Join me as I talk with HireVue Founder and CEO, Mark Newman. Despite completing a quick international business degree at age 20 and counting his last summer job doing animal shows at the local zoo; Mark grew a nearly $30 million on demand video interviewing service. Mark started HireVue back when people gave the response, “What’s a web cam?” and now has 400 clients including Hilton, JP Morgan and General Electric. HireVue’s robust platform fundamentally changes how candidates tell their stories, and how companies get to know their candidates and team.
Keypoint Takeaways: Why not just use Skype?
Readily available free tools like Skype or Google Hangout aren’t scalable for video interviews. Mark points out that every time you hire someone, there’s a multiplier effect of 10 to 20 potential candidates to interview per position. After weeding through resumes and cover letters, 5 potential hires might get an interview.
But of those 5 people, nothing is recorded, shared or collaborated among hiring managers and team members. And for companies hiring for thousands of positions, you’re looking at conducting 5,000 interviews. The hiring process just keeps repeating itself without any ability to go back and reflect on what happened during real time interaction on a platform like Skype. Companies hiring hundreds to thousands of employees with millions of interviews a year can easily scale and repeat the process with HireVue’s platform.
First 100 customers
Mark says every start-up goes through a phase where you’re just so grateful to get any customer at all. HireVue was thrilled to land their first $150 customer. Like many start-ups featured on Growth Everywhere, HireVue’s first 100 customers came through referrals, guts, finding the right people, systematically targeting companies and plenty of blood, sweat and tears. Mark warns not to believe the hype around the glamor of a start-up. “I don’t think it’s ever glamorous for any startup and if they say it is they’re pretty much lying.”
The team focused on emerging high-growth organizations that would benefit from the scalability and robust hiring platform HireVue offered. Mark focused on building relationships, creating business alignments and making companies look like rockstars. It paid off with 400 enterprise customers to date.
Earning the right to expand
HireVue doesn’t have a public pricing model or package offerings for companies. Instead, it employs a “land and expand” model by getting a foot in a business by working with a specific recruiting group or project. From there, HireVue works to build credibility and trust to earn the right to expand and increase their offerings and consequently their revenue. They keep their prices transparent to the customers and scale their prices with a simple multiplier depending on the number of hiring involved from 500 on up to 50,000 and beyond.
Challenges of a virtual office
HireVue grew from 3 people to 200 with 40% of employees working virtually from junior to executive teams. The company deals with not just the complexity that comes with growth, but the challenges of keeping a virtual company running smoothly.
Mark wants his employee to focus on customer passion and earn it, while being clear about the expectations underneath that. He thinks being successful at working virtually has more to do with finding the right team. Some people get their energy from being around groups of people, and more junior employees may want the social side of work. Mark works on digging in and assessing that people are really comfortable with the reality involved.
Being on the brink of failure 10 times
Laughing at being asked if HireVue was ever on the brink of failure, Mark says it happened 10 times. He’s seen everything bad that can possibly happen and raised money 6 times because 4 of those times they were out of money. The company also lost their servers when a semi-truck crashed off the freeway into their data center with no way to recover. There were also less dramatic events like missing source code, people quitting and moving on, finding a great hire that flamed out and partnerships that fell apart.
But despite all of the set-backs that might send another start-up founder packing, Mark never wanted to give-up. “The first 5 years really sucked,” he says, but it made HireVue who they are today. He attributes a positive attitude to having a supportive ecosystem of people around from loved ones to board members to push him onward.
Always punt above your weight class
HireVue secures top talent by always punting above their weight class. Many people ask how he possibly recruited a high-caliber executive as a team member, and his simple answer is that “we tried.” HireVue sought out big players by focusing on the purpose and focusing on their school of experience. He advises not to get preoccupied that someone came from a big-named company, but to figure out if they excel in a similar environment and have passion and authenticity.
