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From $0 to $10 Million: What Not To Do | Neil Ryland, CRO, Peakon – SaaSGrowth2019

First of all I do apologize refer to my notes, feel like a lot of people like you were chasing out quarter end and then traveling, so trying to memorize it but I have these here as a kind of help guide. So to kick off I thought I’d tell you a bit of a story, so in 2010 it was May 28th, I sat not not far from here actually in Bermondsey Street near London Bridge, it was a sunny day I wouldn’t have known because I was in the basement office working for a UK startup called huddle. And we just raised 11 million dollars with matrix partners and we’re on this path right at the path to get into 10 million, and it was so exciting because I’ve been told I’m going out to San Francisco with one of our co-founders, one of my colleagues, and we’re going to build out this u.s. machine. I couldn’t have been more pumped up at the age of 27 around what we were doing. Fast-forward six months it was another sunny day I was in a Regis office on Folsom Street in San Francisco but the heat that was coming down, the web conference we had on the fact would miss the last two quarters, was a damn sight hotter than the sun that was coming down back on my full head of hair back then. And I was thinking to myself it is such a pivotal moment in my career because I had no idea that we weren’t going to go on to be an absolute rocket ship, you know the excitement that you get of going 0 to 1 million and hitting it, you’re like there’s nothing stopping us we’re gonna be on the stock exchange in no time. I couldn’t believe when I went the tube that people weren’t looking at huddle I said why do you have the app you crazy! And then all of a sudden everything had kind of gone wrong, and I’d shifted my whole life out to San Francisco. 

So I was trying to think what did I learn during that period, and I try to sit it down to three points, and then Lauren asked we put some slides together, okay we’re going to speak to our design team around what infographics could I use, like could they draw me something something special and I couldn’t think of anything other than this gif, because that has to be the best way to describe the journey. So smashing the 1 million is great if you think you can do the same thing to get the 10, I hate to tell you but you’re wrong, and put it to add in a stage and Jeremy, I like to think of 0 to 1 is the proper startup stage, then that 1 to 10 is your growing up, and then 10 million on you can almost reset the journey but you’re kind of on a scale-up journey.

So getting to 1 million, so the whole way through and thinking of these different points everything ultimately if I simplified SaaS for me when I sit in board meetings only this is really what I’m trying not to break when I ask for like monies for spiff or you know when I hire new people, marketing want to spend more money, we need more people for support, really what you’re trying to think is this whole time at a very oversimplified level. Now 1 million but stages really like it’s like how people have kids in the room because I having a baby right you just don’t want to kill it, keep it alive, you know that’s the goal! Like can can you build and get yourself in a good enough product market fit can you find enough customers that say yes this is working and then can you convince some VCs that your dream is amazing, or bootstrap or whatever it is to start getting to that next level.

I thought for this talk for 3 points I want to focus is the lens in a little bit more was what I call look on the grow up phase, the 1 million to 10 million stage. And the reason that I picked that phase for me and for this conference is I think that’s the hardest stage for sales, so if you carry all of my analogy stay with me, I would describe this as like the spotty teenager stage. Because you haven’t yet identified your ICP well enough, you know you don’t really know where your next 10 customers are coming from, you’re trying to figure out how you grow this business might take you on a little bit of money, the glamour of being hey I’m rep number 3 into the business is probably gone, you can’t offer the same benefits as Salesforce, but you still need to hire some top talent into your organization pretty quickly. 

So the three key lessons of things that I feel I’ve learned and would love to do better next time I went round and it’s worth pointing out how do we smash through that 10 million barrier, and there’s a lot of takeaways that I took from that to help Peakon get through that, kind of in the q2 2018. So the three things the first one is don’t hire when it’s on fire, everyone kind of here’s to like the fire quickly hire slowly for me, don’t hire when something’s already on fire, the second one is stay horizontal don’t go in the verticals, and then my last point is don’t stop listening to your customers.

