Rick Endrulat, President and Co-Founder of Virtual Causeway joins us to share his story. Where did he get his start? How does the guitar continue to inspire him? How do you get to be the president of a successful sales, marketing, and tech services company? All that and more!
Rick Endrulat, President and Co-Founder of Virtual Causeway on how do you get to be the president of a successful sales, marketing, and tech services company
Joseph Fung: I’m Joseph Fung, and today I’m joined by Rick Endrulat he’s the president and co-founder at Virtual Causeway Rick thank you for joining us.
Rick Endrulat: Hey, Joseph, great to be here.
Joseph Fung: I’m so glad to have you on our show we get to work with a lot of sales leaders, but you have such a fantastic journey, and you see so many sales conversations. This is gonna be a fun chat, I think.
Rick Endrulat: Looking forward to it.
Joseph Fung: So just start things off to help the audience, and I get to know you and understand Virtual Causeway a little bit better while this isn’t a show about pitching. I’d love to start off with that quick elevator pitch. What is virtual Causeway?
Rick Endrulat: Sure, so Virtual Causeway, we are an outsourced demand gen agency. So basically, we focus on various sales marketing and market research services for our clients who are all in the b2b space and usually have some type of complex sale, and ultimately our goal is to help them generate additional revenue, streamline their processes or even build new processes that they eventually bring in-house to help them sell and market their products.
Joseph Fung: So you have a whole team of people who are calling dialing and having sales conversations every day.
Rick Endrulat: That’s a part of our business. Sure we do have a team of people that are doing and that are doing outbound work and are having sales conversations every day on behalf of our clients, which is really cool and interesting because it gives me a really good cross-section of what’s going on in the market on any given day.
Joseph Fung: I love it at your perspective on not just your journey, but how you’re seeing sales reps succeed is gonna be really interesting. To share a bit about your journey, maybe we can start. At the start, where did you grow up? Where did you go to school?
Rick Endrulat: So I grew up actually, and I was born in Kitchener, and I went to school in KW and basically ended up going to university. I went to laureate and did my undergrad in honors English with a business. So spent a lot of time, you know, working on with an arts degree basically graduated from university and then ended up working for a software company here in Waterloo called Wacom which was a spinoff from the University of Waterloo.
Joseph Fung: Now you’d shared that you didn’t just pick up those rules right away; you spoke about how music was a large part of your life, and you dabbled a little bit in that maybe you can share a little bit about that part too.
Rick Endrulat: Yeah, sure, so I started taking guitar lessons as a young kid, probably around the third grade. I had an older brother who was playing guitar, I had an older sister that played piano, so music was something that my parents always encouraged us to learn, and I just thought the guitar was the coolest thing ever. My mom wanted me to play the accordion, but I decided to focus on guitar, and my brother, my brother, made sure that I focused on guitar and not an accordion. So I started playing guitar at a young age and played all through high school and did the typical playing in high school band kind of thing.
In University through University, I was playing in various gigging bands and trying to make a little bit of money doing that and then for a couple of years after as well spent a little more time doing it a little more seriously while I was working but then realized that you know at that point of my life I was very interested in trying to establish myself from a career standpoint and being a gigging musician in bars locally in dealing with bar managers and other bandmates and trying to do a lot of that scheduling. All the other not-so-fun work as it was getting to me, and so that’s when I decided to focus on my career in sales and marketing.
Joseph Fung: So you had a role first in on the marketing side of things. You share a little bit about what that was like.
Rick Endrulat: Sure, so I started working for a company called walk home; as I mentioned, it’s been off from the University of Waterloo, which was a technical software company, and I started off as basically an entry-level marketing position and then I as part of my role I was also helping to field inbound sales calls basically so the toll-free number to ask questions about her software that was part of my role was answering the phone. And really started getting into a lot more customer conversations. And then when my company Wacom was purchased by a company out of Boston, they had a much larger inside sales team, and I ended up reporting into that group and then managing a team here in Waterloo Ontario that was focused on doing some of the pre-sales work and inside sales worked for some of our software products. So got into the sales side for a few years and then moved back to product marketing in the last few years. I was at walk-on, which was by that time by that time was actually part of a company called Sybase.
Joseph Fung: So you started off in marketing about to dip your toes onto the sales side of things and then came back onto the marketing side. How did you compare the two of them?