Focus on the points and not the yards
Mark tells budding start-up founders to “focus on the points and not the yards.” It’s easy to get caught-up making little bits of progress, but losing focus on the big score. Mark doesn’t regret what he’s learned over the years, but thinks they could have moved faster and executed faster had he been looking at where they were headed.
“Once in Golconda” – Explores the dramatic rise and fall of Wall Street in the years between World Wars. The book looks at memorable traders, bankers, boosters and frauds.
Eric: Hi everyone and welcome to this week’s edition of Growth Everywhere where we interview entrepreneurs and bring you business and personal growth tips. Today we have Mark Newman of HireVue. Mark how are you doing today?
Mark: Hey, thanks for having me. Doing great.
Thanks so much for being on the show. So, Mark, why don’t we start off by you telling us a little bit about your background?
Mark: Yeah. So, HireVue as a company is a digital interviewing platform for companies to use when they hire and do any type of talent program inside of their business. We invented this thing called the on demand video interview. That was ten years ago now, at a point in time when we said, “Hey, they’re going to take job interviews through webcams.” And people’s first response was, “What are webcams?” So we actually caught up along mobile and everything about that. But it’s a platform and this idea of using video and mobile and everything like that to enable people to tell their story and demonstrate ability to work and fundamentally change how people get to know candidates, job candidates, people on their team, people on their staff, or whatever.
Eric: Cool. How are you… you know…ballpark…what are revenues like today and how many customers do you have?
Mark: Yeah, So, HireVue has over four-hundred enterprise customers and this year will be between twenty and thirty million in sales.
Eric: Nice. Really nice. So, I think, you probably get this question all the time, how is this fundamentally different from…What’s the benefits of using this like over Skype or Google hangouts?
Mark: Yeah, for sure. So, I was looking at it as…I was just using Skype with my grandma last weekend. No, part of it is, you know, obviously there is other tools that you can be using for different types of interactions. You can be using the phone. You can be using your cell phone. You could be using Skype or Hangouts. You could be meeting in person. You could be doing all these various things. And, you know, we have live interviews, live videos, like we do here as part of our overall platform, is a component of it.
And we do hundreds of thousands of interviews behind it all. But kind of…The idea isn’t…The essence of HireVue isn’t really just about the video or seeing somebody on the other side; me and you and me kind of connecting this way. If you think about it for an organization, whether you’re hiring ten people or whether you’re hiring ten-thousand people, every time you try to hire somebody you actually have just this insane multiplier effect that happens on top of it. For every job you have, you have ten to twenty candidates. For every time you try to interview people you have to meet with four or five different people.
And if you think about it from a production perspective, for every ten hires you’re talking about five hundred interviews that end up happening. Nothing about those interviews is recorded, shared, ability to be collaborated on, you and I can’t have this and then say, “Oh hey Dave, come check this out.” or you know, whatever it is. And most of all in the case of say like Skype or something that, it requires you to do it in real time and you always have to hope that this real time interaction is worthwhile. So, we provide just this massively re-scalable platform so a company can have hundreds, if not thousands of candidates interviewing on it at any given moment.
They do it on their own time when it works for them. They answer questions one by one with responses being recorded into the system for review later by you and your team. And you can take those questions and those responses and those candidates and share them across the whole organization, and have, “Here’s the questions we want to ask. Here’s the feedback we want to have. Here’s where we want to go back over it in time. Here’s how we want to mine it for insight.” And it just becomes this massively scalable process. For some of our customers that hire a hundred-thousand people a year, they do between two and five million interviews to get there and there’s no repeatability, scalability, or anything like that behind it all and that’s what HireVue brings to the table.
Eric: Got it. Okay, that’s awesome. So, it’s a very robust platform. In terms of…I know you just said you have people that hire a hundred-thousand employees a year. Out of curiosity who are your biggest clients?
Mark: Good question. We do a lot of work with companies like J.P. Morgan, General Electric, the Hilton Worldwide, and a lot of brands we work with and interact with every single day.
