What does it take to successfully launch and grow a small business?
Iron Roots‘ Founder and CEO Saru Saadeh’s mission to create a one-stop shop to help businesses grow sprang from his experience marketing his family’s business. Saru started creating and distributing flyers on his bike for the Mediterranean restaurant while still in middle school. Before long, he’d expanded his services to other businesses, and had enlisted ten friends to help him. By high school, Saru was producing live music events using radio ads and Facebook to market them.
Saru continued to organize events in college, topping things off with two sold out shows for Grammy-winning hip hop artist Chamillionaire. After graduating with a degree in business management, he was hooked on marketing, and set his sights on launching a data-driven, promotional marketing business.
Setting Up Shop
Saru established Iron Roots in 2014 to provide marketing strategy, creative, data analytics, media buying, social media, and influencer buying services to clients.
He started out with the basics, creating his first website with a drag and drop web site building platform, and using Google Suite to manage the business. Saru emailed companies he’d done work for when he was a teen, and successfully re-engaged with several of them to bring in some clients. Meanwhile, he continued to study advertising, got certified for Facebook and Google, improved his website, and started publishing client case studies to further establish his credentials.
As Iron Roots began to grow, Saru hired a buddy to help him in 2015. He also moved the business out of his mother’s house, relocating to a conference room in a local gym in exchange for providing the gym with marketing services.
Automating to Enable Growth
At this point, according to Saru, “Spreadsheets and sticky notes were everything in terms of managing the business.” But as it continued to expand, he needed a better way to manage and automate workflows and projects. “Once we had 3 people working for the company, we needed a better way to assign and track things.” He started using Kanban Flow for task and project management, which enabled the team to more easily spot bottlenecks, manage time and improve efficiency.
As things progressed, Saru’s motivation to streamline processes increased. As he noted, “It’s challenging to scale a services business because there are so many moving parts in every project.”
Saru’s self-described goal was to have a core operating system for his business, where every step of the client journey would be integrated, and each step would trigger the appropriate notifications and actions for the next
He searched online to look for the solutions he needed. He implemented Slack to fill requirements for a shared inbox and chat system, and Zapier to automatically feed notifications into Slack from Gmail and other applications. He added Google analytics to trigger weekly reports for clients.
In 2017, his requirement for professional invoices led him to add Zoho Invoice, which would enable him to create invoices, automate payment reminders, track expenses and log work hours.
Inspired by the seamless integration and ability to manage sales and billing all in one, Saru started using Zoho’s CRM solution, and replaced spreadsheets with Zoho Books shortly thereafter. At this point, Saru says, “it made sense to get Zoho One to get access to all of the 50-plus Zoho apps.” Since then, he has added Zoho’s social media management solution to schedule and post directly to social media sites.
Saru has considered moving other functions to the Zoho suite, but it isn’t always the best fit. For instance, Iron Roots moved from KanBan Flow to AirTable and Notion for task and project management, as they found Zoho Project Management too complex for their needs.
According to Saru, “We could have grown without automating, but not as much. Things would have fallen through the cracks, and we would have looked like we were flying by the seat of our pants.”
By automating core aspects of the business, “”From notifications to analysis, automation and processes ensure consistency and accuracy. For example, we use in-house scanners that automatically screen the background of companies that inquire on our website. This helps provide context for our initial conversations. And we can automatically generate reports for insights for ourselves and clients, giving everyone visibility into progress and results.”
As a result, Iron Roots’ current staff of 12 can provide consistent, professional creative services for over twenty clients, including Netflix, Gillette, Warner Bros, and some of the leading blockchain-based technology companies.
Planting the Seeds of Serial Entrepreneurship
Saru’s journey also opened the door to the world of low code/no code applications. “Zoho Flow, Zapier, Apple shortcuts and other lightweight workflow tools are part of a huge ecosystem of tools that offer visual, drag and drop application components that you can connect together and create mobile or web apps.”
Inspired by this new interest, Saru has spent the past several months working to launch another business, called Delimiters. Now in public beta ,Delimiters is a creator platform of workflows and templates made by its users. It’s the first of its kind, hosting only ready-to-use digital resources for day-to-day business operations. Creators share their useful templates for the world to duplicate and allow for promoting their expertise while providing value, soon to offer monetization opportunities. Startups, freelancers, and the super-organized professionals of the web can save time and increase working quality by tapping into the creativity of user generated resources.
Like most small business owners, Saru’s impetus to start Iron Roots grew out of a passion—in his case, for marketing. But Saru quickly realized that in order to scale the business, he’d need to automate core processes.
In the process, he developed a new passion: using digital solutions to automate and integrate workflows in his business. These efforts have not only helped Iron Roots to streamline tasks and save time, but to also provide clients with a more polished, professional experience, and to access the insights they need to continually refine and improve project outcomes.
Technology and automation aren’t the only make or break factors when it comes to starting a new business. But most small business owners recognize that success is increasingly dependent on a company’s ability use technology to streamline operations, improve their business models and provide more value to customers. According to SMB Group research, almost two-thirds of decision-makers in small business (companies with 1-100 employees) recognize the importance of developing a strong technology and automation strategy–and also agree that technology investments usually pay off.
However, developing and executing on a technology strategy is still an afterthought for too many new businesses. Just as a company starts to gain traction, an owner can find they don’t have the solutions they need to effectively manage things. While they could get by patching together spreadsheets, email and labor-intensive manual processes in the early going, this approach doesn’t scale—and ends up hampering with their ability to grow and to professionally serve clients.
Iron Roots’ story underscores how developing and implementing a strong technology strategy early on helps young companies to get ahead of the curve, and be prepared to capitalize on opportunities to grow the business.
© SMB Group, 2021