So just kind of take a deeper dive and teach those for you so the first one don’t hire when it’s on fire; now every organization will hit scaling issues and Jeremy touched on some of these on one of his slides and the way that I’ve kind of tried to break it down is kind of like three P’s you can have your product your process and your people. And all three start to break as you go through these phases, but all of them from a product and a process perspective our built designed operated and run by people, so if you wait until those things have gone wrong and then try to hire the person basically you’re on this decline, and then it’s on fire and now you need to find a hero but heroes are very very few and far between because a lot of may have started companies already and you’re trying to find someone that’ll fix the fire, which is incredibly challenging. A big bug we found I kind of used of my team the kind of sports analogy when we’re scaling the business which is if you go up a league you need to get more talent into your organization but you also need to think about all the support team that helped you to drive this organization forwards whether that’s physios, coaches, people working in the canteen, you need a new stadium, a new office, all of these things have to be taken into account, but they’re all driven by the right people coming into a company first. The people that get you to 1 million are probably not going to be the same people to get you to ten million, and the people didn’t go on that journey again and beyond are not gonna be the same ones and that’s kind of a harsh reality of it a little bit.

 I’m quite lucky suppose of my example of this is at Peakon on in q3 we smashed our numbers, super exciting but we had less than 50% of the reps hit the number. So we kind of realized got a little bit of an issue here on our ramp, and I spoke to my mentor Lesley Young, she’d run sales at Box, she’s amazing and I just asked her and hey Lesley, this is what we did you know, do you think I need to hire a sales trainer and she just looked up at the camera and was like I think you’re 2/4 too late Neil. I said yeah, fair point.

So other roles that we’ve hired in this kind of 1 to 10 million you know we hired a renewals manager to make sure we started nesting into our customers early enough, we hired an executive assistant which sounds really glamorous but gee do you really want your executive team spending all their time in their calendars or do you want them out raising money, do you want them out spending time with your customers driving motivation, maintaining, the culture all those things you saw in Jeremy’s slide have to start at the top so that they can push up from the bottom, and they won’t if you find yourself being trapped in your calendar all day long and you’re also trying to hire lots of people. And sales ops, so it’s all I’ll talk about that that coming on to my second point and the importance of getting a sales ops in early, because there is no salesperson yet to meet that I know that loves admin, and there’s somebody that’s going to put their hand up now, but so you need to get your strategy right for your CRM very early because you’ll need those metrics as you continue to scale.

So onto point 2; when I said stay in the horizontal is not the verticals and I feel like there’s a couple of eyebrows raised, I’m not too about the go-to-market strategy. I’m talking about the way that you design and set up your teams, it’s very easy as you start scaling to start thinking in columns and my sales function, my marketing function, my CS function and etc, but actually what you want is you wanted to go round in circles you want people to still stay working together if you think what made you successful getting to 1 million, you didn’t have those breakdowns in the same way. Now it definitely gets harder because you’ll probably find that your sales team is bigger than what the entire company was just six months ago as you start the scale, so it’s challenging but it’s so important to get it right. And at Peakon, on one of the co-founders Dan Rogers she runs a marketing team probably the smartest people I’ve had the pleasure of being able to work with me, and Dan sat down before I even started and went through all of the different metrics, and this is over a few beers a couple of three beers, but we looked at everything from like our conversion rates, where we need to drive different lead sources from, how it pushed things through the funnel, and what we agreed on with something called MTM, the metrics that matter, and you don’t need to pick a thousand of these because then it gets confusing, but what you need do need to do is use scale to keep alignment of your team, so they can keep working in the horizontals is pick your metrics that matter, what are the metrics that will move your ARR number and the most. So for example for us we look at our conversion rates from sales qualified lead 3 to sales qualified opportunities, and then we looked at the win rates and there from the some perspective sales and marketing perspective, those metrics still hold true, and we use them and everything that we do, so we have a a weekly meeting we don’t call it for sales meeting, we don’t call it the marketing, meeting we don’t call it the CS meeting. we call it the revenue meeting, and all the leaders stand up and present in that meeting and record it because we’re now a global business, and they talk around what they’re working on to influence the metrics that matter. And the reason we recommend it’s so important to hire sales ops person, is if you don’t hire that person and create the Bible for your metrics that matter, I promise you everyone will have a different view on those metrics. It’s amazing what you can pull from your CRM tool to tell a story that you want to tell, so it’s so important that you have someone that owns the Bible for your metrics that matter.

