How do you scale company culture?

Today I have Jeff Epstein, the founder of Ambassador, who I interviewed about four years ago.

Since I last had him on Ambassador has grown 5x. I want to find out how he’s grown and scaled his team. I want to spend a lot of time talking about company culture for a business that has grown so fast.

Jeff Epstein is the founder of Ambassador, an all-in-one referral software.

Jeff Epstein

Jeff Epstein

Ambassador

Jeff Epstein is the founder of Ambassador, an all-in-one referral software.

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Full Interview Transcript

Andrew: Hey, everyone. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of Mixergy, where I interview entrepreneurs. I pride myself on showing up on showing up on time, on doing research. I wasn’t on time for today’s guest . . . 16 minutes late. I’ve got Jeff Epstein back here. He’s an entrepreneur I interviewed about four years ago about his company, Ambassador. It’s all-in-one referral software. Jeff, before I do like the proper intro and tell people about the sponsors, I’ve got to tell you why I’m late.

My stomach, like right here — I don’t know if you can see it — is killing me, the upper part of my stomach. I’m constantly like late for stuff today and constantly under the gun if not late. I mean, it was like a 10-or-so-minute lateness. I don’t want to make too much of it. We texted each other so you were aware of it. But I think I’m overcommitted. I’m taking on way too much stuff. I can’t say no to people because I care about my customers. I care about my audience. I care about the people in our whole world, and I feel like, “Well, I know could help this person in 15 minutes. It’s just a 15-minute call.” And so I schedule just a 15-minute call.

This is kind of a little bit taking away from your interview, but I want to talk to you about this because I didn’t realize that you were going through stuff. Frankly, I told you that I thought that you were 23 years old when we talked, and I thought that you had the world by the tail. And it’s not until I saw the pre-interview notes that I realized, “Man, Ambassador actually had some challenges.” I had no idea.

I remember, when I was a kid, my dad at one point opened up a store, a sneaker store, and then another and then he had another, and he didn’t relate to the customers. He was a guy who was born in Iran. His first language was Persian, and he’s speaking to people who aren’t even speaking English. They’re speaking hip-hop, and they want like a cool buying experience and he’s just like Farsi [inaudible 00:01:52]. Anyway, so he didn’t get them. I always said, “I want to find an audience. I want to find a customer base that I get, that I love,” because I felt like he missed that and I do and now it’s making it harder. Do you relate to any of this?

Jeff: Yeah, absolutely. I went through much of the same challenges in terms of . . . In looking back after my last interview, before I was turning the product into somewhat of a company. Now I’m turning a company into a scalable business [inaudible 00:02:25] people, right? And that’s completely different and thinking about how I have to act and how it relates to them is everything and it’s completely different, so it’s really interesting.

Andrew: It’s almost like in the beginning you’re trying to figure out what you are, and then you’re trying to figure out how to be that. In the beginning, I was trying to figure out: What is Mixergy? What is this collection of products that we’re doing? And now it’s: How do I do it right? How do I show up enough for customers, for our audience and so on, but not some way that’s counterproductive? How do I show up for my team enough that I’m actually there for them but not so much that I’m micromanaging? I feel like that’s where you’ve been since our last interview.

Jeff: Yeah, absolutely. And one of the biggest changes for me was, again, growing and scaling a team. You know, in the beginning, I kind of called it a culture by osmosis. Like people did what I was doing. I mean, it makes sense. And then you get departments and teams and maybe multiple offices and all of a sudden the communication is just very different. And the things that worked when you are a table or two tables doesn’t work when you’re 20 or 30 people, and that’s a huge challenge. I always heard people talk about culture and how important it was and communication and all those things, and you kind of just assume, “Oh, those are the other problem companies that are talking about those things.”

Andrew: We don’t have that culture problem because we have a product and we know what we’re doing. You know what? Let me say to the audience that this interview is sponsored by two companies I’ll tell you more about later. The first is Pipedrive will help you sell more. Actually, I remember you told me about Aaron’s book last time. You were really into his sales process. We’ll talk about how Pipedrive works with the sales process that you’ve used. And the second is Toptal for hiring great developers. I’ll tell you guys more about both of those. Toptal.com. I’ll tell you more about those later.

Jeff, why don’t we catch people up? The business, I gave the one-sentence description. Can you give me a use case of Ambassador?

Jeff: Yeah. So a great use case is what we do is help companies with their relationships. So we view the world as a kind of [four different 00:04:38] relationships that companies use now to drive customer acquisition. One is customer referral. You think about the Uber or Dropbox model. Hulu is a great example. They’re one of our customers. We also have the more traditional affiliate model, partner programs and also influencer marketing.

Andrew: So, basically, if I’m using Hulu as a customer and they say “Refer a friend and you get . . .” What do you get?

Jeff: I think in their case, maybe $10 or something like that.

Andrew: Ten dollars. So if I see “Hey, refer a friend to Hulu and you’ll get $10 bucks,” whenever my brother signs up to Hulu, I’ll get $10 bucks, it’s Ambassador that’s running that?

Jeff: Yeah. It’s our technology that’s inside of their application actually. So you won’t know it’s us, but we’re powering the entire experience from the front end that people see and then also the back end in terms of the reward fulfillment and the analytics and data and database for them.

Andrew: Okay. And it’s also if I wanted to create an affiliate program and say, “Hey everyone, we sell chatbots and if you want to sell a chatbot on our behalf and make a commission from every chatbot sold, you can do it,” and it’s Ambassador that we might use to power that referral affiliate program.

Jeff: Exactly. And for us, the way that we see the world is all of those types of relationships, those are the differences, right? The relationships, the attributions, the tracking, it’s all pretty similar, so we can power all those. It’s the use case and positioning from a company perspective that’s really different. So we’re a B2B SaaS. We work with hundreds of companies across multiple verticals. And last time we talked, we were next to an auto body shop, you know, in a small, cold garage basically. And now we’re about 40 people in 7,000 square feet with millions of revenue per year. A lot has changed over the course of four years.

Andrew: You weren’t really comfortable with me giving out your exact revenue last time. I hinted enough at it to give people . . . I just wanted them to get a sense of scale and where you were. Can I say what it was roughly back then?

Jeff: I think, yeah. I think it was close to a million annually.

Andrew: Close to a million and we’re talking about the year 2013. And now we’re recording this at the end of 2017 to give people a sense. Where are you guys now with revenue?

Jeff: Yeah, so we’ll be in between $5 million and $10 million. That’s kind of the number that we’re [inaudilbe 00:06:48]. It’s not the very low end, but it’s not at $10 million. So we’ve basically 5 to 10Xd the business kind of across the board since we spoke. We’ve raised a little bit of money as well. Less than $3 million, so a small amount for startup [inaudible 00:07:03].