Rick Endrulat: Well, it’s interesting because when you’re in sales, you view marketing a certain way and I certainly when I went from sales to marketing I was thinking that I was going to you know to fix the marketing function and I was gonna create this great sense of alignment between sales and marketing that you know seems to be missing in a lot of organizations still today. And I moved into marketing, and then the marketing perspective is always that you know sales you know marketing spends all this money generating leads and generating demand and sales is not following up on leads fast and now for sales is not closing. And so having both perspectives, I felt like I had at least the opportunity to try to bridge that gap a little bit, and I built a team within Sybase that was an internal demand center that was focused on doing a demand generation and sales development across multiple product lines within Sybase. And I enjoyed doing that so much that I decided, you know, in 2001 after I got completed my MBA as well part-time in 2001 I decided that we’d start a Virtual Causeway and do this for other companies.
Joseph Fung: Let’s unboxed that a little bit. What do you think was the trigger? What was the thing that kind of pushed you over that line to say yes, I’m going to found my own company to do this? As a founder, having been there, I always loved to hear kind of that ideation and that story, so I’d love to hear. What kind of pushed you over the ledge to make that decision?
Rick Endrulat: Sure, a big part of it actually was doing my MBA. I mean, when you do your MBA, you spend a lot of time looking at business problems doing business cases. And everything is always from the perspective of you know, a decision-maker, and you know as a kind of mid-level marketing manager when I was doing my activities through the MBA I kept understanding that you know these I’d like to be involved in some of these bigger types of decisions.
And though part of the MBA program, I took an entrepreneurship course and then, of course, you know, just started thinking about what would be really neat if I could do what I’ve done built and built inside at Sybase. It was something that I could do for somebody else, and I could do for other software companies. I just really enjoyed the idea of trying to do my own thing, and you know, it was basically the MBA that pushed me. I mean, as part of my MBA, I actually put together the business plan for Virtual Causeway or at least the very early stages of it. And then my wife Cynthia was very supportive, and I just really started working on the plan and figure out how I can make it happen.
Joseph Fung: That’s awesome now you’ve had this journey in marketing sales now delivering those services for others. What do you think has been most surprising? You know what surprised you most about your journey, and sales as a career?
Rick Endrulat: Well, what has surprised me most, I think, is that you realize, especially after running a business, that sales are part of everything you do. I mean, when you’re meeting a prospective candidate from an HR standpoint, you know you’re selling in terms of being able to explain what you do why they should come work for you, and you know when you’re talking to the bank, when you’re talking to Revenue Canada, when you’re talking to your accountant I mean every aspect has something that I would consider selling within it whether or not people realize it or whether or not they say that its sales.
So you know that’s something that surprised me is how the whole concept of sales and the whole discipline of sales crosses so many different areas and even with school Iraq which is you know as I mentioned something that we had started which was a performance-based music school here in Kitchener Waterloo you know sales is a big part of that as well in terms of you know prospective clients coming in terms of even dealing with local venues and convincing them to let you do your seasonal show at their event. I mean, just sales are this something that permeates everything that you do.
Joseph Fung: I love to dig into that thank you for bringing up school rocks. So if I imagined, and I mean I don’t know your businesses as well as you, but I have to guess that the who would reach out to Virtual Causeway for marketing and sales and customer success from research services. Would it be a very different buyer than the student or the parent of a student you might reach out to with the School of Rock? But you just said that in both of them, you know selling is fundamental, so what would be some of those similarities may be surprising or otherwise between the two.
Rick Endrulat: Yeah, it’s actually really interesting, so when we first started School of Rock, which is obviously a consumer-based product or service you know you’re selling to students as well as parents versus Virtual Causeway where usually we’re selling to b2b organizations that are in a lot of cases have complex sales or Enterprise sales. One thing that I really found interesting with school Iraq was that you know the lead flow, and thinking about the process of generating leads and converting leads and moving them through the buying process is very similar. I mean, when we first started school in Iraq and talking to other school Iraq owners, a lot of them didn’t really think it through and didn’t think through the process, but we were able to take a lot of the processes we used with Virtual Causeway.
And for Virtual Causeway clients adapted them for our buyer I mean understanding a little bit in terms of different sales cycles and you know different needs and pain. But ultimately taking some of those same processes and building them into how we marketed School of Rock. so even just as simple as you know, setting up a cadence for outbound emails and then figure out where leads go based on that you know if somebody responds and they’re interested in a certain type of program then this should be the next step and then working through the workflow and figuring out how to how to manage those leads over time that’s the kind of stuff that we’ve always done with a Virtual Causeway, and it was interesting taking those processes and trying to apply them to more of a consumer-based business.
Joseph Fung: I loved how thoughtful you are about it. The way you’re describing that sounds very similar to your early comments about the kind of field marketing in sales fun parallel there.
