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Matt Rosen of Allata: “Customer Experience”

Customer Experience — One of the most critical factors in designing an application or software platform is having a clearly defined customer base and objectives for them. Creating customer personas so you can build toward your audience is critical. Conduct short design sprints and build prototypes to prove your thinking early in the process before too much […]

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Customer Experience — One of the most critical factors in designing an application or software platform is having a clearly defined customer base and objectives for them. Creating customer personas so you can build toward your audience is critical. Conduct short design sprints and build prototypes to prove your thinking early in the process before too much code is written. If you don’t understand your audience or their needs, your platform will have limited success.


As part of my series about the “5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Successful App or SaaS”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Matt Rosen.

Matt Rosen is the Founder and CEO of Allata, a fast-growth consulting firm based in Dallas and has been in the Top 100 of the Inc 5000 two years in a row. Matt has spent the last 21 years building high-performance teams and consulting organizations in Texas. Before starting Allata in 2016, he served as a Vice President at Pariveda for seven years, where he built long-lasting relationships with enterprise clients and oversaw the successful delivery of many complex engagements. Matt co-founded the DFW IT Roundtable, a group of high integrity IT professionals who serve many clients and non-profit organizations in DFW. Matt is a father of two beautiful girls, loves competing in triathlons, and travels to fun and interesting places with his wife whenever they can sneak away.


Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

I originally started my career in the document management industry in the late 90s only to realize most business forms were moving to large ERP systems and that I needed to be in technical sales. I started my consulting career in 2000 during the dotcom boom for a company establishing the first eCommerce presence for many large companies. I worked my way up from an inside sales representative to running an office in a short time. I fell in love with the consulting business as a firm can always pivot into new industry segments, technology domains and continually reinvent itself. The number of challenges to help organizations is almost limitless. Then add the pace of technology change, and that’s exciting to me.

What was the “Aha Moment” that led you to think of the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?

In 2014, I left a very stable VP level role with a large consulting firm called Pariveda, which I helped build from 10M dollars — 100M dollars . At this point in my life, I wanted to take some risk for potential upside, which was not possible at Pariveda. I spent the next 1.5 years helping a start-up real estate asset management software and consulting firm get off the ground. The firm was very successful in the first year; however, the majority owner and I had very different values on how to run a company and treat employees. The software company was growing fast and losing money, so I tried to convince the owner to take on funding. Instead of a collaborative discussion, the owner scolded me like a 6-year-old child. At that moment, I knew I had to stop building companies for other people and build one for myself guided by my values. I started Allata in the middle of 2016 and never looked back.

Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

During my 21-year consulting career there have been plenty of hard times and lessons learned along the way. Probably the hardest moment was leaving the start-up that I helped build to start my own. I had sacrificed a lot of time with my family as I was on the road over 50% of the time to launch the real estate software firm. I reached a point where I no longer believed in what I was selling or the people I was working with and knew it was time to go.

When I told my wife that I was starting all over again after an 18-month grind, it was a very hard decision to leave all my hard work behind. However, it was the right choice, and I started Allata with a simple mantra — Family, Clients, Us. I never thought about giving up and knew if I focused on the right things that everything would eventually work out. There were definitely a lot of sleepless nights, however a lot of meditation, working out, and a supportive family helped me through the challenges.

So, how are things going today? How did your grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?

Things are going as well as I could have hoped given the challenging environment. Allata actually grew during 2020 despite the pandemic due to our great clients and committed, hardworking team of Allatians. The leadership team had a plan and kept to it throughout the difficult times. I have found that if you stick to your values and are committed to helping your clients succeed, then success will follow.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

In starting a new business venture most founders tend to make many mistakes. I had to think hard about this question as most early mistakes were painful stories not funny ones. When I first started Allata, I probably took on too much personally vs. hiring folks to take on certain responsibilities. Initially, I had full responsibility for sales, marketing, recruiting, client delivery, operations, IT, HR, and accounts payable/receivable, and most importantly client coffee delivery. There was not enough time in the day for all the jobs Allata required and I didn’t hire any full-time employees for the first year. I was working around the clock and spending time on things I’m awful at including administering Office 365 and creating invoices. I definitely was not playing to my strengths. I realized that as we went from 1 to 6 clients in the first year, I could no longer scale and began hiring full-time employees to begin to take on this responsibility. Had I moved forward on more full-time hires earlier, I would have had more time to focus on growth.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Allata has a simple mantra — Family first, our clients are king, we take great care of our people. Our mantra is clear and thoughtful and we encourage all employees to live by it and want our clients to feel it.

