Mike Martin, Chief Customer Officer

Top 5 Questions to Ask When Choosing a Salesforce Implementation Partner

We’ve all heard horror stories about botched Salesforce projects that leave end users high and dry and drain the budget. You may have even been the main character in one.

The good news is that it doesn’t have to happen to you. By vetting your partners, you can ensure a smooth, successful project.

But how exactly should you vet a potential Salesforce partner? What questions should you ask in a vendor evaluation? How do you know if they truly have the skills and experience to help with your specific project?

Keep reading — we’re covering all that and more. But first, let’s review the basics: when to hire a Salesforce partner and where to find the good ones.

Why and when should you hire a Salesforce implementation partner?

Many organizations hire a Salesforce implementation partner when they have a business challenge but don’t have the bandwidth or internal expertise to address it.

Those challenges are extremely common. In our Project to Program research report, only 6% of respondents said they don’t work with a consultant or contractor. 

If you’re working on a Salesforce project, you should have a partner involved — even if they serve as a second set of expert eyes. They can start by assessing existing org structure and limitations, point out edge cases, and spot problems in your implementation plan from a mile away.

Where to find a top-notch Salesforce implementation partner

I’ll give you a hint: don’t start with Google. The results will be overwhelming and underwhelming at the same time.

Save yourself some time and conduct a more targeted search instead. Here’s where to start:

Peers

Pull out your virtual Rolodex and contact folks at other companies in your industry who have done Salesforce projects.

Did they work with a partner? Who did they evaluate, and who did they end up using? Were they satisfied with the results? You’ll get a headstart on sourcing potential partners and honest feedback from people you trust.

An elite talent network

According to our 2023 Salesforce Talent Ecosystem Report, the number of certified experts across all partners doubled to nearly 173,000. But not all of those experts will be a fit for your project in your industry or can meet your time constraints and your budget. Additionally, it’s becoming harder and harder to find and engage exceptional talent exactly when you need it.

A network of flexible, independent consultants like 10K can help you move your project in days—not months. Our matching engine quickly identifies the Salesforce expert you’ll need based on your specific and unique project requirements. The best part? 10K Experts are as excited to get your Salesforce project across the finish line as you are.

Learn more about how we vet Salesforce experts here.

5 screening questions to ask Salesforce partners during an intro call

With your list of potential partners finalized, it’s time to dig deeper into their credentials, services, and experience.

1. Can you describe your delivery methodology?

Salesforce projects fall apart without robust business analysis and strong project management.

To evaluate a partner’s level of operational excellence, make sure they highlight:

  • The deliverables that will come out of the project, such as documentation, training, and infrastructure maps.
  • Whether they take an agile, waterfall, or blended approach. Agile projects tend to be completed faster, allowing you to intervene if the preliminary results aren’t hitting the right notes.
  • Where they track requirements, bugs, and enhancement requests.
  • How and when they communicate with you, in standups, over email, with messaging tools, etc.
  • What their testing process is like — does it involve end user testing? How do they handle bug fixes?

2. What would a team for our project look like?

Every project is unique, and you need the right team with the right roles to complete it properly and on time.

For example, if you’re implementing CPQ, you’ll need certified CPQ specialists who’ve implemented CPQ successfully. You’ll also need other supporting roles, like Business Analysts, Developers, and Quality Assurance. They are probably not a good fit if they don’t have these roles on their team.

3. Can you share a few customers you’ve worked with lately?

This question is less about getting references — they won’t give you the contact info of any unhappy customers — and more about their level of industry knowledge and experience: have they served customers in your industry or customer segment or with similar challenges in the past?

Make sure their answers align with your company profile. Also, poke around each partner’s website and LinkedIn to see if they’re publicizing other customer wins.

You should also consider whether the partner is a mid-market or SMB firm that’s trying to move upmarket or a partner that solely works with enterprise clients. If it’s the latter, they may not give you the time of day if you’re not a big enough fish, or you may get less experienced consultants who haven’t been staffed on larger, strategic accounts. 

