Introducing the ShellBlack Whiteboard

The idea for the ShellBlack Whiteboard came to me long ago when I first founded my consulting company (and this blog). In this first episode I tell the story of how a few critical events in my early career as a Salesforce consultant helped send me down the path that resulted in this video series.

Over the years I’ve seen more than my share of “clunky” Salesforce configurations. Most were the result of someone not understanding the data model or how certain features really worked. My hope is to convey some of the knowledge gained from my years of consulting and “demystify” Salesforce, and give you the confidence to explore and leverage the platform to its fullest. The series is about configuration best practices and getting you setup for success and growth.

The process and the mechanics of getting our video blog post into production is a story in itself that I’ll save for another post. Needless to say we’re learning as we go and would love your feedback on what you like or dislike, as well as suggested topics for future episodes. Email us at or reach us on Twitter @Shell_Black

View this video on YouTube:

Transcription of the video:

Welcome everyone to the first edition of the ShellBlack Whiteboard. I’m Shell Black, President of and Salesforce MVP. On this first edition, I wanted to put some context around what the series is about. To do that, I want to hit kind of three things. I want to tell you a little bit of story of how this came about, to cover kind of the goal of what we want to accomplish with this series and then lastly, the topics just so you get an idea of is this a series I want to tune into; what kind of information we are going to be covering.

So with that, I’ll go straight into the story. We’re going to go way back to 2005/2006. I was working for another Salesforce partner doing projects, consulting with clients and I had an opportunity to teach the five day admin class for Salesforce. Once a month for a week, I’d fly out to different cities and I would teach the Salesforce class for Salesforce. At the time, Salesforce was booming and they just couldn’t ramp instructors fast enough so they were relying on the partner community to help that demand. That was probably one of the best things I ever did in terms of my Salesforce career and the reason being is that class forced me to get really good at areas of the Salesforce platform that I may not have had an opportunity to work with a client in, whether it be Web to Lead or Assignment Rules. It really made me study and get competent in a lot of areas of Salesforce. The other thing that I found is I really enjoy teaching. I also like weaving in some of the stories from my consulting days with my students to help get a topic across. I really enjoy the light bulb going off and seeing it click so that’s part of how this came about, but I’ll fast forward a little bit in time.

So, I’ve been working with Salesforce for about nine years, done about 100 Salesforce projects end to end, different projects with different clients of all sorts of industries and I found myself explaining the platform and explaining what Salesforce does to my clients and that kind of helped get me into this teaching mode. Fast-forward to about three years ago when I started, went out on my own and I created a blog. The blog was a great vehicle to get all of this stuff, all of this information that was in my head and out to the greater community. It covers best practices, tips and tricks. There’s probably 30 or 40 blog posts on just how to set up Salesforce, the basics, how-to articles, and that was a great vehicle for me to get this information out and share. There’s now I think over 100 blog posts out there, so I encourage you to look at the blogs out there.

Then lastly, I came across a website while I was Googling something. I couldn’t even tell you what I was Googling, but I came across a website and I’ll give them a shout out: it’s SEO Moz and they have a series called “Whiteboard Friday.” What they did is used a whiteboard to explain a topic that they knew about to their greater audience. And for me, I just thought that was it. That was a great combination of the classroom experience I had teaching Salesforce as well as the blog and the ability to get that information and distribute it over the internet. It’s a great medium, so I knew it was something that I wanted to do. It’s been something as a kind of personal goal that I’ve had for the last two years and just now, we’ve really gotten to the point as a company where we can produce this. We’re in a studio here in Dallas filming these today. I’m just really proud that we’re finally able to get this into a reality. It’s been really kind of a pet project of mine. Alright, so that’s the story.

What are we out to accomplish? What’s the goal of this series? So, really it’s about Salesforce basics. We’re not going to go into hardcore technical aspects of the platform, but I want to make sure people set it up well. That and dealing with all of these clients, again about 100 some odd companies I’ve worked with using Salesforce, I’ve found that there are a ton of misconceptions and confusion about how the platform really works, so they do things kind of weird, kind of odd and I’m going to tell you four real quick stories to kind of illustrate that.

The first one: I was working with a client out in La Jolla, CA and we had fixed, did some troubleshooting on a Workflow rule for them and we started looking at their Org and how it was set up. During the conversation, I realized they were only using Leads. They weren’t using Accounts, Contacts or Opportunities. They were doing their entire sales process from a single tab in Salesforce. That could cause some problems down the stream and I asked him “Why are you just using Leads?” and he goes “Well, we never got around to it. We got some traction on Leads and we just started working on it and we just never finished it. So, we were running everything entirely off the Leads out there,” which obviously could have some problems down stream.

