Lars started in the Internet Marketing space in 2000, when he co-founded one of the world’s first email service providers, CoolerEmail. As a pioneer in responsible email marketing, he grew CoolerEmail into a global software company specializing in marketing communication with over 1,500 clients. In 2010, after spending several years designing and implementing a more comprehensive way to meet the needs of small and mid-sized businesses, Helgeson launched GreenRope, a cloud-based platform that simplifies and consolidates a company’s sales, marketing, and operations. GreenRope currently provides technology solutions to over 3,000 companies worldwide.
In 2017, Lars had the opportunity to write and publish, CRM For Dummies, part of the globally acclaimed “For Dummies” series of books. In the book, he covers strategies and tactics that help businesses design and implement a successful CRM strategy.
His favorite CRM-related mantra is, “If it isn’t in the CRM, it didn’t happen.”
Where did the idea for GreenRope come from?
Looking for a name for a technology company has been a challenge for many years! I settled on GreenRope because it combined two key elements to the business. Green as a color that represents revenue, sustainability, and growth. And Rope because many strands make a rope strong. The more a business is connected to a centralized “complete CRM”, the stronger that business will be.
GreenRope itself was an evolution of my first company, CoolerEmail, which was focused on email marketing. After years of working with small and mid-sized businesses, we realized the problem they all faced was finding the meaning in all of the data they have to deal with. Without being able to connect the dots, there was no way to tell the impact the email communication had on the business itself.
All businesses are faced with an inundation of data. Marketing, sales, customer service, and account management teams all generate so much of it, that it’s almost impossible for senior leaders to make data-driven decisions if they aren’t able to pull all that data together into meaningful visualizations. GreenRope was built on making that easier, but having all of those teams work within the same platform, sharing data and leveraging automation tools for efficiency.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
Every day is different. Some days are more focused on clients and relationships, and others are focused on development (I still contribute to the GreenRope code base). Productivity is a function of how well I can compartmentalize what I do. When I’m coding, trying to find quiet time and space with the fewest interruptions is key (ask any developer!).
How do you bring ideas to life?
Many of our ideas come from our customers and members of our team, who are looking for ways to solve the problems they face. We listen and work their feedback into our development schedule as quickly as possible. With a small team, this can be a little bit of a challenge, so we developed an internal feature development management tool based on our ticketing system.
Since I can write a lot of the code to execute on ideas, the development cycle is oftentimes relatively short. We have a great QA team and will beta test with a few of our reseller clients before we do a release to our production system for everyone to use.
What’s one trend that excites you?
I think as more and more businesses rely on CRM to run their daily operations, they are realizing the value of smooth integration between sales, marketing, and customer service. An integrated approach to managing and automating these teams results in more efficiency and better strategic decisions. Since GreenRope makes this easy for businesses, communicating our value proposition gets easier every day.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Blocking out my calendar for specific tasks has helped a lot. I rely on my calendar for everything, including when I take time for myself to disconnect and recharge. This helps me stay focused and present for everything I do.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Believe in yourself and don’t let the haters get you down. You’ll never be able to please everyone, and there are many who would try to take you down, but if you keep fighting for what you believe in, it’ll work out in the end.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Bigger is not always better. Many businesses think that by using a company that is bigger, that you’ll get better software or service. I’ve kept our company small and more like a family because I want to keep our focus on helping our customers, while providing a positive, cohesive working environment.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Take the time for yourself to disconnect. Running a business can feel overwhelming at times, and the only way to avoid burnout is to walk away from it for a while.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
We use our own platform as an integral part of our business. GreenRope provides precise visibility into the campaigns that are working, and we rely heavily on the automation functions to support our hundreds of clients around the globe. There’s no way a team as small as ours could do that without these tools to help us scale.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
About 6 years ago, my best friend and CFO admitted to embezzling money from the company just before an audit was going to catch him. I had opened up our books and financial systems to him with almost no control systems in place to prevent this from happening. I learned this lesson the hard way, unfortunately, but the end result was a system of checks and balances to prevent future methods of losing money from happening again.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I believe that automation based on communication software can revolutionize many industries. Healthcare is one of them. If there were automation-driven patient followup systems in place, I believe the post-care relationship between patients and providers could be dramatically improved.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I recently spent about that on treats for my fur son, a Boston Terrier named Little Buddy. He’s my constant companion and has been with me for 12 years now. We go camping together and take hikes that are an important part of my work-life balance. Seeing him devour a jerky chew or a no-hide makes me happy and reminds me to focus on the simple things in life.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
Our company uses Google Apps for our internal productivity (mostly email, chat, and calendar). Their email client is great, and since we have integrations with email over IMAP, and with web calendars, it’s a great platform to work with on a daily basis that syncs up with our CRM.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Personally, I’m a fan of CRM For Dummies, from the “For Dummies” series. I think it’s a good comprehensive approach to looking at CRM from both a strategic and tactical perspective. Also because I wrote it. 🙂 Seriously, though, I’m more of a fan of short form articles that talk about industry trends and technology. I tend to scan articles on Medium, Business Insider, and Inc for snippets of useful information.
What is your favorite quote?
“No matter where you go, there you are.” It’s a quote from a kitchy sci fi movie from the 80s (Buckaroo Banzai), and they make fun of it for sounding all pseudo-deep, but it’s really true. As long as you stay true to yourself, it doesn’t matter where you go. Your business and personal life will have ups and downs, but you are the one constant that will prevail through all of them.
- Believe in yourself and keep fighting for what you believe is right
- Leverage technology for automation and information integration to help you scale your business
- When it comes to your finances, trust but verify and make sure you have controls in place
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.