Eric: Got it. Awesome. So, this segues perfectly into the bit about customer acquisitions. How did you go about acquiring your first, let’s say, your first hundred customers?
Mark: Begging, pleading, smiling and dialing, right? It’s…ultimately…HireVue, we went through…Every startup goes through that phase where you’re at a certain point of time you’re so grateful to even have a customer, like, you know, it’s an arm length’s transaction and I just got a hundred dollars from this customer. I mean our first customer that we ever had spent a hundred and fifty dollars with us and we thought that was incredible. And then now we have customers that spend in the millions of dollars with us.
And so, the first hundred customers literally came from better targeting, referrals, having the guts to say, “Hey, can I just come and meet you and get feedback on what we’re doing?” Getting the right people who can just go and be evangelical ambassadors to try and get those meetings and get it all set up. And then it was frankly a lot of blood, sweat, and tears, in terms of trying to figure out how to get them on the platform and getting them using it and making it successful. It’s never…I don’t think it’s ever glamorous for any startup and if they say it is they’re pretty much lying.
Eric: Yup. So, there’s a massive difference between a one hundred-fifty dollar customer and a multi-million dollar client, so walk us through the process for getting someone to pay millions of dollars, how does it all work?
Mark: For me, when it comes to getting the right customer and more importantly who’s your customer and who isn’t. There’s a lot of businesses that their right customer is that customer that spends a hundred or five hundred dollars a month. And that’s a volume point and now you have to have conversion rates, your funnel rates, and what have you. For kind of who we are and what we do we know we create and enormous amount of value for companies with broad based, like high volume hiring needs, that are sophisticated brands, and that have…that are emerging growth, like high growth organizations.
So, for us it became an exercise of focusing into who our customer is and who it isn’t. And then when we figured out, okay, here’s who our customer is and who our target is, alright, what’s the most effective proposition value for it, how do you create a value proposition behind it all that resonates, and how do we make sure there’s deep alignment with their business that they know we have the ability to execute on the project and that we can constantly deliver just incredible innovation. And then wrap that around with just incredible trust and respect for not only…that’s a back and forth relationship in terms of how we do business. You’re never just going to be just a smiling, and dialing, and signing seven figure deals. It’s about building incredible relationships, but not just; oh you buy it from your best friend, it’s about creating great business alignment around how we need a very incredible acute need for this business and how do we make our customers look like rock stars.
Eric: Got it. Awesome. So, these million dollar deals are they usually like, are they already current customers and you upsell them or are they…or your sales team goes out and kind of lasers, or goes out hunting for them?
Mark: Yeah. That’s a great question. I mean, that’s kind of one of the beauties SASS, to kind of write in…Well, it’s always kind of existed in software sales, but it’s become more acute in today’s market. We definitely employ the land and expand model in terms of getting a beachhead inside of organizations, starting and working with a specific recruiting group, or a specific function, or specific application they want to be using, and then working to kind of build our credibility and build trust with our users to be able to earn the right to be able to expand across the business. And so, it’s very much land and expand.
The only part about land and expand that we found, is that you’re only ever going to have… You have an upward limit of upsell and expansion inside of a customer based on where you start. If you start at a hundred dollars and then you ask for ten-thousand, there’s actually really a low likelihood that you’re going to get it. But if you start at ten-thousand dollars, the initial customer value is a ten, or fifteen, or twenty-thousand dollar engagement, you are able to get to a fifty or hundred thousand dollar engagement. I think you’re seeing that in kind of the startup community as a whole, in a lot of cases, where the companies that maybe started that as a [freemium 0:08:13.1] product or that you could start them for a couple hundred bucks, are having a hard time making the jump into doing enterprise great deals.
Eric: Got it. So, I see on a lot of SASS sites, it’s like, if you’re an enterprise company, click here to get more information. So, when they click that is what happens is you guys come up with the pricing that kind of, you know, kind of anchor them at a higher level, that way you can upsell them to like the million dollar level.?
