The company has come a long way in just three years, what prompted you and Michael to start a business in the first place?

Michael and I met in 2014 whilst working for FinancialForce (who are an independent software vendor providing financial management tools on the Salesforce platform). I was working in sales and Michael in product services. Michael ended up becoming my ‘go-to' guy for technical help in the sales process and we ended up becoming good friends as a result. We worked together on a few personal projects like fixing cars and motorbikes for fun and ended up helping each other do up some houses.
One day we ended up helping a friend with the implementation of his Salesforce system and sort of had this lightbulb moment. We were clearly confident in our ability to approach any issue and solve it. Michael absorbs information like a sponge and I'm always up for a challenge. After a few beers in Harrogate, we got cocky... opened my laptop and 15 mins later had started a company. That was 2016. We woke up the next day and remembered that we now ‘owned' a company and then decided to plan everything out when sober and make the jump. The basic plan was to utilise my sales experience and ability to secure business and Michael would do the technical bit. Around 18 months later we ‘officially' started in February 2018. Bootstrapped, nervous but very driven. 

Doors open for business, two desks and a coffee pot, what happened and what was the Art of Cloud offering at this stage? 

Two desks, a coffee pot and a tiny office (cupboard) in Chapel Allerton that vibrated and started to heat up after 4pm when the Chinese restaurant downstairs started to open for business. We pushed hard that first year and only offered consultancy on two of Salesforce's core products - sales and service. We secured some decent clients quite quickly by squeezing the life out of our network and cleared £180k in revenue in Y1 so we were chuffed. Most of those clients are still with us to this day so that's a testament to our abilities even back then. Using Salesforce to actually go to market, manage the sales process and support our clients did work. So we took our own medicine and it helped us enormously. I feel we haven't made the technological mistakes that a fledgling business might make due to our background.

How long did it take from opening in year one to having sufficient business in hand to expand the head count?

We had to scale quite quickly due to an influx in work as soon as word got around about the service we delivered. Liz Rhodes (now our COO) approached us in quite possibly the most spectacular interview to this date. Michael and I pretty much hired her on the spot and then immediately had to move to a bigger office. We finished the first year adding Jack Holdsworth (ex-FinancialForce rising star) as soon as we could afford him. I'd had my eye on him for about a year before we started AoC so was happy to have him and it tripled our delivery capacity as they both knew
Salesforce well.

2019, the last "normal" year arrives, the start of your second year in business, how did it go? 

2019 was a blast. So exciting. We started securing larger clients, doubled our turnover, moved office twice and could start breeding proper culture and process when considering the values we wanted to instil in Art of Cloud. In 2019 we finally convinced Liz to stop printing things and we moved towards an entirely paperless office. We increased our headcount again to six and gained certifications in more areas of Salesforce to increase our service offering. Our financial year ended in March 2020 but we achieved our target of 100% growth and were happy.

With two full years' trading under your belt at the start of 2020 and no immediate sign of what was to come thanks to Covid-19, what was your pre Covid 2020 strategy, when did that change and was it a smooth transition?

I'm not going to lie: we probably had it a lot better than a lot of small businesses. Our entire operation was already cloud-based and Salesforce allowed us to collaborate on deals, service our clients and stay on top of the finances from where ever we wanted. Early in March, I sent everyone home with their laptops and 30 mins later we were all working from home and have been for nearly a year. That transition was smooth. Our strategy at the start of the FY was again 100% growth but that quickly moved to ‘cut costs, maximise revenue and be as transparent as we can about the state of our business to both our customers, and, most importantly,    the Art of Cloud team'. We did what we needed to do. We kept our noses to the grindstone, we looked after each other and we kept on doing our best for our customers. When all is said and done what the team have pulled in FY20 is nothing short of spectacular. We moved offices again and doubled out headcount adding some incredibly talented individuals. I'm so proud of them.

What's the grand plan for 2021 and beyond?

The team have used the downtime they've had to learn new skills. We've expanded our offering to include some larger and more complex products that Salesforce offer including Pardot, Field Service and CPQ. Increasing project complexity but expanding the development team is key. We have some amazing products in development at the moment which will soon be released to specific sectors. Very simply though, we will continue to service our clients to the best of our abilities in an effort to help them become better at finding and keeping customers. I personally will continue to hire individuals that I think show the correct attitudes (the stuff you can't teach). As a business, Art of Cloud will continue to train highly rated industry and product experts... and we're going to have more parties as soon as we can. A lot more parties. There's a lot to celebrate and although we all love a Google Meet for keeping the culture alive, we want to get back into the office.

For more information visit Art of Cloud