Key topics in today’s conversation include:
The SaaS Ramp Podcast explores how tech leaders scale from product adoption to enterprise success. Learn more at www.saasrampmedia.com.
Pete Thornton 0:07
Hey, welcome back to The SaaS Ramp Podcast. I’m your host, “Podcast Pete.” Great guest on today, a guest named Adam Long, vice president of sales at Firstbase. Welcome to the show, man.
Adam Long 0:18
Thank you. Thank you for having me.
Pete Thornton 0:21
Glad to have you on the show. We’ve been through multiple countries, talking about your transitions, trying to get you on here. So today is the day where we’re super happy to have you.
Adam Long 0:30
Yeah, well, I’m finally in America, but trying to move to America, as you know, for 18 months on fire I finally got here. I’m in New York. So that won’t be a problem any longer.
Pete Thornton 0:40
Yeah, we hope you get in and well and get every piece of documentation leading up to like a successful tax return that you’ll need. Yeah, so like we do this sometimes in other shows, we’ll we’ll have like a super meaningful 15-minute, 20-minute conversation. Before we press record and think that was about to happen. I was like, You know what, I’m gonna hit the button. Let’s find out what’s going on. So let me start back on that one, get everybody context. I looked at Adams background, if you guys want to check them out from the show notes on LinkedIn, you’ll like notice, it’s an interesting background like it’s this, it’s this weaving path. As a lot of people do weave into both enablement, sales, and hypergrowth organizations kind of like those three functions that we mostly deal with. And I just, I just had to ask him, like, Why would you come in hypergrowth organization into a founding role like initiating a function from the type of background you have. So if you could just unpack that whole piece take as long as you want, I’ll rudely interrupt as you go.
Adam Long 1:42
It’s quite a long story. So I’ll go back and start. Come on almost at the beginning. So I studied law in college, not because I wanted to be a lawyer, but just because I thought it would be an interesting degree to do and useful. And it was definitely useful. bits of it were interesting bits of it were not. But anyway, so I did that. And I was kind of in a boat at the time where I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with my career. And what seemed to me the case was the only options available to me the only kind of like real careers that were available, banking, law and consulting. But none of them really appealed to me that much. Long story short, I went into consulting. And I’ve been in consulting for about a year and a half, two years, when a company called Yext approached me Yext, for those who don’t know is a tech company based in New York listed on the New York Stock Exchange, but at the time, it was not at the time it was a VC backed private company. And, and they approached me and said, we’re looking to build out a UK office. We don’t have an office here yet. We’re looking to set one up. Are you interested in coming on board? And my first reaction was, Who the hell is Yext? Why would I leave a good consulting job and go and join this company I’ve never heard of. But then, you know, fast forward, I spoke to them several times, I spoke to various different people in the X team. And ultimately, that led up to a meeting with the founder, one of the two founders, a guy called Brian distal burger. And, and he was in London at the time, and he said, Why don’t you come and meet me and we can have a chat. And I did, and I went to met him, and I was wearing a suit and a tie. And as you do, and you’re in consulting, and I sat down, and the first thing he said to me was literally word for word is what the fact is that thing around your neck. And anyway, we hit it off, and he presented a vision to me of Yext, which I really bought into and I thought, yeah, that’s, I could see myself working here. So moved to yest. And I’ve been at Yext for about a year and a half, and I’d always kind of assumed that I would go back to a consulting or finance kind of career after being at Yext, but after I’d been there about a year and a half, I thought, well hang on a minute. This is quite interesting. I could see myself being here longer I could see myself building a career in tech and so I decided I thought Yeah, I probably want to do that and when I made that decision, I thought to myself, Okay, if I want to build a career in tech, what is it that I want to do in tech, and at the time my first job was in a customer success role? It was kind of a hybrid role because the company was just establishing itself in the UK so I was doing a lot of other stuff as well things like sales engineering and sales and various other things but I thought okay, if I stay here, what do I want to do and I made the decision that I wanted to move into sales because I thought that would give me the best career and the best career opportunities. And so I made that switch.
Pete Thornton 4:41
Go ahead and drop the name of the school you went to for law. It’s not your typical community college either.
Adam Long 4:49
I was at Oxford.
Pete Thornton 4:53
Okay. So like trainedd for legal at Oxford and then moving in into this into the consulting role of kind of like following along, say LinkedIn profile, see it build? And then, but tell like what was that little inflection point like they reached out to you yex reached out to you this is a co-founder. This is obviously like, it’s very compelling when it’s that size of a company. And it’s somebody with the passion of a co-founder. But how does that little interaction just happen? There was that in like, some kind of networking event?
Adam Long 5:24
It was a recruiter that reached out and reached out to me, so the recruiter reached out to me, I was just having dinner. And it’s a funny thing. You know, I, as I’m sure is the case with most people, you get hundreds of approaches on LinkedIn. And until that point, I literally ignored every single one of them. And but for whatever reason, I decided to read that one and respond to it. I couldn’t tell you why. But I did. And then what led events subsequently led through interviews and conversations that led to ultimately a meeting with Brian the founder. And that’s where we had that conversation where he sold me on it and convinced me to make the move.