4. What happens if we go over budget or out of scope?

Scope changes can and will happen, so it’s critical to understand how those changes will impact the project timeline and budget.

Bonus points if the partner can give specific examples of how they handled scope changes on a recent project. Ask to connect with those customers to understand how the situation went.

5. Will you provide training and ongoing support?

The partner may have already mentioned this in #1, but it’s worth getting a separate answer to this question for two reasons:

  1. You want end users to understand what was built and how to integrate it into their workflow. It’s also important to know whether or not you have the resources to support that kind of training.
  2. Your Salesforce Admin is busy and may not have the time or energy to dig into the details months after the project ends when something goes wrong. Right after (or even during) the project, the partner should communicate what they did, how they did it, and how to update it. Otherwise, you may need to engage with the consultants again, which comes at a cost.

This conversation starter may also raise the question of whether you need to pay extra for in-depth training and support. This add-on might be worth it depending on your budget and the experience your resources have.

What is an instant red flag for a Salesforce partner? Delays.

Even if you feel the partner fits your org’s ethos, experience, and process requirements, there’s one more way your project can fail: delays.

The bigger Salesforce consulting firms tend to have long, drawn-out scoping and contracting processes, adding each change as a line item on their final estimate. Why waste four months creating an SOW only to change it during the kickoff call?

In the weeks wasted, you could have:

    • Hired an on-demand Salesforce Architect to assess the current state of your Salesforce org and determine the best path forward.  
    • Onboarded several partner team members and reviewed requirements in detail.
    • Started the change management process, notifying employees that their day-to-day might change, sourcing champions, and blocking off calendars for UAT.

Get your projects off the ground faster with vetted, on-demand Salesforce experts.

Speed to deployment can mean getting an extra edge over a competitor or being the first to enter into a new market. The only way to get started quickly is to work with a flexible Salesforce partner who prioritizes accelerating innovation as much as you do.

Enter 10K. Our on-demand consultants kick off your project 50% faster than a traditional consultancy — without sacrificing quality. All the consultants in our network are excited by technical challenges and go through a rigorous vetting process covering: 

  • Salesforce and Technical expertise
  • Business acumen
  • Communication style
  • Past customer feedback
  • Project management skills
  • Previous consulting and in-house experience

Accelerate your time-to-value with Salesforce, and reach out to us today.

Why You Need an On-Demand Salesforce Architect 

We know firsthand that experienced Salesforce talent is difficult to find and not easy to keep, especially when it comes to technical and specialized roles. 

Companies continue to invest in digital transformation initiatives, and experts in specific platforms like Industry Clouds, Experience Cloud, CPQ, Mulesoft, Einstein, and Tableau are becoming increasingly harder to find. The result is technical architects are in especially high demand, and these experts are aware of the value their skills bring.

Technical Architects are still just 1% of the overall talent supply.

This isn’t to say it’s impossible for Salesforce customers to find experienced Salesforce Architects to work with – they just need to know where to look. 

Some of the ecosystem’s best architects are independent consultants who work on demand. To connect with them, customers must look no further than on-demand Salesforce talent marketplaces and on-demand consultancies.  

Do Salesforce customers need a full-time, in-house Salesforce Architect?

The reality is most Salesforce programs don’t require the hours of a full-time architect. Not only that, but it’s also a costly and time-consuming challenge to hire one. Even if you were able to land an architect worthy of hire, all the money, bonuses, and perks you could offer wouldn’t be enough to entice exceptional talent to stay. It’s a candidate’s market, and good architects are in the driver’s seat. 

The reality is most Salesforce programs don’t require the hours of a full-time architect.

For Salesforce customers planning their next implementation project, systems integration, or technical challenge, here are a few reasons to partner with independent, on-demand Salesforce Architects. 

Salesforce talent supply is tight, and customer demand continues to climb  

Global supply growth decreased by 2.4% from 2021 to 2022 

And not only that, technical architects are still just 1% of the overall talent supply. 

