Sean Campbell on Going From 1 Employee to 10
Sean has more than 20 years experience working in the B2B tech sector and after exiting a previous business, he launched Cascade Insights in 2006 and it has been growing ever since.
For many of my listeners, one of their biggest challenges is growing their business beyond themselves and their founding team. Not only is it hard to know when and how to hire, but you also need to have the right pieces in place to manage and direct those hires.
This is an extremely difficult task, especially for a first-time founder, and it is absolutely crucial to get this right if you ever want to grow.
Luckily, Sean is here to draw on his decades of personal experience as well as the experience of working with hundreds of businesses to talk about how to go from 1 employee to 10.
If you’re looking for practical advice about hiring, managing, and leading, then this is the episode for you.
Background leading up to today
- What is Cascade Insights and how did you get started?
- How did the B2B Revealed Podcast come about?
- What does your business look like today?
Going from 1 employee to 10
- How do you know when it’s time to hire?
How do you decide what to hire for first?
- Are there any roles that shouldn’t be hired for this early?
- What needs to be in place operationally to help your new team be successful?
- How does the founder’s role change?
What is the biggest challenge in this process?
- How can founders prepare themselves for that?
Challenges going forward
- What can companies do to set themselves up for success scaling beyond 10 employees?
- What new problems will they have to tackle?
Parting advice for founders
- What should a founder who is planning to make their first hire take away from this show?
- Where can listeners go to learn more?
Where to learn more:
To learn more about Sean’s market research firm, head to CascadeInsights.com or if you’re interested in hearing from experts in company leadership, SaaS marketing, strategic sales, and tech, tune into the B2B Revealed Podcast.
Andy Baldacci: Sean, thank you so much for coming on my show today.
Sean Campbell: Thanks. Glad to be here.
Andy Baldacci: For listeners who aren't familiar with your company or haven't heard your podcast, can you give a quick rundown of what it is that you're up to at Cascade Insights and how that all came about?
Sean Campbell: Sure. I'm the CEO of Cascade Insights. Cascade Insights is a market research and competitive intelligence firm. We focus exclusively, I tell folks we have a really narrow front door to the firm, on technology companies in a B2B context. Obviously, our clients might work in life sciences or oil and gas or pick your industry that they're focused on, but they're a technology company. They're offering SAS or cloud plays or things like that, and we're doing market research or competitive work for them. The podcast I host is the B2B Revealed podcast, available on a lot of different places out there. iTunes, [inaudible 00:00:52], and SoundCloud and whatever. We focus just on B2B market dynamics on the show. We talk about B2B selling, B2B marketing, and B2B leadership.
Andy Baldacci: When did the podcast come about and what was the driving force to getting that out there?
Sean Campbell: The show had an original incarnation focused more on even a tighter niche than it is now. It was on B2B market research. I looked at it as a really good way for us to show some thought leadership. In the previous incarnation of the show we focused a little bit more on monologues than interviews. We focus more interviews now that we broaden the focus of the show to a lot of different things B2B. We're a consulting firm, and so one of the things you do as a consulting firm is that you show A, that you're a thought leader, and B, that you're personable, and C, that you're easy to get along with. A podcast is a really natural vehicle for that, I think.
Andy Baldacci: I think with the service businesses, any sort of service business, when you're selling consulting, when you're selling something like that, being able to upfront, without any commitment, demonstrate what you know, how you are to potentially work with how you are as a person, goes miles when it comes to building that trust and getting someone to come on board and give you a try. This is one of the downfalls of podcasts and I talk to a lot of founders about it, they always ask, "How do I measure it? How do I know if it's working or not?" For your business, do you have metrics you're looking at? How do you measure the success of the show?
