Why I’ve taken personal and financial risks—twice—to solve problems

Financial Risk

I didn’t start my career as an entrepreneur. I started as an architect with dreams of making my designs reality. But a problem in that industry sidetracked me and led to me building my first technology startup.

As a young professional in the design and construction industry, I saw firsthand the inefficiency of using paper documentation to ensure secure communication throughout the design and construction process. Confronting this problem daily inspired me to create Submittal Exchange, a secure online system to exchange, review, and archive construction submittals and communications.

My first speed bump

As Submittal Exchange grew, I too had to grow as a leader, managing marketing and sales teams for the first time. I focused on driving home the idea of speed and growing fast.

SpeedometerI hung giant speedometers in our office—one in marketing and one in sales. The goal was to reach and maintain 65 miles per hour (mph). Each team had its own metrics linked to speed, and the speedometers were in an open space where they could be seen by the other team.

Marketing’s speed was calculated by how many leads they generated for sales, while sales’ was determined by how many deals they closed. If the teams hit their goals, the speedometers would hit 65 mph. If they fell short or exceeded goals, speed would adjust accordingly.

My concept was put to the test when marketing hosted a webinar. Marketing generated far more leads from the webinar than expected, and their speedometer was well over 200 mph. The team was ecstatic—they exceeded their goal sooner than anticipated. And I was excited—my concept was working. Sales was now frantically following up with all those webinar leads.

Then, as fast as we broke 65 mph, we crashed.

Many leads registered for our webinar but did not attend. Others only attended for continuing education credits. The majority had no interest in our software. So, while marketing had surpassed its goal, sales was bogged down and going 30 mph.

My idea created two silos. One team was viewed as successful, while the other team was perceived as failing. In reality, we were all failing, including me.

Little did I know that this learning opportunity would become a foundational experience for my next company. My team and I continued forward, ultimately leading to a successful sale of Submittal Exchange to Textura Corporation. But I wasn’t in the clear. This problem, as well as other common marketing and sales issues, continued to manifest themselves through more accelerated growth under the Textura umbrella.

Evolution of the IdeaThe evolution of the idea

The stakes rose for me. I needed to continue to grow Submittal Exchange as a business unit of Textura, and I was also appointed president of another business unit within the company. Much of my attention was diverted to managing the new business unit. My existing leadership team at Submittal Exchange assured me they could meet our aggressive growth goals despite the distractions of organizational changes during the acquisition.

That quarter, we missed our sales goal by roughly 40%.

Once again, I had failed as a leader. I had promised my new CEO that our goals would be met. Textura was preparing for an initial public offering. While Submittal Exchange was only one division, we had ambitious goals, and there was little margin for error.

I still remember the CEO calling and telling me my business’s failure to meet goals could derail the public offering. I needed to fix it. Just as importantly, I had to provide him a clear answer on our pace for delivering on our revenue goals and reassure his confidence in our financial projections.

His words were not unreasonable for a CEO. I said I needed several days to get him an answer. He said I had 24 hours.

The data told a storyThe data told the story

I spent the next 14 hours manipulating CRM and automation data to determine what happened to our revenue and what would happen in the coming months. I’ve always been a number junkie and knew the data had a story. But even I was surprised by how telling my marketing and sales data was. Our missed sales goal was easily predictable.

Two months prior, we had started to experience a drop-off in sales activity. As the team focused more on organizational changes, they made fewer phone calls and sent fewer emails—key growth drivers.

It took several weeks for the impact to materialize. If the data had been measured and analyzed, it would have clearly shown our future. But no one was watching, including me.

The next problem to solve

Experiencing these failures and seeing these challenges inspired me to create an advanced technology solution to this prevalent problem.

Deciding to leave the company a year later to follow this inspiration wasn’t an easy choice. My wife and I had lived through our first startup, and we both knew the financial and emotional commitment we would be making.

This time, it was even harder. My first company was in an industry I knew. This idea was not. But I knew that the marketing and sales problems I had realized and become determined to fix affected every industry and every organization.

Where FunnelWise started

The original mission of FunnelWise was solving the age-old problem of marketing and sales alignment. I wanted to provide a single source of truth and to give marketing and sales leaders consistent visibility into their revenue funnels using CRM and marketing automation data.

VisibilityThe solution started as a critical visibility tool with valuable drill-down capability to pinpoint problem areas in the business. But over time, the FunnelWise team realized that viewing key performance metrics and understanding where revenue was headed was just the start of the problem. There was so much more we could do for our clients.

Visibility was not and is still not enough. Marketing and sales leaders need to confidently connect performance data to actions, monitor those actions, and keep iterating the process to constantly raise the revenue bar.

Maturing alongside our clients

My team and I work with our clients and speak with marketing and sales leaders at different points on their revenue-growth journeys. Some have no visibility into their revenue funnels. Some have teams that have visibility into their metrics but don’t know how to improve them or coordinate revenue goals.

Revenue JourneyI have written about where customers fit on this spectrum and call it the Revenue Funnel Science Maturity Model. For us, it helps to understand where our customers are today and how our solution can best help them reach their growth goals.

Like our customers, we have matured on our journey as a company. FunnelWise gives our customers that critical foundational visibility into their revenue funnel. But we have listened to our customers and looked beyond our original vision.

We now provide significantly more value by layering over marketing attribution, sales projections, and data-driven playbook functionality, which details what steps at each funnel stage have the highest likelihood of success and allows customers to track execution against these actions. By providing these pieces, we are watching our customers reach their revenue goals and transforming the way their marketing and sales organizations operate.

Through all the ups and downs of my career, I continue to believe that solving the problems you experience firsthand is the best reason for starting a company. When I talk with revenue leaders, I often find that I have experienced their problems in some shape or form. I can connect with them and envision how to solve their revenue problems—and mine—in this increasingly complex environment with the FunnelWise solution.

As I continue to experience my own shortcomings as a revenue leader, you can guarantee that I will embrace those failings as opportunities to better serve my company, my team, and our clients.

—Matt

Revenue Funnel Science Digital BookAfter starting FunnelWise, I wrote the book The Ultimate Guide to Revenue Funnel Science: How to Optimize Your Marketing and Sales Funnel to help others understand the root causes of revenue issues.

If my story resonates with you and your experiences, I invite you to share my story and encourage you to share yours. Leave a comment below or reach out on Twitter: @FunnelWiseMatt.

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