Rich is an entrepreneur and growth expert with 30+ years of experience in IT, professional services and business development. Rich was the founder and CEO of Lyons Consulting Group (LYONSCG), a $50 million eCommerce digital agency and service provider that worked with global customers like GoPro, Patagonia, Herman Miller, and FootJoy. When LYONSCG was acquired by Capgemini in 2017, Rich went on to hold multiple roles across the company for the next four years. He served as EVP, Digital Commerce Experience Leader for North America, defined the firm’s global commerce go-to-market strategy, and led hyper-growth initiatives for Capgemini’s most important partners (Salesforce, AWS, Microsoft, SAP, Adobe, Google and others) with the goal to grow $1B+ practices.
Rich now serves on advisory boards, and advises business leaders on how to improve sales processes and accountability. He holds an MBA from Northwestern University and founded the Lyons School of Transformational Business, teaching courses on sales, entrepreneurship, and leadership. He is currently finishing a book on Life Is Sales, has been married for over 30 years to his wife Dr. Gertrude Lyons, and is the proud father of two daughters.
Why are you passionate about helping leaders of IT services firms?
I’m passionate about helping others to not make the same mistakes that I made. Having worked since 1995 in IT services and eCommerce (Whittman-Hart, marchFIRST, divine, LYONSCG, Capgemini), I have seen a lot and have a great deal to share in terms of what was successful and what was not.
You founded the Lyons Consulting Group in 2003 as a digital commerce agency, and ultimately grew it to $50M+ before being acquired by CapGemini in 2017. How did your strategy evolve over those 14 years?
I had a Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) to be a $50M IT consulting firm by the time I was 50. Before selling to Capgemini, we started as a staff aug firm, and we pivoted and changed strategy many times over the 14 years that I ran the company. We got into eCommerce in 2005 and became the first implementation partner of Dewandware, now Salesforce Commerce Cloud. We shed all of our other IT consulting services in 2009 during the financial crisis and focused on only eCommerce. We added full creative capabilities, digital marketing/digital strategy, Magento (now Adobe) and Hybris (now SAP) as other platforms, and expanded internationally.
M&A in services isn’t easy, but Lyons Consulting Group has been a successful acquisition by CapGemini. What advice would you give to founders to help ensure a smooth integration for the team and customers?
My intention was never to sell, but the market changed rapidly. When we decided it was time to consider selling, we looked at both strategic acquirers and PE firms. It’s important to know the culture you’re going into, where you fit, what the future looks like to the best of your ability, and to ensure that your customers and employees will be well taken care of after the transition.
When it comes to a successful integration, communication is KEY – early and often, with clients and employees. We visited all of the customers that we could, and reached out to the others with phone calls. We held all-company meetings for the announcement, with many follow-up meetings to answer questions. Through all these, we tried to reassure our customers and our employees how they could benefit from the acquisition. For customers, it meant access to additional offerings and services. For employees, it meant additional training and other resources and opportunities that only a larger company could offer.
With more than 30 years of sales, alliance and business development experience, you’ve seen a lot. What are the biggest mistakes that services companies make when scaling sales?
Hiring saviors is the biggest mistake I see services companies make. Be sure to vet new hires, especially sales managers. I am a firm believer in metrics, so I believe that metrics and activity tracking should be a part of every sales compensation plan. Also, Alliances can be a huge channel for sales and leads – don’t undervalue this channel. And don’t undervalue a good alliance manager who knows the ecosystem.
Companies looking for that next phase of growth often decide to “go up market”, but it’s not always easy. What are the biggest challenges sales teams face when trying to break into and win business in the enterprise?
I always wanted to serve the whole market, so I believe it is a natural progression. Get happy clients and references in the midmarket. This will naturally lead to larger clients in the enterprise space. The key is happy, satisfied customers. Earn the right to be in the enterprise space. Everyone likes to hear a story with measurable results. Sales teams need to learn to tell these stories, with the results and benefits.