As anyone who’s worked in a small startup knows, your job description is more of a loose guideline. Everyone needs to wear a lot of hats, and when I joined Scaleworks, that meant also being responsible for the marketing efforts of one of our companies. Marketing led to some work with customer success, and I eventually found myself working on the finance side. Fast forward a year and some “learning mistakes” later, I was given the chance to operate one of our businesses.
The only real commonality between each of those different roles was this: nearly everything I did depended on others — inside and outside of the organization, people who reported to me and people who didn’t. This made managing relationships a huge part of my day to day. While I’d argue this is the case for most jobs, not many recognize the profound effect that relationships can have on your career. Making the time to follow up with someone, knock out that little task asked of you (and doing it quickly), or even asking someone about their day goes a long way.
But, alas, those are small details. If I had to boil down my most important learnings on the people side of business, they would be the following.
1 — Nothing happens with just one email
No one likes leaving the office with tasks outstanding. As a serial list maker, I craved that sweet feeling you get when you cross out the last item on your to-do list. Unfortunately, very rarely can you send an email and expect the next response to close the loop on a task. It’s a conversation, and while we aim to be efficient, there’s a fine line between communicating with purpose and sounding terse. It’s important to remain patient and focus on staying on top of conversations, not wrapping them up.
2 — People like to feel known and be recognized
The more you can remember about your contacts, the better. It sounds obvious, but the only real way to ensure you don’t forget those important details is by getting them down in one way or another. Details like where someone is from, what they do for fun, or where they’re vacationing this summer can be organically sprinkled into your conversations, and are an incredibly effective way to connect with people. It shows that you’ve paid attention and actually give a crap.
3 — Periodic outreach is everything
Have you ever asked a favor of someone who you haven’t to spoken to in ages? Or have you been on the other side, when someone reaches out after 4 years of radio silence asking something of you? It’s not a great feeling, and the likelihood of you helping them out is significantly lower than it would be if they simply stayed in touch with you. I think of periodic outreach as a warm up — you can’t skip the stretches and jump straight into the game. It goes beyond favors, being at the top of your contact’s minds also increases the chances they pass a referral your way, or think of you when an interesting opportunity arises.
These learnings bring me to FollowUp.cc, a productivity app that Scaleworks acquired around the same time I started in 2015. When I became CEO in 2017, the business was lacking the marketing and product direction to grow substantially. FollowUp.cc was also one productivity tool in a pool of many, and one of our core focuses at Scaleworks is to become a category leader in a space, even if that means creating the space yourself.
We recognized that FollowUp.cc wasn’t going to own the crowded productivity space, and began looking at ways that we could become a category leader. Taking my own struggles and the relationship learnings addressed earlier, we came to the conclusion that people lacked a simple, intelligent tool to make contact management easy. Most players in the market were sales focused, bulky, and costly. This needed to be different.
Just like that, the Personal CRM was born.
And it worked! We launched as a top 5 product on Product Hunt, grew from 0 to thousands of weekly users in a matter of months, and today help people manage over 5 million contacts. It was an absolutely wild time for our team, in which we began to attract some attention, including that of buyers.
While it’s hard to let go of a product that the team and I are this passionate about, something came along that made more sense for the business. With that said, I’m happy to announce that FollowUp.cc is being acquired by Lever Technology. We believe the Lever team is going to have an incredibly bright future with the business, and are excited to see what’s next. Our team is proud of what we built — what started as an experiment evolved into a healthy business with a unique set of features, traction, and sales.