Consensus International was recently granted the SAP Business One Partner Award for Excellence in Revenue Growth. Our CEO, Andres Castrillon,  was then interviewed by Aquiles Nunez, CEO of Renaissance Executive Forums South Florida. This interview was first published here and here. In their conversation, Andres shared some of the key drivers of Consensus International´s success.

By Aquiles Nunez

I had the opportunity to interview Andres Castrillon after receiving this SAP Prestigious Award.    During this interview he reveals the secret for his success as an Entrepreneur that you can implement in your business.   Click here to see the full interview.

Tell me briefly who Consensus International is and what you do?

We established Consensus International in 1990. We are a group of experienced consultants who have collectively helped over 300 small and medium size companies implement information technologies to grow their revenue and their profits.  We are based in Miami, FL and have operations in the US and Colombia. We help our clients achieve their business goals and structural change through things such as reducing inventory, improving cash management, strengthening their financial position, and increasing customer satisfaction, among others.  We are a Gold Partner of SAP, a worldwide leader in Enterprise Resource Planning Systems (ERP).

Who has been an inspiration in your life?  

I have two important sources of inspiration in my life: God and my Father. I always had a penchant for innovation, and my dad was not only a source of wisdom, but also supported me in getting into where I am today.  He always encouraged my siblings and I to learn and be well prepared.   “At some point you’ll want to become an entrepreneur and own your business”, he always said.  It was his teaching that gave me the strength, after a successful corporate career, to quit my job and create my firm 26 years ago.  

How long did it take you to reach the success you are enjoying today?  

Well, it’s been quite a journey. It took 10+ years of a disciplined and focused approach of learning from our failures and improving every year.  

What has been the secret for your success?   

I’d say there are six key drivers that served as the backbone for our success:

  • Defining a Clear Vision. Everyone on our team understands where we are going and what we consider success to be.  The entire team participates in determining how to get there.
  • Living our Values Every Day.  We live, serve, and have built a culture based upon our closely-held values. Live according to principle, and you will put meaning back into the daily grind.
  • Having a Peer-to-Peer Advisory Board and a Coach. Nobody can achieve peak performance without a coach and without a peer-to-peer advisory board.  These two resources have helped us make better decisions; they hold us accountable and help drive innovation in our business.  We have worked with Renaissance Executive Forums for over 7 years to support our growth.
  • Building an “A” team. Having the right talent on our team (people aligned to our values) has been paramount to our growth. My team challenges me to be a better leader, and our group dynamic pushes us to be a better team.
  • Having a Clear Strategic Plan. Every company should institute a strategic plan that is no more than one page in length. Having a succinct, disciplined approach with a clearly defined plan that is read by all members is key to success.  We saw great progress once everyone understood their individual role in contributing to team goals.
  • Having a Great Product and Service. You can’t escape the basics. If your product or service isn’t the best, your growth will be stagnant at best. Focus on providing a great product and great customer service. We did so while building a strong relationship with SAP as our business partner, and it worked well for us!

You mentioned that you have built a culture based on your values. Can you share more about this and give an example?

We have four values that define how we lead our organization(1) Creative Problem Solving, (2) Honesty and Integrity, (3) Service, and (4) Teamwork. 

Everyone not only knows our values, every team member lives them every day.   I personally train all our new hires on our values, we discuss them at our staff meetings and recognize performance based on how we demonstrate these values. For example, our clients rarely challenge what we bill to them, we take good care on how our consultants bill their hours, and our customers trust us. Another example: One client recently called on a late Friday afternoon, indicating that he was not able to print some forms required for tax purposes that were due that day. The consultant in charge was out on vacation. Three of our consultants rushed back to the office that Friday afternoon (without being asked, mind you!), and they managed to solve the client’s problem. Our customer was very pleased to see that not only one but three of our company representatives were committed to solving his urgent need. We recognized these three consultants for their demonstration of teamwork and their commitment to excellence in customer service. 

Is there an overarching principle that drives you or your organization?

I believe it is having a clear purpose, a clear WHY for what we do.   

We provide and share our expertise with our clients to help them grow their business, to help them become more efficient and to positively impact their results and the lives of their employees. If we do this right, money will follow.

What was a difficult situation that you experienced and what did you learn from it?  

Never assume how well you are doing.  You have to keep close communication and alignment with your clients. 

With every implementation, it is critical that we build a great working relationship between our consultants and our clients.  However, sometimes that can be challenging, such as with occasional delays in implementation. We have learned that cooperation with the client is KEY. You must ensure that there is clear accountability when it comes to deliverable, and you need to work as a team to solve the issues and avoid pointing fingers or passing blame. You can never assume how well you are doing, you have to regularly ask for feedback, so that you can continuously re-calibrate and improve on an ongoing basis. We have been blessed in that this process has resulted in high client retention rates for us.   For those rare occasions when a client chooses to leave, we will do everything possible to ensure a smooth transition.   

What is your vision for the future?   

I see that Consensus will continue with a two-digit growth rate every year.  We will add more integral solutions around our SAP Business One products.   We will continue expanding in the US with 2 or 3 new operations, and deepen our relationship with our clients while growing organically.

What are one or two recommendations you would give to other CEOs who want to grow their business?  

As a CEO, you can feel very lonely at the top. You must surround yourself with other people smarter than you to help you grow and hold you accountable.  One way is to find a peer-to-peer advisory board that is a good fit for you.  Secondly, never stop learning, and be prepared to change and adapt to new trends.