Jeremy Weisz 4:47
I want to hear about some of your mentors in EO and some of the lessons that you learn from them. And we will talk about why even entrepreneurship I know you led a successful career for 12 years in corporate And then you took the leap. I feel like if that was me, I’d be like, forget it. Like, why? Why? You know, I remember visiting someone at LinkedIn. And they had a full, like cafeteria breakfast, lunch and dinner like, I would never leave this place. Right? So start off with the CEO and some of the mentors and lessons you’ve learned. Well, we’ll circle back to your, your corporate career.
Bobby Achettu 5:25
Yeah. And I’ll tell you, there’s too many to name. So I can give you some themes, right? So first and foremost, what I learned in eo is that oftentimes stepping away from your business, and allowing yourself some breathing room actually creates opportunity to grow the business. In fact, when I first joined EO, one of my biggest fears, was how was I going to step away for a day to go to form or half day, whatever it was, at the time? How can I attend an event that started at noon and went on until 6pm. And I remember the anxiousness as I got to these different events and forum meetings thinking, Well, what’s going to happen with my business, and eventually, what what I realized very quickly is, you know, giving people in your organization, the opportunity to really operate and run on their own, ultimately, is in the best interest of not just the company, but also up yourself. Right. And so that was a huge key learning. The other learning that I’m still working through is this concept of balance, and the importance of balancing both your personal and professional lives. In fact, you know, a lot of times we focus, depending on the forum meeting, and the topic will focus on that aspect, which I think a lot of other organizations don’t necessarily do. So the short answer Germany is there’s so many ways that EO has impacted my life. And there’s so many mentors that I’ve had, that have given me from the small snippets of guidance and direction to the big life changing strategic ones.
Jeremy Weisz 7:00
You know, I know when your parents came over to the US, you know, they started with practically nothing, and it was looked at as success to get a core position. And you say that for a long time that stability. And I was listening to you talk about, there’s one time where you went into restructure of bank and your, your vision of stability shifted? Can you talk about that?
Bobby Achettu 7:28
Yeah, absolutely. So as interesting as working in one of the largest professional services firms in the world, at a multibillion dollar bank. And all throughout my childhood, my parents encouraged me to work at large corporate organizations, for that perceived safety. And when I work turnaround, and restructuring, what I realized is actually working at a large company, in my opinion, is oftentimes riskier than working at a small company. And the reason is, when I went into this particular plant bank, we looked at the payroll register, we looked at titles, we looked at tenure, and we made very quick decisions based on just spreadsheets. And of course, there were a handful of people, that the senior executives, were effectively saying, okay, that those people, but if you didn’t get that level of protection, for whatever reason that they got that protection, you were just, you know, eventually cystic and, you know, so a data point that I’m not proud of, but you know, I’ll call out is, you know, when I worked that job, I was responsible for many people losing their jobs, in situations where ultimately, there weren’t a lot of choices to be made for those companies. But a lot of times those, those, those changes, those job losses were made, in a fashion that there was very little control for that individual. Whereas an entrepreneur or a company, you can really make yourself you know, just so valuable to that organization, that it becomes really hard for them to get rid of you.
Jeremy Weisz 9:00
You know, anyone who knows, you knows you’re, you’re very heart centered, centered person. And so I don’t want to make it out like You’re heartless just firing people. I mean, it was for the sake of saving that company and saving other people’s jobs. But you know, was interesting when you tell those stories is that company in particular was losing a lot of money. I don’t recall what you had said, but But millions 10s of millions of dollars every year. And, you know, you saw firsthand that even billion dollar companies kind of the struggles of startups to write really? Absolutely, yeah. What were you doing when you went into these turnaround restructuring to help?
Bobby Achettu 9:40
So, first and foremost, there’s the concept of stopping the bleeding, right? And oftentimes, it’s not as easy as just looking at spreadsheets. There’s a lot of conversations to understand the strategy the organization, but then ultimately you have to dig in and work through the spreadsheets and get your Your hands dirty, get your hands dirty to understand actually what’s going on. And in the midst of all that, often, you’re very limited on time. Oftentimes, these companies have just a few weeks or months to be able to execute some pretty dramatic changes. So it’s a very intense high pressure environment, that now today, what I share with the clients that we work with these high growth action organizations, is in many ways, whether you’re in a period of turnaround or a period of hyper growth, you need to look at the business the same way. You know, entrepreneur organizations are fragile, and they need to be managed. And they there needs to be metrics and data that are consistently measured. Because at any any given point based on economic indicators, what’s happening in the environment, you know, things can change. And so that’s what we encourage our clients to always be hyper focused on.
