#2 episode of Helping B2B High Ticket Service Providers Grow – One Lesson at a Time, with the CEO and Co-Founder of OpenCloudBss – Martin Kievit.
From working in a supermarket to being the CEO of OpenCloudBSS, Martin shares his not-so-ordinary story.
He talks about how he chose the niche for his company and other quite interesting topics.
Throughout his journey, he had to wear a lot of hats and suits.
But, that only made him an expert in a variety of fields.
STAY TUNED for more incredible lessons, stories and growth tips, straight from the most successful entrepreneurs!
[00:00:06.080] – Dancho – Hello, everybody, and welcome to another episode. My name is Dancho, you know me, I’m the host. And today we’re going to do another episode on Helping B2B High Ticket Service Providers Grow – One Lesson at a Time. And as you know by now, every lesson, I actually bring a different expert to share that lesson because of course, I don’t have that many lessons to share, it would be a very short podcast. So for today, I’m happy to announce Martin Kievit, from OpenCloudBSS. Martin, welcome.
[00:00:36.700] – Martin – Thank you so much, Dancho. Yeah, nice being here today.
[00:00:41.810] – Dancho – Well, without further ado, I want to actually, I’m so excited to have the opportunity to talk with you because in addition to the podcast, I mean, we know each other for like twelve months, 13, a year already. Wow, nice. So I wanted you to share the story with our audience. To kick off the interview, let’s start with the origin story. We all want to hear about how you came to where you are and share a bit with the people who is Martin.
[00:01:10.560] – Martin – Hey, well, thank you very much for the opportunity of being here. And yes, twelve months already working together. It’s quite some time, but quite fruitful. So looking forward to a longer time when it comes to that. So yeah, I guess to start my story, maybe not as standard as most. I’m actually a dropout from secondary school. When I was about 16, I decided to leave school because sitting at a desk, all day listening to someone telling me what to do, they don’t really feel well for me as a person. So I didn’t go to University. That kind of things, really, got to learn my stuff hands on. I started working in the supermarket, which was the easiest thing to do with no papers. And supermarket will take anyone. So it was an easy start. Did it for about ten years and then almost by accident ended up in Telco. Started working as a Telco short manager. Supermarket Telco is quite easy. Yeah, it’s a different mergable. It’s completely different sales process, also. In the supermarket, people just walk in and grab what they want where now all of a sudden you actually move into giving people personal advice. And yet maybe from a conceptual perspective, the shop I started to work in was smaller than the canteen of the supermarket that came from. And I was managing the shop with like 120 in the supermarket up to a group of eight people into a telco store. So it’s quite a big and interesting change. And yeah, well, working in Telco, I slowly went to headquarter, did all the stuff. And at some point in time I got almost by accident involved into an IT, project where my assignment was quite simple. The salesman told me, Martin, IT is doing a project and I just don’t want to be bothered by it. Please take care of that.
[00:03:06.180] – Dancho – There you go, on your desk.
[00:03:07.620] – Martin – Correct. Sort it. So that was my introduction to BSS or business support systems, CRM and billing systems. I’ve never heard of that before until 2009, but actually I had quite a lot of fun on that project. And when we entered into the second phase of the project itself, I was actually not only making sure that sales wasn’t impacted, but effectively the whole business of our Telco, which was Telfort and operated in the Netherlands, at that point. I was managing their business transformation. So for me, introduction to BSS product, introduction to business transformation in Telco. And I actually really started to enjoy what I was doing over there. It was a role between business and IT. We have main focus on processes. So, yeah, that’s how I effectively ended up. And we talked about 2009 back then, and from that the story has always been about BSS platforms, Telcos, business processes, transformation of organizations. And now actually going to the introduction of our own BSS platform as a software supplier. But yeah, so although there was different angles to the story, I think there is one red line and that’s selling Telco, servicing Telco customers, and their perspective.
[00:04:31.100] – Dancho – Nice. Well, when you said BSS, in my head was like BFF, best friends forever. But then I realized BSS is like the support services. But it’s interesting because when you are into the support services you’re looking about, someone has a very nice idea and all the supporting site that they need to take care of in order to grow that one thing. So when we also work with high ticket service providers, with consultants especially, it’s like a very strong person, very intellectual strong one. He needs a lot of supporting services from marketing, from sales, from accounting, from subscription, from everything, actually. And that’s why I was actually interested to have this conversation, because when you specialize in business support services, it’s really a great area to learn more about, even for myself.