Sean Campbell: I think if you're going to be honest with yourself, you have to look at both. You have to look at metrics, but then you also have to ask yourself, what's the major metric you're driving all your marketing efforts to. A podcast is a marketing vehicle and it's an education vehicle, in the same way all content marketing, which podcast, blogs, white papers, videos, whatever, they're all a form of business education in a sense. From my standpoint, I look at the statistics. We host on Libsyn. I'll look at the stats and we've had nice, continuous growth. Just like any other guy that runs a podcast, some episodes are more popular than others and that's why you look at stats because you're like, "That interviewee was great and the other one, maybe not so much, so maybe we'll do more of that kind of interviewee."
The other thing that you have to do to keep things honest is inside our company, every time we have a marketing meeting, I have two marketing people that report to me, one of the most important things I do during the meeting outside of all the other stuff we do, look at the content calendar, who's going to be on the show, what are we going to put on our blog that isn't a podcast episode, what are we going to do for studies, is I always have the marketing team look at the exact number of leads we got over the last week or month or quarter, why we got them, which persona they were aligned with. I also keep track of every single time a client or potential client mentions qualitatively in some way the show or other assets we have. I keep that in one single database. It's real easy for us, as a marketing team, to say, "We don't have the same number of qualitative mentions we had two weeks ago. We don't have as many number of leads as we had two weeks ago. We need to change something up."
Of course, you have to deal with variances. It's Thanksgiving break, you're not going to get leads. I think as long as you're looking at it the right way, you have to use the data plus some fairly focused KPIs and then I think you can end up being successful.
Andy Baldacci: That's a really good answer, because there is that mix there. It's tough, especially when you're in the technology space, to talk about the qualitative side when everyone is so numbers driven. Having that drive to quantify everything is good. It is nice to have data when there is no data, assuming it's the right data, but you can't ignore the qualitative entirely. Backing up a little bit, just looking at the business as a whole, what does Cascade Insights look like today?
Sean Campbell: We're 12 employees. It's 10 full-time and two part-time. We're based out of Portland, Oregon, which is a great place to live. Lots of outdoors activities to do here, really nice urban environment. I joke that I never have to pay a relocation fee whenever want anybody to come here. There are other cities where I'd probably have to give them half their year's salary to get them to there. Portland, it's always like, "You are in Portland." It's actually somewhat of a demerit, because sometimes when we open a job rec, what happens is I get this flood of candidates that basically they want to move to Portland and the job they're choosing is secondary. There's a little bit of filtering that has to go on there. I guess I'd rather have that problem than some other cities.
We're based out of a pretty awesome renovated house that an engineering firm paid to renovate before us and then they went out of business. Bad news for them and good news for us.
Andy Baldacci: Good news for you, yeah.
Sean Campbell: It's perfect for a consulting firm because most consulting firms, you go visit the client, they don't come visit you. That's more typical than not. It's a real cozy atmosphere. That's basically who we are. We're a boutique consulting firm.
Andy Baldacci: That's really interesting. That ties in a bit to what I'm hoping to talk about today. An area that I know you have a lot of experience through your research, through your work with clients, and in your own business. That's growing beyond yourself. Really building the team from one, two, or three up to that 10 person marketing. I know a lot of listeners to this show, they're the founder, they might have a co-founder too. They might even have an employee or so, but there's no need for management, there's no need for thinking too much about them being deliberate. As they start to scale or even before they start to scale, they're not sure what they should be aware of, what pitfalls to avoid, so we'll try to unpack this. I guess the first question is how does a founder know when it's time to make that first hire?
Sean Campbell: When you have too much work.
Andy Baldacci: I feel like, to play devil's advocate, I feel like when you talk to many startup founders, there's always too much to do. How do you know, "I'm really busy," to, "I'm busy, but someone else could help here and this isn't normal"?
Sean Campbell: What I mean by that is that you have work that can be meaningfully done by someone else. In a consulting capacity, you'd call it billable work, yet I've never owned a product firm, but I've consulted for a lot of product firms. You have a lot more license sales, you have a lot more product sales. You have some metric that tells you that this trend line is going up and to the right. Therefore, if it continues, I'm going to exceed my personal ability to produce, or me and my co-founder's ability to produce. Whether you immediately hire a full-time employee or whether you immediately hire a contracting pool, that's a separate issue.