Andrew: I know because you really need it. Let me ask you this, though. Before I get into what’s happened since then and I want to spend a lot of time on culture and employees and the things that you needed to do to get where you are, I’ve got to ask you. Hulu , smart fricking company, great engineers at Hulu. They can’t just create a “Refer-a-friend, get $10 program?” Why can’t they just do it themselves? Why do they need to sign up for Ambassador?

Jeff: I mean, the thing that we see with every company is, and again this is software in general, right? Like you can build anything. They key isn’t maybe building the MVP. It’s maintaining, managing, you know, staying with and optimizing if you build something in-house.

Andrew: What’s an optimization that they might not know that they need to do that you do?

Jeff: So even, we have, for example, we’re constantly iterating both the technology from a tracking perspective, but in terms of making things happen more quickly, in terms of looking for various use cases where there may be issues in certain browsers and clickbots and all the things that you’re not thinking about in terms of executing the program. But if your analytics are off because there are different, new things that are happening in the next latest version of Chrome, that’s the last thing your team wants to think about.

Andrew: I see. They want to think about, “How do we make this video work in the next version of Chrome,” not “How do we make our affiliate $10 referral thing for it?” I see. And frankly, you guys had issues with that at one point too, right?

Jeff: With what, exactly?

Andrew: With incompatibility and you ended up bringing in an outside testing firm.

Jeff: Yeah, so we do. We work with a company that does a great job with testing, and it wasn’t necessarily that it was a problem. For us, I think there’s an inflection point in every business and you realize this now that [inaudible 00:08:48] this at a different level where really there’s so much value in just focusing on what you do best and then outsourcing everything else. And again, it’s something that I always heard people say and I kind of didn’t believe it, and then you experience it. So, for us, we don’t want to have a core competency in QA. We pride ourselves in having as few bugs as possible with our process, but the actual tedious work of QA is painful, so we actually work with a company called [inaudible 00:09:16] QA. They do a great job. They’ve been doing that for a couple years. We spend time basically setting up tests, and then they have people that actually do it. Every hour they’re running tests, so it’s a pretty expensive program platform, for example, but it saves us a couple full-time engineers who would be doing that and it makes it a lot [inaudible 00:09:35] for us.

Andrew: Let me bring up the problems so that people don’t think that you’re just like looking for parts of your business that you shouldn’t specialize in and start passing it on. I understand that, from your conversation with our producer, you guys were hitting some growing pains, hitting a few limits in the app where Ambassador was so successful it would break the app at times. We never tested what it would be like to have a million people. We only tested what’s it like to use this software when we have 20,000 or 100,000 people. And then we suddenly got to a million people and it did not work. Well, that might be okay when we’re just getting started, but when we have clients like Hulu, no way. We’ve got to be 100% bulletproof, and that is why you said, “We shouldn’t do this ourselves. Let’s bring in an outside team that does it.” I feel like I’m making you uncomfortable with this whole topic. You’re shifting your feet. Are you okay?

Jeff: Oh no, fair enough. Yeah, absolutely.

Andrew: Okay, good.

Jeff: And I apologize. So you were late, but I like rescheduled and I had a board meeting and so I did the interview.

Andrew: You did the interview a while back.

Jeff: So I was just trying to remember the context of what I was saying. But yeah, I mean, for us, it was I think as we moved upmarket, one of the big changes for us is we started working with more and more enterprise brands, and the scale of what they wanted to do was just so much greater. You know, a couple years ago, the company had 1,000 ambassadors, so to speak. That was a pretty large company, relative to the others in our client list. Now we have many of them that are multiple-million-ambassador system, and the scale is completely different. The challenges that we’re thinking about to serve them are very different from a compliance perspective, from an information security perspective, things that we didn’t think about when we were in the garage. Now we have to do this, otherwise, we have no chance of being successful.

Andrew: Can you give me an example of the kind of testing you might send out to them, because I’ll be honest with you. I did interviews with a couple of different QA companies, and I remember walking into the interview saying, “This is a business? People can’t just test their products themselves?” It was explained to me, and I fully get it now, where you want to test in multiple countries. You want to test on multiple devices. You want someone who’s going to test and not just say, “Something didn’t work,” but specifically, “No, this didn’t work because I did this other thing.” What are a couple of tests that you do? I want to learn about this space a little bit more.

Jeff: Right. So I think what’s challenging is that even though we have about 300 or 400 customers, we actually have hundreds of millions of end users, so we’re not just working for the customers. We’re actually serving the hundreds of millions of people who interact with our technology. So the problems or the potential problems are really endless in the various types if you’re making a matrix, right? So the things that we do is we just have these testers go through dozens and dozens of scenarios. So it’s open this thing with this browser with this device, and that alone probably is 50 different tests. And then every time we make something new, it’s adding in that new thing. So it’s sharing, clicking on a page, clicking on a . . . we have portals . . . all these different things and all these interactions, and it’s a series of like 50 or 60 steps and then it’s across multiple devices, right? So it’s like all these things happening at once, and we push code maybe a dozen times a day, so every time we push code, there’s a new series of tests going on.

Andrew: How do you add to the list? What’s the process? Is it based on customer service issues so that you say “From now on, let’s add this test because a few people have had this problem”?

Jeff: To be honest and I think what is interesting is I actually don’t know the entire process. I can give you kind of a sense of how I think we do it, but I’m not actually personally involved with making the tests. What we do is we have obviously senior engineers, we have junior engineers, we have a Director of Engineering, and we have a CTO, and basically our Director of Engineering primarily handles kind of the scope of the various tests that we write.

Andrew: I see.

Jeff: We obviously have our own tests in our code. Those are different than someone who’s actually doing QA. But the QA tests, we basically give them directions and they say, “Follow these steps.” For example, if this thing happens, you know it’s a checkmark. If this thing happens, checkmark. And so they go through these checkmarks. The Director of Engineering will set that up and change it as needed, and they’ll check the boxes for us.

Andrew: The last interview we did in 2013, you guys were at about 10 people in the company. It was mostly engineers, but you and two other people did everything that was non-tech. You mentioned HR, support, sales, the works.

In the interview at the time, I asked you, “What’s one book that you would recommend to entrepreneurs,” and you said, “You know what? The one that I’m really enjoying right now is ‘Predictable Revenue.'” “Predictable Revenue” is a book by Aaron Ross that tells you how to set up your sales process and your sales team. You’re smiling. Tell me how you used it to set up your sales team, because you were at the time setting that up, and now it’s scaled up.

Jeff: Yeah, so it’s funny because I think sales is always a challenge. At first, you need to be able to learn how to sell yourself. And I would say even back then, I probably wasn’t very good at it. And until you are capable of actually closing a couple deals or several dozens of deals, it’s really hard to tell somebody else how to sell your baby.

