January 13, 2014 Issue
The Most Powerful Name In Corporate News and Information
Providing Fractional or Interim Executive Services, Tools and Resources for Small Businesses to Successfully Execute their Vision
As most of us
understand, b2b means “Business to Business.” Cloud9b2b, was formed with the
purpose of helping the small business community by providing tools and
resources to successfully execute their vision. Based in Frisco, TX, we
offer our business consulting services to the entire US.
Frisco, TX 75034
Interview conducted by: Lynn Fosse, Senior Editor, CEOCFO Magazine, Published – January 13, 2014
CEOCFO: Mr. Boyd, what was the vision when you started the company and where are you today?
Mr. Boyd: When I started the company, I had recognized that many small to mid-size enterprises are challenged with executing with operational excellence. Realizing that over 90% of those businesses fail on the first five years, I wanted to have an impact and basically help some business owners succeed. Cloud9 actually started with the thought process that we would change that trend. I formed the entity itself in 2008, but I did not really decide that this is something that I wanted to do in terms of going live until February 4th 2013. At this point, we have helped a little over half a dozen clients and we still have folks that we are helping. We plug ourselves in between the board of directors and Cloud9b2b Talent provide operations as a service. We are ahead of schedule and at the same time growing and enjoying it.
CEOCFO: Would you give us an example of the kinds of functions that you do for a company, both the common ones and maybe something that people would be surprised you accomplished?
Mr. Boyd: The most common thing that we do is we provide fractional or interim executive services to help companies execute their vision with excellence. Our specialty is providing interim and fractional chief officer talent on a contract basis, with a particular passion and preference in the COO role. When we say operations as a service on a part-time basis, it means a small to mid-sized enterprise will get the business acumen, the executive leadership. They get the objectivity that comes with having somebody that is very experienced. Things that would probably be surprising is that because of the way things have evolved, we also provide digital marketing services if there is a need and Clou9 trusted partners who can come in and help provide savings. For example, an energy broker that can come in and show them ways to save money or other services that are kind of unique, a bookkeeper, printing solutions or maybe even an IT help desk.
CEOCFO: What type of company, industry or small business owner is comfortable with having an outside COO?
Mr. Boyd: In terms of serving the small-business owner, one of the key things that we have identified as a psychographic, is that they have to understand there is a need. We could serve everybody, but to speak to your point, the ideal niche for us is we do not want to help everybody. We will typically work with a service business. Therefore, if they are in the service industry, that would be a great fit. We also would work with somebody that is in the technology arena, and, again, that is a service business so that fits in our wheelhouse. We also have folks especially in manufacturing and distribution. Those are really the four industries where our team has a lot of ability to provide great service and expertise. We typically would look to serve a privately held company that is under 50 employees at the time of engagement and they are projecting to do at least $500,000 in annual revenue. We are currently focused on the DFW market and we have plans to serve and help folks in the US and Canada in 2014.
CEOCFO: What is the key to quickly understanding a company’s needs?
Mr. Boyd: You have to provide an assessment for them so that you understand where they are at currently. We quickly want to understand their core values, what kind of vision/mission and overall goals are important to them. Once we understand that, we want to sit down with them and understand what it is, they want to accomplish and then we want to come up with a game plan to help them execute. What many CEOs or even owner/operators are great at is developing a vision; they know exactly what they want to accomplish. Where they typically need help is they need somebody who has the ability to come in and organize and simplify the business, clarify exactly what the business is going to do, so that they can connect to the front line that is actually going to be executing. That is where we come in and help them.
CEOCFO: Do you find typically that most workers in the businesses that you are helping are comfortable or do they need to get used to the approach of the COO as a service as opposed to actually in the company?
Mr. Boyd: Typically, what will happen is that initially, people are a little bit scared. Therefore, our approach is always to sit down, talk with everybody individually, and understand what the core strengths of the organization are and why he or she really enjoy working there. We also identify the key challenges or opportunities they see. As we are working with the executive leadership of that company to formulate a plan moving forward, we make sure that those things all come to fruition and that the team can see. Not only do they listen, but also this is how we are going to step through and either fix things that are broken or capitalize on the strengths. Ultimately, in the short timeframe, maybe two to three weeks, the team starts to feel like they are a part of what’s happening and the walls come down. The team actually help you execute the plan because they are really the key. They are the most important part to executing. At the end of the day, they are the ones that are going to make it happen.
CEOCFO: How do you find potential clients and how do companies find you or even know that this service exists?
