Keri Calhoun, vice president of strategy at Providence-based Batchbook, which helps companies track their contacts, talked about the company recently with Providence Business News.
PBN: How did the business come about?
CALHOUN: Batchbook has been around for seven years. The founders basically couldn’t find a simple-but-powerful database to store and collaborate on the small business contacts they were meeting and working with, so they decided to build one themselves.
We’ve always been based in Rhode Island, and at the outset had a couple distributed teammates in Seattle. We’ve gone from 1-3 distributed team members during our first four years to 7-8, which is now 40 percent of our whole staff.
PBN: How do you help companies track contacts? (With so much data on the Internet, I can see how companies could get overwhelmed managing contact information)
CALHOUN: We’re an easy-to-use contact database. We make getting contacts into Batchbook as fool-proof as possible, with drag-and-drop importing, which creates custom fields instantly for you. Batchbook makes it easy to search across hundreds or thousands of contacts to find the exact person or set of people you need. Our mobile-responsive version of the software allows for access to your contacts from anywhere, at any time. Our contact lists are dynamic, meaning they’re always current. If a contact belongs on a list (you specify what things group a set of people together), it gets added automatically and if it no longer meets the list’s criteria, then it drops off automatically. We do these things to save small business owners time so that they spend less energy trying to make the software work and more effort on the customer relationship, which is the crux of a business.
PBN: How can you help companies grow their businesses?
CALHOUN: Our Customer Experience Team is exemplary, and they work seven days a week via email, webinars and personalized, one-on-one training sessions (we call this onboarding) to make sure that each small business sets up Batchbook in a way that makes sense to their team and industry.
Embracing a largely distributed team grants us access to a huge talent pool. We’ve benefitted from that, and we think that other small businesses can too, so we try to publish what we’ve learned about running and being part of a distributed team so that other small business can benefit from our own successes and mistakes.
An important part of helping our small business customers is inherent in being a ‘Software as a Service’ (SaaS) provider, in that it’s literally our job to continually improve the product. We stick to a weekly release schedule that’s constantly improving the product, and we know what needs adding or fixing by constantly listening to customers, asking questions and conducting user group testing.
PBN: Where do you see Batchbook in five years?
CALHOUN: Pamela O’Hara, our CEO, added the phrase “make the world a better place” to our company’s mission. So, while we all want some measure of financial success and marketplace prominence, the heart of Batchbook is to achieve those things in a way that’s transparent and thoughtful, leaving helpful lessons learned and crafted resources in our wake to share with our local and virtual communities.
PBN: Are most of your customers in Rhode Island, or are you more of a national company?
CALHOUN: Some of our customers are in Rhode Island, but we’re a truly international business, with 60 percent of our customer base in North America and 40 percent distributed elsewhere, worldwide. We’ve grown from a four-person team to now 18 employees and growing.