Mark: No. I mean, that’s not our approach in terms of how we do pricing. We don’t do pricing on our website. We don’t have three plans that you can sign up for or you can opt for the fourth. That’s just not our business and it’s just not how we work with our customers. How we work with our customers, we have very simple metrics around scope of usage, whether they’ll be using a single site, a single country, or globally, because we’re working inside of their hiring programs, and then scale of hires; are they hiring up to five hundred people or up to a thousand people, up to five-thousand people, fifty-thousand people, you know, whatever it might be.
And then it’s a simple pricing multiplier based on kind of how that works. So, it can be very transparent. It can be very clear with our customers, and ultimately in our market, when you think about it as something as precious as the candidate experience, and kind of the number of hiring’s you’re doing, if you’re doing fifty-thousand hires and you’re getting the same price as somebody that’s doing it for a hundred hires, you’re probably at high risk of having really bad bender relationship because the sophistication of the needs that happen requires a different way to going to market.
Eric: Got it. So, I think there’s a lot to be said about hiding your prices and perhaps Mark Newman, you can do like a blog post or and e-book on that someday. I’d be happy to pay for it [laughter]. Let’s back track a little bit. I keep staring at your background, I mean there’s a lot going on there. Can you tell us what that’s all about?
Mark: It’s my own little world of insanity. We have…My assistant, when we were building out our office decided, “You know Mark, you always take notes, you might as well do it while you can be on the phone, and whatever.” And I have this entire wall in my office with various kind of notes from projects, customer meetings, partner meetings, ideas, you name it, and one of my board members, who’s now our chairman, taught me this trick one day where he’s like, “The problem with a white board is that you only have one layer.”
Like, you write on it and then it’s kind of full, so as a total accident he randomly had crayons from his grandkids that were in his bag and he started using different color crayons when he ran out of space on a piece of paper and started writing another note. So he had a blue layer and then a red layer, then an orange layer. And what he does is he looks at it by color and it becomes its own kind of plane. He taught me this trick and so I could be writing in all sorts of different colors on top of things and when you want to focus on a conversation you look at red, you look at blue, you look at orange, whatever, and then it kind of washes away everything else. It’s kind of crazy.
Eric: That’s awesome. How often are you…I can imagine it would get pretty packed so how often are you deleting things and changing it up?
Mark: You change parts. You know, something’s irrelevant now, you kind of erase that, you put something else on, you take pictures of it, you put it into Evernote, you know, stuff like that. You do some tags behind it all. You have sections, like; a sections on something this, you take a picture there, you tag it on Evernote, you put it on [Prew 0:11:35.6]. It’s my own little world of insanity.
Eric: I love it. Awesome man. Side question. Is your…What’s your background? Is it engineering, business, or finance…?
Mark: Yeah. So, I started HireVue with a co-founder coming out of college in 2004. The first five years were kind of playing business, living at my parent’s house, not having much revenue, I think we had a hundred-thousand dollars in revenue. Did that for the first five years and then in 2009 we started bringing in some outside capital. We went from three people to two-hundred people a day and kind of hit that growth point.
Before that though, I graduated when I was twenty. I had an international business degree, just kind of a fast degree, and the summer before starting HireVue I actually did animal shows at Hogle Zoo here in Salt Lake City. It was like a fun last summer job. I’d like to say, “Oh yeah, I’m a great product programmer, or a great ‘that’.” Other than the kind of hacking together sort of some websites and stuff like that I never ever did anything. And just mostly designed it and built it and whatever and then frankly just kept going and tried to figure it out along the way. Nothing glamorous, just went after it. How about yourself?
Eric: My background’s in internet marketing but graduated with economics so has nothing to do with it, but I’m the same way as you too. You know, going from thirty to two-hundred people, massive difference. Can you tell us about the challenges? Three to two hundred, yeah.
Mark: Sorry, what was the question?
Eric: Sorry. Going from three to two-hundred people I’d imagine there’s some massive challenges. Can you share some of the challenges with us?