I generally recommend to new founders or people who are going to start a company, when they say, "I've been in business for a year. I'm going to hire an employee," I'm like, "Hold on a minute." If you hire a contractor, or better yet, even go through the process of hiring a few different types of contractors over a period of 12 to 24 months, and that time period depends on the business, but you learn a bunch of stuff. One, you learn how good you are as a manager, because sometimes founders have never managed. They think they're good at it, so there's a lot to learn there. You also figure out what kind of archetype you want for that employee. There are many people out there who are in talent and HR management that would tell you hiring the right person that fits with you and your business is hard, and so that gives you a chance to work with different personality types.
Perhaps the most important thing in a way is you get to figure out what you need to hire for. You might hire a contractor to do X thing in the business and you realize, "I can't really give that away yet. That's too complicated." At the same time, you go, "But this other thing, it's kind of robotic." Our customer base doesn't think it's robotic, but I can package this and turn it into a process and it still derives value from a customer standpoint, but I don't really have to do it anymore. I don't have to do every bit of it. I can supervise it.
That experimentation time, when you're doing all that with 1099s, you don't have to pay them before you get paid. Generally speaking, you have to pay them somewhat before you get paid. Even if they're net 30 and you're net 30, anybody who's ever dealt with clients, net 30s tend to become net 45 clients just because of process issues. You're not talking about running payroll months or weeks in advance of you even seeing a dollar every time. It does make the cash flow a little bit easier to deal with. The only real challenge with it, I would say, is that contractors aren't your employees. I mean that both legally and in general. That means you have to deal with a little more ambiguity in how you manage them. You can't necessarily tell them exactly what to do sometimes the way you would an employee. Personality issues can be a little more challenging if they're a contractor with their own shingle out.
At the end of the day, your ability to experiment for that 12 months or 24 months, that's huge. So many people don't take advantage of that. What they normally do, I think, is they go find somebody they know who they trust who's probably their brother's uncle and they hire him. That's totally the wrong way to go about it.
Andy Baldacci: You covered a lot there. One thing I wanted to focus on is you talked about a process being robotic, or just being a process in general. This is some where, in the early days, when you're figuring things out yourself, you don't have process, you don't have systems because it didn't exist yet. You're trying to learn how to do it yourself. That's when having co-founders who are equally motivated and often times sophisticated as you, they can figure those things out from scratch. The trouble comes, what I've seen, is when you hire a very junior level employee without giving them that playbook, without saying, "Here's a process that we've found has worked. Go run with this." When you try to make them put together that process themselves, it almost never ends well. First, do you agree with that summarization? Second, how do you recommend starting to put together some of that robotic process behind the scenes?
Sean Campbell: It's a really good question. There's analogies like this through all kinds of different industries. The classic is Michael Jordan can play, he can't coach. Most founders, truth be told, are the same until they build the skill up. That's the lie in it. Michael Jordan probably could learn to coach, but he doesn't want to. That's probably more of the problem with a lot of founders, is they keep telling themselves they're a good manager, they're a good person at putting process together, but to a large extent they're good at being a creative and working hard. There's not enough of that to go around right now. That's great and that's what you need to start a business.
What you're talking about is a really big problem. There's a guy I know, Dan Cox, that runs this outfit called Exos Advisors, and he said something to me the other day that was spot on, because I've lived this. He said, "If you hire the wrong person and put them in this box, such this is the job you're going to go do, if they're not the right fit, they'll fix the job right in front of you and they'll change it in something else. The problem is, maybe you really needed the original job." It's real problematic. Not only do you have to put the right process together, but you have to put the right person inside that process.
Andy Baldacci: That's a good point.