[00:05:27.340] – Martin – Yeah, absolutely. So if you look at a software report that we’re creating, sending to our customers, it supports effectively every business area inside the Telco operator. For marketing, it wants to sell products and wants to create new offers and configure them. Sales organization trying to sell them to their customers and create new customers, contract customer services to answer any questions. Create trouble tickets or make change to the existing customers, billing people, financial people for selling the invoices. And, of course, also, the IT Department is actually run, maintain and operate the system. So from that perspective, maybe the only department we don’t really work with is HR Department. But besides that, every element of the organization in our customer is actually utilizing our system. And I think that makes my life quite nice and diverse. I’ve learned over time that marketing people are completely different than the IT people and therefore so need to be speak at differently. I think the best way to describe that is when, at Telfort we had Christmas parties. The IT Christmas party would start somewhere on a Wednesday at 04:00. And it would finish by 06:00. And at about 05:00, most people were gone. The marketing Christmas party, would be more like on Thursday evening, close to the weekend. Would start about 07:00 in the evening. About 11:00, they would be kicked out of the building because the security wants to close the building, but they would all take taxi and go somewhere else to continue.
[00:07:06.010] – Dancho – After party.
[00:07:07.080] – Martin – Yeah. And I think that really shows the difference in people that are working in IT and in marketing. And I think that also explains quite easily why those departments typically have some friction in working together, because the way they look at the world is so completely different that they really speak different languages. And I think that’s what I like. I like to have an IP part, but also love enjoying the marketing party and actually sit in the middle there. And for me, that’s most fun place to be.
[00:07:38.530] – Dancho – Yeah. Well, interesting. When you put a stereotype on marketing guys, an outgoing extrovert person talking with a lot of people, even sales is in the same bracket. Well, typical developer is a geeky guy that, don’t bother me, I just want to be in my own world with the computer and trying to make up support system around both of them, it’s like, wow. But interesting, you said you’re specializing the support service in the Telco industry, right?
[00:08:08.590] – Martin – Yes.
[00:08:09.420] – Dancho – How did you actually choose as a niche? Or it was just because you had that experience in the Telco, you’ve realized what kind of support services they need in particular?
[00:08:20.410] – Martin – Okay. There’s also a lesson in that part. So, yeah, my expertize is in Telco. So that’s where my background comes from. When we started building our platform, we didn’t necessarily consider only Telco. So effectively, from a platform perspective, we can support any type of prescription. So if you want to sell a Netflix subscription or cloud services or any subscription you want to sell, you can effectively support. But then from a marketing perspective, our marketing perspective, company marketing, you’re not trying to start selling your solution if you can do anything for anyone, you’re effective at nothing.
[00:08:56.120] – Dancho – Of course, exactly. But that’s a good point. So the platform is more helping any type of subscription business. But instead of going for all industries in all verticals at once, unless you’re a millionaire, you said, let’s start with the one that I actually know about, because that’s more native to me. And then, of course, once we exhaust that category, or once we explore all the opportunities there, we can easily add additional verticals.
[00:09:24.480] – Martin – Absolutely. And that’s also from a network perspective, my network also lays in Telco, and that makes selling into that area also easier. And while working with Telcos, because Telcos are expanding their series portfolio quite significantly, we are actually adding additional sales on top of our platform, like house insurance, we’ve got even life insurances. All those kind of things are actually already added. So our platform is already well working with telco showing that it can support other services, we have existing customers. That makes it even easier to move into other verticals because we have the references of not only Telco, but effectively any type of. So also, from that perspective is a good strategy for us to start in Telco, expand there, and then move to other.
[00:10:12.840] – Dancho – Nice. You thought it out well.
[00:10:15.030] – Martin – Not everything I can tell you. We’ve learned a lot of lessons along the way. We started we really started with, we could do subscription service. No. And then really struggled to get track here and there, and get to the right audience. And I think when we started narrow down, they say, okay, you know, this is initially what we go for. We go for Telcos, and don’t go for large telcos, we go for smaller Telcos.
[00:10:38.890] – Dancho – Sub-segment of a sub-segment, a niche, withing a niche, within a niche.
[00:10:42.840] – Martin – I think that really helps us to get traction that we were looking for. And from there, we started growing up much quicker.
[00:10:50.280] – Dancho – Nice. Well, I’m sure that throughout this journey, like it or not, if you had to keep up with the marketing in the IT Department, you did had to become, to wear a lot of different hats and actually obtain a lot of different kinds of expertise. But if you have to choose one, like what’s the one thing that you really feel that you’re expert in?
[00:11:12.690] – Martin – So, yeah. Choosing the one thing is always I think the most complicated part, maybe also the most important part. If I look back at my career, then I think the key redline in my career and that goes back to the supermarket is processes. I think the key thing that I’m really good at is that I can understand processes, see what can be improved, and understand how people can utilize them. And then it doesn’t matter what the process is, what it supports, because at the end of the day, anything in life is a process.
[00:11:46.700] – Dancho – Yeah.