Our charter client, the Freeman Companies, is the world’s leading live event and brand experience company. They enable their clients to create and deliver immersive experiences for audiences around the world. The impact of COVID-19 has left the live event industry at a standstill, but Freeman used the pandemic as a catalyst to accelerate their vision for a digital experience. We were proud to help Freeman create a live digital experience that would supply the same sense of engagement and closeness as previously done at in-person events, virtually. In eight short weeks, we helped Freeman successfully launch their custom digital event experience, allowing them to pivot their business from physical events hosted in facilities with live interaction to a true digital event hosted entirely online. I’m especially proud of the team of Allatians that worked tirelessly on this project to make Freeman successful. Case study linked here — https://www.allata.com/case-studies/freeman-company

One of our employees had a very sick daughter, and he was out of personal time off and was going to have to take a leave of absence. Without any prompting by the executive team, the Allatians in his office came to leadership asking if they could pool their personal time to allow him paid time off with his daughter. This was a great example of our team living the firm’s values, and that employee will be forever grateful to his peers.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Consulting can be a grind, as you are only as good as your last meeting, pitch deck, deliverable, and line of code. Clients pay a premium for our service, and we are always on stage. To keep up with this demand, I recommend taking time off whenever possible. Whether it’s a weekend getaway or a week-long trip, you need to unplug. I only check emails once a day when I’m out of the office and only answer when critical. I would suggest not checking them at all; however, I can’t help myself.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

I have to give credit to my wife, Stephanie. Without her love and support, I would not be where I am today. She held me back from starting my own company when I wanted to do it for the money and pushed me forward when I clearly understood my own why. She financially supported us during the start-up phase and continues to provide advice and encouragement.

The best boss and mentor I had was a leader named Hector Martinez. He was hard on me during a time of professional immaturity in my career. I got thrown off a client engagement, which he had sold, and he almost fired me. Luckily, he decided he wanted me on his team and would provide the coaching I needed to succeed. Hector taught me how to deliver hard messages with confidence and manage difficult situations with clients.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. Approximately how many users or subscribers does your app or software currently have? Can you share with our readers three of the main steps you’ve taken to build such a large community?

We build commercial software platforms for our clients and support them once they are in production. The platforms we have built serve anywhere from hundreds to hundreds of thousands of users.

We have helped customers build apps with users ranging from small, targeted groups of business users to hundreds of thousands of marketable customers. It all depends on the goals our clients are trying to accomplish. Apps with small, targeted groups are often trying to solve a specific business problem that would have significant ROI even though the number of users is minimal.

When focusing on building a large customer base, the most crucial step is market testing. Although you are sure your idea is brilliant and will be met with tremendous success, market testing is critical to validating that assumption or bringing you back down to earth.

What is your monetization model? How do you monetize your community of users? Have you considered other monetization options? Why did you not use those?

Our customers have various monetization models that we incorporate during design thinking phases to determine the most successful application outcomes. Most customers have a set idea of how to monetize their apps. Allata’s success depends on our clients’ success, so we must help them think through all opportunities and outcomes.

Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to create a very successful app or a SaaS? Please share a story or an example for each.

Do you need to build it — Before starting on any software product/platform, determine why you are creating it. If you are not creating something for competitive advantage or new revenue streams, look to see if you can buy/license pre-existing software platforms. Don’t build things you can buy off the shelf, like CRM or ERP packages. Building and maintaining software takes time, people, and money and is not for the faint of heart.

Customer Experience — One of the most critical factors in designing an application or software platform is having a clearly defined customer base and objectives for them. Creating customer personas so you can build toward your audience is critical. Conduct short design sprints and build prototypes to prove your thinking early in the process before too much code is written. If you don’t understand your audience or their needs, your platform will have limited success.

Speed to Market — Assume that other people may be working on a similar solution, especially if you are building a software platform you plan to monetize. Also, build flexible technology that allows you to build, test and deploy software quickly. Start with an MTP (Minimally Testable Product) to get something out to market that allows you to test and learn quickly.

Feedback Loops — Create focus groups of your customer personas and gather feedback with every software release. You will learn valuable lessons along the way and things you think are a ‘killer’ feature may not be important to users. You need to build in time to your software development cycles to incorporate these learnings.

Plan for the long term — Building software is the first part of the software development lifecycle. Once the software is live, it must be updated, improved, and maintained. Do not start down the path if you are not ready for this part. This requires, among other things, a great team of people to make it happen. You will either need to hire that team or partner with an organization that can own the ongoing development and provides long term support. Think of building software as having a baby but do not forget someone has to raise the child.

These are some of the most important things to think about when starting to build new software. Leveraging cloud technology and pre-existing packages and libraries make it easier than ever to get started quickly. Just make sure you think about the following five things before you begin the journey.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

The world is changing very quickly, and many people are not learning the problem-solving and critical thinking skills needed in the decades to come. I would like to see many more people educated in software development, data analysis, and machine learning concepts. This should be part of the early curriculum; reading, writing, and math taught throughout the school. As the information age accelerates, those who don’t learn some basic technology skills and understanding will be left behind.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Matt Rosen — https://www.linkedin.com/in/mattrosen/

Allata

LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/company/allata/

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/Allata15

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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