Watch the CEO Chat:
For our first ever CEO Chat Google Hangout, Batchbook CEO Pamela O’Hara sat down for a conversation with Chris Byers, CEO of Formstack.
Watch the video for the whole conversation. Here are a few of the highlights:
What do you do to help grow your business?
When talking about how to grow your business, Chris pointed out that from the outside it often looks easier than it really is. It takes constant work, testing new things, and adjusting. At Formstack they do a lot of inbound marketing, Google Ads (testing and trying and tweaking), SEO, and consistently put out good content that will attract customers.
He also mentioned that it is important not to get stuck on one way of doing things. They try a lot of different ideas all the time, especially focusing on low cost creative ways to find new customers. Right now, they are working on making Formstack more embeddable into other software, with a focus on growing through integration partnerships.
More than anything, Chris said, it just takes time to build buzz, a good reputation with customers, and a word of mouth engine that brings in a stream of new customers. The biggest area of focus should be making your product better, so that this natural engine of growth can take off as more people find and fall in love with your product.
Pamela said that Batchbook has also taken a try it and adapt approach. We’ve tried things like AdWords, but have had the most success with good partnerships and integrations with other software. We also focus heavily on customer service and building a good relationship with existing customers, which helps build the buzz.
She also cautioned that a business owner shouldn’t commit to one strategy just because it worked for someone else. Test things out for yourself and find the best path of growth for your business.
What do you do to maintain the culture of a start up as you grow?
Chris says they reached a point where this became an issue almost accidentally. As they hired people, the size of company put pressure on the culture. They have had to go back and document some of that early culture, and find ways to encourage it as they continue to grow. They’ve hired a “culturist”, who is in charge both of documenting the culture and hiring the right people to fit within it.
The goal is to maintain a fun and productive culture, even as the number of employees scale up. Chris also says that he has been more focused on crafting the vision for the company. With a small group, everyone tends to naturally share the vision. But as your business grows, you need to be sure to cast the vision to everyone to get them excited and on board.
Pamela said that Batchbook is also in that stage of reaching “grown-up” status. We recently moved into a larger office in the “knowledge district” of Providence. Prior to that, we had a lot of people that worked many of their hours virtually. With the new office space, people are keeping more regular hours at the office. We still keep the flexibility of a virtual work schedule, and have several employees that live out of state who are full time virtual. It takes balance to maintain a culture between on-site and off-site employees.
To help maintain a culture, Pamela says, its important to invest in communication. For Batchbook, that means including virtual people in meetings via Skype and having everyone come in to Providence a few times a year. Even if you work in a small office with a few folks, you need to invest in open communication, whether in terms of software to make sure everyone is on the same page or in terms of business practices to encourage collaboration.
How do you develop a good culture in the first place?
Pamela said that developing a good culture is a combination of things. First, it is important for business leaders to have some sense of purpose. When founding Batchbook, she wanted a family friendly company where work schedules could be flexible around life events. Equally important is hiring fun, bright, people who share the values of the founder. This way, those original ideas can be reinforced and grow organically.
Chris’s experience is a bit different, as he took over as CEO after the company had been established. There was already a culture in place. He says in this case, it is important for a CEO to respect the culture, but it is equally important to put your own unique stamp on it. Good leaders lead based out of who they are.
He says developing a culture is a mix of intentional choices and things just sorting themselves out. He notes that culture tends to change as new people get hired, often with different interests. This is okay, as long as they don’t veer the company too far out of its existing culture.
Next CEO Chat
Be sure to join us live for our next CEO Chat, on September 21st at 1pm EDT. Stay tuned on the blog and follow us on Twitter @batchbook for updates.