So how we’ve done it, I think one of the people that I admire and think does a great job is Jason Lemkin with SaaStr. I wish that blog was around earlier. It would have saved me a lot of hassle. But I got lucky and I hired a VP of sales who actually knew how to what he calls building the machine, knew how to build the machine. And we really worked closely together. I kind of gave him my knowledge of the product and the market, and he went ahead and kind of said, “This is what it needs to look like. Let’s build this out.” So he’s done a great job. I’ve been fortunate. Most people go through lots of VP of sales. I’ve only hired one, and he’s still here today, and he’s done a great job. And that really has been super beneficial from a sales perspective.

Andrew: Can you tell me what that machine looks like? Help me understand what a sales machine looks like in an organization like yours.

Jeff: Yeah, so there’s a couple components. One is first and foremost understanding. So his name’s Zach. Zach came in, learned how to sell, was on the calls with me, on demos with me and said, “This is what we need. This is the kind of person we need.” Then what we did is we created what he calls a talk track and a click track, so what you’re saying and then also what you’re doing when you’re saying it. And then it was, “What are the kind of people we can hire to most effectively do these?” So it was really starting with the basics, understanding what it took to close the deal, and then what are the kind of people that can be effective in those roles?

So we were fortunate. We had three people, when I hired him, that were customer facing — myself and then two others that did both sales and support, which is a horrible idea. I learned my lesson, like context switching is really hard. One of them ended up being full-time sales and is actually our top sales rep, and the other one went to full-time success and is now like our head of what we call our strategic accounts, so he works with the biggest companies that we work with. So luckily we had that kind of initial . . .

Andrew: Let me see if I understand this. Talk track, click track, and people is what you mentioned. Before we get into this, take me through the flow from stranger to customer. So a stranger comes in, would they come into a blog post, to your website, through a conference, an expo? Where would they come in?

Jeff: Yeah, so about 75% of our customers come in on the website somehow, and most of it is either paid or they find us through search. Obviously, search is a huge part of it, paid ads. They schedule a demo on our website. So the first entry point is to complete a form fill. They say what they are interested in. They need some information. We reach out, contact them, set up a demo. That’s kind of the first step.

Andrew: Okay, and I see on your website on the homepage one of the big two buttons is “Chat with us.” If I fill that out, the form that comes up after I hit that button, I’m going to schedule a call with someone on your team.

When you say the click track and talk track, that means that that person will do a screen share with me and talk me through how to use the software. And so your VP of sales created what the salesperson will tell me about and what they’ll show me to teach me about this product. Am I right?

Jeff: Exactly. And, you know, we’re in a position that I think our category is still emerging. You know, I think there’s a lot of different use cases. There’s definitely different ways companies sell into referrals or affiliate, but really a lot of what we’re doing is educating marketers. Most people come to us with, “This makes a lot of sense, but we’re not doing it yet,” or “We’re doing it in our heads or in Excel,” but we’re not replacing an existing platform. So what we’ve found is it requires actually a little bit more education and more examples of showing people what actually you need to do as opposed to just saying, “Oh, we’re solving this one problem for you.”

Andrew: Okay. All right. Actually, you know what? I’m on the homepage now. I must have seen one of your A/B tests, because the test that I see right now doesn’t say “Chat with us.” It says “Schedule a demo” and that’s the main thing. There’s a Wistia video and a headline that says, “Meet the world’s number one all-in-one referral software,” and then a big button that says, “Schedule a demo.” Okay, that makes sense. So after the call, what’s the next step after that?

Jeff: So it varies. For most companies, the stages that we think about after the first call, we consider if the company is engaged, if they’re looking to move forward and it makes sense for them, obviously qualifying them during that process as well. The next step is typically what we call [inaudible 00:19:24]. So once we talk to the company, it seems to make sense for them, we say, “What is it going to take to integrate, bring some of the folks to the table from a technical perspective on your side?” Then [inaudible 00:19:36], we will not always necessarily need to bring in anybody else, but sometimes we will if it makes sense, and so we’ll have that discussion. So first is really, “Is this something that makes sense for you guys from a marketing perspective, from a business perspective? Second is, how are we going to execute in reality?

Depending on the company needs, that varies. Some companies can get up and running in a matter of a few minutes in terms of getting code and JavaScript on their website. Other enterprises there are [inaudible 00:20:05] requirements, there are various death cycles and schedules and all these other things that we have to think about API calls, all those things that we’ll map out with them throughout this process.

Andrew: Okay. One of the things that I’m learning about more and more lately is SDRs, Sales Development Reps. Do you guys use those?

Jeff: So we do, although we don’t have a ton of them. So I’ve seen some companies that are really SDR heavy, and we’ve never really crossed that [inaudible 00:20:33].

Andrew: What do they do at your company?

Jeff: So, for us, they’re basically what we call outbound. So they’re outbound prospectors. They generate lists. They find various people that would be interesting and fit a certain segment or a demographic of customer that have been successful, and then they’ll start emailing them and calling them in various sequences. Their goal is . . . obviously, they’re graded on essentially booking appointments and ultimately dollars attributed to, you know, a closed deal.

Andrew: So they get paid based on number of appointments and dollars that those appointments lead to.

Jeff: Correct. They obviously have a salary. That’s kind of [inaudible 00:21:09] of that.

Andrew: I see. All right. What specifically, from predictable revenue, did you implement that has been especially helpful?

Jeff: So, I mean, some of the things we did was just being consistent, like, you know, I think predictable revenue for me, and, again, this was several years ago, but what really worked well for us was I think just creating a consistent process that can scale. And I think again when I was basically doing everything, everything was in my head. I knew all the customers, and I could adapt my sales style for each call. That’s not really a scalable way to do things. And when I was trying to explain this to our VP of Sales, I’d say, “Hey, we just need to think about it this way and if they answer this, then go in this direction,” and he’s like, “That doesn’t work. You have to build a process.” And I think what predictable revenue, among many lessons was you build a scalable process that works, and you finetune it over time, but you continue to do that and create a way that consistently generates leads, new businesses, and new demos. And at the end of the day, it becomes math.

Andrew: And then you can keep improving it because you can see the results, you can give people new click and talk tracks. I see. Okay. All right.

Let me take a moment to talk about my sponsor, and then I want to come back and ask you about what’s that background, which I really like — I’m glad that you did it — and also talk about the people who go into this whole sales process.

So the sponsor is a company called Pipedrive. We actually teach people how to create chatbots at this sister company that I have called BotAcademy, and I want our audience to hire. If they’re going to hire someone to hire someone to build a chatbot, it should be one of our graduates. For a while there, what we were doing was kind of half-assing it. We’d just say, “Hey, if you need a chatbot, contact us.” Someone would contact us, and then someone on the team would say, “Hey, you know what? I think I know the right person to talk to. Go talk to them,” or “Go to this form and buy.” And it was just like you said, just no process, just, “Come on, of course. Why do we need a process? Someone is telling if they need a bot. We should just go and talk to them.”