Unfortunately, this makes it incredibly challenging for customers to find and connect with the ecosystem’s top Salesforce Architects. Anecdotally, we also don’t see this changing anytime soon. 

Additionally, our 2022 Salesforce independents survey found that 43% of independent Salesforce consultants said their long-term goal was to grow their business, and 55% said they were unlikely to return to a full-time position or large consulting firm. And it’s no wonder because independent consulting allows experts to be their own boss or subcontract to boutique partners that treat them less like resources and more like partners. 

Despite the buzz of a recession, global demand grew by 19% in 2022 

Growing talent demand only compounds the challenge of hiring a Salesforce Architect. Customers can offer all the money, benefits, vacation, and perks, but there will always be another company that will outbid your offer. 

The good news is that most customers don’t need to hire a full-time Salesforce Architect (hence the beauty of partnering with an on-demand Salesforce consultancy). On-demand architects should be hired at the onset of an engagement to ensure the right decisions are made in a fractional capacity throughout the project. 

Salesforce instances are getting more complicated 

Developers can do a lot, but they can’t do everything. 

Like building a house, you don’t call an architect when the walls are going up. You hire an architect for the design process starting from Day One. 

Salesforce Architects can not only validate the type of technology you want to use but also provide contextual insight and call out the risk areas of any plans while helping with design decisions about integration architecture or data migration strategy. 

Read how this Salesforce Architect increased user adoption by 20x

Our Project to Program research survey also found that regular use of architects strongly correlates with the highest ROI. The vast majority of respondents who report A-grades (73%) and the highest return on investment (82%) always work with a technical or solutions architect.

Developers can do a lot, but they can’t do everything.

Architects aren’t cheap, but their value typically more than justifies those rates. This is why we’ll tell you, if you have to choose, to engage an architect at the beginning, as this is where their expertise will make the difference. Without an architect, you run the risk of blowing past your budget or timeline. 

Get started faster and partner with an independent Salesforce Architect 

Hiring a full-time employee takes time, money, and focus. Going with a large consultancy is one option, but even after you’ve run the gauntlet of the traditional sales and SOW process to get in their queue, it can still take 6-9 weeks to get started. Working with an on-demand consulting partner like 10K can kick off your project 50% faster than a traditional consultancy. 

To partner with a proven Salesforce architect you can trust, reach out to our team to get started. 

Master the Chaos of Your Salesforce Program: 3-Step Guide

What is the goal of your Salesforce program? 

Do you need to coordinate better between orgs, standardize processes, drive efficiencies of time and cost, and (most importantly) create a better overall experience for your users and teams?

Establishing a Salesforce COE (Center of Excellence) is how you make all of the above a reality. It’s the key to achieving operational efficiency and maximizing the value of your Salesforce investment. 

What is a Salesforce COE?

A Center of Excellence is a management framework that ensures efficient, effective, and timely digital transformation. At 10K, we like to consider a COE as the CEO of your Salesforce program. A COE has five pillars that answer the following questions:

Salesforce team roles and structure

Who on the team does what?

How do you articulate responsibilities?

How do you define and develop solutions?

Delivery standards and processes

What do you have in place to ensure you deliver capabilities to the business predictably and consistently?

Governance, change, and release management

How do you prioritize requests, communicate across teams, and roll out changes effectively?

End-user support processes

How do you ensure your end users get the answers and solutions they need in a timely manner to increase usage and adoption?

Education and growth

How do you and your team keep up with the constantly expanding Salesforce platform to help your stakeholders?

Knowing where to start with a Salesforce COE can feel too overwhelming and expensive to consider (especially during an uncertain economy). However, the good news is a COE doesn’t have to be complex to be effective. They come in many shapes and sizes and provide the structure necessary to drive higher Salesforce ROI. 

Why would I need a Salesforce COE?

Every Salesforce customer wants to accomplish the same things. However, we’ve found most are missing the education necessary to be intentional about making their Salesforce program a success. 