Jeremy Weisz 10:53
Like right now, I mean, there’s always something in the climate, whether it’s COVID, or interest rates, or something your clients come to you saying, How do I prepare? Right? So right now in this state, Whenever someone’s listening to this, whether it’s six months, a year, two years, what are you what are the conversations you’re having with your clients now about preparing?
Bobby Achettu 11:17
So first and foremost, we talked about really making sure that from a cash flow and planning perspective that there are processes in place. And so oftentimes, people only institute these measures when they’re in the midst of a crisis. So that is absolutely not the time that you want to be focused on building some of this infrastructure, right. So making sure that there’s mechanisms in place to be able to track the performance of your business on a fairly quick basis, right? Secondly, you know, there needs to be in this environment, especially a hyper focus on your customer, and and your team. Obviously, it’s a tremendously competitive hiring environment. So talking to your team and making sure that they’re getting the development, career progression, compensation, whatever it may be, that is critical, and then talking to your customers, to make sure from the perspective of not just the standard scope, and timing and fees, and all of those types of things. But what are the true issues within their business? And how can you help solve those issues? Those relationships are ultimately what drives most organizations to succeed or fail. And so doubling down on the ability to build those relationships, I think is really critical. You know, when
Jeremy Weisz 12:38
you say making quick decisions, knowing cashflow, seeing having mechanisms in place, what are some of the things that you recommend someone’s listening right now? Are you helping people build out certain dashboards? What should people be thinking about?
Bobby Achettu 12:54
When they hear you say that? Absolutely, it starts with a simple cash flow tool, can think about your accounts receivable when you expect payment, and then accounts receivable, think about major expenses, like payroll or cost of goods sold, estimating those items, and starting a process by which to build out a tool. And there’s certainly software out there as well that can assist you with this. But creating that structure around the recurrence of seeing that type of information, oftentimes, really, that alone can drive decision making, because you’ll see things that ultimately you may not see, as you you know, really focus on on running the business the day to day tactical side of things. So ultimately, we always say start with that baseline cash flow tool.
Jeremy Weisz 13:41
Bobby, you know, you have a you had a client and you have a lot of clients in the technology space, this one in particular technology and advertising. Talk about what you when they came to you what was going on and what you ended up doing with them.
Bobby Achettu 13:56
Absolutely. So this particular organization is in hyper growth mode had been looked at by several potential acquirers, but ultimately hadn’t invested in the early years around finance and accounting. And so as organizations look to do diligence, this company realized that they wouldn’t be able to get through a process, because they didn’t have the right data and information. And I don’t mean just financial statements. I’m talking about customer retention and those types of things, right, there was an entire infrastructure layer missing, but with a really interesting and compelling strategy for an acquirer. Right. And so, we engaged this organization about six months before they raise capital, and instituted a process by which we created that reporting infrastructure from both the accounting and finance side and the technology side, until ultimately they were in a position where they were able to hire an investment banker, began a process and then ended up ultimately taking out an investment from a strategic
Jeremy Weisz 14:59
when Duke Companies typically call you, I could see these inflections of the raising capital they’re selling. What are what are those times when you get that phone call? Yeah.
Bobby Achettu 15:09
So prospects typically call when something’s going really well, or something’s going really bad. Those are the scenarios. And so the really bad often is when they’ve lost the key finance person, they’ve been turned down by an investor or a bank or something like that, because they didn’t have the right reporting. And then the flip side of it is when they’re as in the example of this particular technology company, where there’s a tremendous opportunity in front of them, and they want to make sure that they’re positioned in the best manner, and they have the right information to make decisions. So it’s typically at those key inflection points.
