Dan Abbate is a Contributor on the Price of Business on Business Talk 1110 AM KTEK on Bloomberg’s home in Houston (learn more about Dan at www.robotaton.com).
Dan recently interviewed Ron Burr, CEO and founder of CallFire. A Web pioneer, Ron Burr founded the first free Internet service, NetZero, eventually helping it become one of the world’s largest Internet service providers. Holder of nine Internet technology patents in online advertising and market research, his long career in the technology industry includes both operational and investment roles. Ron was named one of the “25 Top Unsung Heroes of the Net” by Interactive Week, one of the “21 people leading us into the 21st Century” by Response Magazine, and one of the “Top 50 IT executives at xSPs” by InfoWorld. Ron regularly serves as an advisor and board member to technology companies, and is a board member for his nonprofit, Faith Horizon.
DAN: Hi Ron! Thanks for taking the time to talk with us today. Can you tell me a little bit about your firm?
RON: Voted the #13 Best Place to Work in Los Angeles by the Los Angeles Business Journal, CallFire is a cloud-based voice and text platform that brings enterprise-level communications technology to small and medium size businesses. The platform is a communications tool that any business – of any size – can utilize to connect with customers, prospects, constituents and members via phone and SMS text. CallFire’s services allow clients to reach their targets and prospects in an extremely cost-efficient way, without needing a dedicated team to create APIs or other programming components. There are 50 employees located in Santa Monica, CA (headquarters) and Hoboken, NJ.
DAN: Today’s interview is all about companies in active growth phases and how they manage that. Can you tell me about your current growth. What’s your strategy? What will your company look like at the end of this phase? How are you managing this?
RON: CallFire identifies itself as a late stage start-up in growth mode. The industry itself is exploding and CallFire is at the forefront, leading with advance technology, ease of use, and market leading pricing. Until recently, our primary acquisition strategy was inbound leads – and that kept our growth very strong. We have recently invested in a senior outbound sales team to proactively acquire larger enterprise partners who represent thousands of individual ‘small businesses’ – for instance in the financial services, insurance, fitness and franchise industries. We believe this next stage will catapult our growth and allow for expansion globally.
DAN: In your experience, what was/is the most important thing for you to consider in developing your growth strategy?
RON: We operate our growth very methodically and conservatively. Our eye remains squarely on EBITDA, margin, churn, acquisition costs and other key operating metrics. We want exceptional growth, but it has to make sense for the business. We may be a private company, but we employ the rigor and fiscal responsibility of a public company to maintain stakeholder interest.
DAN: What is one thing that a company seeking to enter a growth phase should keep in mind? What pitfalls are there to avoid?
RON: Growth should not be gained at any cost. It is important to retain your focus and discipline and make sure that your investment of resources, time and capital are the right ones for the business at that particular time. It is also a time to review the skill set of your staff and leadership. Oftentimes, those willing to join a start-up may not have the skills necessary to take the firm forward during the growth phase. You may need a different composite of experience, more leadership, and different visionaries – and while that is hard, you want the best talent to guide you through this critical phase.
DAN: What does a high growth rate demand of your organization and staff? How are you addressing this?RON: High growth demands focus, financial rigor, maturity, vision and efficiency. You need the right people in the right roles. You need strong leadership in each area of the organization. I believe organizations should continually evaluate talent and assure that you have the best of the best. We employ regular employee reviews, strategic planning for the executive team, and interaction with our Board of Directors – all to assure alignment on the vision and execution within our key metrics. And where we feel we are lacking, we consider what resources are necessary and invest for maximum ROI.
DAN: Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with me today, Ron. I appreciate you sharing your experience and knowledge and I love hearing about interesting people and companies doing interesting things. For more information on CallFire call 1.877.897.3473, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.CallFire.com.
Do you have advice on growing your business? Tell me about it! Email me at dan (at) robotaton (dot) com.