It might be time to explore the benefits of a COE if you’re currently seeing:

  1. A lack of innovation with Salesforce (new features, capabilities, and clunky processes)
  2. It’s taking too long to make the above a reality 
  3. A lack of predictability and visibility into how work gets done

Survey results of Salesforce customers that correlate ROI with their COE

Consider making a COE the CEO of your Salesforce program. Here is how to start building one. 

How to start building a Salesforce COE

Like building a house, we recommend starting with the foundation of your COE. Here are the first three steps to building a Salesforce COE.

First: Define your Salesforce roadmap and validate it with an architect 

A Salesforce roadmap is a centralized plan that lays out what you’re going to do and how you’re going to do it. It plays an essential role in delivering on business goals and will help prioritize Salesforce projects and implementations, determine what kind of skills and capacity you need to hire for and outline the timeframe in which work needs to be completed. Salesforce roadmaps help take you from Project to Program, ensuring a better return on innovation. 

Who should build my Salesforce roadmap?

Building a Salesforce roadmap is a collaborative process that requires technical and business stakeholders. You will also need a Salesforce architect to review and validate your roadmap. 

Speaking of architects, let’s revisit the building-a-Salesforce-house analogy. Like building a house, you don’t call an architect when the walls go up. You hire an architect for the design process starting from Day One. Building a Salesforce roadmap or COE (or any major Salesforce initiative) is no different. 

Salesforce architects can not only validate the type of technology you want to use but also provide contextual insight and call out the risk areas of any plans while helping with design decisions about delivery standards and processes, integration architecture, or data migration strategy. They also help confirm product and feature selection. 

Why are Salesforce architects essential?

For example, your sales reps say creating quotes has become too complicated and have heard CPQ is a great solution. Before investing in new technology, it needs to be evaluated if CPQ is the best solution given specific circumstances. A specialized CPQ architect can step in, holistically evaluate your team’s challenges, and determine whether the solution comes down to process improvement, a new product like CPQ, or a combination of the two. 

Architects play an essential role in maximizing Salesforce ROI and minimizing technical debt. Our Project to Program research survey found that regular use of architects strongly correlates with the highest ROI. The majority of respondents who report A-grades (73%) and the highest return on investment (82%) always work with a technical or solutions architect.

With an architect at the helm, it’s time to assemble your team. Before you turn to your talent acquisition team or a recruiter, take inventory of your team’s current state – the roles you have filled in-house and their accompanying skillsets – to provide direction on what kind of talent you need to bring on board to execute your roadmap. 

After this exercise, you should be able to answer…

How many of which roles do we need?

Which roles are essential to have in-house, full-time?

Which roles can we hire for on-demand as we need them?

To illustrate this for a specific project, let’s revisit the CPQ or not to CPQ scenario above. If your architect determines that investing in CPQ is the best solution, then it is likely that you’ll need an in-house expert to manage such a specialized cloud. To execute the initial implementation, however, you should hire a team of hire on-demand consultants. 

Second: Define the roles and capabilities that will deliver on the roadmap

One of the most important pillars of a Salesforce COE includes having defined and assigned team roles and leadership structure.

When it comes to the specific roles within a COE, here are the most common ones we see:

COE Lead: This role is responsible for overall program execution. He or she establishes the standards and guidelines that anyone who touches the Salesforce system must abide by, coordinates the resources needed to execute the established strategy, and manages partners and vendors.

Admin: This role primarily supports those across the business who use Salesforce. They tackle everything from creating dashboards and reports to managing configurations and campaigns to communicating changes and updates to end users. 

Business Analyst: This role works directly with the business to review operational processes and identify opportunities to automate and improve those processes using Salesforce. He or she gathers and articulates requirements and serves as a change management agent across the business.

Technical Architect: This role owns the technical design of the Salesforce system, ensuring declarative and non-declarative features are used appropriately and that the org can scale as the amount of functionality grows. Our recent research into Salesforce Best Practices and COEs indicates that architects can play an outsize role in improving ROI.