Jeremy Weisz 15:48
When that company comes to you, what’s the first few things you do with them? Yeah, so
Bobby Achettu 15:54
I mean, the first piece of it, and really a phrase that we use an EO all the time is experience share. Ultimately, we have a unique perspective, we’ve worked with over 300 companies in multiple different industries. So we’ve seen a lot of things, Jeremy. And so starting with that experience sharing, I found always to be valuable. Secondly, if we believe there’s an opportunity to help, we have a process that we call accelerated insights. So that’s where effectively we perform a diligence on the organization. Depending on the size and industry of the company, oftentimes, we’ll spend anywhere from 20 to 60 hours, actually digging into the organization, reviewing financials, reviewing operating metrics, logging into financial and operational systems, we’ll take that time to really understand what the issues are. And the beauty of that process is it really only takes a few hours from the prospect side, we’re investing the time upfront, so that we can really properly understand what the issues are. The reality is, Jeremy, the space that we work within, can be very dangerous to jump in to a client situation and not truly understand what the issues are and what the needs are.
Jeremy Weisz 17:13
So you complete the 60 hours of research. Are you giving them updates throughout? Or is it one presentation at the end? How does it work to present that? Yeah, findings?
Bobby Achettu 17:27
Great, great question. And again, you know, anywhere from 20 to 60, and 60 would be, you know, really significant scenario, right. And so, we produce an accelerated Insights report. And effectively, this is a document that allows this organization irrespective of whether they engage us or not, to understand where they, they fall within the lifecycle of maturity of their finance, accounting and technology function. Right. So it’s, there’s some benchmarking, let’s call it that, that really helps them understand where they fall relative to best practices. And then in that document, if we believe there’s a way that we can help, then we’ll include scope, timing, and fee. So there’s a presentation to prospects on that matter.
Jeremy Weisz 18:12
So I don’t know if the best example would be the technology company, or maybe the CPG. But I’m curious, once you presented this, the insights, what decisions have you seen that were made? Because I’m sure, just from that, that’s really valuable for our company? What have you seen decision they’re made just from presenting those insights?
Bobby Achettu 18:34
Yeah. So oftentimes, we’ll find scenarios where there’s been, you know, incorrect, assumptions made, and, you know, certain analyses that were put together, you know, we’ve run into scenarios where we say, Listen, you don’t need to engage us, you need something much more compelling from the perspective of you need to raise capital. Because, you know, you’re you don’t see what’s two or three months ahead of you. And we do, right. And so oftentimes, having that external perspective, can become invaluable, because far too often is entrepreneurs and leadership teams in Ontario companies, we spend so much time executing the day to day that we don’t have the ability to step back and really understand the broader picture.
Jeremy Weisz 19:23
So sometimes people realize they have to raise capital, and they weren’t thinking of it. Has it ever happened, the reverse where they were going to raise capital, and they decided against it? Because the insights are?
Bobby Achettu 19:34
Absolutely and part of that is going to be dependent on, you know, what’s happening in the environment, as far as you know, the economy and deal structuring and valuations and all those types of things. Right. And so certainly, there have been scenarios where companies and you know, oftentimes people think that, you know, they have to race and the reality is, you know, sometimes it’s more prudent to wait become stable, understand your business model and then go out and race. And,
Jeremy Weisz 20:05
you know, I know you have a wide variety of companies, you help CPG companies too. So I’m wondering if you could walk us through a scenario where you help the CPG company?
Bobby Achettu 20:15
Yeah, absolutely. And so we have quite a bit of experience in CPG, probably about 35% or so of our client base is, is in that industry, and, you know, very complex, hyper competitive. I was at Expo West.
Jeremy Weisz 20:32
A while back, and I’ve always wanted to go to Expo West, just for the, for the sample. Yeah,
Bobby Achettu 20:37
absolutely. The samples are great. Just, you know, 1000s of companies. And, you know, the reality is, as you look across this huge conference hall, there’s actually several conference halls, you realize that the vast majority of those companies won’t exist in the next couple of years, right. And so hyper competitive. And then you have, you know, just relatively complex analyses and things that have to be executed. And things like trade span and slotting fees, and just a lot of things that have to be incorporated. And so, with, with the CPG industry, specifically, we’ve got that expertise, just having worked with, you know, some of the hypergrowth companies here in town, and seeing their evolution, right. And so, you know, one in particular, we joined when they were a couple million in revenue, went through this insights process with them. There were a couple of people in the organization at the time, one of the founders was handling the day to day accounting, we took that over, they grew substantially, eventually exited to a strategic, got to the point where they were well over 100 million in revenue. And ultimately, we ended up not only executing the finance and accounting function in the early days, but building our process. And as they hired individuals, to join their team full time, we actually would train them or ramp them up, we helped with a lot of the diligence related to the transaction, and then ended up continuing to work with the strategic buyer afterwards, on the finance accounting side, and so there was a full lifecycle of opportunities for us, and then also really an exciting scenario to be part of, to see an organization through their entire journey.