And obviously, it became maddening. S I hired someone and I said, “Look, the first thing I want you to do is think of what you think the steps will probably be to close a sale. It’s not going to be send them to a page and have them buy, because they want to experience, they want to talk to someone before spending thousands of dollars on a chatbot.” I said, “Lay it out.” So she did. She went to Pipedrive and she created columns, one column for each step in our sales process. Step Number 1, fill out a form, ask to talk to us. Step Number 2, schedule a call, etc.

And what I did just before you and I talked was I talked to the person on our team who set this process up, and I said, “Okay, I see that you set it up, but here’s what I want you to do. If someone fills out a form and they’re not a good fit, don’t just email them and tell them they’re not a good fit. I want you to drag their card from the column, that’s Column Number 1, to the Lost column.” And in Pipedrive, when you drag it to Lost, it doesn’t just say, “Okay, that’s it. We’re going to get rid of the person.” It says, “Tell me why.” So now she could say, “This person’s business is too small,” or “This person doesn’t have a business yet,” and that’s why she’s rejecting them nicely, but she’s rejecting them.

What that allows us to do is go back to our form that people use to request a conversation with us and say, “If someone fills this in and says in the dropdown menu ‘I have no business,’ or ‘I’ve never bought an ad,’ they’re not a good fit for us.” And what we should say instead is immediately fire off an email that says, “We want to only work with people who we know we can service. We don’t want to take your money just because you’re offering it to us. What you should do instead is just go and learn from these free resources.”

So now we have a process. You can go and fill that out. I looked at her steps, the different steps that she’s taking. Some of them are really good. Some I think are a mistake, and I told her, “Let’s get rid of that step. It’s a distraction.”

Another step that I added that she didn’t think to add was, during a call, I want her to record the call since we’re just getting started, and after the call, I added another step to her process to send the transcript to a transcription service, because I’m not going to spend a half hour listening to her call, but I will read it and tell her how she’s doing, and that’s super helpful. And then we’ll also create this database of calls that anyone else can go and learn from.

The reason that we’re this organized is because we use Pipedrive. If you’re out there listening to me and you sell one on one, you really need to organize yourself and your sales process. What Pipedrive does is it forces you to organize it. It says, “Create the columns, one column for each step. Now start moving people along.” It tells you when someone drops off, “You have to tell us why they dropped off so you can learn from it.” So at the end of the month, you have a list of all the reasons why people are not buying from you.

It also gives you stats. How many people got into the system this week? How many did you close? Who’s closing the most? All that stuff happens naturally behind the scenes. I like Pipedrive because I set it up, and it just forced me to stay consistent.

This is what we use to build our sales machines for everything that we sell. If you want to check it out, don’t go to Pipedrive.com like everyone else on the internet. Go to this special URL called Pipedrive.com/mixergy, where they’re going to give you 14 days. Within 14 days you can probably make a few sales and get a sense of how good this is. I see you’re nodding your head, Jeff and you’re right. A good salesperson, 14 days is plenty. And it forces you, knowing that that deadline of free time is going to end in 14 days, to use it and to close your sales. If you’re happy with it, 25% off for the next three months thereafter. Believe me, these guys have such low prices, I think they’re actually undercharging for it, so this 25% discount is not going to make or break it for you. What is going to make or break it for you is using the software. Go check them out at Pipedrive.com/mixergy.

Okay, let’s talk about the people on the team. Actually, you know what? You mentioned raising money. You told our producer that was a thing that you didn’t think that you really needed.

Jeff: Mm-hmm.

Andrew: You did raise a little bit. You went through Techstars, right, back in roughly 2012?

Jeff: Yeah, end of 2011.

Andrew: 2011, okay. So you went through Techstars. They funded you a little bit, they gave you some support. At the time, they were only doing like $25,000 or so per founder. What was it that made you realize, “Hey, even though we’re generating revenue, we have to raise more money”?

Jeff: Yeah, and again, it was one of those things where I really prided myself on being really capital efficient. I would say we still are today, but it was a situation where we were comfortable kind of just making enough to pay the bills and not really investing too heavily in anything. I didn’t actually set the burn process. Up until that point, we formally raised in 2015 about $400,000. So it was a pretty small amount of money, and it was coming in $50,000 chunks give or take. I put my own money in, and I wasn’t taking a very big salary. But in 2015, we got some interest from an investor, and I just really loved their philosophy. They’re based in Fargo, North Dakota or South Dakota. They’re Midwest. You know, they really were just fans of companies that were kind of in their mind doing things in a way that was more sustainable as opposed to just going all in or bust.

And so for me, it just really resonated, and we ended up taking money and partnering with Arthur Ventures, which is a great fund. They’re in a lot of great B2B SaaS companies in the Midwest and some on the East Coast as well. And so that kind of set off a chain of events where you can invest ahead and, for me, that was, “Hey, maybe Jeff shouldn’t be doing everything. Let’s hire a team of experienced folks who can build out their teams and you can do things more efficiently and really specialize in various departments, like sales, of course.”

Andrew: You weren’t comfortable really raising money, because you still had a little bit of money in the bank. Your attitude was, “Hey, you know what? Things are working well. We don’t need funding.” Was there like a catastrophe? Was there something? Were you missing opportunities? I feel like there was some kind of pain that forced you to say, “Hey, Jeff, you’re this one kind of person. You’ve got to shift to be this other kind of person, the kind of person who goes and raises money.” Talk to me about that inner struggle. Like, what was it that got you there?

Jeff: I think it was a few things. One was I’ve always wanted to build a sustainable business. That was really important to me, and I didn’t want to over-leverage the business to the point where if I screwed up, we would fail and lay people off. Some people and I think maybe even the best entrepreneurs are okay with that risk for other people. They’re willing to put everything on the line, and it’s all or nothing. It’s 100X or 1000X or nothing. For me, that isn’t my goal, and I will be honest. When I was talking to investors, like I’d be, “Yeah, I’d love to be a billion-dollar company, but if we’re $100 million, I’m not going to be horrified about that, right?” And I don’t want to go through dozens and dozens and dozens of employees if we’re doing things wrong. To me, it matters.

Building a startup in the Midwest is very different than the Valley, and I think this is where for me it makes a big difference. You know, people there know it’s, “Hey, we’re going to do what we can. We’re going to put our work in. We’re going to [inaudible 00:30:13] our stock, and then we’re going to go on.” Here, most people don’t even understand the idea of getting stock. It’s very different here, you know, great, talented people. So, for me, the struggle was I don’t want to leverage the business for maybe an outcome that is only a little bit better or marginally better. And I think looking back that was not a smart move. I should have probably raised capital a little bit earlier and invested in better people quickly.

Andrew: Do you feel like now you have to get to the billion-dollar status to justify the funding?

Jeff: No. I think if we would have continued to go, we would have put ourselves in a tough position. And again, going back to a Jason Lemkin blog post. He says skip a round, you know, and I think we definitely skipped a round.

Andrew: What does skip a round mean?

