Our VP of Partnerships Zak Pines recently interviewed Till Klotz, CEO of EMPAUA, as part of our ongoing Partner Interview Series. Their conversation covered a wide range of topics including working with high growth customers, how EMPAUA started working with Formstack, and creating better customer experiences together. Here’s an abridged transcript of the chat.
Introduction to EMPAUA
Zak: Can you start by telling us—what is EMPAUA?
Till: EMPAUA was founded in 2014 based on a vision that new cloud technologies would build the backbone for startups to hyper-grow. We create scalable solutions based on the Salesforce platform to help customers build operational processes.
We made the decision to structure the company not in the typical hierarchical way, but in circles. To this date, we don’t have hierarchies in the classical sense. Rather, we have roles and accountability to each other.
Today, we are close to 60 people, and we have offices in six cities across four countries—Spain, Switzerland, Germany, and the UK. We serve all over Europe, and also have customers in Australia, Canada, and the US.
We are evolving from a pure technology implementation partner, to a company and advisory that covers a broad scope of digitalization topics. Salesforce remains at the core of what we do. We have a greater spectrum of partnerships and services that we offer.
For us, it’s about more than just delivering the technology implementation. Customers expect more. They want to learn best practices. They want to create a 360-degree customer experiences. And they want to enable their teams to use the systems in the evolving context of new work.
Zak: The circles you just talked about as an organizing structure for the business is really interesting. Can you share more about how that works?
Till: Each circle has their own purpose and accountability. For example, we have a Commerce Circle for sales, marketing, and partnerships which is responsible for generating and qualifying amazing leads and is measured by win rates. Additionally, we have circles for People and Organization, Operations, Consulting and Delivery, Finance, and Product and IT Operations.
I am ultimately responsible for attributing resources across the circles, and for setting goals and objectives. We have an OKR process in place based on that methodology. I also fulfill roles in other circles. I am responsible for partnerships and alliances in the Commerce Circle.
Zak: Hence our discussion here today as you have been taking the lead on the EMPAUA—Formstack partnership.
Working with High Growth Customers
Zak: What also stands out about how you introduced EMPAUA is your focus on working with high growth customers. That’s a great customer segment to be able to focus on.
Till: We just recently did the count and published on our blog that we have worked with 14 unicorns out of Europe to date. Those companies include Cazoo, wefox, N26, Flixbus, Auto1, Babylon Health, Gousto, PPRO, SolarisBank, SumUp, and Nutmeg.
Startup growth is a big part of our company DNA. We had seven founders, and only one is still remaining with the company. Six have gone on to found other businesses, including one of those unicorns, wefox. Another customer, Cazoo, is a car reseller based on technology that recently has become the fastest unicorn in European startup history to date.
Zak: What challenges are hypergrowth companies facing that has them turning to EMPAUA services?
Till: When you’re working with a hypergrowth company, you need to be asking the question: can this process work not only today, but as the company rapidly scales. Where do they plan to be one year from now?
We work with both midmarket, established companies, as well as startup/hypergrowth companies, and they have unique challenges in each situation.
For the midmarket companies, they’ve likely been doing things a certain way for many years. They are looking to digitize processes that need to be modernized. Processes are well established, but they may be heavily paper-based, for example. So, the task at hand is how to implement technology. Formstack is a great example that can help them add more digitization and automation to an established process.
For hypergrowth startups, it’s the other way around. They don’t have 100-year old processes that have been proven effective over time. These companies have embraced technology from the start, and they have people that know technology very well.
On one hand, there is strong process knowledge, and on the other, there is strong technology. In both cases, we want to create the best of both worlds with the customer.
Zak: As you pointed, out you are a multinational business—operating across four countries and six offices. How do you stay connected as a business?
Till: Before the pandemic, I would have given you a different answer. From a cultural perspective, we have an annual company summit. It’s an extended weekend where everyone gets together to connect.
Now, with the pandemic, we are reliant even more on virtual channels. Slack is at the core of that. We have one company culture with many individual backgrounds. EMPAUA has over 15 different nationalities amongst our team.
