Customer satisfaction is the key for the growth of a business, yet many enterprises are striving to implicate effective methods for the betterment of the clients. Through technological integrations like Customer Relation Management Systems (CRMS) software, a leader can vividly mold business processes in order to increase credibility and productivity of the organization. Markets are filled with various promising CRMS solution providers, but to stand apart from the others, a leader must come up with authentic offerings to fulfill the requirement of the clients. Acquired by such vision and compassion, CIO brings you a journey of fervent entrepreneur, Keith Norris, Founder and CEO of Complete XRM Inc.
Below are the highlights of the interview between CIO Look and Keith:
Give a brief overview of your background and your role in the company.
I have a bit of a diversified background before getting into software. I graduated college with a BS degree in Business Administration / Marketing. I have basically been an entrepreneur my entire life. I actually started my first business while I was in junior high school selling wooden garden ornaments that we would cut out of wood and paint and sell from our front yards. Then in high school, I sold belts made out of climbing rope and webbing from my locker. After High School, I started a business selling car audio and cellular hands-free kits to car dealerships with a mobile installation value proposition. I spent some time producing events, concerts and representing an artist. Then I landed in real estate. It was the real estate business where I became acquainted with the Customer Relationship Management market (CRM). We were looking for a product to manage our customer relationships and tasks. When we couldn’t find a product that did everything that we needed, we realized we would need to build it ourselves. This was about 2005.
I co-founded this company in 2006 with my partner and Real estate broker, with the objective to sell Customer Relationship Management software in the real estate market. In 2007 we went to a focus group that FranklinCovey was hosting to get insights into the real estate market. We ended up partnering with them to build PlanPlus Online. It was an online version of the Franklin Planner and the highly successful PlanPlus for Outlook. We have always been on a path to help individuals stay more organized and be more productive. We were able to raise some money from investors in 2007 & 2008 and that really helped us get the company growing. However in 2008 when the recession started we were burning too much cash and our newly hired CEO had to fire most of the company and then resigned. There were just a few of us left at that point. I took on the CEO role and have been in that role since. We now have 3 primary products that fulfill our mission of “Building a Culture of Productivity”, I am fortunate to work with very talented and hardworking people who take ownership of their roles and lead their teams well. It makes my job fun and rewarding.
How do you diversify your tech solutions that appeal to your target audience?
Our company currently offers 3 main products. Each product targets a slightly different audience but they all have a common theme of productivity and the task and project management feature set is in all three.
PlanPlus Online (planplusonline.com)—a Productivity System for Leaders and Achievers use to organize all of your life areas, set and track goals, prioritize, and manage projects in a proactive environment in order to help you achieve your version of success.
PlanPlus Online offers Essentials—a productivity system for individual leaders, and Professional and Business for sales professionals and small to medium-sized businesses—including the only CRM that’s Culture-Centric, meaning it’s the only CRM for companies who’re determined to make company culture a priority as they grow.
In 2013, Complete XRM acquired the exclusive rights to the PlanPlus Online software business from FranklinCovey and currently operates PlanPlus Online as a separate company.
In early 2018, Complete XRM acquired the Pocket Informant family of products. Pocket Informant (pocketinformant.com) has been a leader and innovator in the mobile Calendar/Task/ Personal organizer space for almost 20 years. It has been a leading app on numerous platforms from windows mobile, android, and IOS.
In 2016, Pocket Informant was awarded as the Best Business & Productivity App. Mac World chose Informant 2.0 as “Best of Show” in 2011 and in 2015 as the Best Calendar App for iPhone and iPad. Since its creation in 1997, Pocket Informant has been one of the all-time best-selling iTunes productivity apps.
Newest to the Complete XRM stable is KPI Fire (kpifire.com). KPI Fire helps large companies manage their Continuous Improvement programs with features like Idea Capture, Project Management, and workflow templates. It is unique in the project management software world because it aligns projects with strategic goals and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). It helps an organization focuses on the measurement and execution of planned strategies by engaging and aligning workers around strategy execution and continuous improvement. KPI Fire offers organizations a visual way to plan and monitor their progress on the path of continuous improvement and is rooted in the principles of Operational Excellence.
What were the past experiences, achievements or lessons that shaped your journey?
Team Sports: I played on a number of team sports growing up and college hockey. I think this experience more than most others led me down a path of wanting to build a company with other people, as opposed to just taking a job where I was in it for myself.
Ironman/ Endurance Events: I’ve done some bike racing, and some triathlon events. These events are good personal training to help you push past the point of wanting to quit. You tell yourself just 5 more miles, or 1 more hours, or 1 more minute, and before you know it, you are accomplishing things that you thought were impossible. I think that lesson applies to building a company as well. There are times where you take on seemingly impossible tasks and if you keep at it, you can prevail.
Working with Investors: I have been very fortunate to work with some very successful people who invested in our company and taught me a lot about building a great company. Without them, we wouldn’t be where we are.
What were some of the primal challenges and roadblocks that you faced during the initial phase of your journey?
The most difficult challenges are the ones that threaten your existence. In 2008 our company had run out of cash. We had revenue, but not enough to keep everyone. Our CEO at the time, as his last act, fired everyone & quit. There were about 3 of us at the time that needed to decide if we wanted to keep going and try to make things work. We did. We were also able to bring back a few of the others on short term contracts and pull things together with the revenue we were generating. It taught us to manage the cash of our business more carefully. There were a number of times where things seemed bleak, but as an entrepreneur you have to have faith that things will come together, and you have to work hard until they do. Success cans always an elusive quest, if you let it be. It can also be found along the journey. It is a good idea to look back occasionally and see how far you have come. There is always going to be a long road ahead, hopefully that excites you and doesn’t frustrate you.
With ascending in the number of pivotal and ground-breaking technological advancements the role of technologists is continually evolving. How according to you, has this role changed over the years?
The only constant is change. I don’t think anyone in any industry can get too comfortable with the status quo. Someone is always trying to knock you off of your pedestal and take away the customers you have. Continuous Improvement is absolutely required in business today. If you aren’t getting better, your competitors are.
Where do you see yourself in the near future and what are its future goals?
I’d like to continue building a great company. That means having excellent products that customers love, working with great people who love what they do, and keeping investors happy. I’d like to see us continuing to build our offerings that help individuals recognize their own potential to be leaders in their own live and in their organizations and to continuously improve themselves and their organizations.
What is your advice for the emerging tech enthusiasts?
Learn to Code. But don’t stop there. You need to develop a personality and learn to work with people. The old persona of the “tech-geek” or “nerd” (said with love) who is good at math but bad with people, is not going to cut it in the future. Employers have more options now than ever, if you are a jerk, you won’t get hired. Or if you do get hired, you won’t stick around. If emphasized on the attributes that every tech enthusiast should possess, evidently two things emerges in mind:
- Be a Problem Solver: The ability to get excited and engaged about finding and fixing problems.
- Persistence: The road to success is more like a marathon than a sprint. There are 1000 opportunities to quit and give up. You have to resist that every time to stay in the game. You have to Love what you do, and you have to stick to it even when things get tough.