Sean Campbell: They'll reinvent the job. I've made that mistake sometimes too. I think that's super, super critical. It does help to have a co-founder. This will sound like I don't like my co-founder. I obviously do. We've worked together across two businesses over 17 plus years now. The first one we grew and sold and then we started Cascade in 2006. There's this line about business partners that I think helps in this context, which is, and I can't remember who said it. Find the business partner who is as different from you as you can stand and still have a working relationship. It's true. Scott, he talks in spreadsheets. I do not necessarily talk in spreadsheets. After 17 years, I know to put a spreadsheet together to convince him. He also doesn't really think a lot about intuition. He's a numbers guy.
He used to joke with me, he said, "You would have things show up on your radar and you couldn't prove it to me by numbers, so I didn't want to follow along. Then I would realize you were right and we missed an opportunity to do something about it." Or I had to argue with him about it for six months and go ahead and do it anyway. I knew I was right. The joy of co-ownership where it's 50/50. You know what I mean. I think the point in that is that if you're not good at building process yourself, put people around you who are good at process. That's probably one of the things that founders struggle with, and it's classic, is letting themselves say to the world at large, "I really suck at this and I'm going to let somebody else be stronger than me at it. I'm going to be okay with that." The second you start to do that, things get way, way easier at that point.
Andy Baldacci: That's a really good point. One thing I want to ask a bit more about is outside of the process generation, if that's not your strong suit, clearly when you start hiring, that needs to be there. When some of those processes are there, you know roughly what needs to be done in a position, you start hiring, how do you judge whether or not the person you have in that box, if they're the right person for that, how do you start seeing if they are the right fit?
Sean Campbell: I don't know if that's a single answer. It's a lot of observation. It's a lot of talking to the employee and making sure that they're not trying to reinvent the position. It's a lot of trying out the position for a while for yourself so you can understand what it's like. That's another big part of it. Sometimes you see people hand off parts of their business and they never really knew how to do it anyway. That's another big thing about starting a business and growing it, I think, which is that before you vend it out, before you contract it out, do it for a while. Even if you're never going to be the bookkeeper, know how Quick Books works. Not so you can step in and be the superhero. You should hire a bookkeeper that's better than you. You want to have enough experience with the position that you know when it's ill-fitting, when the clothes don't fit and it's not working well.
I think a lot of it has to do, in the hiring phase, of not whitewashing the job and making it look awesome. Jobs are not all rainbows and unicorns. They are just not. And pixie dust. They're just not. Most jobs, they have their share of greatness and badness. One of the things that we've done really well over the years and people have told us this, is that we've done the right mix of both. I think we've inspired them during the hiring process to say, "This is going to be really good for you, and we think there's going to be great things that are going to come out of it. This is what we need you to do." At the same time, even during the hiring process, we've made a point of saying, "This is the part of the job that isn't going to be great." If you don't do those in equal measure, because you can't be all gloom and doom, and you can't be all sunshine and rainbows. I think people self-select a lot better. That's the biggest thing right at the start.
Once they're in the role, it's a lot of observation, honestly. You become, as the business grows, less the immediate doer and you're more focused on observation and process and motivation and education. You got to make that switch. I think if you do those two things, the front end part of the hiring, setting things right, and if you do all that stuff on the back end once they're in the role, most stuff figures itself out. Frankly, final point, if you do all those things right, a lot of people self-select out of the position. We've had that happen, where after somebody's been here for a while …
Given there are HR laws in the land, I'm going to be very vague about specific examples, but the people that we've had to let go, which fortunately has been very, very limited over 17 years, and I'm going to talk about examples that are statute of limitations here that were from the first business, so over a decade ago. You know you've done the right thing if when, you have that tough meeting, they look down at the table and then they look at you and go, "Yeah. I kind of expected that. You're right. I didn't really feel I was a fit for the position either." If you've done it right, if you've educated them well and you've motivated them well and you were clear about what the position was and you gave them good feedback, that tells you that they self-selected out. That one time you made a bad choice, but at least they even knew it, which tells me I was communicating effectively all the way through. It's just they weren't the right fit.