Developer: When your requirements warrant non-declarative functionality, this role is responsible for building it using platform features such as Apex Classes or Lightning Components. This role may also be responsible for integration development, configuration changes, and solution design for complex features.

The roles and responsibilities within your COE may vary based on your organization’s size, structure, complexity, budget, and other factors. In some instances, one person plays all or most of these roles in some way, shape, or form (this is the life of a solo admin). 

Larger organizations may have multiple experts in each of these roles. However, most companies fall somewhere in the middle and use a combination of internal and external expertise to build and manage their implementation. According to our research into Salesforce best practices, 61% of respondents say at least half of their implementation was built by consultants. 

For more on building an Executive Committee and Salesforce Steering Committee, visit our article: The Roles and Structure That Guide a Successful Salesforce COE.  

Third: Create the processes and standards to guarantee predictable and successful outcomes 

You have a roadmap and the talent to make your Salesforce Center of Excellence a reality. Now what?

As we mentioned at the beginning of this article, four other pillars stand up a successful Salesforce COE. For more in-depth detail and the benefits of each pillar, we invite you to visit our Center of Excellence series: 

1. Delivery standards and processes

How to Build a Well-Oiled Delivery Machine for Your Salesforce COE

2. Governance, change, and release management

Process that Speeds, Not Slows: Establishing an Effective Governance Model for Salesforce

3. End-user support processes

Why a Support Process is a Vital Component of a Salesforce COE

4. Education and growth

Education is the Best Way to Get More from Salesforce

It’s always the right time to restrategize and further integrate Salesforce with your business and operations — whether you just started building your Salesforce foundation or are simply looking to get more from the investment you already made.

We have a full how-to guide that provides even more detail on the concepts in this article. To achieve Salesforce operational excellence and maximize ROI, download our Salesforce Center of Excellence Handbook!  

Bite-Size Ways to Incorporate Salesforce Ongoing Learning Into a Busy Schedule

Whether you’re wrangling kids while trying to WFH, chasing down client payments, searching for new gigs, or juggling the demands of a significant other while also trying to take care of yourself, chances are you land among the many who agree this year has been one big balancing act and time warp wrapped into one. This is why, frankly, we’re happy you’re making time for this blog. Time is a precious commodity, and the unique circumstances of 2020 have made that abundantly clear. 

Earlier this year, as part of our “Ask the Expert” webinar series, we explored the importance of why every Salesforce expert should incorporate ongoing education into their schedule. And, with our recently released 2020 Salesforce Talent Ecosystem report, our Salesforce independent consultant survey found some interesting trends. 96% of respondents said they rely on Trailhead to keep their skills sharp and up-to-date, yet 30% of survey respondents also cited that making time to learn new skills is a top challenge of being independent in the ecosystem.

Given the collective challenge we all seem to have in finding enough hours in the day to do it all, here are three quick ways to continue your Salesforce learning, no matter what the day may throw your way:

TrailheadGO: We cannot overemphasize the convenience of this new mobile app. No matter where you find yourself–in line at the DMV, in a waiting room, or on a long car ride (should we ever return to regular travel)–TrailheadGO makes it easy to continue your learning on Trailhead without being tethered to a laptop or desk. Best of all, it’s now available on both iOS and Android. 

Trailhead community and user groups: One silver lining we’re taking away from 2020 and the universal pandemic we are all living through, is the normalization of virtual networking and learning opportunities. As you may recall, not so long ago, Trailhead community and user groups used to be limited by their region, with many groups choosing to meet physically. With in-person meetings on hold, many are now publishing when they are meeting and the topics they are discussing, making them accessible without geographical restraints. 

Prioritize and set goals: There are upwards of 34 certifications in Salesforce and Trailhead can help you prepare for nearly all of them. If you have your eyes set on an exam in the near future, we recommend setting small, attainable goals for yourself that can help maintain your motivation as you reach each one. It can be easy to get overwhelmed by putting high expectations on ourselves about getting x number of badges in a given week or wondering where to go next. Take a step back, break it down into a study plan, and celebrate the small wins while you set yourself up for the big ones.

