Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Jeff: In 2007, my wife (Cherie) and I started The Pedowitz Group, a consulting agency primarily focused on sales/marketing and now RevOps processes, people, and tech.
I’m currently the CEO, Cherie is the Chief Talent Officer, and we’re thrilled that the company has grown in 15 years to be north of $20M a year in revenue with over 100 employees and working with many global companies, some in the Fortune 1000.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
Cherie: Jeff is a forward-thinking person and he’d come to me and say, “Hey, how about we start this business or that business” and there was always a great reason behind it, solving a clear problem and something he was passionate about.
But when we came and talked to me about digital marketing, it sounded amazing - on a lot of levels. We could see a path to building something beautiful from his time working in roles similar, but I could handle the human resources side in addition to some customer work.
We were sitting on our front porch chatting about it and it seemed like everything made too much sense not to do it.
With consulting, it’s all about what you know - and demonstrating that to your target market.
Jeff: With my background having worked with an industry leader at the time, coupled with Cherie’s paralegal and insurance background and ability to cut out red tape and ensure things are set up properly, we knew we could be successful and complement each other well.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
Jeff: With consulting, it’s all about what you know - and demonstrating that to your target market. I had worked at Eloqua for some time, including as VP of Professional Services, and when I first went there the concept of lead scoring, now a very common practice that’s been around for many years… didn’t exist yet.
Our team created this entire model of implicit and explicit scores and how that impacted your database and it kept Eloqua at the forefront for many companies. Business was great!
But when we started this new company, it was all about proving your expertise to the market. And as a new company, that was reliant much more on word of mouth and industry connections that we had built up.
We knew what we wanted to do, but to be honest - when you’re consulting, you do what the client needs. We had just moved into a new house, we had three young (and hungry!) kids, and so our first job was working on redesigning an environmental company’s collateral. I am more of an engineer, so you could say this was not my forte… but we made it happen.
Cherie: I remember one time sitting up all night downloading files onto thousands of USBs for a client’s trade show giveaway. It was a “whatever it takes” mentality.
Thankfully, word of mouth with Jeff’s previous work led to us getting more work very quickly, and then partnerships with some of the major companies in the marketing space accelerated that.
Describe the process of launching the business.
Cherie: Those first two weeks were awful. We didn’t get a single call, and so you’re sitting there wondering if you’ve made the right decision … and then the first job thankfully comes in, but it’s not necessarily something that’s your favorite thing to do - but you need to put food on the table.
Jeff: I willed my way through that design project, but hey…we got paid!
Cherie: And then the phone started ringing like crazy, so much so we couldn’t stay on top of it all.
Jeff: We had to make our first hire because of the demand, and that was Bill Hooven, who’s still with us today.
Cherie: Bill’s wife and I were best friends, they were at our wedding, and so he was someone we knew we could trust.
Jeff: I trained him on the tech we were working with, and then boom, things just continue taking off.
Cherie: But it wasn’t always easy. Even as the business grew to $7M in the first three years, you’d have companies with NET60 or NET90 payment terms and so you’re figuring out how you’re going to pay everyone while you’re waiting for those checks to come in.
And in our first few years, we were working a lot with contractors, so as we were asked to work with new technologies we had to constantly find the right talent to meet the needs … but they’re not employees, so they may have other priorities.
I can’t emphasize how important it is to have good cash flow. Avoid using more than you need, because money is such a precious commodity.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
It’s funny, this question pairs nicely with a core methodology that we designed: The Loop.
Simply put, too often companies (even today!) focus far too much only on net-new, and miss just how crucial retention/loyalty is to your sustained growth.
They’re equally important … but they also intersect, causing an infinity loop where net-new opportunities can stem from existing customers (as long as you’re working to create loyalty).
By providing excellent service, strong results that align with our client's key business objectives, and being transparent about everything we do (including if we make a mistake), it’s allowed us to keep longstanding clients while welcoming new ones.
However, the core product still has to be different, and for us, in our first 5-7 years it was being willed to be different by embracing a platform-agnostic approach. Typically, a company would partner with a company and then work only on selling/optimizing that technology. With us, we wanted to disengage from that approach and be able to provide the customer with whatever fits best - for example, in 2012 the differences between Marketo and Eloqua were quite stark, and one might have been a far superior fit for a company’s needs.