Andy Baldacci: I feel like a lot comes down to that communication aspect. It's one, before you even hire, knowing specifically what you're hiring for and what you expect from that person in that role and how you'll measure it, all of that stuff that goes with any new position. Then making it clear, all of those things, to the new hire, because it seems obvious, but there are so many times in practice where a founder, a manager, whoever, just assumes the person that they're hiring already knows all these things that is really easy to forget when you've been living this business for however long, that someone coming in has nowhere near the context that you do. The way that they're going to try to figure it out on their own is probably not the way you would've liked them to, so you do need to be more deliberate and communicate those expectations up front.
Sean Campbell: Completely agree.
Andy Baldacci: I want to talk a bit more about this. You touched at a high level about the changing role of the founder. When do you think, and again, this is not going to be two years into the business with three employees type of answer, but at what point should the founder really be shifting away from the everyday hustling, getting crap done, kind of mentality, to taking a little bit of a step back in that role and fostering more leadership management type qualities?
Sean Campbell: I think it's progressive, really. For some folks this may not be a blessing to get such a huge block of work where all of a sudden you need to hire 700 people. What was that company that got the contract down in Jamaica or wherever it was, where they had the hurricane? They grew to 700 employees. This is not a political statement, but my point is, that kind of explosion rightly or wrongly, that's kind of terrifying. I think most companies don't explode that way. They don't go from one to 10. It was actually in Puerto Rico. I just remembered now. That's right. It was in Puerto Rico. Long story short, I think because it's progressive, because it happens slowly, you have to be really good at progressively letting go of certain things. I think there's a continuum of things you have to let go. I'd be happy to walk through that too.
Andy Baldacci: I would love to walk through that if you could.
Sean Campbell: The first thing that you have to think about is what am I going to hold on to at the end of this? What am I naturally gifted at and what am I going to give away for all the rest of it? There's also some things that I think are really dumb to give away if you're only a 10 person company. On that category, sales and marketing. By the time you get to 10, if you've somehow given away sales and marketing, I'm probably worried for you because there's so much that goes wrong there. You're beholden to whoever that sales person is to tell you what the market wants and what it needs and what it doesn't like and what your competition is. You learn a lot of that during the sales process.
On the marketing side, if you're not really super involved in marketing, someone else is setting your messaging and your positioning and your brand. Someone is telling you how hard it is or isn't to get new clients through the Internet. All of that is bad because you're the person who has been in the business long enough that all of those things are not only great for you to know to get immediate feedback on, you're probably the best person to set the pace on. That doesn't mean you have to make every sales call. Doesn't mean you have to write every blog post. It doesn't mean that you have to look at every piece of analytics off your website on an individual basis.
If you're not running those aspects of the business, those are so critical to learning what the market wants and needs that I think it's crazy to give them away. I know why people give them away, though, because if you're not naturally inclined to do those things and you started a business because you like repairing guitars, or you like writing code, or you like mowing lawns, or you like helping people with their travel arrangements. I don't know. Not that anybody does that last one anymore. That dates me. I'm 47. The point is whatever you're doing, whatever it is you're doing, you probably didn't grow up to be a sales person or a marketer if you're in one of those kinds of scenarios. There's this huge temptation to just give it away. I wouldn't do that.
As far as what the employees do, one other business process stuff, employee-wise, start to take discreet tasks, discreet pieces of what you do and give it away. If you're a lawn care business, not that I've ever owned one, it's the classic you send guys out to mow the lawns, you don't necessarily set them up to book the next lawn care job. You give away the discreet stuff. Then there's stuff that gets really messy in the middle, which is legal, HR, paperwork, accounting. That would go back to what I said earlier, where if it has a legal or financial implication, even if you don't love doing that stuff, you have to know enough about it because it's your butt that's on the line if it's wrong.
