Make your customer’s journey easy, from onboarding to ongoing support. A self-served portal is a great way to accomplish this. This gives your customers the flexibility to check on any information about their account, pay bills, or report any issues they might be experiencing.
As a part of my series about “Lessons From Inspirational Black Men In Tech”, I had the pleasure of interviewing David Singletary, who boasts over 25 years in the technology industry. His specialties include automating and enhancing business efficiencies by implementing various technology solutions. David is a firm believer in equality and fairness for individuals and believes all businesses should have access to the latest technology.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
It was purely by accident. I graduated with a degree in accounting and thought that would be the path I would take. I stumbled on an ad in the paper for someone who knew accounting and computers. At the time, I really didn’t know much about computers. But I figured I should invest in one and teach myself. I did, and I got the job. It was a small software company, which actually allowed me to learn a lot on the job. From there, the rest is history. I went on the work at a few other software companies and acquired more skills along the way.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began at your company?
I think the most interesting thing I’ve experienced is that there is a whole community of entrepreneurs out there, and there are so many people who are willing to help you if you ask for it. I think the true entrepreneur understands this and uses that to their advantage. Since I started, I’ve met so many people, and they all have the same goal in mind, to succeed. I love helping others, and seeing others succeed, as well. If I can’t help them, I probably know someone that can help them. It’s been a pleasant surprise. I have a mentor I can pose questions to whenever I need to. I’ve been a mentor for the Rutgers University TeamUp program at the business school for years now, so I understand how valuable it is to have one.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I would have spent more time branding and coming up with a different company name. I had a small business years ago called DJS Enterprises. When I started this business, I kept those initials. This was before Google searches. Now I will show up if people are looking for DJs too. Branding and marketing are so important, and it is something that takes time, and you have to spend time on it. The world is fast-paced, and people are inundated with ads and people trying to sell you things. You have to really try to stand out. Luckily it hasn’t had any adverse effects.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?
The hard times are when you first get started. I did everything on my own. I created my website, marketing, branding, etc. I never made a website before. So there was a lot of learning to do. I’ve always worked with companies that had resources to do these things. Now it was just me.
Did you ever consider giving up?
Not really. You may have these voices of doubt in the back of your head, but you just ignore them.
Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
I’ve always been a self-motivated and driven person. I’ve always seen when I put my mind to something. I was involved in sports growing up and in college, so that might have something to do with it.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?
I have a great support network, so there are many people I can thank. But my dad stands out as a motivator.
Can you share a story about that?
I know my dad has always wanted to own his own business and has always talked about me having my own business. I think that connection has motivated me to start my own business in the back of my mind. I know that my dad would be proud and would be there for me.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
It is what it is- Things happen in life, good and bad. When things go wrong in life, there isn’t always a undo option. You have to learn from it and accept the consequences and move on. You can’t dwell on it and let it deter from your goals. If you screwed something up at a client. You take ownership, and you do what you can to rectify the situation. Don’t beat yourself up about it because you can’t change the past. You can only affect the future.
Ok super. Thank you for all that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. The United States is currently facing a very important self-reckoning about race, diversity, equality and inclusion. This is of course a huge topic. But briefly, can you share your view on how this crisis inexorably evolved to the boiling point that it’s at now?
I think access to technology and social media has a significant part in this. These are not new issues; things are just now out in the open. You can now see and hear these stories. People now have platforms that have unlimited reach. In some cases, if it weren’t for video recordings, you wouldn’t hear about some of these incidents, or the stories would be told a different way. I think since people are now talking about these issues, some have a problem with it.
This may be obvious to you, but it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you articulate to our readers a few reasons why it is so important for a business or organization to have a diverse executive team?
We live in a global economy. Businesses can have customers from all over the world. Having a diverse executive team can give customers and employees the impression that you are accepting of everyone. I think for minority employees, they may now feel they have an opportunity to advance. It sounds weird to hear that, but it’s the same thing that happened with President Obama. African American kids around the country now saw that it’s possible to be President, and it’s something that can strive to become.
Let’s zoom out a bit and talk in more broad terms. It’s hard to be satisfied with the status quo regarding Black Men In Tech in Tech leadership. What specific changes do you think are needed to change the status quo?
More stories like this. More exposure to the things black men are doing in tech. I think when people see and read about successful people in technology, it can be motivating. I think when people don’t see people like them, it might be a deterrent. I think there should be more emphasis on technology in school, especially at a young age. This is when people start dreaming about what they want to do when they “grow up.” Technology may seem scary or challenging, but kids can see that it’s not that bad with the right educational programs.
We’d now love to learn a bit about your company. What is the pain point that your company is helping to address?
Eliminating manual work or inefficient processes that can be automated, leaving the user more time for more customer development and strategic growth work. We look to become a strategic partner, helping navigate the ever-changing software and technology world. People may not have the time or know where to start to look when it comes to changing systems. There are so many choices out there. We remove that problem.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
As an independent consultant, the customers’ satisfaction is the number one priority. We are agnostic when it comes to any particular solutions. It’s all about making sure the customer finds the right product to help their business succeed. I’ve had clients present me with a software product they wanted to implement to solve a specific issue in the past. After my evaluation, it was determined this solution wouldn’t solve their use-case, and they would have wasted time and money trying to implement it. We were able to find a better solution for them.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I am working on creating a standard analytics dashboard for small businesses. Something that will give them access to the insights they need to make crucial decisions. Large companies have access to this information, and they use it to their advantage. Some smaller businesses may not be able to afford similar tools.
