has a business case. We should not expect high performance in our sales and customer success organizations if we don’t understand that business case, the business outcomes to be achieved, and the economic value our products, services and solutions mean for the business case.” Jim spent over 30 years in enterprise software sales and sales management, leading high-performance teams at ADR, CA, Siebel Systems and HP Software with focus on value selling. He founded DecisionLink with a vision to make Customer Value a strategic asset by delivering the first enterprise-class platform for Customer Value Management. Jim is a graduate of the University of Georgia, resides in Atlanta with his wife Elise and has two children and three grandchildren.
Thank you so much for joining us!
What was the “Aha Moment” that led you to think of the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?
Well, it was really a series of Aha moments over the course of over 30 years. I was a green sales rep when I won my first major deal. The prospect was using IBM mainframe computing systems and had an unbudgeted expenditure of $10M planned due to the need for increased computing capacity. I put together a “value hypothesis” that the company I was representing could defer the upgrade and avoid the expenditure. I won my first 6-figure deal of over 250K, displaced three competitors, achieved almost half my annual quota and did so in less than 90 days. Needless to say, I quickly learned the importance of selling business value over features and functions.
I spent over 30 years in enterprise software sales and sales management, leading high-performance teams at ADR, CA, Siebel Systems and HP Software with focus on aligning to customer value. John and I founded DecisionLink with a vision to make Customer Value a strategic asset by delivering the first enterprise-class platform for Customer Value Management.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
We were almost knocked off the rails a few months after we started. We faced the near loss of my son Jake when he was involved in a serious auto accident at the age of only 23 years old. He could have died; he should be paralyzed but you’d never know it today. I thank God for saving my son’s life. Jake works closely with me now at DecisionLink.
News report about Jake’s auto accident:
I never really thought about giving up, but where’s the drive come from? First of all, hard is relative. Hard is losing a child. Hard is escaping poverty. Hard is being the victim of human trafficking. So, this isn’t hard in any meaningful measure but, in no particular order, here goes. I’m motivated to make a dent in the universe for sales professionals. God expects me to do my best. I’m inspired by my wife who’s always encouraged and believed in me and by John, my co-founder who amazes me. I want to leave a legacy and set an example for those around me. I want my daughter, son and son-in-law to be proud of me, for my granddaughters to think their granddad is the bomb. Fortunately, I already have those last couple! It’s a mixture of things but pretty straight-forward.
So, how are things going today? How did your grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?
We are blessed to share our successes and failures with you! We have incredible customers, some big names and they are realizing great results with the ValueCloud® including Caterpillar, CrowdStrike, DocuSign, ServiceNow, Marketo and VMware. In addition to achieving significant results, these and many others are wonderful partners in helping us build the Customer Value Management category, and they are great ambassadors for DecisionLink and our ValueCloud® platform. That is really the best feeling and any of the tough times getting us to this point are so well worth all that is happening now.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
I was a first-time entrepreneur at 58 years so the mistakes are too many to count but I will share a humorous story that continues to have big implications. Early on John and I were having a conversation about something a prospective customer wanted in our product. This is THE way successful solutions get built. I describe to John and he hems and haws about the barriers and difficulties, the impediments, why it probably can’t be done with our meager resources. I don’t remember what it even was but do remember I was convinced of the difficulty and dejected.
The next morning John calls me and says, “I think I have it figured out!!!”. Sure enough, he did, and I thought “that’s great”.
A couple months later, similar situation. Again, I’m thinking “this is important, how are we going to overcome it?” A few hours later John calls and says, “I think I have it figured out.”
Not too long it happens again. By the third time, I realize I’m partnered with somebody really, really special. So now I expect impossible problems to be solved by John and his team, they are our secret weapon. The lesson? Find talented people and turn them loose on hard problems that have business value.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
We’re the first company to be adamant about solving the Customer Value Management challenge with software versus services. I’ve spent my entire career in software and just won’t take “services” or “labor” for an answer. It’s not a matter of displacing workers, that is not what happens. It’s a matter of making every worker “value enabled”.
Think about the automotive industry. If cars were still built by mechanical experts and by hand without the benefit of automation, production assembly best practices and so forth, do you think cars would be a staple for virtually every family? No. Same here. Cars for everybody, value for everybody.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
My own personal experience was being burned out after 125 quarters with a “number” for publicly traded software companies. I don’t think I was way far off the mark in terms of “balance”. In the South we think of balance as faith, family and football J but let’s face it, the grind and pressure can get you. It’s not just a matter of having your priorities in order. Danny Wuerffel is the Executive Director of Desire Street Ministries and they come along side leaders of inner-city ministries for the exact reason. I know a number of these men and women, and they are incredibly well grounded.
