Sramana Mitra: You seem to have a regional emphasis. Does that mean that your sales cycle has been an in-person sales cycle?
Mike Carter: Yes. Traditionally, our sales process has been person to person. We have invested quite a bit in our digital presence and we are doing things from creating ourselves as an inbound type of destination. We have clients that are national and global and spend time on the West Coast. We will travel to where they require us to be.
Sramana Mitra: These are however clients headquartered in Carolinas mostly?
Mike Carter: Not at all. A fair portion of our clients – I’d say about 20% to 30% – are headquartered outside of the Carolinas but have been brought to us either through our presence and the reputation that we’ve built, and some of the thought leadership things that we’ve done. We see the future as being less about person to person and more about being a destination based on our success, impact, and the outcomes that we deliver.
Sramana Mitra: Absolutely. To a large degree today, selling and closing deals on the Internet has become so incredibly a part of business. The businesses that are scaling the best are the ones that can actually close deals online as opposed to having to travel to close deals. That’s the best types of businesses to build.
Mike Carter: We see the writing on the wall. You get to see a lot when you run a business for 15 years.
Sramana Mitra: In the 15 years that you’re describing, things have changed greatly. You could not close a business deal that easily using phone and web. Now it has become very much a part of a business to be able to do that.
My last question to you is more of a geography question in terms of the entrepreneurial environment of where you are based. What do you see around? What are your observations about how the entrepreneurial ecosystem is shaping out there?
Mike Carter: It’s gotten tremendous attention in the last three to four years. The Southeast United States, specifically Charleston, has become a destination for knowledge-based companies. Not only are the different economic development alliances, higher education, and business communities supporting in terms of time, but also in terms of dollars and sponsoring incubators.
I met with some folks the other day about another incubation-type of system that they’re kicking up and we’re seeing really good results with groups that are being identified, submitting business plans, being funded and mentored, and being put through the 24-week style incubation kick starter programs. I think a lot of the enthusiasm and the attention that that has garnered is really paying off.
Nationally speaking, having groups like Boeing come to Charleston and investing more and more here certainly vaulted this part of the country to a higher tier. Last part of that is the obvious, which is from a quality of life perspective. The Southeast United States offers so much. It’s not hard to recruit people to this area now that we’re on the map and have been ranked as the number one city for the last three years in a row. It’s really nice to be able to enjoy what that brings and see the business environment flourish as a result.
Sramana Mitra: It’s been great talking to you. Thank you for your time.
This segment is part 6 in the series : Bootstrapping to $20 Million in Charleston, South Carolina: eGroup CEO, Mike Carter