About the same time that Caspio was founded, I was involved in a big dot com project. And just before the dot com boom, I was also involved with the second one. So, I was almost a billionaire twice. The keyword is “almost.”
Interestingly enough, I spent many years looking for some type of application that could build custom online databases on a platform. And lo and behold, I came across Caspio.
I think we’re all here because we like Caspio as a platform, so I’m not going to talk about that. I’m going to talk about maybe a bit of a different angle. Partially from the side of a small business owner, but also from a different angle that I call risk management.
Being in finance, risk is a very important aspect of everything we do.
Of course, I’m going to talk about Professional Services and why I chose PS. Professional Services and their role, and at the end, maybe a little bit about how you can prepare, if that’s of specific interest to some of you that are here.
So, who am I?
Well, I founded a hedge fund about five years ago. A small hedge fund of about 350 investors and we managed about $50 million. And I have a second role. I’m also CEO of a publicly traded company. You’ll see why I have two caps and why it’s at the heart of everything that led me to both Caspio and Professional Services. Now, it might sound impressive: hedge fund, publicly-traded company. I like to think it is. My four daughters tend to bring me right back down to the ground when I come home, but that’s their job.
At the end of the day, we’re just another small business. We have 18 employees, a network of 50 advisors I mentioned before, and 350 investors.
But, we don’t have IT experts. We have three locations, no IT infrastructure. Again, we all know about Caspio.
There are two sides to the business. What’s important to remember is that we started off as a hedge fund. For those who know finance, even though we’re in Canada, finance has the same fundamental rules. If you’re on the product side, you’re not allowed to give advice, and if you’re on the advice side, you’re not really allowed to be involved in a product.
Well, it just so happens that we’re both. The problem that we have is that because we’re small and we have a direct relationship with our investors, they want advice. So, we’re in a particular situation where we have to have a CRM to manage our clients, but we also need to have a compliance server.
Essentially, the business demands that we have a direct relationship with our customers, and compliance demands that we never talk to our customers.
We had to find an application that finds the perfect mix of being completely integrated and completely separate at the same time. Not easy.
Remember, we’re a small business. We don’t have an IT team, we don’t have an IT infrastructure. This is where Professional Services comes in for us.
The reason we ended up with Professional Services is because we realized in that previous slide that we have to manage, we have to coordinate, we have to be regulatory. We have to talk to our investors, who are our clients.
This is where I start talking about risk, because in developing applications or choosing an application, we’re always looking at cost. We’re looking at the bottom line; we’re looking at return on investment.
Well, one thing I’ve learned in finance is that one of our most significant risks, which doesn’t show up in the financials as a cost, is, in fact, risk.
The risk of making mistakes, the risk of dropping the ball, the risk of not being compliant is huge because it’s not just about losing a client. If it heads to a regulator and we have a complaint, we can lose our business. The cost can be significant.
Just this morning, we heard in one of the talks that roughly half of all Fortune 500 companies ten years ago aren’t around anymore. Well, I’d argue that perhaps one of the biggest risks out there and the biggest costs is in fact what we’re talking about today.
About a year and a half ago or two years ago, we started making mistakes simply because we were using stupid tech. Excel spreadsheets, e-mail, just dropping the ball.
So, I shopped around and shopped around. Lots of fantastic applications out there, but many were too big, too expensive. They just weren’t adapted to our reality. Not just in finance, but I think it’s probably a reality everywhere.
Very quickly, I realized that we had to build an application. Now, remember, about 18, 20 years ago, I was doing that. We had about 20 developers and database folks.
I used to have lots of really nice hair. People think I lost my hair because of my four daughters. No, it was the development.
Again, we see the cost of planning, cost of coding, cost of deployment, and the cost of maintenance. I see risk and the need to manage that risk because not managing it is going to lead to something of more significant cost.
I saw Caspio as a solution, but not just the platform. There are great consultancies out there and we’ve heard from a few today. I saw a bit of a big step between the platform and the consultants, and for a very simple reason: it’s because the biggest risk factor is me, because all the solutions that I must find are for problems that I created.
So, not so easy. I signed the agreement with Professional Services in September 2017 for a three-month project. We’re just finishing now, and it has nothing to do with Professional Services; it has everything to do with me.
A month could go by just like that. I didn’t have time. So, if I were to sit down with a group of professionals that are consultants, you know, how was I going to manage that risk of not being able to follow-up with them for the same reasons that I can’t manage an internal team to do it?
Professional Services for a fixed price could hedge that risk for me. So, sure, it took an extra year. I’m not happy about it, but that’s life. But the price that I’m paying in the end is the same that was quoted to begin with. It creates a really nice step between going to a consultancy or maybe even hiring people because I can’t do it on my own anyway, nor can my team.
I like to call it the three-tier risk management. This kind of looks like something from Caspio. It’s not, it’s me, but I find it really explains well what Professional Services combined with the Caspio platform does.
At first, of course, it’s the platform. It’s obvious and I think we’ve all started by creating that new account and going, “this is kind of cool!” And I had that moment.
And then the planning. All of you know how important planning is. Like planning, planning, planning. The better you plan, the more you’re ready, the better your application’s going to be, the smarter it’s going to be, the more powerful it’s going to be.
That’s when Professional Services started hedging my risk and participating with me so I could just think about what I needed. I didn’t have to worry about all the rest. Of course, building it. Building it and deploying it.
And these three items put together helped me create something that at the surface looks very simple, but in reality it doesn’t really exist. Especially not in Canadian finance.
It’s something that bridges the gap between a CRM which is really just making sure that investors aren’t investing in something they shouldn’t. By extension, I’m not getting thrown into jail for it or anyone I’m working with, which is the second one.
And so this morning, Frank talked about guardrails. Well, guardrails are for what? They’re for hedging the risk of flying off the road. My guardrails are a compliance server behind the CRM so that I don’t fly off the compliance road because that would be way too expensive would that be the case.
How can you prepare? Plan, plan, plan, but let Professional Services do the heavy lifting. From experience, you’ve got a project manager, which is something we rarely have in smaller organizations — a real project manager.
Of course, there’s all the tech team and behind, but not to mention the fact that it just works to begin with. So that we as the giver of a mandate can think about exactly what we want, and to never stop reviewing the plan. Trust the Professional Services team to guide you, to listen.
Listening doesn’t come easily to folks like me. I tend to think I’m always right, hence the reason I wasn’t a billionaire, I think.
It’s important to listen, to share, and to talk about problems because they are there, they do listen. From experience, they can take everything that I do well, protect me from everything I don’t, and fill in the middle, not just with the platform, but with all their experience.
I don’t think I could speak more highly of Professional Services for filling in that gap.