Mr. Boyd: We are not doing any marketing at this point. We have some of the basics and fundamentals covered such as a Facebook page and a LinkedIn page, but we really are relying on word of mouth and referrals at this point. The initial plan when I started in February was that this would be myself, but it has grown to be more than I am. We have five individuals that are part of the executive team and we have a talent pool that is a little over a dozen strong. What we are doing is really just trying to organically at this point with plans to market in 2014.
CEOCFO: What attracted the people that are working with you? What do you look for in those people?
Mr. Boyd: One of the key things is that they are energetic and that they care about helping people, making sure that the individuals really want to help others. Secondly, that they have at least 10 years of experience successfully applying and helping businesses grow.
CEOCFO: Your website indicates that caring and giving are important at Cloud9B2B. Where do you focus and why is that important for you?
Mr. Boyd: Great question, Lynn. I think the key is really servant leadership. Whether you are serving an organization like the Frisco Chamber of Commerce or Frisco Family Services or Cloud9 Holdings and the clients are working Cloud9b2b, I am not a big fan in an organizational chart. I think hierarchy has its place at the end of the day, yet because we all have to work together, we must serve each other to operate with excellence. If we focus on what others need, both internally and externally, then relationships tend to be very strong and you are able to really make positive things happen. When I talk about caring and really helping others, it is important and it is core to our organization because ultimately that is how relationships are built. If your community is strong then your organization is usually strong which means that internally the people you are working with are usually strong. I know that sounds a little altruistic, but at the same time the service that I do or that other people in our organization do in the community helps us grow as leaders, with better connections and different perspectives. One of the things that is unique about Cloud9 is we usually take things from other industries and apply them in new ways for our clients. For example, I have a great deal of insurance retail experience so our client, John Pollock Financial and I will take things from that retail space in the insurance arena and help him apply it in the tax blueprint or tax operating system portions of his business with an expanded location in Allen, Texas.
CEOCFO: When is it time for you to leave a company? I know this is new, but I am sure there is an exit strategy in the background when a company should be looking for someone fulltime.
Mr. Boyd: There are a couple of different ways to answer that question. First, I will answer that in terms of an interim executive. Towards the beginning of the year, I had a client that has actually hired me. A financial services organization had hired us in a six-month interim chief operating officer role. What we ended up doing is preparing a plan and setting it up. We realized that their wellness plan was well in place. They were ahead of schedule of they were on track. We actually let them exit the agreement two months early because their internal people were trained up and they were ready to take over the reins. By us moving on it allowed them extra capital to invest into their lead spend and their marketing. That is a real world example of how Cloud9 can be flexible with a client when there no longer really is a need for an interim executive to be there.
On the flipside, there are times where you have more of a part-time or fractional role. In that case, depending on the organization’s needs and what projects they have on their plate. You can plan whether it is a three or even an 18-month need for that part-time fractional role in order to be able to make sure that the projects are rolled out, the plans are in place, and the company is executing things in a scalable fashion.
CEOCFO: You talked about 2014 as a rollout year. Can you share the strategies as to how you are planning to expand and grow?
Mr. Boyd: In terms of the overall marketing strategy, again, focusing back on our demographics, we really want to help privately held companies that are 50 or less employees at the time that we engage that project a little over $500,000 in annual revenue. In terms of the psychographics, we want the CEO or the board that we work with to understand there is a need. We want to ensure that excellence is an aspiration for the organization. We need to understand that the organization is willing to listen and learn while having healthy transparency within the organization. Keeping those things in mind, we want to expand to the US and Canada. Three things that are unique to us are we have experience from the frontline to the boardroom, our Board of Directors, and our executive team’s prior success together in other ventures. We have successful operational leadership and expertise in many industries. We also are very good at maximizing business value by providing clarity in processes and then simplicity to help increase the business valuation. Keeping those things in mind, we want to continue leveraging our organic means to grow, but then we also want to actually slowly but surely begin the marketing process so that we can expand from helping seven businesses as we have this year to being able to help a little over 30 businesses become successful next year.
CEOCFO: Why pay attention to Cloud9B2B?
Mr. Boyd: One of the things that will be interesting for Cloud9b2b is that providing operations as a service is unique. The fact that we really are taking key partnerships and customer relationships and applying them in a way that helps small business owners become successful is somewhat exciting. We are also providing a resource for 1099 consultants wanting be fractional or interim officers with the ability to reach out and leverage our team for business acumen and support.
CEOCFO: Final thoughts?
It has been a fun interview and I appreciate your questions. It is always
exciting to talk about your business and what you have going on, so I really
appreciate the time. The thing I think is important and does not appear in
many places is Cloud9 is built on core values. For people in the business
community, making sure that your values match with potential partners is
critical. Keep it in mind that our purpose is really helping small to
mid-sized businesses succeed. I think that anybody that really sees
operational excellence as something they need help with would be a good fit.
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