My last point around this one around how do you keep this alignment so you can keep working in the horizontals, is think around what matters to your organization, ie your values. When you’re zero to 1 million everyone will wear the t-shirt stay lay eat pizzas, do whatever it takes to find a way to win. When you start bringing people in as you scale, it’s critical that you keep what makes that company special, so we do a program we have seven values at Peakon. The the two that resonate most of me personally one is called wit, which is we do whatever it takes to do the right thing. and the second one is serious not seriously, so we need to build this company to get the next level we’ve taken VC money, this is a serious game, and you know we need to win, I don’t want to come second I didn’t join Peakon to come second. But I don’t want to do it and be miserable right, we’re in a serious role but we do have a smile on our face and our customers get to engage in us in that way, and the same thing that is delivered across the mantra of the whole organization from the revenue perspective. I think about it if you’re building these teams to keep this alignment if you as a leader build a team that’s only accountable to you, the minute you’re not in the room stuff doesn’t happen. If you build a team that’s only accountable to its target, you start working in your columns again, nowif anyone has read challenger cell, which I’m sure everyone will, that’s lone wolf syndrome. So what you need to build as a team that’s accountable to each other and the way that you can do that is by putting your home truth statements which are your values; they should be the things that gel all of you together regardless of what department that you work in what your role is whether you’re the cleaner or the CEO, what matters to you is doing the right behaviors that align to your values, and you’ll find it comes much easier to get everyone to rally behind your MTM so metrics that matter. Everyone has probably seen Glengarry Ross; so you know the joke if you get it wrong you don’t want to get into a situation which I’ve had personally before when marking come over and tell me that I’m weak, and my responses the leads a weak, you don’t want to be in that place so think about MTMs.

My third and final point is around don’t stop listening to your customers. It sounds like a bat crazy thing likes I’m sure everyone thinks that, but do you actually do it. Because when you’re growing it’s far more glamorous to start looking at that new ARR logo right, everyone wants the next shiny logo to put on the website, there’s an ego boost for the sales guy around doing it, you know there’s probably some praise that goes up, it’s the same praise for someone that gets a referral from a customer, same praise for securing a renewal, so a lot of people focus on new AR and that line going up. Well you’re really looking at is your ARR, and how do you align people around that number, because it’s really hard to keep that graph going up and to the right, if you suffer with leaky bucket syndrome. So what do we do a pecan to try to help us of this well I can’t take credit for it. We’re actually a Danish company, and you know Danish people they’re very very direct, but they also are excellent always, like it has to be perfect or my god you’re doing it again. And Christian who’s our CTO, from the very very beginning sent out an NPS survey on a monthly basis, so all types of users across our product so if you’re an admin or whether you’re a manager, and that became one of our metrics that matters for the organization. Why? – because it aligns everyone do you want to be the sales guy that sells a deal there’s something on the NPS goes you told me that it had a rocketship a time machine included, we do engagement right you know it’s top sales people when you’re under pressure start doing the wrong type of deals which hurts your renewal rate, it also means CS get to understand what’s happening within the customer install base enjoy some accountability there. Often when you’re scaling your product team you’re technologists don’t get close enough to understand what customers are saying, and they don’t feel recognized what they are building and see the impact that it has, they now get visibility, and the critical part at this stage of the journey is your execs also start to see what’s happening within your your customer base. If you spend time with your customers they help you find your next ten customers, they also help you to shape and design your roadmap and your vision, now I’m not saying listen to your customers and go and build a bespoke product that’s a well trodden path around how to destroy a company, but why I’m saying is if you listen to your customers you’ll understand what they want and then your job is to turn it into what they need, which is very very different. So just some practical things make sure you have a referral scheme set up, make sure you’re running your executive dinners, take the time to make that investment, because you can say what you want about your brand between zero and 1 million, but the minute you start getting passed 1 million your customers will dictate and decide to you what your brand really is.

So to summarize 3 things you know don’t hire when it’s on fire, that’s quite painful, make sure that you work in your horizontals not your verticals, and keep listening to your customers, and that’s why I’ll just end on is the go back to my analogy you know, it’s fantastic when you get to the 10-million stage and you’re in the scale up world, but you’re a long time in scale-up and only a short time as a baby, and the spotty teenager so make sure you enjoy it and have fun and remember impossible is only an opinion. Thank you. 

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