Mark: Yeah, I mean…So, HireVue, as a business we’ve always been a virtual business so forty percent of our team is virtual, work from home. And that’s people that make a couple hundred thousand dollars a year so it’s not just like a support team at home or something like that, it’s enterprise sales, it’s half my executive team; it’s really kind of spread across the board in that regard. With that in mind you always have to…So, not only do you have the complexity of growth, you also have the complexity of field in virtual, kind of how you want to be doing that.
So, for me it became really important to be focusing on what are kind of the core, not just like; what’s our value mission statement and whatever, but truly; who are we, what are we about, and how do we operate when no-one else is around. In the sense of: what are our beliefs? How do we kind of do things? And we had to break it down to four key areas: Are we always focused on driving mass to adoption; Delivering new innovation; Building a great company and team; and most of all, Earning passionate customers. Whatever we’re doing the idea of customer satisfaction is kind of bullshit. It’s really focused on do you have customer passion and do you earn customer passion behind what you do? Then being very clear around what are expectations underneath that.
Not only; what do we have to deliver, but second to that; what are our attributes and how do we operate? Do you act like an owner, do you try to earn everything? The higher the job title, the harder you have to work in terms of earning that title. You create fellowship and being just merciless around…That’s not necessarily one of the attributes, but being in this merciless around making sure that we hold to that standard, in the sense of there’s no room for people that are destructive. There’s no room for people that don’t create fellowship. There’s no room for, frankly, drama queens or kings in that regard, that just frankly, have to live for the drama behind it all. You come in, you execute, you get shit done, you do it on your own, and you do your best work every single day. It was hard as…
When it was a few people I was so grateful to have people here that I wasn’t necessarily a great boss or manager, I was a friend. Like you go through that phase and all of a sudden you go through this phase where you used to know everybody and now you know nobody because you walk around, you don’t know them as intimately as you used to, you don’t keep up with people as much as you did, and whatever. It’s a whole new world and you just have to hope that you’ve set the right context for everybody so you can execute when you’re not around.
Eric: Got it. You bring up a really interesting point. The whole remote thing right? I’ve been a part of a startup where we had about sixty percent remote. It was great. Everyone was super talented. Everyone was super smart. I think I’m going to talk about this in another episode as well. The remote thing, it tends to work well when you’re with really, really talented people, but we tried the remote thing…As an agency we tried it a few times and sometimes we find it doesn’t work out as well when the people are a bit more junior. So, what are your thoughts on that? Does remote apply to everyone or…?
Mark: Yeah. Great question. We have it from junior to senior inside of HireVue, but it came down to when we were screening people, in terms of bringing them on board and hiring them for our team as well as the context we set in terms of how we work with them. The first part is on the screening side are really digging in deep around not only, “Have you worked virtually before or not?” And a lot of times if they haven’t, then you’re like, Okay, let’s put that a little bit to pause. But if they go, “No, I haven’t, but I actually really want to.” Then you kind of have to dig into about why, you know, “Why do you want to?”
Because the context of that is that some people get their energy from being around groups of people, like they want to be in it. And a lot of times, on the junior side of it, they want the social aspect of work. They want to be part of the group. They want to go out for drinks after. They want to do that side of it. And so you kind of have to dig in and access and make sure that people are really comfortable with that idea. If they get their personal energy from being around social groups and being inside of it, but they are, “No, but I’m ready to work at home.” you’re like actually, “No, working at home kind of sucks sometimes.” Like you’re in a cave you go three days without showering, you don’t even know what time it is. You never feel like it’s a complete work life integration.”
Eric: You’re your own boss doing interviews.
