Can you remember how many different iterations of Salesforce you’ve seen in your career? For Brent Mellow, that number is over 55. As President and CEO of akaCRM, this trailblazing partner has spent almost two decades in the Salesforce ecosystem. Learn more about Brent in this interview.
How were you first introduced to Salesforce?
Brent: If you look at the way-back machine, I started working with the Salesforce ecosystem in 2001, but I had a couple different careers leading up to my introduction to Salesforce. I spent a decade plus in financial services including time at Bank of America, a dot com, and big box retailer CompUSA. At CompUSA, my responsibilities included running sales and marketing for its international call centers. We had about 3,000 seats of inbound and outbound call centers serving third-party companies. Most of [these third-party companies] brought their own CRM systems to us, but every once in a while we’d find that the small and mid-market companies didn’t have a CRM. They wanted us to provide something, and we happened to come across Salesforce.
Wow! You’ve been in the ecosystem for quite some time. When did you become a partner?
Brent: After leaving CompUSA, a business partner and I completed around a dozen implementations with Salesforce in that first year for small and mid-market companies, and we got a call from the partner management group at Salesforce. This would have been in 2003. They said, “We’re just starting this partner program. Why don’t you come out to San Francisco and get certified as a partner?”
So my business partner and I trekked out to San Francisco and were among the first partners to go through partner training. Our company at the time, called MW Advisors, eventually combined with Growth Circle out of Atlanta and rebranded the combined companies as Astadia. Over the next several years through internal growth and acquisitions, Astadia became one of Salesforce’s largest SI partner in the world at the time. After selling my interest in Astadia, I formed my current company — akaCRM — which is now 10 years old. akaCRM is also a Salesforce.org partner.
Name something that you see in your day-to-day work that really fuels your passion for what you do.
Brent: Adding joy back into our clients’ work days. Sometimes, after transforming the technology they use every day by implementing Salesforce, I’ve had clients literally in tears—crying that they can now click a button and produce a report that could have taken them an entire 40-hour work week to produce before Salesforce. They’re so grateful.
Also, seeing how many of our clients create careers for themselves, just like I did. We’re proud that we’ve helped create opportunities for our clients to grow and evolve within their companies, or to expand their careers to other companies.
What motivates you to keep learning and how do you find the time?
Brent: You know, it’s a hard thing, but it’s a must. If you don’t continue to educate yourself, others will, and that means you can lose market share and opportunities. We look at continuing education as a business development opportunity. All of our employees have an education and certification plan. Continuing education is vital for our business and, frankly, it’s vital for the industry.
Personally, I am a Trailhead Ranger, plus I have six Salesforce certifications and a Salesforce Sales Professional accreditation. I have a recurring task on my calendar every two weeks to review and take more Trailhead modules to keep my knowledge high. I also participate in a variety of community groups and subscribe to a number of Chatter Groups. And of course, release-based maintenance exams also keep me on my toes.
One last question: how do you blaze trails outside of work?
Brent: That'd be Boy Scouts. I’m an Eagle Scout myself, volunteer scout leader, and I have a son who is on his way to earning the rank of Eagle Scout. I’ve been an Assistant Scoutmaster for some years, and there’s nothing like taking 25 scouts on a canoe trip or to summer camp.
Some of these kids don’t have good role models in their lives, and I remember fondly my Scoutmasters and how they were impactful adults in my youth. We’re truly a scouting family and we’re all in.
Check out akaCRM on AppExchange.
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