What would you advise to another tech leader who initially went through years of successive growth, but has now reached a standstill. From your experience do you have any general advice about how to boost growth or sales and “restart their engines”?
Technology is always changing, there is always something new. You can pivot and learn new things and create services around what you’ve learned. There is still an opportunity to re-invent yourself. Another suggestion might be to partner with another firm to add some services that are complementary to yours.
Do you have any advice about how companies can create very high performing sales teams?
Give them training and the tools to become successful. Being in technology, we should be walking the walk. By that, I mean, we shouldn’t be doing things the hard way. We should internally be using technology to our advantage. Give them tools to make their jobs easier and create a fun but challenging work environment.
In your specific industry what methods have you found to be most effective in order to find and attract the right customers?
Networking and getting referrals. If you do a good job, people will recommend you. You might be at a networking event, and the person you are speaking with may not need your services, but they may know someone who does.
Can you share any stories or examples?
My first customer came from a referral from one of my technology partners. Once I had the customer, they asked for additional services.
Based on your experience, can you share 3 or 4 strategies to give your customers the best possible user experience and customer service?
Communicate. Clients want to know what’s going on and not be left in the dark. Be open and honest, always.
Be responsive. Not responding to a customer promptly could result in a lost sale or harm to their reputation.
Make it easy, especially in the beginning. The transition from prospect to a client should be seamless. First impressions are essential. Make sure your onboarding process is simple and professional.
As you likely know, this HBR article demonstrates that studies have shown that retaining customers can be far more lucrative than finding new ones. Do you use any specific initiatives to limit customer attrition or customer churn?
I think building a relationship with a customer is important. Being able to have dialogue and open communication is helpful. If the client has an issue, they are more likely to bring it to your attention.
Can you share some of your advice from your experience about how to limit customer churn?
When I worked for a former employer, we had a big customer on our platform for over 10 years. However, our team didn’t provide the attention that they deserved. They ended up leaving because they didn’t feel valued as a customer. So staying in touch and keeping customers informed on the latest and greatest information is vital.
Here is the main question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to create a very successful tech company? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Surround yourself with smart people. You always hear people say that they don’t want to be the smartest person in the room. Having the right minds around you is essential. If you are starting on your own, find a mentor. Someone who you can bounce ideas off of. I have a mentor that I can ask questions to. Even if it’s to say your thoughts out loud to someone who has experience starting a business.
- Know your market. Understand who your customers are. If you don’t know who they are, then you won’t be able to find them. You have to understand the problems you are trying to solve for them. You may have to pivot sometimes based upon shifts in demand and other forces. You might have didn’t products or services for different market segments. I recommend solutions for small to medium-sized businesses. However, start-ups can also take advantage of some of the solutions to help them grow.
- Branding/Marketing. I can’t express this enough. You have to make sure you spend time defining your brand and learning how to market it. The traditional ways of branding aren’t good enough anymore. Social media has opened up a new way of branding yourself. If you don’t have a social media presence, your competitors will. This is something that I learned as I started my business. If you have to resources to spend time on it, great. Otherwise, I would recommend spending money on a professional to help. This will give you time to focus on your product and services.
- Make your customer’s journey easy, from onboarding to ongoing support. A self-served portal is a great way to accomplish this. This gives your customers the flexibility to check on any information about their account, pay bills, or report any issues they might be experiencing.
- Know your numbers. If you are not familiar with accounting, find a professional who is. You need to know your business’s financial health at all times, which doesn’t mean how much money you have in the bank. Luckily, my degree is in accounting, and I’ve spent time in that space. But for others, you need to pay attention to the numbers so that you can make sound decisions. If your marketing campaign spend isn’t producing the results you need, you need to rethink that strategy. How’s your cash flow? Will you have enough cash to re-invest your business? You should be looking at monthly financial statements to get an idea of how you are doing. You don’t want any surprises in this area.
Wonderful. We are nearly done. Here are the final “meaty” questions of our discussion. You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
Be kind to others. It’s just that simple. You don’t have to always agree with people, but you can disagree respectfully. I think everyone wants to be treated nicely. It all starts with us. “Service with a smile.” It will go a long way — especially this year, 2020. There’s so much tension with people these days, and people are all on edge.
We are very blessed that very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them :-)
If you asked me earlier in the year, it would have been Rep. John Lewis hands down. He was a true legend, and without him and others, this country would not be what it is today. To be so brave and determined at such a young age is admirable. Although not a business leader, my next choice would be President Barack Obama. Not bad for runner-up. Politics aside, he is a transformational figure. He represents opportunity for so many people. I would love to have a closed-door conversion with him where he can let his guard down, and we can have an open and honest conversation about his journey to the white house and out of the white house. He had one of the toughest jobs in the world. He still has the opportunity to inspire, and maybe he can be a voice for minorities to pursue careers in technology since it is the future.
Thank you so much for this. This was very inspirational, and we wish you only continued success!