[00:11:47.450] – Martin – And I think understanding that part and putting things in perspective in that way is really helping me to understand what my customers are expecting, but also to talk to them because you can always bring it back into what are the steps you’re trying to do, what’s the interaction you’re trying to do. And the process is also not only a way where people work, but actually it’s the link how people work with systems and systems are actually supporting the processes and bad systems lead to bad processes, that leads to frustrated people. So I think also the process is the glue between the IT people, the platforms, and the marketing people, on the other side.
[00:12:23.500] – Dancho – So as long as you have clearly outlined processes, there won’t be any friction between them. Yeah, but I think I kind of agree with you, because even creating a set of steps like a process makes clarity within the companies. Even when you onboard new people, you must have set of rules or guidelines or processes. When you onboard a new client, also you need to have some set of processes. And maybe that’s why when there is no clarity, where there is ambiguity, then people are starting to argue to fight, is this my job, or is this your job? How is this supposed to happen? And just having processes and systems in place actually makes everybody more efficient, of course, but also gives some clarity. Okay. That’s actually an interesting aspect of looking at things. And I’m curious, how did you actually got to realize that the processes are a thing? Did you actually learn the hard way by making all the possible mistakes? Or you actually talk just with someone and that someone told you, you know what? Stick to processes and that’s it.
[00:13:35.600] – Martin – I think my side is more like a natural thing that came. So somehow if I look back, I’ve always looked at things from structured way, then make processes at the beginning. I think the real part, when I start to focus on processes and drawing processes was back in 2009 when I ended up in the BSS project at Telfort. That’s where when I really started to sit down and actually work with a guy there, I’ll never forget him. He was a process nerd, a great process guy, a really structured, really structured in wave processes. It has to be decided, it has to follow a specific way. I can never in my life draw process that is causing lines. You know, it’s like a destiny, those kind of sily things. But yeah, I think 2009 is really when I started to drawing process and make it much more formal thing. But before that, it was much more in my mind bringing structure, which again, was a process but in a different form and shape for me at that moment than it is now.
[00:14:45.040] – Dancho – Nice. Well, I’m just thinking outloud, Martin. Can anybody be that organized and systematic? Because the other thing is that there are people that are organized chaos, where everything is just in chaos, but when they need something, they know exactly where it is. And is it just a state of mind? I mean, when I’m thinking about characters, some people are well organized, structured and in systems in places, and they follow strict processes. There are other characters that are a bit more chaotic.
[00:15:19.150] – Martin – Of course, your character will mainly drive, but I do believe that it’s a trade you can actually teach yourself. So if you would ask, a lady I work with, she has OCD, she is very structured and organized. And if I need something to be structured or if I need something to be followed up on, I’ll always give it to her because she’s extremely structured, and I definitely know that. I’m quite flexible in my mind. So I think we should go left. But throughout the day, I might as will decide to go a little bit the other way because I’m learning that’s actually better. So I’m not that structured by nature, but I have taught myself to actually draw down processes, and I got my tool for that. I use Lucidchart as an online tool and whatever I need to structure something, I go there and I start structuring and starting putting it into a process. So it’s something I taught myself to do because I’m not the most structured guy in the world. I would definitely not say that. And I will know a few people, including my wife, as well confirm. So I think if I can learn this by myself that I believe that is something that also other people can teach themselves. But of course, like anything it comes with a bit of dedication and focus.
[00:16:37.550] – Dancho – Nice. So I actually took out another advice from you. So, everybody that wants to do processes, Lucidchart, you said the software was?
[00:16:46.170] – Martin – Yeah, you should try that software I use. It’s free, it’s collaborative. You can get a subscription on it if you want to make it bigger, but it allows you to make process diagrams. I actually also used it recently. I purchased a house. To make my house layout and start working around with furniture in it. You can use it a different way.
[00:17:07.310] – Dancho – Wow, wow. I haven’t thought of creating processes in that regard, but that’s like advanced level of processing. Well, while we’re talking about the processes, is there one single lesson that you’ve learned or that you want to share? And I usually tease here, in 50 years from now, what do you want to actually be remembered for? And is there any lesson that you’ve learned that’s related to this expertise?
[00:17:35.300] – Martin – I think the key thing is to never assume. I think, don’t stop asking. I think at the moment you start assuming something, because I’ve done this process for three different operators and if all of them it’s similar to this, they would be the same. I think that’s the biggest mistake you can make. People use the same words in different contexts, in different languages, in different companies. And before you know it, you’ve build up a whole set of assumptions based on the first incorrect assumption. So never assume. And that’s also where the drawing process helps again. Because instead of talking about something that I have in my head and in my mind, and I think how it will work by putting it on paper, you take out the ambiguity and you take out the assumptions of that, and it becomes crystal clear about what happens, what happens in the system, what are people doing? Where is the interaction, where you even need integration with other systems. So, yeah, never stop asking. Never assume. That would be really my key lesson.