If you’re interested in learning more about what’s trending in the Salesforce expert ecosystem, or you’re just curious about how your peers are feeling going into 2021, you can download our Salesforce Talent Ecosystem Report here

3 Salesforce Tasks You Shouldn’t Outsource

The title of this post may be a little misleading. Why would an agency that specializes in connecting companies with outsourced Salesforce talent give advice on what not to outsource? At 10K we pride ourselves on being a resource for all Salesforce needs, which means we have seasoned experts in our community across every one of the tasks and roles described below (because everyone’s situation varies). 

However, we also believe there are some things you can, and should, whenever possible, delegate to internal staff. These include:

Daily Administration

Daily administration tasks for Salesforce range in levels of complexity, from the fairly simple like resetting passwords or creating reports, to managing overall end-user support and handling feature requests. In some companies, admins are like a swiss army knife capable of handling almost anything, but if the system needs are primarily lower-level tasks, it’s easier to have these internally-owned rather than outsourcing. 

This is because business context is key. An internal admin should understand the “why” behind their tasks rather than simply doing what they are told. This requires working across business stakeholders and technical teams and an analytic skillset to ask the right questions and understand user requirements. It also requires certain communication skills to translate technical requirements to the business, and vice versa.

End-User Support

Similar to the daily administration tasks, you want the person or people handling end-user support to have a solid understanding of your business so they can triage issues and provide support based on their context of why things are the way they are. Ultimately, you want your end-users to be comfortable with who they’re working with, and having someone in-house is your best option. 

(Some) Release Management

While a lot of companies (including 10K) can provide guidance on the process and toolset to use, ultimately there are a lot of orgs that don’t want a third party touching their production, largely due in part to security. We get it. As we’ve mentioned in our recent Handbook for Salesforce Operational Excellence, it’s a good idea to have someone internally own the release management toolset and the overall process for release management. 

Release management should be handled by someone who is incredibly organized, and disciplined enough to adhere to a defined governance process. It’s important to have someone comfortable telling execs “no” to maintain the process and rigor that’s required of the position, and that might be difficult for an external vendor.

Depending on the size and scale of your organization you may have multiple people handling these responsibilities. Some people may be handling the responsibilities in addition to other duties, while for others, it will be their full-time job (e.g. full-time release managers).

What Should Be Outsourced

On the flip side, we’d be remiss not to discuss the tasks and roles you should consider outsourcing to an external party because there are many. In our 2019 Salesforce Best Practices Research study, we found that 94% of respondents were working with at least one consulting vendor. More than half (53%) were working with three or more partners.

There are many reasons why so many companies choose to outsource so much of their Salesforce work:

  1. The Salesforce platform is both deep and broad, which means you’ll be hard-pressed to find experts inside your organization knowledgeable in every skill and specialty you might need.
  2. The Salesforce platform and ecosystem is ever-evolving, which means it’s tough to keep updated on every new feature, advancement or change, especially if you aren’t in the sole business of being a Salesforce expert.
  3. Experienced Salesforce talent is difficult to find and not easy to keep, especially technical and specialized roles. According to our 2019 Salesforce Talent Ecosystem report, when it comes to the roles most-in-demand and hardest to retain, architects, developers and technical leads came in at the top 3 of both lists. 

Given the dynamics above, it makes sense that the skills and roles we believe are best suited to an external expert are those that are either hard to find, hard to keep, or require an outside perspective. 

These include:

Developer: Development talent (people versed in Salesforce-specific configurations, APIs, and coding languages like Apex, Lightning, or Visualforce) can be hard to vet and qualify. Especially if the person in charge of finding this resource isn’t technical themselves. When customers work with a trusted partner, whether onshore or offshore, they can take ownership of the quality and can provide a safety net if things go awry. 