Mark: Exactly, you know. No, it’s not that glamorous. So, you have to make sure there’s a really good assessment around like, what are they truly trying to get at. A lot of times what you find with more seasoned people and more experienced people are better at-home workers, is because they’re like, “You know, I’ve kind of been through that. It’s like people that, “I went through my drinking phase. That’s called college” And you’re like, “Yeah, you’ve got that taken care of.” And so they’re like, “You know, I’ve kind of moved on my part. I’m not really game for going out for having drinks with the team, or shooting the breeze all day. I’m going to get my work done and then be finished.” and you’re like, “Hey fantastic, you’re ready to work at home.” So, that’s kind of that difference.
Then second to that for HireVue we just really work on respect and trust and accountability. Obviously respect in a sense of; you’re coming into the organization and you’re accountable not only to deliver what you have to deliver, but you’re accountable to everyone else and there’s kind of holding up your side of the bargain in terms of what you need to carry your weight and execute on that. And then trust behind it all that we have the right people on board, they’re going to get their job done; we don’t have to manage hours because we don’t have to manage when you’re logged in, were not managing logging, we’re not doing those types of things, you just have to execute and deliver. And that’s kind of given us the right type of context up to this point to be able to pull it all off.
Eric: Got it. Alright. Awesome. Cool. I’m going to switch gears a little bit here. Was there any point in time when you felt like the company was on the brink of failure?
Mark: There’s about ten [laughs]. We’ve had everything. At various points…I kind of look at this idea that everything bad that could possibly happen inside your business will. Ultimately everything bad that could possibly happen will happen. It’s just a matter of you have to hope it doesn’t happen on the same day, and you have to hope that the quality of your team can withstand the shocks. Like, if one thing that bad happens and you have a crappy team you’re going to fail. But if a bad thing happens or a couple of bad things happen and you have a great team you can basically withstand any of it.
So, everything bad that could possibly happen will. People will say, “Oh, you’ve raised money five, six, times.” And I’m like “Yeah, four of those times we were out of money.” We were like at zero. [In] 2006, 2007 when we were hosting with Rackspace and we there were only a couple of us inside the business a semi-truck crashed off the freeway into the data center and took out our servers.
Mark: Like literally took it out. And the CEO was actually like, “I’m sorry.” Like there’s no way we can back this up and we were down and we had to back this all up. At one point in time we went down and the person where we thought had the source code didn’t exist, like we had to figure all that out. That was like 2008. People quit, or people move on, or you have this big great hire and they flame out or a partnership doesn’t work out, or you miss a number. Stuff constantly happens, but there’s never been a point where I was looking at it as ready to give up. I’ve been working on it for ten years. It’s past in a flash, the first five years, frankly, really sucked, but it made us who we are today and you just kind of keep going.
Eric: How do you, I mean, have you read Ben Horowitz book, “The Hard Things about Hard Things”.
Mark: I’m almost finished. Yeah.
Eric: So, you’ve gone through the part, the struggle right? Everything you’ve said right there is pretty much the struggle. How did Mark Newman deal with the moments where you were out of money four times, like dead almost? How do you deal with that?
Mark: You either have a complete massive sense of narcissism or it just washes off you in stubbornness and you just keep going. But also look at it as…I’ve been so fortunate to have an ecosystem around me of people, like I’ve been with the same girl for a dozen years, I have my parents and friends, investors or board members, or people inside the team, or whatever. But frankly, I’ve never once said to me, “Well, do you think we should ‘x’? Do you think we should shut down? Do you think you should go get a job? Do you think it’s kind of time to close the doors? Do you think we need to do ‘x’?”
And I’ve always wanted to commit myself to figuring it out and just kind of being like, “I’m not part of it” and just not giving up. And when I look back on it, if it was just kind of yourself, just by yourself and you’re thinking of it, “There’s some incredibly some dark painful days and moments when you just don’t know, not even necessarily days and moments. It could be weeks or months and you’re not sure if what you’re doing is going to be right or pull it off.
