Establishing and expanding a business is as much about streamlining operations as it is about growing revenue. Large corporations rely on professional services automation (PSA) to maximize the impact of their investments in people and in systems. OpenAir has proven to be one of the most powerful platforms at their disposal.
11 years ago, a newly-founded company became the first dedicated partner supporting the OpenAir community. Today, it remains the world’s only dedicated OpenAir consulting firm. That company is TOP Step Consulting.
A Solid Foundation
The firm’s first employee, Ronn Breaux is today its President and CEO. Ronn and TOP Step’s Founder and Executive Advisor, Jodi Cicci, started the company when OpenAir was a stand-alone tool in 2007.
The duo provided consulting services to OpenAir customers based on a shared knowledge of, and familiarity with, its intricacies. Their passion for the problems that OpenAir could solve for professional services organizations and dedication to their clients garnered an immensely positive response, which meant that they had to expand very rapidly.
Ronn and Jodi have made their own way, eschewing the traditional C-suite mentality and the tendencies to distance themselves from the hands-on work. They have always been intimately involved with every aspect of running the firm.
Having started with sales, customer support, and recruitment, Ronn now focuses his considerable talents and experience on administration, operations, and customer relations. He performs these roles in addition to his inherent responsibilities as CEO. Jodi’s attention has shifted to customer interactions and to ensuring that Ronn has the information and support he needs to be successful in his role as President and CEO.
Just as their roles and responsibilities have evolved over the past decade, the company’s portfolio of services has too. Initially, they concentrated on resolving issues that customers had with existing OpenAir implementations. Today, they have a complete lifecycle of services including on-going support and Release Management.
The People Factor
TOP Step has deliberately adopted a hiring policy that is unique within their industry.
Firstly, the company does not hire fresh graduates and industry novices to work with their customers. Instead, a conscious decision has been made to hire only highly-experienced professionals with proven track records of superior performance within professional service industry.
This approach does increase human resource costs, but Ronn views the additional cost as an investment in quality, and in the company. He believes that the policy has been instrumental to the success it enjoys today.
“Our people are our most important asset, and all of our hires have come from other companies where they have performed the roles that our customers perform today,” explains Ronn.
“We can tell our customers, “I’ve done your job. I understand the problems you are experiencing and we can help you with best practices that we have implemented and used ourselves.” That is an incredibly powerful asset to have,” he says.
Another key difference is that the TOP Step team does not work from a single office but remotely from locations across the United States. This independence from the traditional bounds of a single workplace contributes to increased productivity, which translates into better comprehensive results for their clients.
“We emphasize frequent communication through meetings and online tools, so there is a strong sense of cohesion within the team, regardless of where an individual may be physically working.”
Ronn acknowledges that their organizational structure does not offer employees many promotion opportunities. However, he is heartened by the fact that their turnover rate is extremely low, something that he attributes to the meaningful work that they perform and the rewarding outcomes they provide their customers.
Making a Mark
There is no doubt that TOP Step is committed to helping OpenAir gain and grow its market share. The company is an advocator for the platform providing education and assistance through tips and ebooks offered on their website and through free webinars. Held twice a month, these events usually last approximately 30 minutes with an average attendance of 50 people.
These initiatives have established and reinforced the company’s reputation for excellence and as a thought leader in the segment. Along the way, it has also developed a close working relationship with Oracle and has extended its collaborations with Oracle NetSuite partners.
Touching on the lessons that he has learned, Ronn says that the most important one is to listen to every customer and consciously recognize that each client is unique.
“People have a tendency to assume that a new problem can or should be resolved through a solution used in the past. If you go into a situation with preconceived ideas of how the client should run their business, you can get yourself into trouble.”
“We constantly try to remind ourselves that every customer does things their own way, that they have unique requirements, and that we have to make sure that we listen and deal with them in that manner.”
While the past 11 years have been remarkable for the lack of competition, Ronn sees indications that the status quo might change, “PSA is in vogue at the moment. Several companies are testing the waters in new areas.”
In line with Ronn’s assessment that PSAs will see increased interest in the near future, he is positioning the firm to be at the center of these discussions. However, he does not see much cause for concern, adding, “We feel like we have a 10 year plus head start.”
TOP Step expects to continue its dominant position in the coming years and is considering including license sales to its range of offerings for the first time in 2019. One thing that will not change is their loyalty to Oracle NetSuite and OpenAir.
“We understand that there is a lot of competition in the market for different PSA tools, but we have chosen OpenAir as the path forward. The outcomes we have seen and the success of the over 350 customers we have worked with over the past decade reinforce our belief that this is the right decision.”
This resolute commitment, strong philosophy, and an extremely client-centric work ethic make TOP Step Consulting the ideal choice for any company looking for a reliable PSA partner.