Jeff: It means in order to get to where you need to be, you assume that you raise money every 12 to 18 months. And let’s say if you get to an IPO, assuming you do everything right, and maybe six or seven rounds of financing, and then if you’re one or two founders, you end up with a couple percentage points, that’s [inaudible 00:31:18] business, right? There’s plenty of blog posts that kind of . . .

Andrew: If you skip a round of funding, you end up with a bigger share of the business. A little bit more pain, but it’s not such a bad thing, and that’s what you did. You might have skipped like two rounds.

Jeff: Exactly, and for me it was also about being able to control our destiny more, right? I mean, I think every time you raise money, you lose control over how you operate the business. Like the bets you have to make with the capital received are material bets. If you’re wrong, a department might get cut. We’re seeing large public companies or companies that are on the IPO track that are laying off massive departments. It’s not necessarily to say that’s right or wrong, but for me, that wasn’t something that I was interested in doing this early on was making a big bet and then cutting 20 people that kind of bet on us. And again, I think that’s where it was a little bit different.

Andrew: You know, let me say this. You’ve mentioned it a couple times. We have to give this URL clearly to people. You have to go check it out. saastr.com. Jason Lemkin is a guy who has just found his spot. Yes, he invests in companies, but it’s just a handful that really fit his criteria. He wants SaaS companies that are sales based, that have a certain number, right? And because he’s that focused, everything he teaches is that focused. You know what I had no idea? He actually has co-working space not too far from here. Actually, I was working in his building, and then I went to lunch and I saw someone who was working in his co-working space, so I went inside. It’s nothing but guys who do sales calls. That’s his focus. He has co-working, but even his co-working isn’t just any guy off the street can come in here with an idea. It’s, “Bring your sales teams in here. This is what we’re about — sales.”

Now, he is someone who says, when he invests in a company, he wants the kind of company that he can bring in a senior VP of sales, that he can help structure the sales department. You didn’t have that. How did you find him? Looking at the person that you hired, this is Zach Taylor, he ran and I guess still kind of runs a company called Tailwind Sales, which teaches sales. How did you run into him? How did you end up working with him?

Jeff: It’s a funny story. Actually, he found me. So he was . . . This Tailwind Sales was a consulting side thing that he was doing, and he actually reached out to me and said, “I’ve heard about your product in the market.” This is 2013 or 2014. “It’s really interesting. I’ve heard great things. I think you need my help,” which was literally like his line.

Andrew: It’s so good.

Jeff: So I’m like, “Well, this is good timing.” He actually lived in Cincinnati. He drove in, and we met in person. We talked. We said, “This could make sense.” We talked again and we said, “Let’s try it for a couple months, like help me build the machine.” And then a month or so into the agreement, we said, “Hey, let’s do something long term. It just makes a lot of sense. We really like each other, and this could be successful.” It was originally a consulting project. It was me almost not really committing to bring somebody in. I didn’t have enough money to do that. For a senior sales hire was probably more than half the company was getting paid combined. It was a material decision.

So that really started the chain of events in terms of, “Hey, let’s think about really putting some gasoline in this. Let’s raise money. Let’s hire salespeople and really hire some more senior people who can take the load off of Jeff,” because ultimately, I had never done this before. My sales experience was hitting my head against the wall and just picking myself back up hundreds of times, but it certainly wasn’t necessarily the right way to do things. You know, there’s a lot more resources out there today that I think I could have read to be a little bit more further along, but the year that Zach started, we raised money and we 3Xd the business.

Andrew: ThreeXd the business?

Jeff: Yeah.

Andrew: Part of it is setting up that machine, so it’s a structured sales process that then can be improved and measured and hired the right people to run the process. We’re going to get into the people in a moment, but here’s something that I’m noticing. So on my main screen, I have a screenshot of what your pricing page looked like back when we first talked. And on the right screen, I have what your pricing page looks like now. Back then, your cheapest pricing was $99 a month. Your most expensive was $1,500 a month. Now, your cheapest is $800. From $100 to $800. You’ve increased the prices. Also now you ask for annual billing versus back then everything said monthly, monthly, monthly. Tell me about pricing, how you adjusted it, and how you figured out what the right pricing model was.

Jeff: Sure, and pricing is one of the toughest things, I would say maybe the toughest thing, especially when you’re still learning about the market. For us, it was a matter of a little bit of unit economics and seeing which companies were successful. So, because there’s a lot of education involved, as I mentioned both in the sales process but also in the actual onboarding and usage of our platform, we wanted to commit as much time and energy as we could to make people successful, and we knew that, in our case, that meant putting people in the process, walking them through, teaching them, and coaching them. So we have what we call an implementation manager, an implementation coach, and we also have a success coach. Those people are included with every customer we work with.

Andrew: So the implementation, just make sure that anyone who signs up for your software actually uses it, the success manager makes sure that they’re actually seeing some real measurable results in their business, because if they don’t use it, they’re going to drop out and not pay. If they do sign up and they use it and they don’t get results, they’re going to be disappointed, again leave, and you don’t want that. I see. So that’s why you have two different roles.

Jeff: Exactly. So we have them, and obviously we have everybody else who’s supporting it. And for us, it was just we found that the companies that were successful tended to have the various characteristics that fit and were able to pay $10,000 a year for marketing software, and that’s certainly not for everyone, and for us, we knew we had a finite amount of time and resources and those were the people we wanted to go to. So just like in your example of the company wasn’t ready, you wanted to filter them into [closed lost 00:37:36], we’re trying to have companies self-select. “Knowing that it’s $800 a month or $10,000 a year, I’m still interested in the demo,” because those are the people that have been more successful over the course of the last few years who have not only stayed customers, which is great for us, but also have seen great results for themselves, which is more important even than staying with us.

So, as we’ve continued to grow and optimize our sales process, we’ve continued to move up some of our pricing to reflect the best customers who have all these things figured out and are again what I would consider investing in customer acquisition at a high level, not necessarily experimenting.

Andrew: Now I’m going back to the Zferral days — that’s the previous name of the company — to 2010. The pricing back then started at $50 a month, but it’s more than I’m seeing on that. I knew you back when or at least I knew the product back when it was Zferral, and Zferral went after smaller sites. You were going after the guys who were affiliates, almost professional affiliates. What’s interesting to me about you, as I go through all these screenshots and notes that I’ve had over the years about you, is you keep leveling up who you go after too. I wonder if there’s a mindset shift, where the person who I see here, who created this early website with Robert Scoble, I think, has a quote on the site, isn’t the same person who today can say, “Who is our client? We’re going to take great care of them.” Did you have to go through a mindset change, where you say, “This is who I am”? Talk a little bit about that. I see you’re nodding.