So best I can say is have a sense of greater than yourself. For me, it’s the simple acronym JOY…Jesus then others then yourself. Easier said than done but take care of the spiritual, emotional, physical self. In the workplace, colleagues and customers before yourself. Superman is a figment of the imagination so don’t try to be him or her. Build relationships, identify role models. If you are a leader, practice servant leadership. Stuff like that.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. Approximately how many users or subscribers does your app or software currently have? Can you share with our readers three of the main steps you’ve taken to build such a large community?
We don’t share exact number but here’s a sense. ValueCloud® has been commercially available almost four years, has over two dozen customer companies and is approaching 10,000 users. We doubled in the past year, trajectory is increasing and are working with several prospects with over 10K users each. We are profitable, are almost 85:15 in subscription to services ratio and have lost only 1 customer since introducing ValueCloud®.
What is your monetization model? How do you monetize your community of users? Have you considered other monetization options? Why did you not use those?
SaaS delivered from the cloud through our own web interface or through Salesforce. We charge $50-$85 per user per month based on role and volume, have a minimum subscription of 100 users and a modest fee for on-boarding program.
We’ve looked at other licensing options, but we follow the CRM approach and it makes the most sense.
Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know before one wants to start an app or a SAAS? Please share a story or an example for each.
First off, I was a first-time entrepreneur at almost 60 years old. I’m no expert or even novice at“entrepreneurship”. I’ll leave off the “surround yourself with good people”, “prepare to work hard and sacrifice”, etc. because those are a given.
1) Identify an un-met need in the market. For me, it was bringing automation to a manual task of value enablement. Value selling isn’t new, automating value selling and value management is. Lead a market, don’t chase a market.
2) Be an order of magnitude (10x) better than status quo. If your idea is a “better mousetrap”, make sure it is a lot better. 10x better or more. Nobody cares about 10% better and you’ll devolve into price commoditization if that’s your differentiated value.
3) Make sure your solution is valuable. Real valuable. There are way too many examples of solutions in search of a problem. Will somebody pay for it? What is the value they will derive from it? Without a doubt your primary competitor will be “alternative use of capital”, not a direct functional competitor. So, you have to win 2 deals. The first is the external competitive deal. Once you win the competition for what you do, then you will then have to win another deal to get funded. Think about this, you will be associated with one of 10 different projects being considered. Your prospect can do 3 of them. You have to be really valuable, and you have to be good at communicating that value, if you want to win that 2nd competition.
4) Believe in yourself but make sure it’s something you are good at. David Cummings writes a great blog at https://davidcummings.org/. I’m amazed at the number of times I’ve read something along the lines of “I want to be an entrepreneur; how do I find ideas to be/do that?” Seriously??? Go get some experience, identify something that you are good at, think your way to a solution to a problem, find out somebody else is already doing it, go back to the drawing board. Rinse and repeat until you answer 1, 2 and 3 in the strong affirmative and know without a doubt you are good at whatever it is.
Then prepare to start learning.
5) Have great enthusiasm, be ready for “hard”, be ready for disappointment. Over 90% of tech startups fail. A Harvard Business Review study 75% of venture backed start-ups fail. That’s amazing as those are companies with smart people willing to spend money. Only one percent of businesses started in the US achieve $1M in revenue. You’ll get told no 10 times for every yes.
All that said, believe in yourself. I heard a smart man speak a long time ago about “what is the most valuable thing you have to invest in?” The answer most of the time is yourself!
I’m being realistic, not negative. I profoundly believe in the American spirit of opportunity that drives entrepreneurialism. I think the five items above will give you a fighting chance.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I’m not a person of great influence. If I were, my movement would be to see the love and principles of Jesus brought more into the world. Forget the religious arguments, hypocrisy of Christians arguments and all that stuff. Just see His principles and teachings at work.
So, I support #EndITMovement which is about human trafficking. Desire Street Ministries that helps people who minister in the inner cities. My church’s ministries to the poor, homeless and displaced. My friend Bill Warren’s Good Samaritan Health Center that provides healthcare services to poor people in Atlanta. Jesus said “‘I tell you the truth, just as you did it for one of the least of these brothers or sisters of mine, you did it for me.” His movement is the only one that matters from my point of view.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Twitter @jimberryhill https://twitter.com/jimberryhill
DecisionLink Customer Value Management Video on YouTube:
DecisionLink Customer Value Management Launch Video on YouTube:
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!
It was my pleasure. Thank you for including me and my company DecisionLink in your wonderful interview series!
About the author:
Mitch Russo started a software company in his garage, sold it for 8 figures and then went on to work directly with Tony Robbins and Chet Holmes to build a $25M business together. Mitch wrote a book called “The Invisible Organization — How Ingenious CEOs are Creating Thriving, Virtual Companies” and now his 2nd book called Power Tribes — “How Certification Can Explode Your Business.” Mitch helps SaaS company founders scale their own companies using his proprietary system. You can reach Mitch Directly via [email protected]
“5 Lessons I Learned When I Created My SAAS”, with Jim Berryhill of DecisionLink was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.