Technical Lead: This role is even more difficult to find, vet, and qualify, especially since many Technical Leads should have more years of experience and more projects under their belt. Yet these experts are indispensable when it comes to designing solutions, communicating, clarifying and testing requirements, and helping a bigger team of Salesforce developers to work together in a cohesive way.

Technical Architect: This is a seasoned role that can define, design, and execute solutions on the Salesforce platform, as well as other tools, often acting as a technical advisor throughout the entire engagement. Technical Architects are few and far between, and they also don’t typically need to be a full-time resource.  Outsourcing allows you to access Technical Architecture in a fractional capacity. 

Integration Specialist: This role specializes in integrating Salesforce with other tools via APIs, Mulesoft, and/or third-party middleware applications (e.g. Informatica, Boomi, Jitterbit, Talend). Specialized skill sets like integration change rapidly, so looking outside company walls can ensure you’re keeping up with the latest developments.  Bringing in an expert for a particular integration platform can also accelerate a project and allow your internal team to focus on their core competencies.

Platform Specialists: Occasionally you’ll need outside help for specialized projects and implementations that require skills an internal team doesn’t have, or time they don’t have. Some of the newer Salesforce clouds also require individuals with advanced skills in things like CPQ, AI and Machine Learning, Field Service Lightning, etc.

This list isn’t the be-all, end-all, and of course, will vary based on a business’ unique needs and circumstances. It’s meant to be a general guide based on experience across hundreds of customer projects. 

If you are in the market for any of these tasks we believe can be outsourced, 10K has a community of experts who can help. If you are lucky enough to have an internal team of experts and are looking for how to get more out of your program, we’d encourage you to check out our Salesforce Operational Excellence Handbook. 

“What Would You Do If You Weren’t Afraid?” A Q&A with OpMentors Co-Founder Jocelyn Fennewald

“What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”

That’s a powerful question at any time, but especially during these uncertain, crazy times when a global pandemic is wreaking havoc on the global economy and making us rethink the way we work. Jocelyn Fennewald and Machell Enke were asked that question back in 2013 during a Women In Tech event at Dreamforce. A question that stayed with them throughout the event and eventually led to the founding of their company, OpMentors.

OpMentors is a full-service consulting firm that optimizes how businesses connect with their customers using Salesforce and FinancialForce. Jocelyn and Machell became one of 10K’s first community members, helping our clients implement and make full use of their cloud CRM and ERP systems. OpMentors has since become a valued customer as well, using other 10K community members to expand their capacity and utilize specialized skill sets.

In this Q&A with Jocelyn, who is also OpMentors’ Chief Strategy Officer, we get to hear her own journey from admin to entrepreneur, how she’s working with a contract workforce, and what keeps her going. Enjoy!

What was your inspiration to start OpMentors with your partner, Machell Enke?
Machell and I have known each other for 12 years. We first met at a bookkeeping company and then found ourselves working at an IT VAR based out of Chicago. We spent several years there building out the entire operations on Salesforce and associated applications such as FinancialForce. It took several years from “Hey, here’s this thing called Salesforce,” to having a fully-integrated front to back office solution, but during that time Machell and I became enthralled with the process of improving operational efficiencies.

While attending Dreamforce in 2013, the keynote speaker at the Women in Tech event asked a question to the audience: “What would you do if you were not afraid?” Machell and I spent the whole week at Dreamforce running that statement through our minds, and it eventually became our inspiration for OpMentors. We landed on the name OpMentors to always remind us to be those operational mentors that clients need when navigating through the murky waters of technology. Our logo is a lotus flower which represents integrity. That is our highest value in our business and how we operate.

How involved are you in day-to-day project delivery to clients? How do you balance that with building and guiding your own company?
It has been, and continues to be, an effort to balance working on the business and in the business. The first 3 years of the business, I was hands-on with every project. Today, I’m not as involved with the day-to-day delivery for each project, but work closely with our consultants and engagement managers to keep a pulse on projects and architect solutions with the team. My job is to bring together the right team members to deliver the best solution to our clients.