Jeff: Yeah. You know, I think it’s the evolution of . . . you know, for me, it was like the evolution of being a founder or a CEO. In a lot of ways, you can self-appoint yourself a CEO, but you really, in all intents and purposes you’re not, right? Like, I mean, I had founded the company, like all that meant was I spent $50 to create an LLC and I decided that I wasn’t going to take any money from anybody else. But that was really all I did. So I think you don’t know what you don’t know, and it allows you to go really far, but it’s also incredibly dangerous. And for me, the mind shift was I think having a lot of doubt, which I think many entrepreneurs do. It’s extreme highs and extreme lows. You get kicked in the teeth over and over again, and you don’t really know, “Is this really something that I can actually accomplish?”

Andrew: When was a time when you didn’t think that? Because I told you before we started that you always seemed like you had it together. You always seemed like you were the 22-year-old kid who just figured it out and things were working out. Why don’t I give you a moment to think about it and also give the audience something to look forward to after the ad? If there’s a time that you remember when things just weren’t going right for you, where you almost lost it personally, lost confidence, lost the business, lost anything.

Let me take a moment though while you’re thinking about that and tell everyone about a company called Toptal. Have you ever heard or worked with Toptal, by the way?

Jeff: I’ve heard of them, yeah. We don’t work with them, but I know they have a good reputation for sure.

Andrew: They are starting to get more and more of a reputation. The reason is these guys started out very quietly. They were kind of like digital nomads, the two founders, living . . . I think one of them was in South America, just like working on this idea, which is, “What if we just get all the best developers out there to take a test? We’ll really make it hard for them to pass this test so that they feel super proud to be a part of whatever it is that we create, and then when they do pass this test, we put them in our network so that when businesses want to hire the best of the best developers, they could come to us and they could hire the best of the best from us.” And that’s what Toptal did.

Many years ago, one of their founders came on here to do an interview. The other founder is super secretive. I’ve known him for years. Taso even came to one of the early Mixergy events. He’s super secretive. I don’t even know if I’m allowed to say his name is Taso, he’s that secretive. He’s like, “We have a process here. We have the best of the best. No one can even know our test questions.” And you know what? It works.

I read this Medium post by someone who took the Toptal test. He failed, and he did this blog post analyzing himself of why he failed the Toptal test. And he said, “Look, things were going great. I really was on track here, and then I took my head off of this test because I had some client work and I went and did the client work instead of thinking about the test, and I can’t wait to do the test again.” So I sent that Medium post to Taso. And you know what Taso said? Nothing. Taso is not willing to commit anything to documentation. He doesn’t want to go on the record as supporting this kind of attitude, being against this kind of attitude. But that’s the machine that these guys built, phenomenal developers. So if anyone out there is looking for a developer and you want this kind of hard driving people who push themselves to do good work, I urge you to go check out toptal.com/mixergy.

As an aside, I did hire a developer from them. I did hire a designer from them. I recently also hired a profitability advisor. They now also do this business part of their offering, and I got someone who worked at McKinsey for a long time, who then went on to head a couple of Carlisle-backed groups, and I guess he’s in retirement now. I said, “I need someone to do profitability.” They said, “How about him?” I hired him. Before this guy even started, he analyzed my business. I did a screen share with him, where I showed him my financials. So he’s looking and I go, “Do you want the mouse, because you’re asking a lot of questions?” He goes, “Yeah, give me mouse control and zoom.” So I gave him mouse control and zoom. He started skimming around and he goes, “I think you need to do this. I think you need to do that.” I said, “Great. I like this.”

I took a moment. I didn’t want to say “You’re hired” on the call. I wanted to think about it. And then I thought about it and two days later I said, “You’re hired.” He was supposed to start on Monday. The weekend before, without even being paid, he put together a spreadsheet telling me why I was wrong to put together an LLC for my company. You mentioned you started as an LLC instead of S-Corp. Did you switch to an S-Corp?

Jeff: Yes, I did. Yeah.

Andrew: Do you remember why you switched?

Jeff: So, for us, it was because we raised money. But when you’re losing money, it’s better to be an LLC, especially because then it’s passed through. When you’re making money, there’s different things that you could probably write off differently, and that’s probably the reason.

Andrew: Yeah. And so he put together a spreadsheet because he knew that if he told me like that, that I don’t know him, that I wouldn’t trust him like I trust Jeff. So he put together a spreadsheet saying, “Here’s exactly how much money you’re going to make.” I said, “Are you kidding me?” And then I said, “Why didn’t my accountant do it?” He goes, “Yeah, accountants actually don’t have an interest in pushing limits the way that I’m going to tell you to push limits. I’m going to push you and let them be the brakes in this relationship.”

The point I’m making is this is the kind of people that these guys at Toptal attract, a guy who in his off time can’t help but not just tell me I’m doing things wrong, but put together a spreadsheet to the penny and he’s estimating. And on our call, the day that he started, I show him my real numbers and goes, “I got that number a little bit off. I knew that’s where it was going to be, but I got a little bit off,” and here’s how he does.

Anyway, guys, if you’re looking for this kind of person, Toptal is the place to go. Go check them out at this special URL, where Mixergy listeners will get 80 hours of Toptal developer credit when they pay for their first 80 hours in addition to a no-risk trial period of up to two weeks. I’m still in a no-risk trial period of up to two weeks with this guy, but he’s been doing phenomenal. If you want all that, go check them out at toptal.com/mixergy.

It’s just a pleasure, by the way, to be surrounded by people who are that good and love their work that much, don’t you think, Jeff?

Jeff: That’s amazing. I mean, that’s the Holy Grail, right? I think that’s what everyone’s searching for, creating environments where you’re going to attract good people but also to find them. Absolutely.

Andrew: I kind of feel like . . . I don’t know Zach Taylor, your VP of Sales, but I kind of feel like he’s the kind of person who would read a book on sales in his spare time, for example.

Jeff: Oh, yeah. I mean, one of the things that we talk about is lifelong learners, and those are the people that are the most successful in our company. They’re curious, they read. One of the books that I’ve been telling people about, which I know you’re not asking, but I’ll tell you anyway because I’ve been [inaudible 00:45:38].

Andrew: Yeah.

Jeff: It’s “Principles” by Ray Dalio. It’s unbelievable.

Andrew: What’s it about?

Jeff: It talks about the way that he kind of organized his company and really decision making based on hundreds of principles that he developed over time. And it’s really what I would consider like a framework for decision making, that’s both I think very consistent but also a really interesting way of thinking about really process in life.

Andrew: Go to Principles.com for anyone who wants to see this book. It’s published by Simon & Schuster, but he owns Principles.com. According to the website, Ray Dalio, one of the world’s most successful investors and entrepreneurs shares the unconventional principles that helped him create unique results in life and business and which any person or organization can adopt to better achieve their goals. Dalio’s original “Principles” has been downloaded over three million times, and this expanded and revised edition is the first version available in print. This is like life principles, work principles, okay. Is there one part of this that’s helped shape your life?

