Building on my earlier blog, this article talks about Bullhorn Inc. - a company that upgraded their product and is growing exponentially. I was very intrigued by their story and decided to interview Art Papas to know more.
Art Papas' passion for solving customer problems finally led him to co-found Bullhorn in 1999 - a global leader in recruiting software. Headquartered in Boston, it has offices around the world in London, Sydney and Vancouver. With revenues over 60M in 2013, it aims to grow to 100M and hire 400 - 600 people this year. It was bought by Vista Equity Partners three years ago and could IPO as early as 2016. Since 2002, Bullhorn has bought a few start-ups such as Bridgepath, Sendouts, Maxhire Solutions, Easy Software solutions and The Code Works to offer more solutions and increase customer base. I talked to Art about the changes in the company as it moved from being a start-up to a high growth company.
Art's advice to entrepreneurs is to focus on what he calls "Product Market Fit" - solving customer's problems first. Make sure your solution is validated by the market and make every attempt to improve your product. Once the product is ratified, you can then focus on hiring sales and marketing teams to increase revenues. Other challenges he faced in the start-up mode were capital constraints as well as no credibility. All that is in the past now, as he has different challenges that keep him up in the night:
Even today, he and his leadership team are in touch with their customers and are constantly seeking feedback on a regular basis. In addition to talking to his customers, he is always scouring tech blogs such as Tech Crunch etc. to keep in touch with macro trends in the industry. Even though SaaS (Software as a Service) is the trend now, Bullhorn has always offered SaaS right from the start. They upgraded their product to provide mobile solutions once they realized their customers (recruiters) are no longer sitting behind their desks. Unfortunately, all of this does come with a price - capital. Art has always been successful in raising money from investors and I asked him about his secret. He put it quite simply - "Selling to investors is similar to selling to customers - it's all about return on investment".
One thing that helped Bullhorn survive all the financial crises is their hiring strategy. They have been very conservative about hiring people and this has let them stay very focused on their growth strategy. For the first 7 years they sold in US only. They used partners in addition to inside sales, sales team and website to grow. Then they moved to UK, Canada and Australia - English-speaking countries to increase market share. Now they are selling to non-English speaking countries such as Sweden and Netherlands.
It has been an eventful journey for Art moving from start-up phase to growth phase and his advice to entrepreneurs who are going through the same situation is - Embrace chaos and have fun..
In my previous post, I had asked a simple question - how do you keep on top of new trends happening in the marketplace? I purposely left out one program all together - Listening to your customers. How often do you or your executive team talk to your top 20 customers? Do you know them by their names? And when I say top 20 customers - I don't mean top 20 in terms of the revenue they bring to the table. I am talking about your top 20 profitable customers. In today's competitive world, it is extremely important that you are in touch with your customer and their needs. As everyone is aware, it is always more expensive to on-board new customers and much easier to up-sell or cross-sell to existing customers. However, not many executives know that, the best way to utilize your company resources is to - upgrade your product or service. Do keep in mind, there are limitations to this statement such as:
However, if you are upgrading your product or service, how do you incorporate and prioritize customer feedback? Do you have a voice of customer program? Are you gathering and prioritizing customer needs in an efficient manner? Are your top profitable or top revenue generating customers part of this program? Does your business model allow for such a feedback? For example, if you are a B2B company, neither you nor your executive team will be talking to the end-user. In such a scenario, how do you make sure the end user is heard? Are you making sure you are incorporating feedback from all your customer touch points such as Sales, Customer service, Professional services, Partners, Marketing, Account Managers etc? These are some of the considerations that your Voice of Customer program should incorporate. How do you measure the efficacy of your Voice of Customer program?
Growth Consulting Expert