But then there’s that one conversation or that one person in your life or whoever it is that you kind of say, “Should I go get a job?” And they’re like, “Hell no. You’re going to keep going on this, aren’t you?” Or, “How’s HireVue. This is incredible that you’re doing this.” I mean it kind of sucks, it’s like really hard and they’re like, “Are you kidding? You in like the one percent club. You’re so lucky to be able to be experiencing this. Why wouldn’t you we keep seizing it?” And I’ve been fortunate to have enough of those people around at the right time to just keep going.
Eric: Yeah. It seems like the key takeaway here is the support structure. You seem like such a positive guy and you’ve gone through all this shit. I don’t even know how I would deal with that, I mean, four times. Props to you on that. Cool. So, obviously you’re company has the name HIRE in it. There has to be …Let’s just talk about hiring a little bit. How much time do you as a CEO right now spend on hiring?
Mark: I spend about a third of my…I spend about a quarter of my time on hiring, a quarter of my time with customers, quarter of my time with partners, quarter of my time on strategy type stuff, if you’re going to think about it. Unfortunately there’re always those times when you need to find more quarters. And it goes in waves. We consistently are interviewing. We’re consistently hiring. I just brought on a new head of sales. We’re going in, kicking of our CFO search, in kind of terms of doing that. And fortunately we drink our own Champaign and eat our own dog food. It’s all powered by HireVue, so it doesn’t take as much time as if I did it the other way. But it’s sourcing, it’s meeting, it’s closing, it’s getting to know people, and also spending a lot of time with the people that are already here. Making sure the best I can, that we have the right people on board and kind of pushing. It’s never ending.
Eric: Got it. So, if you had to share one piece of a hiring tactic for companies with under fifty employees how would you go about finding the best people if there was only one thing you could do?
Mark: Always punch above your weight class. Like literally, if on all the key rules and all the roles we want to bring in, on a very routine basis people are like, “I have no idea how HireVue recruited that person.” And it’s like ninety percent of the time it’s because we tried. We wanted to and we did it with a purpose and we want to get those types or those caliber in. And we built just this incredible team that I’d put up against anybody. When the CEOs of some of the biggest companies in the world, the biggest tech companies in the world are interviewing my people trying to get them on to their team and trying to take them to lunch and all these various parts I’m pretty psyched about the quality of our team.
So, it’s punching above your weight class and then for us, it’s always really important to us to make sure that you focus on the school of experience of the person, not, “Oh, they came from this company so they’re going to be good.” It wasn’t just good that they might have sold in your industry, but they sell in an environment that was like how you’re trying to sell. That they create a branded environment like what you’re trying to do. The school of experience. The last part was just really passion and authenticity. If you can have the greatest person in the world, but if they don’t have passion for who they are and what they’re about and what they want to do, literally they’re going to fail. They’re going to wash out and when it’s hard they’re going to give up. And if they’re not authentic they’re going to be a failure, in terms of being able to be transparent and open and to just kind of authentic around who they are and what they’re about. So, you asked for one, but those are kind of the big elements that I always kind of thought through and think through and try to make sure we have as a part of our values.
Eric: Got it. Thanks for that. Who goes about sourcing the talent for you? How do you go about finding all this great talent?
Mark: Everybody does. That’s the key. Everybody on the team sources talent here. Obviously we have recruiters that kind of focus in on it and it’s their full time job, but like we hired…we’ve hired something like ninety…fifty percent of our team through referrals. And on the referrals it’s not just, “Oh, I think I know this person and it’d be great.” It’s, “Oh, here’s a person” and we have people answer the question, “Why do you think this person would be awesome?’” You’re putting your name on this person about why you think we should bring them on board, why you think they’d be awesome. And so, we’ve had hundreds and hundreds of thousands of referrals from not only people on our team, our board, our investors, our customers, our partners, because we are always recruiting, we’re always building and we want to make sure that people help us build the best. It’s never just one person. Everybody is sourcing. And then you just have some specialists who do it every day.
Eric: Got it. Okay. Perfect. Going back to the one thing again, what’s one piece of advice you’d give to your twenty-five year old self?