As we’ve scaled, word of mouth and industry referrals are still hugely important, even as we focus on building the TPG brand and making it more front-and-center to enterprises across North America. Industry events can be important, as well, especially since face-to-face is less commonplace and thus, more valuable for really getting to interact with and know people.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Organic traffic to pedowitzgroup.com, 2022 vs. 2019
Cherie: We’re healthy, profitable, and continuing to grow with strong margins. It’s funny because we get approached by VCs and investors multiple times a week, but every time we tell them no because we have a 10-year plan we’re acting upon and we can do it the way we and our leadership want to.
But the goal is growth: More revenue as a company, especially because it will allow us to provide even more for our employees. For instance, in the last few years, we have been able to cover the increased costs of healthcare for all employees thanks to our continued growth - so they get to pay the same this year as they did last year.
It’s important to us to be able to do things like this because ultimately, every single person who works here is a person and we want to support their growth as an individual.
Jeff: From a business perspective, our foundation is quite strong and likely will grow as revenue operations move more into the forefront of leading companies’ plans since cross-functional and company-wide transformative efforts are something we do well.
And our retention rates continue to be strong - if we want to grow, we have to continue providing best-in-class service and results to our clients, because they know us and trust us and we have to continue proving that value.
We’ve also moved into an acquisition mindset, such as with Bizmark Consulting in mid-2022, and likely will do more in the coming years as the right opportunities present themselves to better serve our customers.
Cherie: And to this day, Jeff and I still sit on that porch on weekends and talk about things, what’s the latest and greatest in the business, what our employees need, and how we should evolve. You can always find us there!
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Cherie: You have to be convicted that what you’re building is truly worth it. For us, we never doubted - I can say with honesty that not once did we think about shuttering our doors, despite struggles that you’re going to face no matter what business you work with.
We had that conviction that this was the thing we should be doing, and it survived the tests thrown our way.
In addition, you have to trust the people you bring in. We brought in Dr. Debbie Qaqish early on, and we met in our basement and just talked about things such as what our core values should be, what kind of company we wanted to build .. and every time we have a partner meeting, I go back to that and knowing that we can trust every single person we bring on.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
Jeff: As sales and marketing tech is a big part of our services, we have people who have proven themselves on over 600 technologies, from Salesforce and Hubspot to many highly-specific applications seen in enterprises today. Because of that, we’re often trying new technologies internally, but here’s a sampling of what we’re using now:
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
Jeff: To be honest, as a leader I’m in intake mode so often because I need to stay on top of the ever-changing market, so I’m constantly finding new books to read and taking time for a good article.
One of the best things I wish I’d done sooner was get coaching from other people who have been through what I’ve been through. If I’d just gotten that sooner, I can’t imagine where we’d be now because it’s been so helpful!
Cherie: It’s really important to network, as well. You’d be surprised how many people are going through some of the same things you’re dealing with right now - and they can help you get out of your way sometimes!
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
Cherie: I think a big one is remembering to let the experts do their job. It’s so easy to want to do everything, and in the beginning, you often are, but if you don’t let the people you hire thrive then you’re setting yourself and them up for failure.
You also need to make sure you’re looking at the future without getting stifled. You know you can’t become complacent, you have to keep growing … but you also have to have full confidence in what you’re surrounding yourself with to help with that growth.
Jeff: A few things …
Do something you’re passionate about because most businesses fail within the first few years and if you’re not passionate about it, you’re never going to get through those tough startup years.
But more than passion, you also need the conviction that you’re doing the right thing because there will be times when you’re questioning it - especially because everything is so different when you’re an owner vs. a manager or employee. Conviction is that foundational belief that you’ll have to fall back on time and time again.
You also need to know what your endgame is, too. If you don’t, you’re going to spend time making poor, unoptimal decisions. For instance, do you want to keep things a family-owned business? Then don’t take on investors! Are you trying to grow exponentially and exit in 4-5 years? Then be willing to let go of more control than you might otherwise.
This is the roadmap that guides your key decisions, so know it and stick to it.
Finally, I can’t emphasize how important it is to have good cash flow. Really avoid using more than you need, because money is such a precious commodity (especially in the first few years, when banks likely aren’t going to give you any). Customers may take advantage of you because you’re small, so they’ll pay you in 90 days even though your employees can’t wait that long.
So don’t go buy something nice you don’t need or expand faster than you’re ready for because you can’t assume the cash flow is going to be steady. Be smart with it.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
Cherie: Hiring comes and goes - we’ve grown aggressively in 2022, and will have hired 30+ people by year’s end. Sometimes our needs are determined by our clients, which can lead to even greater hiring needs ranging from sales/marketing strategy to Salesforce or other tech specialists.
Our LinkedIn company page always has job openings, and our team makes the page worth a follow!
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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