Jeremy Weisz 22:24
So it sounds like you help I mean, in this growth phase, there’s are probably a lot of phases within that growth phase. But it seems like you also bridge some of those gaps. So maybe you’re acting as like a fractional, like CFO team. And then once they hired someone, and then they grew enough to hire someone, then you would help train that person up and do other roles. Yep.
Bobby Achettu 22:45
So that that was? Yeah, absolutely. It’s interesting. Now, as we’ve grown as an organization, I would say probably about 75% of the work that we do is actually for the CFO. So the vast majority companies, we work for now, built up finance functions. And certainly we do work in scenarios where that’s not the case. But we’ve now you know, really moved upstream as far as the size of organizations that we work with, for a multitude of reasons. And so, we have the ability to do both, but in most cases, now we work for the CFO,
Jeremy Weisz 23:23
how would CFOs describe what you do? Like? How would they say they make my job easier? Because or what do they say?
Bobby Achettu 23:32
Absolutely. It’s it’s for us, Jeremy. You know, the way CFO did would describe is it’s not just about execution. It’s about creating structure and process. And ultimately, a lot of times, especially with internal finance, and accounting teams, they’re running around so much, and they haven’t necessarily seen the hundreds of companies that we have. So it’s very hard for them to stop and create process for accelerated growth. Our key premise, you know, the foundation of our organization is that as a natural company scales, they need to have structure and process within every functional area of the business. And accounting and finance and technology is what ties all the functional areas of a business together. And so that’s where we see ourselves as having a critical role, not just to execute, but to ensure that that foundation is strong for these companies.
Jeremy Weisz 24:25
So Bobby, you’re in corporate for 12 years. And then what made you decide to start your own company?
Bobby Achettu 24:33
Yeah, great question. And here’s what I’d say is I really enjoyed working in corporate working in corporate. I’ve worked with some really great companies, great leaders that I reported to and learned a ton. So I am not one of these entrepreneurs that, you know, felt like I was unemployable or couldn’t work at a big company. Ultimately, I had an opportunity to work at a private equity firm, after I left a large professional services organization. So that was my My first exposure to natural space, I went from being one of 200,000 employees to being employee number six. And I just fell in love with the space immediately, the passion, the vision, the ability to have an impact. And I also saw very clearly the need for what I described earlier that infrastructure as an organization scales. And because I got hit by the entrepreneur blog working with all these entrepreneurs, I came up with the concept of accelerated growth.
Jeremy Weisz 25:28
Talk about your first client, and how you got them.
Bobby Achettu 25:31
Yeah, so I was still at the PE firm. And I was out to dinner with one of the vendors of the PE firm. And as I was talking to this particular gentleman, I talked him through what would eventually become accelerated growth, this concept of infrastructure, with a focus on accounting, finance and technology. And he basically said, Listen, you know, I need that service. So if you ever actually start that company, you know, and so within a couple of months, you know, I engaged him, I left the private equity firm, they became our first client, at the time, they had about 5060 employees. We worked with them for about five, six years, at that point, they had something like 500. And they’re currently well over 1000, at this point, and so just a great story arc in there and learned a tremendous amount. And the way I describe it, I joke with the CEO is I was hanging on for dear life, trying not to screw anything up. And really, that was, by the way, Jeremy, that was the first two to three years was me and a couple of contractors, I wouldn’t even say it was barely business back then. It was more something I really just enjoyed. I was passionate about. So it wasn’t about until about probably 10 years ago that I started hiring and building scale within my own organization.
Jeremy Weisz 26:51
Bobby, I don’t know what your family life was, like around that time. But I imagine there were some discussions around, you know, doing that and starting that company and leaving the position in the private equity and corporate. What was the discussion like, with you and family members?