Jeff: So I think, for me, one of the things that I’ve really focused on in the past year or two [inaudible 00:46:54] we covered was creating a culture where people wanted to be and where I wanted to be. You know, I think one of the challenges as you grow is you realize that there are dozens of people with dozens of assumptions and communicating with them all differently in the way that you do things, and you don’t always create an environment where people are as happy as you think that they are or as they should be, and as you want them to be. And so, for me, it was a really big eye-opener, and it happens when you get to about 20 or 25 people. And it was like we needed to codify all these things that I just took for granted. You know, the way that we feel about people isn’t obvious always. The way that we want people to act isn’t always obvious, and because of that, you see these little fractures in kind of the foundation that eventually become cracks or problems.

So, for me, what I find so amazing is he obviously lived through this and created these principles and codified them so well and created this organization where you can hire, fire, promote, and make every business decision or even life decision based on these principles, and I think it’s amazing. What I personally admire about it is it creates a ton of consistency, which I think is really valuable in terms of when you’re in any relationship, being consistent, knowing what you’re going to get, that’s incredibly important.

Andrew: I’m trying to buy it now as we’re talking, but I’ll wait until after. I’m on the phone grabbing it. You mentioned that one of the challenges is assumption, and frustration sometimes happens when you misunderstand people’s assumptions. I’m going to refer back to my pre-interview notes that you had, but not because I’m testing you with, “Hey, do you remember what was in the pre-interview notes?” I’ll tell you why. So that you know that what you told us is actually getting absorbed by the organization and is influencing the interview and so the audience knows, “Hey look, behind the scenes here is not just a dude here with a mic, but a research team and a curiosity and an audience that’s helping us make these interviews better and better.”

So, going back to the notes, let me give people an example of a miscommunication that led to a problem. There was someone on your team who had a death in the family. The manager said, “Why don’t you go home?” Now, this kind of thing seems like the nice, right thing to do. It turns out the employee actually wanted to stay, wanted to keep his mind busy, and people for months had this miscommunication or misunderstanding about him. Am I right?

Jeff: Yeah, and it was actually a really big deal. No one knew about it, which was the crazy part. So people thought we made this person stay in the office. I actually didn’t even know it took place. What happened was someone several months later told me, “Yeah, one of the big reasons why I’m really frustrated is because of this situation, where you made this person stay when they were clearly so visibly upset.” And I was like, “Oh, my gosh.” First of all, I knew we would never do that. We’ve had other similar situations where we handled it differently, and it was crazy. To me, it was just like a sad moment of, “Man, there’s so much stuff that happens that I have no knowledge about, and how do we do a better job of communicating across the company, up and down, to make sure that we’re doing things and we’re consistent in the way that we think about problems and we think about people?” And not being clear about that and not being this transparent is painful and causes problems, and that’s unfortunate because no one wants those.

Andrew: Yeah and no one’s going to come up to you and say, “Hey Jeff, why did you make that person work?” It’s kind of an awkward thing to do.

Jeff: Right.

Andrew: So these things end up just living under the surface, causing problems. How do you deal with this? How do you deal with people in general? It seems like you have something called OUTCARE. Does that help with that culture? Does that help? How do you do it?

Jeff: Yeah, so one of the things we did, we really codified everything. So we basically created a term, OUTCARE. It’s not a real word. It stands for Own It, Understand Why, Think Long Term, Choose Camaraderie, Always Customer Obsessed, Raise The Bar, and Execute with Urgency. So that is OUTCARE.

Andrew: That’s what you guys stand for.

Jeff: Yes, exactly. And so with the mission of OUTCARE, those are our principles so to speak. We expect everybody to uphold those values every minute of the day ideally. I mean, obviously, that’s not always going to happen, but that’s kind of the goal that we’re setting for people, and we made it very clear. We reinforce that across our stand-ups every day, across posters in the office, and in the emails we send out, and it’s something that I realize is we really need to codify this. We need to make decisions based on these values. Again, this isn’t anything new, but one of the things that I think is truly important is making sure that people do understand why we make various decisions and instead of just saying “Do this,” we want to make sure that they understand why they’re doing this so that they can add to it, make it better, give us feedback, and continue to improve as an organization and as individuals as well.

Andrew: Jeff, let me ask you this question. It’s going to sound naive, but I think it’s important to question everything. Let’s take the sales process. You have a machine. People know exactly what each part of the process is. They know what they need to do, and you guys can keep improving this machine. Why do you need culture if the machine just works? Can’t you just say, “Look, you know what you need to do. You see month to month our numbers are improving. Quit doubting it, go with the machine. Keep building the machine.” If you have a system, why do you need culture is what I’m asking.

Jeff: I think it’s a great question, because I think in many cases I would say founders also think that, and I’ve been one of them. I just assumed, “Hey, we have a Ping-Pong table. We have snacks. We have fun things and people love it.” But I think we realize that culture is really the way that you treat your customers, the way you treat individuals on the team, the way you treat people when they’re not looking, so how our teams interact with each other.

So, for me, it’s important that yes, like sales has a machines and they have to do things a certain way. Engineering has a culture, and they do things a certain way. But to me, what I’ve found that I think works really well is we’re not a sales-driven company or an engineering-driven company. Usually, companies are one of the two. To me, it’s, hey, we’re a people-driven company. Everybody’s on the same level. Like we don’t give salespeople different hours because they’re salespeople or engineers different hours because they’re engineers. Like, to me, that creates I think undue animosity, and for me it’s, hey, everyone here is equally important. We’re all serving the same purpose of helping millions of people share millions of companies and generating word of mouth across the world. So this is something that everybody is an equal stakeholder in.

Andrew: So I saw an example of what happens when you’re not communicating this stuff well. Do you have an example of how culture helped your business?

Jeff: Yeah. It’s helped immensely. I could tell you we’re probably obsessed about culture, but I think what’s fantastic is we’ve created what I would say is an amazing culture. We’ve won like a local business award. We’re like the top I think number 3 out of 100. We’re like a 4.8 in GlassDoor. And what it allows ofr us to do, to be honest, is it’s a competitive advantage. You know, our culture isn’t for everybody certainly, but I think we try really hard. We have amazing, talented people. But where it helps the business is when someone moves to the Detroit area from anywhere else in the country, they’re coming to us first.

Andrew: You’re saying it helps you bring in really good people. Okay, once they’re in, how does culture help the way that they work? What’s an example of that?

Jeff: I think one way that it helps them work, one of our habits is raise the bar, so I think everybody coming in and raising the bar or choosing camaraderie. Very often I spend time with each person on their first day and go through kind of our values, and then I check in with them over the course of the first few months, more than even normal. And the feedback that I consistently get is, “This is the nicest group of people I’ve ever been around.” And it was a conscious decision. We decided that we’re not going to hire what some of us here . . . no brilliant assholes, right? Like, that’s a conscious decision for us. We’re going to hire good people and create an environment that people enjoy it first and foremost, and they have to have all the other tangibles too.

Andrew: You’ve also let go of people who were good performers but didn’t fit culturally. Can you give me an example? I obviously don’t want specifics, but give me an example of that.

