Our VP of Partnerships Zak Pines recently interviewed Eddie Reynolds, CEO of Union Square Consulting, as part of our ongoing Partner Interview Series. Zak and Eddie had a conversation about Eddie’s first day starting Union Square Consulting, building community on LinkedIn, and the intersection of Salesforce and financial services. Here’s an abridged transcript of the chat.
Union Square Consulting Background
Zak: Can you share background on Union Square Consulting and what your business does?
Eddie: We are focused on sales and marketing process and technology, along with Salesforce. We primarily work within certain verticals where we have specialized expertise—financial services, real estate, and software and technology.
Zak: Let's go back in time as far as you'd like as I’d love to hear the story of how you got here.
Eddie: I think that one of the stories people like to hear is how entrepreneurs got started. And for me personally, I've always wanted to start my own business, since I was probably 10 years old. And I did when I was 14—a pretty minimal enterprise. But I started something. I had a tax ID number, a legal entity, and a company name. I even had the IRS coming after my dad for sales tax that I failed to report properly.
And I did that for a couple of years, but it was a pretty minimal endeavor. Then I went to college to study entrepreneurship. Before that, I started studying computer science, wanting to start my own dotcom, in 2000. I learned that, ironically at the time, I didn't really want to study computer science.
Zak: I was right there with you for the dotcom crash. What happened next?
Eddie: I dropped computer science after one semester and focused on finance and marketing. I went and worked in finance for 10 years but always had my toe in the water with technology—working for angel investor groups on a voluntary basis outside of my full-time job.
And then later doing that within my career—helping companies raise money at the early stage. And then later, helping the private equity firms and venture capital firms raise money from institutional investors.
And halfway along that journey, I found Salesforce and slowly became obsessed with it. I started using Salesforce inside of those companies that I was working at. And I worked for a Salesforce ISV for a year and got some experience. And then went back into the finance industry, where I implemented Salesforce a couple of times for my employers.
I started drinking the Kool-Aid and thinking I wanted to start my own business in this space. But I wasn't ready to do that yet. I ended up applying for a job at Salesforce, and I worked there as an account executive, carrying a $1 million quota for three years.
And then after that, you'd think that I would have finally said, “You know, I have enough under my belt at this point. I think I'll go start my own shop,” but I still wasn't ready. A bit further down the road, I was finally ready and started Union Square Consulting.
Zak: When was that?
Eddie: The very end of 2016.
Zak: How did you land on the name?
Eddie: This is a funny story. I've worked for a number of companies that have since rebranded because they just had awful names. They put so much time and energy into it. And I was part of the sessions, and I just thought, “this is such an unproductive activity.” And so I looked around, and I'm like, “I live in Union Square, and Union Square Ventures is a very prominent venture capital firm that I deeply admire.”
I literally thought about it for 10 seconds, and I went online and found that the URL was available. I went to register the LLC, and I found out that the name was available. You can do all this online in about 15 seconds. And I thought, “Ok, that's done.” I spent the next four hours building a website, and I ordered some business cards, and I thought, “Ok, the business is set up.” I set up bank accounts and credit cards and implemented Salesforce. And that was literally day one.
Zak: A very productive day one
Eddie: Day two was “let's go find a client.” I didn't want to spend three or six months trying to overthink the branding, the website, the business cards, all of these things. I've seen so many small businesses do that. Then they wake up six months or a year later and they run out of money. And the most important things in having a small business are A, cash flow and B, having happy clients. Because that's where you get the cash flow. If you don't have those two things, you don't have a business.
Zak: Speaking of happy clients, who is the ideal customer for Union Square Consulting?
Eddie: A great customer, first and foremost, is forward-looking—when a company is saying “I want to use technology and process as a competitive advantage.” They look at their team and their strategy, and they say, “This is great, but we need to have a better operational system, or it's going to be more difficult to compete.” That’s the most important thing.
I tell a lot of people that the work we do is pretty easy in comparison to the work that our clients have to do. If you can map out a vision for us, we can build it very easily. What's hard is finding somebody that can map out that vision.
So many customers—even on Salesforce, unfortunately—just say, “Look, I just want a place to keep my contacts and log my phone calls.” Okay. I ask, how does that drive results for you? What does that result in? You have a rolodex that everyone shares, and you make calls, and you know that you called Bob yesterday. So, how does it help you make money?
Zak: What's a project that exemplifies the kind of work that you can do for a customer, going from X to Y? What would that look like?
Eddie: Any project that we do ultimately is just systematizing a process that our company already has in place. We take manual processes that don't have any measurement system behind them, and we put it into a system where you can ensure that those things get done the way that they're supposed to get done, when they're supposed to get done, and by the person they're supposed to get done by.
Communities for Salesforce and LinkedIn
Zak: Your business is clearly at the heart of the Salesforce community, can you speak about what that means?