Bobby Achettu 27:12
Yeah, absolutely. So I, you know, I’ll say my wife, Julie has been just always supportive of my passions and my career. And ultimately, I spend a dozen years in these large corporate environments. And I really enjoyed working with these in these scenarios. I wanted to have something that I felt just much more tangible impact. And so ultimately, Julie, and the rest of my family has always been focused on the fact that if I’m enjoying what I do, I can have significant impact. And so those were the driving conversations. There were really not that many conversations about risk, or any of those types of things. I think there was a lot of confidence in my ability to execute on whatever I put together. And so yeah, again, the focus really on happiness. Target growing
Jeremy Weisz 28:05
the team and building a team, because you said it was you and a couple of contractors, what were some of the key team members that you hired throughout the journey, because now you’re over, you know, 100 people.
Bobby Achettu 28:16
Yeah, there’s so many key folks, especially in the early days. And, you know, remember, one gentleman in particular, JP Tucker, one of my first hires, had worked at Deloitte for several years. And so I remember at the time, we didn’t have an office, we were just about to move into an office. So I interviewed him in one of our clients, conference rooms, and just an incredible discussion. And I remember I told them this. A few months after the fact, I remember thinking, wow, you know, to have someone of this caliber and background join effectively, a solopreneur. At the time, I was really humbled, right, and, you know, always appreciative of those folks in the early days, that recognize something not just in our organization, but frankly, me, that gave them the confidence to leave, you know, great organizations to compete part of my journey. Right. And so, you know, there have been many of those folks at various stages of the lifecycle, right, that have been key contributors, as we’ve grown the organization.
Jeremy Weisz 29:24
What about from a position standpoint, like early on, what were the positions you’re looking for? And as you grew, what positions did you bring on? Or maybe people grew up within the organization?
Bobby Achettu 29:35
Yeah. So it’s really fascinating. You know, being the CEO of a services firm, and having worked with scores of services organizations, what I found is there’s various iterations, services businesses, and for me, in my industry, when we were one to 10, I was still doing billable work. So it’s heads down, really focused on clients. You know, I remember those times really finally, because you’re we’re all in the same office, you know, working together, I knew everything that was going on every client, I knew every situation, everything good, everything bad. As we grew past the 10 mark, that’s when I started having the ability to actually lead the team versus execute. And then when we got to about 25, that’s when I had other key folks in the organization that were also non billable, that were focused on leading the organization, when we got to about 50, is when we had the ability to build out a full leadership team, right. And so those different iterations allowed for me to elevate within my role. And also, I believe, you know, help drive the growth of the organization as well.
Jeremy Weisz 30:49
Bobby, in that kind of 26 to 50, where you brought on other leaders, what was the position because then you you had, I don’t know, advantages, the right word, but you grew up in these large organizations who you if someone just starting from scratch entrepreneur, they may not even be familiar with the structure and the leadership that is in a larger corporation. So you whether it was conscious or unconscious, that you had that background, who were some of the first leaders that you’re like, Okay, I need to step out of even leading and bringing other leaders.
Bobby Achettu 31:26
So, you know, it’s fascinating, as we talk about this, I didn’t hire very many people from the outside and leadership positions, most of the folks on my team grown up organically within the organization. And so that’s been a driver of our growth, I’d say, is to really focus on the development of our team, certainly, we’ve had folks come in at a senior level from the outside. But ultimately, we want to make sure that other folks in our company have the ability and opportunity to be able to elevate and grow into roles, right, which, which I think has been key to to our success.
Jeremy Weisz 32:03
So Bobby, you don’t have to name names. I’m curious if you look at most CEO. Oh, and you think back to where they started? Where did they start? And then what were the positions that they worked out along the way?
Bobby Achettu 32:16
Sure, absolutely. So we have, we follow EOS in our company. And so we have a gentleman that that has the title of integrator, so effective Lee, the equivalent of a CEO. And so he joined us, he has a background in technology, we have a technology practice. So he joined us, as someone doing client work on the delivery side. But he very quickly proved himself to not only be an incredible operator, and technologist but also just a great manager of people, a great mentor, a great servant leader, right. And so, you know, very quickly, we elevated him into not just the overarching management role. But eventually we put them in a position to be integrator, we’re in that capacity, all the different businesses, the business units report up into.
Jeremy Weisz 33:08
And then so it kind of just grew from the client work on up. Yep,
Bobby Achettu 33:13
that’s exactly right.