I think in those cases, you have to have done enough of the work as the business grew to understand it, but then you could hire out the bookkeeper, you could hire out somebody to help you with HR onboarding stuff, you could hire an attorney to help you review contracts or non-disclosure agreements or whatever you have to do in your line of work. Those are things you still have to keep a little bit of a touch on. That's basically how I look at it.
Andy Baldacci: It's something where again, this was an answer where there's a lot to unpack. I love that. A few things I wanted to touch on. The first is that when you talk about all of … I'm trying to think of the best way to put this into words. When you talk about the jobs that you're supposed to hold onto and the ones that are better to let go of earlier on, so many founders that I speak with, and I used to work a lot with agencies and so many, what I would call accidental agency owners who get into the business because they really love doing the work. They really love writing code, design, whatever it may be. The first they usually want to give away is that sales role. They think, "I want to build this business that I own that gives me freedom to do what I enjoy, and I'm going to find this sales guy and sales gal who can go out there and get me the clients. Every day I can deliver the work."
It doesn't work that way. Like you said, even if somehow it could, that still is not a position you want to be in if your goal is to truly build a real business around yourself. That's really, really important advice. The other thing I wanted to ask, though, is you had mentioned big picture, the types of things that should be handed off early on. One question I had is that, we talked about this before, in that in those early days, you can seem so busy. There are so many things that you wish you could hire for. How do you triage that down to prioritize, "We have money to make one hire. We have money to bring on two freelancers," or whatever it could be. How do you triage and prioritize where those resources go up front?
Sean Campbell: On that one, I don't know if there's a one size fits all answer because it really depends on the business. I've owned consulting businesses that are focused on mid-market and enterprise companies. In our case, the people who do the work, the consultants per se, was a logical thing to grow and educate and build our own team. Selling and marketing is even harder to give away, given what we do, because we're targeting a very discreet market niche that is really hard to gain access to. We're not trying to market to anybody that has a lawn. It's much harder to do. I think for most folks, though, it does come down to the part of your process that you can box in the most.
In our case, for example, in market research, one of the things that's a discreet part of the process that happens a lot is actually conducting the interviews that might happen on a qualitative market research study. Let's say we needed to do some of those in Europe for a new project. Maybe when we're starting out we have a contractor that conducts some of those interviews for us, but they don't actually package the findings and deliver those findings to the client. You're looking for things, if I was to summarize, where you can see their output and you can fix it if it's wrong, but your client base doesn't see it immediately.
In that scenario, if one or two of the interviews didn't go so well with a given contractor, we can take it on the chin, do more interviews all on our own nickel. I'm not saying that the client isn't aware of that, because there's probably a project delay that's involved or something like that, if that were to come about. It's not quite as messy as having somebody who is trying to do an end to end service directly to your client and you have to figure out how to hire the perfect person at that point in time.
I think you're looking for these things that are somewhat hidden process-wise. Every business, and that's why I said I don't think it's uniform, every business that's going to be different. If you own a business that sells stuff to a retail shop, their brick and mortar's dying but let's say you're in one of those that's successful, the front counter person's kind of important. The person who's stocking stuff in the back, maybe that's not so important. Maybe in that scenario, you stay in the front on the counter and you greet people, but you hire somebody to do stock in the back. If they're horrible at it for 24 hours, then you go, "This is an incredibly bad mistake. I need to hire somebody different," technically nobody knows. I think you're looking for those little black holes in your business, for lack of a better phrase, that you can throw the problem in and then restart again and the world at large isn't quite as aware of it.
I think to your point, in the same way that people jump to sales and marketing and vending it out, they do the same thing with this stuff. "I don't like to be on the counter. I like to be in the back crafting and building stuff and whatever." They put somebody out there who's unfortunately, not personable, not friendly, and a month later they're like, "Why don't I have any sales?" I'm like, "Because even though you didn't like it, you were more personable, you were more friendly, and you could generate more sales." That's a constant monitoring thing when you grow.