Mark: [Laugh] It’s actually something that you see a lot of…It’s don’t…Chase after points not yards, you know, in the sense of like, a lot of times you make these little bits of progress, like you’re focused on making that tiny bit of progress, but you’re losing and like, “How do we actually score here? How do we actually get points on the board?” And so, sometimes your thinking is a little bit short-sided and you have to really make sure that you have a long term view of, “I’m twenty-five. I’m about to turn thirty here. What do I want to have in five years?” So, that keeps like a guiding light and a post of what you’re building towards.
Because if you now you want to…You start here and you want to get to here, it’s like this [making zig zag signals] the whole way up. But if you have an understanding, if you don’t know where you’re trying to get towards or what you’re trying to get to, you’re never going to get there. And that’s the biggest thing in the background. We could have moved faster. I think we could have executed better at different points. I wouldn’t trade what I learned over the last five years for anything, but I think I could have maybe made that two years instead of five if we really pulled it off right.
Eric: I like that. So, focus on the points not the yards. Is there anyone that said that?
Mark: There’s been all sorts of people that say that. Whether it’s cliché, its coaches, its CEOs, you name it, it’s totally true though.
Eric: Got it. Okay. Final question from my side. Or actually two final questions. What’s one productivity hack you can share with the audience?
Mark: For me it’s not focusing on work life balance. It’s actually focusing on work-life integration and that actually encompasses…People do time-blocking and kind of structuring their time or whatever and at a certain point you don’t have time. Like there’s always be stuff that to take it. For me it was really important that I had to make sure I was present in all conversations. So, what I actually did was I turned off email on my cellphone so I literally have a Smartphone that’s still a cellphone.
I have an iPad and whatever and I’m addicted to it and I use it all the time for email and everything, but by separating out those two things everyone sees the red blinking light, everybody hears the sound, and every time that red light blinks or that sound blinks you become less productive and most of all you don’t become present in the conversation.
It’s kind of like you and I talking right now and you’re able to see me look down and be like texting away or whatever it is, that takes away from the quality of conversations, that takes away from the quality of relationships, both in your business life and your personal life, and it takes away from you doing your best work. So, I’m addicted to it, I love it, I’m never going to change it. I hate email on my phone, and I can figure it all out and get it all done and not a single person in the world will say I don’t work hard enough.
Eric: Cool. I like it. Final question. What’s one must read book you can recommend to the audience?
Mark: I actually…I’m a big fan of business history in that regard and I actually really love the book “Once in Golconda” It is this old book about kind of robber barons back in the 1800’s, the guys that build the railroads and the cruise lines and the trans-world lines and whatever. And they were single handedly the most ruthless competitors you would ever meet in terms of digging that out.
And I think we talk a lot about how competition works now with technology companies and this and that, but these guys’ manipulated markets and shut people out and had business moves and political moves and all these various things. At the same time they were literally building the infrastructure of an entire country and I think you can learn a lot from it. I absolutely love “Once in Golconda”. Outside of that I actually just love reading whatever kind of fiction and fun books and whatever is out there to kind of clear your brain sometimes.
Eric: Cool. Got it. I think there’s a certain thing to say about these history books because they’re experience sharing and you take away whatever you can take away from it. It’s not like people are telling you to do something specifically so I think that could be definitely valuable. So, “Once in Golconda” is that what it’s called?
Mark: Yeah, “Once in Golconda” G-O-L-C-O-N-D-A.
Eric: Cool. I’ll have to check it out. Cool. So, Mark, thanks so much for taking the time to do this. I appreciate your candor and appreciate the positive energy that you brought, but I definitely want you to be on the show again sometime soon.
Mark: I would love to. Thanks for all your work and for contributing to this community. It’s really important.
Eric: Thanks Mark.
Mark: Alright thanks.
Eric Siu (@ericosiu) is the CEO at Single Grain, a digital marketing agency that focuses on paid advertising and content marketing. He contributes regularly to Entrepreneur Magazine, Fast Company, Forbes and more.