Zak: You’ve touched on a couple of things we have in common. Formstack has an annual All-Hands meeting—this was in-person before the pandemic. I can’t wait to get back to it in the future. Slack is also a big part of the Formstack culture and operations. In fact, we have just launched a pilot of a partner Slack community which you are part of.
Till: Before the pandemic, we had regular team events, which were more office focussed. In the pandemic, we have made those into virtual events. We’ll have a virtual quiz night, for example. I expect us to land on a hybrid model where we will be able to go back to the office to connect, and also keep up the virtual activities.
Creating Better Customer Experiences Together
Zak: We do have similar cultures which is one of the reasons we collaborate so well. Do you remember when you first discovered Formstack?
Till: It started with Formstack Documents. We started implementing it for customer projects and support was always great and that was key for our team because if we ever needed help we knew we would get it. Clients like the easy of use, and the pricing model scaled nicely.
We’ve come to learn more about the product use cases across data capture, document automation, and digital signature. The product use cases are well integrated and allow us to digitize and standardize processes in full.
Zak: Do you have any specific customer stories you can share?
Till: Hesse GmbH & Co.KG is a joint customer. They are a 130-year old family business with about 430 employees. We rolled out Salesforce to 250 users, leveraging Sales Cloud, Service Cloud, and Pardot.
We implemented Formstack Documents to generate professional letters directly from Salesforce. They are very happy with the adoption. They told us after roll-out that they never had an IT project run so smoothly. The system had them ready to adapt when COVID-19 hit. They could now continue running their business working from anywhere in many cases.
Zak: Your team has worked with Justin Jackson on the Formstack Partner team to become certified across all of our products—Forms, Documents, and Sign.
Till: Yes, it’s been a fantastic process and the team appreciates the enablement and support from your team.
We’ve been working with a customer who owns many gym locations. Their task to us was to digitize paper membership forms that were lying around their gyms. Their process involved the digitization of about 20 different forms.
Now, they are fully integrated with Salesforce. Custom, professional documents are generated when new customers fill out the online forms. It’s attached to a Salesforce case so it’s readily available for the customer service rep. We’ve removed paper processes from their gyms, and they will be able to conduct these workflows on iPads going forward.
Zak: We rolled out a new partner profile form for ourselves. In our partner registration workflow, we use data we have on hand about our partners to send out pre-filled forms that can then verify and update partner data. EMPAUA was one of the first to use that new process.
Till: Yes, it was great to use your products during partner enrollment, and when we did, the lightbulb went off for me that we should also be using that for our own processes. So, we rolled out Formstack for Salesforce for both customer on-boarding and customer satisfaction surveys. We collect the data that we need before we start a project. The customer or potential customer can provide us the information we need in a couple of minutes and then our processes kick off from there. We get the data we need for sales, finance, and operations. It makes it easier for everyone.
Zak: Building improved customer experiences is a huge theme we are seeing right now. Make it easy for your customers to provide you with information at every stage of the customer journey.
Zak: What are some of your personal interests or hobbies?
Till: Traveling, but not so much right now. I like to do a lot of hiking and cycling. I live in Munich, so I’m lucky enough to have access to mountains and lakes on the weekend.
Zak: Do you have a favorite productivity tip you can share?
Till: Take some time for focus and availability. My thing is getting up very early. I get up around 5:30 am every morning. I can be productive and focus on what I need to focus on. Part of my job is being very available during working hours, so this allows me to get work done before I need to start engaging through Slack, LinkedIn, emails, calls, and Google Meet.
Zak: Our days are very similar that way! Do you have a favorite TV show?
Till: How I Met Your Mother is my all-time favorite.
Zak: I like that one too. Not the answer I was expecting! Do you have a go-to lunch during the workday?
Till: I don’t typically eat lunch, but if I do, anything that can be eaten in 10 minutes.
Zak: Last question: is a hot dog a sandwich?
Till: I would say “no”. It’s not a sandwich. Isn’t it missing the greens?
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