Andy Baldacci: On top of that, I think this is one thing where founders and business owners in general often look at it in a bit of a binary sense, where it's we either have enough work or have enough boxable tasks to hire a person, or we don't. They don't see the in between where especially in today's day and age, there are very highly skilled virtual assistants who can work and would love to work on part-time basis. There are a lot of areas too, where you might know and finally accept that sales and marketing you're going to have to own for a while. That doesn't mean you have to own the entire process of it. I feel like a lot of it is looking at those areas where, whether it's some of the basic research, whether it's some of the administrative work along with it, finding ways where you can bring someone in and handle the busywork while you focus more and more efforts on the higher value tasks as well.
Sean Campbell: I agree with all that. I like what you said about in this time frame, there's a lot of virtual help you can get. How many different rent a person outfits are there now?
Andy Baldacci: It's hard to keep track.
Sean Campbell: There's a million of these where you can, even for our podcast, I've got an outfit I really like called The Podcast Creative. It's literally called thepodcastcreative.com. I tried some folks on Upwork for a while and I wasn't in love with the particular output there, but I know there can be a lot of success there. The idea is somebody from Romania was like, "I'll edit your podcast for five bucks for audio edits and remove ums and ahs and spacers and that kind of stuff." You have to be creative these days. The same thing is true about SAS solutions. I think this probably more true of the number builder type. I'm thinking a little bit of my business partner. I love the guy, but I'm thinking of a little bit of this. He'd have things to say about me if he was on the show, but it's been 17 years. His natural inclination in certain cases, and especially when we were newer business owners and a little more wet behind the ears, both of us, lots of mistakes I made back then that I don't make now.
He was more build than buy, because he could. He wrote a lot of code and he's an Excel whiz. Before you know it, he stitched together seven Google sheets and built a custom ERP system from scratch on a Saturday. There are times where that is better. There are times. Maybe not in an ERP system, but there are times where it makes more sense to build something from scratch. Especially for non-technically aligned founders, and I'm pretty technical and so is Scott, and our whole company is just given who we serve, but most people aren't. I think you've got to really look out there and go, "Gosh, there's probably 10 different ways I could do payroll via a SAS app. There's 10 different ways I could look for marketing analytic solutions. There's 27 different ways I could send out a newsletter." All different pricing models and different capabilities. In this day and age, if you don't really look at that stuff, you're totally missing out.
Andy Baldacci: It's funny, there is a story Patrick Mackenzie, who's big in the hacker news/bootstrap startup world as well. He tells a story when he was consulting for a client and they were in a big conference room with the CEO and a bunch of the team members on the technical side. He was talking about balsamic apps, which is like a wire framing tool, and just on happenstance mentioned it. The CEO was like, "How much is that?" He was like, "It's about $30 a month per user." The CEO was like, "Get it for everybody." One of the engineers spoke up and was like, "This isn't even that complex of an app. We could easily build that in house." And going on and on and on.
The CEO goes, "How much time would that take you?" He said, "We could do it in easily under a month." He was like, "Okay. We're going to buy it for everyone in the company and never think about this again." You need to measure where the resources are going to make sure that they're in the right spot. Just because like you're saying, you can do something internally. Doesn't mean you should, especially when there are so many solutions out there.
Sean Campbell: Exactly. You could extend that through almost any part of the business in a way. If you're a great writer but your market would probably benefit from a video series coming out of you, learn how to talk to the camera and get over it. That's one of those things that's in the job description as a founder. Get to do stuff you're not good at until you get good at it. That's in the job description. And deal with the lumps along the way. Until you're a thousand people, you can't vend out or build everything you'd ever want. You're going to have to deal with that. I think that story's a really good one.