Second quick story: I was working with another client that had been using Salesforce a long time. Back since 2003, they’d been using Salesforce and one thing they were doing that I found particularly odd was they were tracking revenue in Activities, specifically Events. So, I asked him “Why are you putting dollars in Events?” and it kind of made sense and to them, it made a lot of sense. They were a consulting type company. They would meet with clients and those meetings resulted in revenue for them. That’s okay, but the kind of a gotcha down stream on that is they then wanted to start using Campaigns. Campaigns assumes that you’re using the Salesforce data model right and it’s looking for revenue in Opportunities and there’s no good way to associate dollars and Events to Campaigns, so kind of a gotcha that they experienced down stream.

I had another client in Ft. Lauderdale, FL and they engaged us to basically re-implement Salesforce. They had self-implemented and wanted to do some more marketing and they wanted to bring on an inside sales team. As we started looking at the configuration, we noticed something glaringly obvious. They had two accounts. They had one account called “hospitals” and one they had called “insurance”. We knew they had more context than that and literally each account had probably 2,000 to 3,000 contacts below that, so we asked them “Why did you do that?” and they go “Well, we sell to two industries/ two verticals. We service kind of the front side with hospitals, but we also service the back side with insurance.” Instead of making multiple accounts for multiple hospitals and nesting those physicians, nurses and folks under individual accounts with the different hospitals, they just threw everything into one basket. Same thing with the insurance agencies. Instead of having one for Allianz or State Farm and nesting the people that work at those different companies, they just made a general bucket called “insurance” and threw all of the contacts in that. There are some things that could pose a problem with that down stream.

One last illustration is I’ll call it “Back to Quotes”. A company reached out to us. We were doing some tune up optimization and we got to their Opportunities and Products but it wasn’t Opportunities and Products, it was custom objects. They engaged another client, another partner, and they built out essentially what Quoting does in Salesforce, but made it custom. They’d spent $15k to $20k recreating a function that already existed in Salesforce. Yikes. So, we got to talking and we basically moved them back to the standard Quote module for various reasons, but a learning that we could probably take away there.

So, again the goal, what we’re out to accomplish: Salesforce basics, address some of the confusion, misconceptions, demystify the platform. Really talk about how the platform was really intended to be used, to make sure that you can grow with that. A lot of times for folks to understand how the platform works, they go barreling into a section of the configuration not realizing that they may get themselves into a corner that might have some down stream implications with maybe reporting. Maybe if they were trying to get an AppExchange product, it may not work because they kind of went off-roading with their configuration and didn’t use some best practices. So, really we want to make sure they understand what should you be considering when you’re working with Salesforce, when you’re setting those things up, making sure that you’re giving yourself plenty of flexibility for growth, making sure you’re avoiding the gotchas and growth in terms of AppExchange and even when custom coding makes sense. I’m a big advocate of exhausting the declarative native functionality first, but there is absolutely good reason to use custom code. A lot of times that’s the silver bullet that makes Salesforce really hit home for your users. So, all of that quick round about conversation is really to accomplish one thing: make sure you’re setting up Salesforce right so you can grown and it’s easy on your users.

Okay, last big thing I want to talk about before we wrap this segment up is I want to talk about what type of topics you can expect us to be covering on this series. So, let me run through these, but don’t hold me to them, this is a work in progress. We’re definitely going to be covering the core data model Salesforce. When I mean core data model, I’m talking about the standard objects outside of Salesforce: Leads, Account, Contacts and Opportunities. Then we are going to get into some other areas of Salesforce that are very popular that I think most of you would want to learn more about: marketing functions, potentially security, usability. Usability and what I mean by that is how to make Salesforce easier to use for your users, to help drive adoption. We might take some different spins on the topics. We might do a top five or top ten to help explain a concept. Don’t be surprised if this takes off, we bring in some guest speakers that are an authority in an area. Maybe on a coding side because I am not a coder. I’ll tell you that right now. And then also maybe we can share some experiences and best practices about how to be a good consultant. Whether that’s an internal consultant as an admin within your company or maybe you’re considering consulting as a career in Salesforce. We’ll talk about maybe some ways you can do that and share some of the learnings that I’ve had over the years. That is really what we’re out to accomplish.

I appreciate you joining us for our first episode, our kick-off episode of ShellBlack Whiteboard. If you have comments, we would love to hear them so you can reach out and find me just a couple of different ways. I’m on Twitter @shell_black and if you just want to email us, you can email us at It comes straight to my inbox, would love to hear your feedback, I appreciate you hanging in there and see you in a future episode.

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