It has taken time and working with a business coach to learn to switch the mindset from tactical delivery to driving strategy for our business. Building a company takes planning, research and time to stay ahead of the technology curve. As a professional services company, we need to ensure our consultants understand all tools that are available to make a client successful. The only way we can do that is to dedicate time to this and make it a business focus.

How are you using independent contractors within your business?
We have a great mix of full time employees and contractors. The Salesforce ecosystem is so broad that no one person can know everything the Salesforce platform has to offer. We bring in subject matter experts to help us provide the best solutions to our clients.

This is why we work with 10K Advisors. Working with them allows us to quickly expand our team with trusted experts. I know the experts that work with us will have the same core values to deliver great results for our clients. This saves me time as a business owner to know I will have the right person in the right role when the needs arise, and it helps that I am not carrying overhead for experts that I would not be able to keep utilized long term.

What kind of skills do you think are most in-demand in the Salesforce ecosystem today?
In my opinion, the most in-demand skill is the ability to architect a full 360 degree solution for customers. It is not enough to just know how to do something in Salesforce, but the ability to know when, where and if you should do something for a client. Clients look to their consulting partners to be the guides in allowing technology to enhance their business and not tie them down to a heavy process. With all that the Salesforce clouds have to offer, having the ability to architect the right solution and mentor the clients through what is best is a skill that takes time and effort to master.

What is the most exciting project you’ve worked on with OpMentors, and why?
Do I have to pick one? In 6 years, I have had the ability to work with amazing customers across so many exciting industries. The client project that jumps out the most to me was from one of our first clients. They had FinancialForce PSA implemented, and asked us to come in for a health check and optimization. The client was in the technology space and understood the power of Salesforce and FinancialForce together, but they did not have a system administrator. Their controller was my main contact, and throughout our project, she learned the basic admin skills to support the business. Everytime she would figure out how to write a workflow, she would send me an email to tell me how excited she was! Most emails also came with a meme attached which always made me smile.

What’s the best part about owning your own business, and the hardest part?
One of the best things about owning a business is the sense of pride for each milestone that we achieve. While day-to-day things are hard, stopping to celebrate small milestones has become so important. When Machell and I hit our one year anniversary, I bought her a bottle of wine with a custom label that had our logo on it. Nothing fancy, just something to celebrate us. To this day we have not opened that bottle of wine. That part is always the mystery as to why we have not opened it. Each milestone we hit, whether it is an anniversary, project win, or a new hire we make an effort to stop, and celebrate what we have accomplished.

When you start a business and don’t know what the future holds, there is an excitement and nervousness in that. But seeing our business go from two of us to the team we have today gives me such a sense of pride. The hardest part about owning a business is learning how to unplug and rest. As an owner, there is always something to be completed, something to learn and enhance for not only our clients but the business. Not unplugging and taking a break will lead to burnout and that is never a good thing. I am thankful for Machell Enke for this. We watch out for each other’s burnout and encourage each other to take time off to recharge. I do find my best ideas come when I am relaxed and not forcing a solution.

Is there any advice you’d give to people looking to open up their own consultancy during these challenging times?
The times we are in are most certainly challenging for everyone. If you are looking to start up your own consultancy, take time to write down your thoughts, what your vision is and why you want this. It does not have to be polished or perfect, but writing it down gives legitimacy to why you want to do this. Of course, do your research, know what your strengths and weaknesses are, but at the end of the day, trust your gut.
You will never have enough data, time or money to feel the time is right, but trusting in yourself is never a bad thing. If you are not sure if owning your own consultancy is the right thing to do, start by working as a contractor. Working with the 10K team as an expert gives you an entry point that not many people have yet. Most importantly, starting a business (whether you are wildly successful, only have one client or fail) there are invaluable lessons and skills you can learn along the way.

Thanks Jocelyn!

If you’d like to hear other stories and tips about starting your own consulting business in the Salesforce ecosystem, join myself and our CEO Nick Hamm on our “From Admin to Entrepreneur” webinar April 7 at 11am ET. You can register here.