Jeremy Weisz 33:15
And then, you know, at what point did you bring on kind of a board?
Bobby Achettu 33:21
Great question. So it was in the early days, informally, it was, I would say, from from almost day one, I had a board, and I formalized the board, probably six years, seven, six years ago. Interestingly, it was right around the time, we were probably 10 or 12 people. And so I don’t think it’s any one incidence that when I formalized the board, and really started to build a cadence around that governance, that all of a sudden, our organization really began to grow. I’m the sole founder of a company. And so it’s a lonely place to be right. And so having the guidance and direction of the two gentlemen on my board, has been absolutely amazing.
Jeremy Weisz 34:06
How do you navigate International? Because you have staff all over the US and international as well.
Bobby Achettu 34:13
Yeah, so we have offices in India. And, you know, it’s interesting that we’re a relatively small company in the scheme of things. The fact that we operate on two different continents obviously complicates things. And I’m not just referencing, you know, time zones or things like that. Ultimately, there are two different cultures in India and the United States, but we’re trying to maintain a unified culture as an organization. And that’s not easy to do. And ultimately, there’s always going to be some differences. But what we really focus on is our core values, our vision and our mission. And those concepts are ultimately universal. And that’s what we really ensure is in added within the organization as a whole, and everyone understands what our core values our vision and mission are.
Jeremy Weisz 35:08
I’m wondering, you know, from a culture perspective, what do you do to help maintain culture across the continents to help create that cohesiveness? I mean, I’ve seen videos of you actually get, you know, people come together in person, what are some things you do may virtually and in person that helped with the culture?
Bobby Achettu 35:28
It’s all about communication, Jeremy, in my opinion. And so, yeah, that interaction, making sure people are consistently interacting with each other. And so, when we first started our offices in India a little over three years ago, it was interesting, we had a couple team members there. But there was one point where we had three people from the US that had traveled to India to train two team members. Right. So we’ve always been having the travel back and forth, obviously, with COVID, that stopped. But just as an example, I’m taking leave tomorrow for my second trip to India of the year. And so that interaction and camaraderie is really important. In addition, we have fairly consistent global team meetings, where, you know, the entire organization gets together, we have a section of the agenda, both local office and global, globally, that we call it power thought. And so that’s effectively our mechanism for team members to ask any questions on any topic? We have another question submission tool that we use, and I answer questions without knowing what the questions are going to be. I answer them just off the cuff, right? Because I want to make sure people have the ability to get my raw reaction to, to whatever their question may be. So that’s just one example of many ways that rarely create a inclusive, welcoming environment where people feel comfortable, really being themselves.
Jeremy Weisz 37:02
That’s the Empower thought.
Bobby Achettu 37:05
Yep, that’s right. And how often is that? So each local office, does it twice a month, and then globally, we meet once a month. And then Oh, calm. And I was gonna say, I’ll call out that. So Empower thought is one section, in a meeting that we call Friday forum. And I call it Friday forum, because EEO has this concept of forum groups, where you get together with with other folks, typically eight to 10 people, and you share your experience share, right. And so ultimately, I wanted to replicate that dynamic within my organization. So we meet on Fridays, under this concept called Friday forum. And one of the sections is empower thought.
Jeremy Weisz 37:56
Do you remember any tough questions that you got?
Bobby Achettu 38:01
I’ve gotten many, in fact, what I’ll do, is if people don’t have questions, I don’t pick on them. But I’ll actually pause and wait for a question to be asked before I’ll end the meeting. Right. And so, you know, I’ve gotten questions, you know, from a spectrum of compensation planning in how do we go about that? All the way to, you know, what my favorite color is, if somebody’s struggling with ask a question, right? So you’re really trying to create that environment where, you know, we encourage that, in fact, every month we get a prize, for the best Empower thought question, right?
Jeremy Weisz 38:44
Bobby, I want to just thank you, for what you do and Accelerated Growth what you do EO, you know, yo, Chicago and EO in general because there’s nothing that can replace getting together with like minded people and sharing. So thank you, I encourage everyone to check out accelerated growth.com And you can also check out EO and if you’re in iOS, Chicago, check out EO Chicago. Bobby, thanks for joining me. It’s been an absolute pleasure, Jeremy. Thank you for having me. James God did grant