People who work in sales and customer service have to manage relationships with large numbers of customers, clients, and other contacts. Traditionally, customer relationship management (CRM) has been complicated and expensive. But James Wong’s company, Avidian Technologies, offers a software solution that makes CRM simple and intuitive. Avidian created Prophet, a CRM software that is built right into Microsoft Outlook. Since sales professionals and customer service people spend so much of their time in Outlook anyway, it made obvious sense to develop a software that was within Outlook. That way, users have to deal with just one application and one customer contact database. Prophet was named “Favorite Small Business Tool” by PC Magazine this year and has been praised in other publications as well. As Co-Founder and CEO, James, 35, is also proud that Avidian has been named as one of Washington state’s “Best Companies to Work For” for three years in a row. To learn more about James and Prophet, check out this week’s Young & Professional Profile.
Creators of Prophet Outlook CRM Software
Co-Founder & CEO
University of Washington
BA in Business Administration
Co-Founder and CEO
About the company
Avidian is the creator of Prophet, the Outlook CRM Software built entirely inside of Microsoft Outlook. Prophet is the award winning CRM that software that is changing the way CRM or Contact Management is being thought of in the industry. PC Magazine named Prophet as one of their “Favorite Small Business Tools” and PC World, eWeek, Entrepreneur Magazine have consistently used “easy” and “simple” to describe Prophet.
What are your day-to-day responsibilities?
The 30,000 feet level is setting the strategic direction of Avidian and then executing like crazy. On a daily basis, I’m responsible for Sales and Marketing and Operations and to ensure we’re executing to plan.
Most notable milestones
- Winning 3 years in a roll as one of Washington “Best Companies to Work For” in 2005, 2006 and 2007.
- Being named as the seventh Fastest Growing Company in Washington State in 2006.
- Being named as “Favorite Small Business Tool” by PC Magazine in 2007.
What’s the niche?
We are unique in that we are changing the way the CRM (Customer Relationship Management) industry thinks about CRM. CRM have traditionally been highly complex, comprehensive & expensive to implement. We propose that since the users of CRM (mainly sales professionals, management, customer service people, etc.) are in Outlook all day long and doing 50% to 60% of their sales activities inside of Outlook already, it makes intuitive sense to add the needed sales and customer management features right inside of Outlook so that the CRM users are in one application and dealing with one customer contact database. We keep the end users in an application they are already familiar with making adoption intuitive, training easy and support of the software a breeze.
What’s the biggest challenge?
Getting in front of the right people to hear about our product. Once they find out about Prophet, they are excited and feel they have found Mecca. So for us it’s a marketing game that we must win at.
What’s in store for the future?
Dominating the CRM industry and being one of the top three CRM providers in the marketplace. Getting to 1,000,000 users in the next four or five years. Also, continuing to build a company all of the people working within Avidian are proud of and continue to win as one of the “Best Companies to Work For.”
Best way to keep a competitive edge
Know what your customers want and build your company or product to serve those needs. Continually innovate or you’ll fall behind. Own the market that you go after by creating a whole new market or segment. Don’t try to duke it out with your competitors. Make your competitors irrelevant.
Our mantra is that if you want CRM and Contact Management and ease of use, simplicity and being in Outlook is important to you, then we’re the only game in town.
Guiding principle in life
Avidian Technologies was founded with The Five Guiding Principles. It’s all based on TRUST between our company, associates, partners, clients and the communities in which we do business. This is our promise when building Avidian:
Treat each other as you would like to be treated.
Respect our associates’ responsibility for putting family first.
Uphold the highest standards of excellence in all we do and have fun doing it.
Share our success with our associates, partners, clients and community.
Treasure our people and promote from within.
Yardstick of success
When we founded Avidian five years ago even though we were a little startup, our goal was always to be the “Best in the world at creating Easy Sales CRM Software in Outlook.” Now I feel we are and backed by many publications that support Prophet is indisputably the World’s Easiest and Best Sales CRM Software in Outlook and we’re really proud of it.
The other yard stick is being named as one of the “Best Companies to Work For” voted by our own associates (we don’t have employees) three years in a row. If our people are happy working here and feel they are challenged, have a great career path and feel fairly compensated then we feel we are successful.