Eddie: It's essential. We're first and foremost a Salesforce implementation shop. It's a big community, but that community gets more and more narrow as you go into specific verticals and specific sizes of businesses and specific use cases.
Zak: On the topic of communities, I see you are very active in the LinkedIn community. How do you approach LinkedIn engagement?
Eddie: I think LinkedIn is just a fantastic platform overall—especially for a small service business. Everything else costs money, LinkedIn costs time.
For one, you’re promoting your business on LinkedIn. But you’re also constantly learning things. If you’re spending an hour a day reading about best practices in sales and marketing, you start to figure out who on LinkedIn knows what they're doing and who doesn't, and you follow the people that do.
Even if you have no interest in writing a single word on LinkedIn, that alone can be a valuable activity. But if you want to go and put some content out in the world, it alleviates some of the pressure. For example, I'm looking at my screen right now, and there's a Harvard Business Review article that I saw this morning. I'll then take that and turn that into some kind of a post and put my own spin on it of what I read in the article and how it applies to my business, my clients, the people that I'm working with.
Zak: Yes, for us, LinkedIn is a great community, and there's even sub-communities that have developed as we’ve engaged with people.
Salesforce and Financial Services
Zak: One thing we share is we are both working in Salesforce and financial services.
Eddie: Yes, it’s such a key industry here in New York City.
Zak: What are some themes you see as you work with customers?
Eddie: Financial services is about relationships, so there’s a huge opportunity for Salesforce to help. But it also takes work to be able to adapt Salesforce so it makes sense to those businesses. We speak the language and help financial services firms get the most out of Salesforce.
Zak: What specific types of financial services companies do you work with?
Eddie: Again, we work with businesses we understand, so I started working with private equity firms, since I had that background, and really any investment management firm that has a fund to raise and/or deals they want to source and execute.
This naturally extended itself to commercial real estate investors and owners, then to property managers and brokers.
Any intermediary, such as a broker or investment banker, has workflows we understand intimately as well. It all overlaps a lot but in a different way for each of these players, and showing each client how to map that overlap in their CRM is one of our specialities.
This extends to fintech and proptech firms as well, as some of our VC clients referred us to their portfolio companies, and having worked in numerous tech and fintech companies, I understood that world and the sales and marketing workflow extremely well as well.
And last, but not least, working with private equity firms and other investment management firms overlapped into wealth management, where we have built some strong expertise as well.
Zak: Hearing you describe that, it’s so clearly an ecosystem that you are entrenched in.
On our side, we’re seeing many financial services move to digital—move to paperless.
Eddie: That’s a theme for sure.
Zak: What are some of the key use cases you see for your customers getting the most out of Salesforce?
Eddie: I could list hundreds. Salesforce can literally do anything, so rather than starting with it’s capabilities, we start with the business process.
What does a private equity firm need to do to be successful? Primarily, they need to source a lot of great investment opportunities by setting up meetings with the right business owners/executives so they have a large enough pool to be able to select some winners. Simultaneously, they need to meet a lot of investors and tell their story and display their track record of outperforming comparable funds.
Same for VCs.
Similar for hedge funds and traditional investment managers, except they meet with company management a lot less or sometimes not at all, and those meetings are easier to attain.
But every firm is different. Some have dedicated deal sourcing people or even teams, and others have their investment team doing all the relationship management and canvassing. Some have dedicated fundraising, and others have their investment team do this as well. Some have operating partners. Some are big on making key introductions for sales and recruiting for their portfolio companies.
Whatever it is they do to succeed, we build processes in Salesforce to manage that process and report on the progress.
Zak: What are some of your personal interests or hobbies?
Eddie: I’ve got a lot of them. I’m studying Spanish. I also used to study French and Italian—I’m not very good at it, but one day I'll master it. I like reading a lot. I'm pretty extroverted, so just anything that involves getting out, meeting people, dinners, drinks, events, things like that.
I love traveling. I’ve been to over 50 countries. I've lived in like four different countries. I would love to do that more. One of my passions and goals when starting this business was to live and work overseas for a month to a year. Yeah. And in 2018, I managed to do that three times in one year.
Zak: Do you have any productivity tips? How do you stay productive in this ever-busy world?
Eddie: I don't know that I've mastered it. I think it's something I work on every day. I think blocking time for me is the most important thing—just planning your day.
Zak: What's your favorite TV show, past or present?
Eddie: Because I'm studying Spanish, most of the TV I watch is in Spanish. I’m really enjoying “Narcos: Mexico” right now.
Zak: Wow. What's your go-to lunch during the workday?
Eddie: Fields Good Chicken is across the street from my office, so that or sushi.
Zak: Nice. Another food question. It's a debate within Formstack. Is a hot dog a sandwich?
Eddie: No, that's ridiculous.
Zak: We get very polarizing answers on that. Good to know where you stand!
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