365 Days with Crowd Favorite

Chris and Karim - Crowd Favorite

Today begins year number two with Crowd Favorite. It's hard to believe 365 days have passed since I joined the company.

When I took the job…

When I took the job I had hoped to travel less. The quarter of my first year didn't feel like less travel, but I only just started traveling again after three months of barely driving (and never driving to an airport)—so all in all, it was indeed a bit less travel.

When I took the job I was excited to build a leadership team under me that would be fun to lead and fantastic at mentoring others. This past week, before the year was complete, Carrie Dils started as a team lead. That puts Carrie, Brian Richards and Pat Ramsey in the “leaders hired this past year” column, as they join the already excellent Cristi Rusu.

When I took the job I knew part of my focus was on performance optimization. It always is and this was no different. I'm very proud to say that utilization is up. So is project efficiency. These dynamics have both short and long term impact on lots of other metrics, which all looks good.

When I took the job I came on board to help my friend Karim (and CEO) with strategy. It's been a good year of fleshing out what we want to be when we grow up and what we don't want to be. Several rounds of discussions have helped us refine and tighten up what our “perfect” or “target” customers and projects are.

When I took the job I expected to jump into both services and products. This didn't play out like I'd imagined because I hadn't realized exactly how many different projects / products Crowd Favorite had spawned. Some were fully fleshed out products and others weren't so much. So most of the year was spent culling. But I'm excited for the updated RAMP that will be released soon.

I'm also excited about a new set of products that we're co-creating with customers in a different way than before, and with a stronger strategy for how we work with partners. It's just at the start of everything but year two will have more product focus.

When I took the job I expected to do a bit of staff clean up. It's never fun. But I rarely get invited to join a company that doesn't need or want my executive experience. The good news is that some people self-selected out as we made changes. Others found other places that were better fits.

The sad part was losing some great people at the same time—a team lead and a project manager that were aces! But I've also enjoyed our new hires and our teams are tightening up and coming together.

When I took the job I expected to write some RFPs. You can't develop a history and experience base of large RFPs and then let it go to waste. So I knew I'd be doing some writing. Today, a year later, the BD team has captured a ton of that writing and I'm much less involved.

It takes a village to be a Crowd Favorite…

When I joined Crowd Favorite, I was already joining a team of executives. Both Karim and Jason had been at this for years (previously under the name VeloMedia before purchasing Crowd Favorite). It's been a good year of figuring out how to fit in with these two guys to get us where we need to go.

Like they say, it takes a village.

My friend Karim Marucchi drives the bus. It's his company and his vision. I like to tell folks that he's in charge of picking which hill we're taking.

My job, on the other hand, is to ensure that we pick the best route to the top, and to make sure our entire team gets there (that no one is left behind).

Jason Rosenbaum has his own job to do—making sure we can afford to get ourselves up the hill. And have enough to come down the hill.

And as we purchased other companies, like Forty, we've brought on other talent to help expand our offerings.

It's clear it's been a team effort to get here and it will be a team effort in year two.

The Future is Looking Good

Year two looks like it will be home to several innovations that I'm looking forward to.

We're rolling out a new PSA solution. If you've never heard of Professional Services Automation (PSA) software, it's the centralized solution that keeps everything from leads to quotes to orders to tasks to timecards to expenses to everything else all in one central and integrated place. I've used QuickArrow and OpenAir but both have been bought by NetSuite so we're going with a different one. The goal is much better insight and metrics into segmented profitability rather than just general profitability metrics. I can't wait.

We'll likely look at acquisitions again. This time, however, we'll equip our BD team with more systematic ways to do due diligence which will enhance our ability to do crazy things like predictive analytics, impact analysis and revenue projections. You know, the kinds of things that protect IRR and keep it up!

We're creating a really interesting product. I'm a product guy. So it was bound to happen. But we're co-creating a product with a client and I'm excited for where it will go and how it can help others in the WordPress ecosystem.

What did I learn?

If I went an entire year without learning something, I'd be pretty frustrated with myself. Thankfully, that wasn't the case. I think the year highlighted several things to me.

1. I learned how to continue to develop brand equity for both Crowd Favorite and myself. That was interesting and a bit of a challenge. But it's been a good year learning a skill I hadn't really put to work before.

2. I am learning how to get up after failing. My job is full. It's seriously a lot of time every day. So I've had more failures than ever before when it comes to writing daily. Lots of days missed in the last year. But I am learning how to keep getting back up. Keep starting over. To never stop writing. And it's been good.

3. I keep learning how to make change stick. I had a plan for the technologies and processes that I wanted Crowd Favorite to embrace. It's not really happened across all our teams yet. It's still a challenge. But the challenge is one I'm happy to keep working on. Because that learning is valuable. Any change can be hard. But learning new tricks to get it to stick is always good.

4. Hiring well is a constant process. I've hired and fired hundreds of employees over the last 20 years. And I've interviewed even more than that. But I continue to develop my approach around recruiting because it's a never-ending skill to master.

So all in all, I'm glad I came to Crowd Favorite and happy to invest in year two.