[00:18:42.240] – Dancho – There was a saying, assumption is mother of all screw-ups or something, that was a saying. But I understand that when you put it on a paper, when we are talking about something, I’m assuming one thing, you’re assuming a different thing, but when you put it on a paper, then you can even see, now we’re looking at the same thing. But also when you start looking at it, then you can start finding your weak spots. Like, wait, now that I have it in front of me, why is this like this? Why is actually, can it be improved or can it be tweaked a bit? So I completely understand your point with assumption. And that saying that I just said was really used in software development, because when the client says I need a feature, he assumed that developers knows exactly what is expected. And the developer is like, okay, he wants like, this, what’s the least thing I need to do in order to get it like was asked from me, like a requirement. And I know that the assumptions were a big headache when I was working in the software development.
[00:19:42.860] – Martin – Yes, there’s a great picture on that. You can definitely find on the Internet, is where a customer asks for a swing chair. You will then see how the swing chair looks like from a customer perspective, from a developer perspective, from a tester perspective, from a project manager perspective, everyone has different perspectives on life. I think if you don’t know it, try to Google the picture. I’m quite sure you can find it, but it’s a great way to show how perception and assumptions can differ depending on the people and depending on the role.
[00:20:14.890] – Dancho – Yeah, I’ve actually seen that picture, and it was really quite funny because there is truth in it, that’s why.
[00:20:23.680] – Martin – It’s actually true, yeah.
[00:20:26.580] – Dancho – Exactly. Well, Martin, what are the plans for the future? I mean, you have the OpenCloudBSS, I think is growing perfectly. And what are the future plans?
[00:20:38.420] – Martin – Okay, so from our perspective, my future plan is to grow OpenCloudBSS into, like a 100 million revenue company. That’s the ambition. So that’s what we’re going for. So if we look at the industry and we stay in Telco for now, the Telco industry is quite changing, this 5G introduction. But also, like we said earlier, Telcos are introducing all kinds of new services next to connectivity. It will only increase that. And that effectively means that they need different support systems because the legacy support systems can support Telco but are very difficult, are struggling to support other services. And that’s what Telcos will have to replace their existing support systems or existing business support systems to be able to cope with it. And while we started building our platform back in 2018 specifically for this focus. And what we see at the moment is not many competitors are there yet. So we do have a head start when it comes to this space. So, yeah, that’s definitely our ambition. Grow, 100 million revenue, serious company from there and help our customers to sell as many different services as they would like to. And grow their share with a lot of their customers.
[00:21:59.010] – Dancho – Nice. Well, that’s really ambitious number, 100 million. There are a lot of zeros in there, like three, two, five and three eight 0. Well…
[00:22:11.360] – Martin – Aim high!
[00:22:12.720] – Dancho – Like one 0 at a time. Slowly, but perfectly. Well, Martin, where can you be reached? I understand that the business support services are important, and especially if there are a lot of high ticket companies that are in the subscription model, and I’m sure that they could use your help in order to get the support services. As you said, it’s always a headache to connect marketing and IT and management and finance and other departments under one umbrella. So where could actually people reach out to you?
[00:22:47.840] – Martin – Okay, well, best way to reach me is on LinkedIn. That’s the platform I’m active most. So yeah, search me. Martin Kievit on LinkedIn. That should be an easy way to find. There’re not many Martin Kievit’s in the world, so that narrows down the list quite significantly. But yeah, for anyone that is watching this video, feel free to reach out. You don’t get just to buy something, but also, if you want some advice, just a conversation. Always happy to talk and grow my network from that perspective.
[00:23:19.790] – Dancho – Nice. And in addition to LinkedIn, you have the OpenCloudBSS.com, I think is the website.
[00:23:27.090] – Martin – Correct. That is the website where you can always also go to see our product. And get a better understanding of what it is we are best selling from that.
[00:23:37.750] – Dancho – Yeah. And I actually know that you have some white papers there and many additional stuff that people can read more on the topic and see how a supporting system can fit their needs. Martin, I really wanted to thank you for the time that you spend here. I really find it useful. And that was the whole logic behind this podcast that we are setting up, is that we want to talk with a lot of high tickets service providers and start getting lessons from every one of them, has available lessons to share. So, with you is that the processes are very important. But don’t make the assumptions because, you know the saying. I’m not going to do it again. But thank you very much again for being a guest on the show.
[00:24:24.110] – Martin – Yeah. Thank you very much for inviting me. I enjoyed being here. Thanks.
[00:24:30.990] – Dancho – Have a great day, Martin.
[00:24:32.980] – Martin – Same to you. Talk to you later. Bye.
Danco is a serial entrepreneur, founder and CEO of BizzBee Solutions, proud father of a 3-year-old and a burger enthusiast. He is inspired by growth and goes above and beyond to make it possible – whether it comes to his 300+ clients or his people. Eager to learn more? Follow Danco on LinkedIn and Facebook.