Software companies that claim to put people first are a dime a dozen. Ones that actually do so – that’s much less common. But for Intro CRM founder Harris Kenny, it’s the backbone of his business model.
“We are building a great place to work where people are treated with respect and feel like they are valued. And I’m not willing to sacrifice that for growth,” he says, though his people-first approach is exactly the differentiator that is helping his business grow.
“I’ve had a lot of experiences with companies that sort of sacrifice their own employees to get to where they want to be, and I’m not willing to do that. Treating people right – it’s the right thing to do, period, but it also makes sense from a business perspective. The customers care about how we treat people, or at least the right customers do,” he says.
What does a people-first SaaS company look like? It’s a respectful culture where employees feel comfortable and safe, where policies are put in place to support the words spoken. For example, Intro CRM has partnered with an independent third-party that employees can reach out to if they ever need assistance.
“If anything happens, if any interaction happens that a team member is uncomfortable with, they can always come up to me, but they can also be in touch with that independent company to let them know. And that company will do an independent look into what happened, whether that’s an employee-to-employee interaction or an employee-to-customer interaction,” Kenny explains.
The benefit? Happy, safe, loyal employees who are more productive and provide clients with better customer support.
“I’m not willing to compromise on this at all, and our work will be better as a result. Our customers will be better off as a result. It’s both the right things to do and a competitive advantage, and I’ve already gotten feedback from employees about the positive impact of these sorts of policies where you live out your values.”
This people-first approach is also mirrored in his client interactions. Intro CRM provides not only the software to help companies grow, but also hands-on coaching and concierge services for busy professionals.
“Most CRMs are only a means to an end and most of the time they’re not used at all. People use them and maintain all these sales documents because it feels like that’s what they are supposed to be doing, because they have heard the saying that if it isn’t in the CRM, it doesn’t exist. But that doesn’t actually help with sales,” Kenny explains.
In response, Intro CRM offers its clients a “done for you” service on top of the underlying software. Under Kenny’s leadership, it’s the people aspect that provides his clients the greatest value.
“We are building a CRM that literally helps you sell. We’re helping clients with things like NDAs and filing approved vendor list paperwork. We’re reviewing incoming e-commerce orders. We’re helping growing businesses with the most time-consuming part of their days, and our clients are seeing the results. Our first project generated 10x ROI.”
Of course, as a SaaS company, much of this work is about finding what needs to be automated and then finding a way to make it so. But knowing exactly what customers need automated wasn’t a given. Like other parts of his business, Kenny had to first lay the groundwork using his people-first approach.
“After recording over 77 individual on-boarding videos and intense customer development work, I learned I was solving for the wrong problem,” he explains. “I’d been working with entrepreneurs for over ten years, and I thought I knew the problem. I thought founders just wanted a simpler CRM that does a handful of things like keep track of deals. But that was not the problem. Founders needed help literally finding new leads, qualifying inbound leads – actually doing sales. When I realized that, that was when everything changed.”
However, software is only useful to a client if it is solving their problem. And Kenny has found that, just as when he was starting his own company, many founders don’t always know the problem they should be solving for – or the important role those people-first interactions have in the solution.
“That’s where Intro CRM comes in. That’s what makes us different. Yes, we have the software you need, but it also comes with the coaching you need to be successful. We’ll build lead lists, but the client needs to be involved. If a client says they want leads but can’t tell me what kind of leads, that’s where the coaching comes in. Founders need to know their customer better than anybody, and I don’t hesitate to coach them on that sort of thing, because ultimately it’s what founders need to be successful,” Kenny said. “We aren’t just throwing people at the problems. We are helping our clients understand what they can automate, what tools they can integrate, and helping them understand what they should already know about their business. That’s part of what we’re doing that is different.”
The common thread through Kenny’s approach to SaaS is that it requires thoughtfulness and humanity to succeed. It also takes time to tap into what people need, and identifying what issues you’re solving is a fluid process that requires you to ask the right questions. For Kenny it wasn’t a matter of creating a new CRM, with trial and error he realized many founders didn’t even want to use a CRM in the first place. When he could offer to use it for them, and the founders responded, he knew he’d found the core of the issue he’d been trying to solve.
Intro CRM is by no means a transactional service. Kenny will dig deeper with his clients and peel back to find exactly the right type of leads that fit his clients’ profile. It’s not purely a software product either, but a service that will help their clients with strategy and actually doing the work. Kenny is merging the best of both worlds (people first and growth) and creating a new kind of SaaS company. One that puts people at the front and center – before profits, before ROI, before scaling. An approach that could very well land him at a competitive advantage.
Harris Kenny, founder of Intro CRM, shares his advice on starting and growing a SaaS company:
What advice do you have for other people who are looking to start a SaaS?
Make sure you’re solving for the right problem. Keep moving around and trying different things, talking to people, learning new ideas until you figure out exactly what problem you need to solve. I spent a lot of time thinking that one thing was the issue, but I was solving the wrong problem. Even if you’re making money, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re on the right track. Making money is a prerequisite – if people aren’t willing to pay for your product, you’ve got a problem, you know? – but it’s not the whole thing. Make sure you are solving the real problem for your clients if you want to be successful in the long run.
What advice do you have for someone looking to scale?
The biggest thing I see is that people try to scale a little early, before they’re ready.
We really try to focus on repeatability. Do you feel like you have repeatability with the new business that you’re bringing in? Can you accurately explain to someone else who your customers are and what the thread is between them? If you can’t do that, I don’t care how much money you’re making. You will struggle to scale on the revenue side of the business.
I’ve been in companies that are literally making tens of millions of dollars in revenue and cannot answer this question. They might just be riding a wave. It might just be a fast-growing market. They might just nail a product just right. Maybe they got there first, who knows. But if you don’t have repeatability, then the chance of you falling off that wave is pretty high.
So that would be a prerequisite: understanding the problem that you’re solving for customers. “We sell a product that helps do this thing.” It can’t be vague. It has to be really specific. You have to be able to explain it to me so that I independently can go out and find someone and bring them to you and say, do you mean like this? And they say, yes, that’s our customer.
And then: can I do it again? And they say, yes, I do it again. Now we have repeatability. Now we can go do some marketing. We can advertise and go to events like MicroConf.
Use repeatability as a way to validate if you’re ready to start doing scaling efforts or not.