Jeff: Yeah, so it’s unfortunate that we multiple times have had high-performing employees who have technically done the things they were supposed to do and even exceeded expectations, and when people started giving them kind of a Venn Diagram where there’s two circles, one is the results that the technical results of the task you’re doing and the second is your personality, and that matters, the way that you treat people, the way that you treat customers, and they’re equally weighted. And a lot of people are like, “Well, I just want to be measured on results.” And I’m like, “Yeah, well the results are the complete circle, but half of the results are the way you treat people.” And so, for us, when you have one person that’s a disrupter or causing friction amongst the team, it affects, it multiplies. Just as a contagiously positive person can bring everybody up, a negative person can bring everybody down, and so we made a conscious decision to say we let someone go.

I was super nervous to tell the team that we let someone go because it was going to be more work for everybody, and one of these people took a ton of work from other folks. We told them, “Listen, unfortunately, they’re not going to be here anymore. And for us, it’s like we really wanted to stick with our values, and we know there’s been some issues. You know, we’re going to make hiring and firing and promotion decisions based on these values even if sometimes it sets us back in the short term.” After I did that, and this was actually great advice from our investors, they said, “Your team will actually support you and rally around it,” and they did. I had a lot of private [emails 00:57:13] that said, “Hey, we really respect that. We know it’s going to be painful. What can I do to help?” It was really cool. I mean, it was one of the really cool moments of being really terrified to announce this decision and get great feedback from the team.

Andrew: You mentioned onboarding a little bit. Why don’t we close out with that? You told our producer, “I was naïve about onboarding employees.” What’s the onboarding naivte that you had and what are you doing now?

Jeff: So now we have a pretty . . . and again, formal is all relative, but we used to hire somebody, put them in a chair and kind of say, “This is your job, figure it out.” Now, we have a pretty formal process. The first two weeks are pretty structured, from meeting with various departments, understanding kind of at a broad level what each department does and what people do, but most importantly it’s really indoctrinating them with the values and the expectations from the beginning. Again, the biggest learning that I have from going from a team where I was at the table and everyone knew how we operated, because I was there in the trenches with them, is now when you have dozens of tables and dozens of teams, you have people that are not sure how to act in certain situations and not sure how to take this kind of feedback or this kind of feedback, so we just make it really clear for them and say, “Listen, we’re going to be here for you. You can come to me directly with any problems.”

Andrew: What’s the process for onboarding?

Jeff: In terms of like the actual . . .

Andrew: I guess, where do you set up the process, and then what’s special about it that you’re especially proud of?

Jeff: So it’s a series of tools, to be honest. Some of it’s in Google Doc. Some of it is, we have like a [inaudible 00:58:57] management system, where people go in and actually take quizzes and learn things.

Andrew: Really?

Jeff: There’s a presentation that I give on the first day, and then there’s a series of individual presentations by the various department heads. So all of those things are happening kind of in harmony. There’s homework the person has. We have like Day 0, sort of like your McKinsey consultant, [inaudible 00:59:22] kind of pre-work that we ask them to do. It’s not much, but it’s again getting them into the kind of understanding how we operate. And I think opening up the dialog, letting them know that transparency and encouraging feedback is of the utmost importance for us is huge. When I can do that face to face with a person their first day, they’re typically pretty nervous and they don’t know what to expect from me. What I’ve found is that people that I’ve actually done this with, which is let’s say half the team, some of them were here before we started doing this, they tend to be a lot more open, a lot more transparent, give a lot better feedback to us, and then we can therefore make it better for the next person.

We’ve always wanted that stuff, but until we kind of formalized it, we weren’t getting the feedback quick enough, or we were getting it when things were really bad or really good. Now, we’re getting it in a much more consistent, in a consistent way.

Andrew: All right. If you see me looking all over the screen, it’s when you mention something, I have to go look at it. So when you said, you were 4.8 on GlassDoor, I said, “That doesn’t seem right. How do you get 4.8 on GlassDoor? That’s a place where people go and bitch. That’s where I get like some of my best material about the founder or CEO, because it goes in there when people leave. That’s when they get insulting in some way. No, you have 94% would recommend to a friend, a 4.8 approval rating on GlassDoor for the whole company, and 94% approve of the CEO. That’s you, Jeff.

Jeff: That’s cool.

Andrew: That’s phenomenal. I see a bunch of pictures on there too. All right. For anyone who wants to go check out the site, it is getambassador.com. Is that a place also where anyone could create an affiliate program if they want to or an influencer program to reward influencers and help influencers get paid when they’re spreading the word?

Jeff: Exactly. Any company that’s looking to acquire customers. Again, it is obviously mid-market and above from a pricing perspective, but it’s absolutely something where companies are looking to invest in scaling their customer acquisition. You know, we’re happy to talk with them.

Andrew: All right. And the two sponsors that I mentioned and I will ask you about what that backdrop is in a second. The two sponsors are the company that we use to create sales, to build a sales machine. It’s called Pipedrive. It will kind of force you to do it. They’re kind of jerks about it, that you can’t just willy-nilly add contacts into their system. They insist that you actually have a structured way of closing sales. Go sign up. Pipedrive.com/mixergy.

The second is a company that I’ve hired a developer from, a designer from, and now my new consultant, previously from McKinsey, to help me with the profitability of our business. It is called Toptal. Top as in top of your head, tal as in talent. Toptal.com/mixergy.

One last thing is that our team is kind of messing around with the audio a little bit to try to improve it and messing around with the video to try and improve that. Give us feedback. Let them know how they’re doing by just emailing them, Contact@Mixergy.com. The whole team will see it, and they’ll know whether they’re doing a good job or not.

Close it out for us, Jeff. What’s in the background?

Jeff: Yeah, so the background is the Shire. So one of the things as we’ve grown and tried to make things more fun is all of our conference rooms have various murals on them. So this one you can see it here is actually the Shire. I’m a big “Lord of the Rings” fan, and I’m a big movie fan, so we have Temple of Doom, Gotham City, the Matrix . . .

Andrew: So Gotham City would have Gotham behind you if you were sitting in it?

Jeff: Yeah.

Andrew: That’s a really good backdrop, and also I’ve got to tell you the lighting is really good. It’s very hard for an entrepreneur to find a good, quiet spot to go do an interview like this. Can you turn the camera around so we can see what you’re looking at?

Jeff: Sure. So this is the big mural.

Andrew: What’s in front of it? What were you facing? It looks like you’re on a laptop.

Jeff: I’m facing a whiteboard, so it’s pretty boring on this side.

Andrew: Oh wow. Man, that room looks so gigantic.

Jeff: Yeah, this is a big room. It worked well. I tried to get good lighting and good acoustics and good internet, so this is one of the rooms we can plug in.

Andrew: One of the things I like about you is like this attention to detail. All right. Congratulations on the business. Guys, go check him out at getambassador.com. Thanks.

Jeff: It’s been real.


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