Rick Endrulat: Yeah, it was actually when I you know when we first started a lot of consumer-based businesses are based on reacting. Right, so people call our people to drop stop in and say, oh, I’m interested what can what can I do or oh, this looks really interesting I want to sign up for guitar lessons so a lot of inbound lead generation or inbound lead management. But what we did is when we started school in Iraq is we really started focusing on how can we start doing some more proactive outbound activities that can help fill the funnel and not have to wait for, you know, some of that organic inbound inquiry to happen.
Joseph Fung: I love how you mentioned the guitar lessons there again. It feels a little bit like this first part of your journey has been booked ended a little bit by guitar lessons. And here in the middle, you’ve you had dodged accordion you’ve done field marketing launched a couple of companies. What you know what are you proud of? What success are you most proud of so far?
Rick Endrulat: I guess there are a few different things you know with Virtual Causeway. We’ve been in business since 2001. I mean, when I first started the organization and when I first started doing the business planning, it was still, you know, kind of pre-tech bubble, and my goal was, you know, grow the company and five to six years and then look at some acquisitions. And some hyper-growth and then obviously based on you know different changes in the economic situation you know not that that’s slowed a bit. But I think what I’m proud of is the fact that you know we were able to start a company able to have real local and community impact both through you know supporting local companies and clients but also through our employees and you know being able to support them and their families. I mean those things are really important to us. And as we grow and as we continue to, you know, operate, we also spend a lot of time supporting other, you know, nonprofits and other organizations locally that can have some local impact, so that’s something I’m really proud of. And I think the biggest part of it is you know it’s a sustainable business, so we’re able to grow through our client’s growth and you know we are able to help our clients also build sustainable businesses and, sustainable lines of business and succeed, so that’s really important to me. And of course, with school Rock, a big part of that even though you know the business is no longer open. I think we made a huge impact when we were we were operating, and a big part of that was really making a huge, huge impact on her local community. I mean, I still have parents and students that are reaching out to us saying how much they miss it and how much it really helped their students and their kids with school, and you know really seeing some of these kids as they start growing they’re succeeding, and they’re doing some really cool things that’s really important to me.
Joseph Fung: So let’s cast off forward a little bit then you know if you think about future Rick, What’s something you hope to congratulate future Rick for?
Rick Endrulat: Well, I mean I think especially as we’re in this, you know the current pandemic situation I think as I hope in the future I’ll be congratulating myself for fingering out and continuing to reinvent how we do things that we do at Virtual Causeway I mean the whole demand gen space and the whole sales and marketing space for technology since we started in 2001 has changed dramatically. And based on what’s happening now and how a business might be shifting, I mean our my goal and the goal for the organization is we need to continue to reinvent ourselves and look at opportunities that might come out of this that we can play a bigger role. We can help our clients get through this and keep growing too. So I certainly hope that I’ll be thinking back, you know, in five years saying this was a great opportunity for us to look at what we can do and how we can support our clients and ultimately come up with higher-value activities and ways that we can add value for our clients and help them grow.
Joseph Fung: I love that vision. I’m looking forward to congratulating future you on the same thing because I think it’d be a fantastic outcome. we’re nearing the end of our time together. Are you okay if we flip over and ask you a couple of rapid-fire questions?
Rick Endrulat: yeah, go for it
Joseph Fung: awesome, okay, so we’ll do these quick one after the other first off, what’s your favorite sales tool?
Rick Endrulat: well, our CRM, which is salesforce.com, a close second is LinkedIn.
Joseph Fung: Nice. I’ll face talking to answers for that’s also it what about a movie what’s your favorite movie.
Rick Endrulat: Oh, Godfather, first one.
Joseph Andrew: Oh, nice, oh, there you go. I was gonna ask you which for you just that I love it.
Rick Endrulat: Hey, you learn a lot about business watching those movies that’s for sure
Joseph Fung: Oh yeah, and I’ve got a guess on this based on the themes of our conversation, but when you were a kid, what did you want to grow up to be.
Rick Endrulat: Well, you’re probably gonna guess I wanted to be a rock star, but yeah, that was you know that was my early goal was to be a rock star, and now I’m happy to be, you know, helping our clients be rock stars from a sales and marketing standpoint.
Joseph Fung: I’d love it, Rick. Thank you so much for sharing your time and your journey; I picked up a number of tips, and I’ve loved it so much there’s been a great conversation. I’m looking very much to our next chat, right. Right they hopefully we chat again really soon hope you’re having a fantastic day and that you and your family are staying safe and sane in these interesting times.
Rick Endrulat: Thank you and back at you.