Andy Baldacci: That's a good point as well, because all of this ultimately, when it comes to hiring, is figuring out first, what do I want to hire for? Then there's second, what should I hire for? A lot of times what we want to hire for isn't what we should. We do need to be aware of the fact that to be a successful business owner, to run a successful business today, you do have to do some things internally. You can't vend it all out. I think we covered a lot on how to go through that process, where to look at, what to do, and how to approach that. I really appreciate the advice there. What I want to ask now, though, is a founder is looking to take a step back from all of this and walk away with some more packaged up advice, what would you hope a founder who's planning to make their first few hires take away from this show? What would be a good thing to at least set them on the right path?
Sean Campbell: I think if you're going to go from one to 10, and you get it. You're like, "I'm going to have to do the hard stuff. I'm going to have to turn things into process so I can put people in that role. I'm going to monitor them." You're going to do all the things we talked about. I think there are some lighthouses you've got to keep in mind. First, you've got to find the right clients and develop a process that gets you more of them. Both are true. You got to have a process that runs. It can't just be you grunting out on a Friday at 5:00 when you don't have enough clients. It has to be something that runs.
Two, you got to get rid of the bad clients. Better yet, never take them on at all. I speak of clients, somebody else might call them customers. In our vernacular they're clients because we're professional services. The same thing's true because they'll eat you alive profit-wise, time-wise, everything else. You got to figure out who you don't want as a customer and really stick to that, which is really hard when you don't have a lot of customers.
Three, figure out your niche and how you can defend it. I always have a problem with people that are like, "Just go find the place where nobody is. It's not about competition." I'm like, "Come on." Most people, that's not going to work. Most people are moving into if it's not a crowded space, there's at least somebody there. You're going to have to defend it somehow and know how you're going to do that. These are all kind of like all 1A in a way. I'm numbering them, but because people might wonder about that when I say this is fourth. Execute on the work in such a way that you create a client base of raving fans. That's just as equally as important as the rest.
Find these people that are the right fit for the roles. That story I told about Dan from Exos is so spot on. You get the wrong people, they're going to reinvent the role. Then you're really going to be in a whole of hurt. Not only do you have to deal with letting those people go, but now that position that you had a vision for, now it's twisted and bent up and it looks like a twisted pretzel. Now you have to untangle it and hire for it. If you've done that two or three times, you've got three pretzels in the business and they're all intertwined. You almost have to untangle your whole business at that point. You'd better get it right from the start.
The final thing I would want to reiterate is there's nothing wrong with hiring contractors and using all these virtual services. I get it. Final, closing point on this. When you talk to your mother and your brother and your sister and your uncle and your aunt and all your friends from college and your buddies and they say, "Wow, you have a business. How many employees do you have?" You go, "Zero except me." They go, "You're not really real." You have a business and they don't. Leave it at that. You're not going to wave your P&L in front of them and show that you've saved money and you've got a good, healthy business and you've got a good profit margin. Stick to your plan and stick to your guns. Don't do silly things like hire employees just to satisfy your ego. There's a lot of interesting ways to get over that initial hump. Then once you've got enough bank account and you've got enough revenue and you've got enough happy people, ditch some of those contractors, go to employees, build your own. That's going to be better over the long haul. Don't miss that first step.
Andy Baldacci: That was really great advice, Sean. It was great talking to you today. For listeners who want to hear more from you, see what you're up to over at Cascade Insights and at B2B Revealed, what are the best places for them to go?
Sean Campbell: Go to cascadeinsights.com to check out what the company's all about. B2B Revealed is on iHeart Radio and Stitcher and iTunes and Google Play. I just pushed it out to Spotify just yesterday, so it's pretty much everywhere now. You should be able to bump into it wherever you want to go.
Andy Baldacci: Awesome. I'll make sure to get all of that linked up in the show notes. Sean, thank you again so much for your time today.
Sean Campbell: Glad to be here.