“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.
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.