Goal yet to be achieved
Going for 1,000,000 satisfied users of Prophet. Right now we’re at 30,000, but climbing fast.
Best practical advice
Live the life you use to dream about when you were a kid. Take a little risk. You won’t regret it on your death bed. Make work an enjoyable part of your life. Life does not have to be on pause when you are at work: most people turn their life off when they walk into the office and turn it back on when they get out. They love Fridays and constantly dread Sundays. If that is you, do something about it. Despite what you might believe, no one is forcing you to be at your job. Do something you love.
Supportive words from a family member or friend on your venture
When I asked my wife should I start Avidian and possibly put our family at financial risk, she replied “You are who you are. Go for it.”
Then I told her “OK. We’re doing it. You know there are only two outcomes from this decision: 1.) We move into a bigger house in a couple of years or 2.) We move back in with my mom.” The good news is we did move and we didn’t have to move in with mom.
Serial Entreprenuers Joe Rait & Jim Potter, specifically on learning how to build great businesses while living a great life.
Tim Nguyen, my business partner in helping me to leverage my strengths and seeing my weaknesses.
Many others from my EO (Entrepreneur Organization) and Rotary Club.
What motivated you to get started?
Starting and building businesses is in my blood. I also want to get the financial and gratifying rewards of building a successful business. Creating a business that people enjoy being a part of it. Be a beacon of light in the market place where people are respected, treated well and financially rewarded.
Why Avidian is because we analyzed and saw a great opportunity in the market place to win as the World’s Easiest to Use Outlook based CRM application.
Like best about what you do?
Exceeding our sales goals and making money.
Winning new customers and converts to Prophet each and everyday. Creating evangelists and opening the eyes of customers to see the CRM Promise land with an easy to use Prophet Outlook CRM.
Inspiring our team to do the best they can and giving them the structure to build a great company together. Let them achieve their own goals through Avidian.
Like least about what you do?
Working with our team to come up with alternative plans of action when we’re off goal. When we don’t have clarity in what we’re trying to accomplish and it feels like we’re stumbling along. Not executing as perfectly as I like.
At age 10, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Rich! Because as an immigrant family from China, we didn’t have any money and it looked like rich people were happier. So I wanted to be rich so I could be happier. The way to get rich was to be an Entrepreneur/Business Owner. Thus that is what I am today. It’s really that simple. My whole life was driven by decisions I made as a kid.
What was your first job?
Delivering newspapers at age 11. Making $120/month, which was a lot of money at that time.
Biggest pastime outside of work
Hanging around with my wife, two kids and 30+ of my other close relatives. Attending a great church we love and getting involved with ministry. Hiking, playing ping pong and getting into Badminton. Going to Rotary and EO events.
Person most interested in meeting?
Jesus: the person that I believe has made the most impact in all of human history.
Leader in business most interested in meeting?
Bill Gates, he built a tremendous company and decided to give most of his money away while he is alive. I want to learn how he thinks and how to be a great business man and philanthropist like him..
Three interesting facts about yourself
- Married to my wife whom I’ve known ever since she was born.
- I am completely content with life and can die satisfied right now.
- I’ve ran the half marathon twice but I hate running.
Three characteristics that describe you
Three greatest passions
- Loving Jesus
- Loving my family
- Loving entrepreneurship, building a great company.
The Bible and “Good to Great” by James C. Collins
Making work a great place to be and a great place to put your time. Helping people to live their dreams and making work an OK place to achieve those dreams. Sharing the Good News of Jesus in Seattle and China.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
“The more you learn, the more you earn.” Be a student for life by being open to receiving teaching from people. You might think you already know it but open your heart and mind and be able to receive the teaching. You can replace the more you “earn” with anything you so desire to replace it. Just know that you’ll be able to have more of whatever you want when you learn more.
Who would you like to be contacted by?
Bill Gates or Steve Balmer giving us congratulations in building a business on top of Outlook that Microsoft tried to do but fell behind us in execution.
|September 21st, 2007, 02:27:55
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