Pete Thornton 5:58
Yeah. Okay. Fantastic. Yeah, that’s cool. And then what size company? Was it then? It’s public now. That was 2016.
Adam Long 6:07
I forget which round of funding it was on, but it was about 400 450 employees, it was around that kind of size, the but almost all of them were in the US, or the UK, I think I was I came on board as employee number five, I believe. And you know that most of the first four were shipped over from the US to help set up the organization. So I was really kind of the first local hire, or the second local hire within the UK.
Pete Thornton 6:33
Small side note on that one, because I’ve seen this happen a lot of times with, like, my friends in the UK, like, they are kind of like the founding members on the UK side, even if they’re not ultimately within the company. How do you see that? Is that a benefit? Is that a pro or con?
Adam Long 6:51
To be the first kind of local and in particular market?
Pete Thornton 6:55
To be in tech in the UK, maybe working for her New York or Silicon Valley-based company? How do you view that?
Adam Long 7:02
I think it depends on the company. I think, you know, every country is culturally different, you know, even the US and UK, which in many ways are very similar, you know, a shared language or shared cultural history, in many ways. Culturally, we’re very different. The way people do business in both countries is very different. Companies operate is very different. And so if you try it, and I think this is the case, with any company, if a company tries and moves from one market to another, and just doesn’t change, and just says we this is how we’re going to operate it that very rarely works. And so you’ve got to be at a company which is willing to adapt and willing to, to take account of cultural differences in the way that they engage with their customers and the market, which they’re trying to sell to. And I think Yext was very good at that. They had, I mentioned, Brian, so he was, as I said, one of the founders, he was leading the international expansion for the company. And he had a very great willingness to listen and learn and adapt to what was needed in the given market. So shortly after the UK, then open offices in France, and then Germany. And equally, he made sure that the company adapted so it was able, it was made possible by that with that an added adaptability of the company. But I think without that, it can definitely be a struggle. I remember after I’d been at a company for about four or five months, we were launching a new website. And the content had been written and but it was all written in American English. And it needed to be put into English for the UK market. And, and so one of the things I had to do, and I’ve been there for about six months was literally read through every single piece of content on the website, which was about 80 90,000 words. And make sure it was in English-English.
Pete Thornton 8:52
That’s so funny. And it is English-English. That’s actually a very, like, you had to transcribe it into English English, and you’re not this is not a joke at all. Okay, one more thing. Just one more little side note, and this is how the rabbit trails always happen. The suit and tie thing, like do you feel like it is almost like, hey, we do not have a uniform here, wear this uniform instead? Well, I like, oh, he was just making like a little like, Hey, you’re gonna be one of the perks is you don’t necessarily have to have the tie around your neck or whatever that’s supposed to represent. How do you feel about that?
Adam Long 9:27
I mean, yeah, he was taking the piss out of me a little bit, but it was also sorry, that’s quite an English phrase, the phrase English rose. Yeah, he was teasing me, but I think it was. Tech is generally much more casual in terms of the kind of what’s expected and in what you wear and how you conduct yourself then and then, for example, a bank is and I think I had obviously come from that world where it was more formal where you had to wear a suit and tie and And you know that that’s not the case in tech. And I think it actually took me a while to adjust. I think I remember in my first couple of weeks, I was not wearing a suit and tie just to be clear, but I walked into the office for the first time I went to New York for onboarding. And I looked around and there were the, you know, people in shorts and t-shirt and flip-flops. And I thought, what kind of world have I entered into where people come to work like this? But, you know, as you can see, I’m wearing a gym t-shirt right now I’ve adapted and I’ve embraced the casual nature of working in tech.
Pete Thornton 10:33
Learned the language. Yeah, that’s funny. It was my exact same interaction, and like, but it was one of those that was pushed on me so hard at that point, I was like, Well, what uniform would you like me to wear. And it was a very specific thing that everybody was wearing in the office that time it was like a business development team. So it was a certain it was the type of like culture and a group of gentlemen at the time as well. So that’s just always funny. I just like to get other people’s take on that they’re coming from, you know, they didn’t if they weren’t born in a Hoodie into their first roll.
All right, so you’re at Yext and then and then it’s like over four years, almost five years. And then there are some investment pieces in there and into Firstbase, like love to know anything about those transitions.
Adam Long 11:16
Yeah. I’ve been a UX designer, as you said, for about five years, and I had moved up into a position where I was leading one of the sales teams in the UK. And it got to a point where I was potentially ready for my next challenge. And it just so happened that a friend of mine, who worked in tech, but on the side as sort of a side gig, he had started doing his own VC funds, he took money from friends, and was investing in seed stage companies. And he came up to me and he said, Look at him, I know you’re, you’re open to a new career opportunity, and we’re just we’ve just invested are about to invest, I should say, and a company called first base. And their CEO, Chris is looking for some advice on go-to-market strategy, would you be willing to have a chat to him and just see what he’s looking for. And so I got talking to Chris and, and we spoke a lot over the next two or three, three months about what was going on at first base and how you should be thinking about a go to market and the sales plan. And it got to a point where then it was a case where we both agreed that, you know, it’d be great if I came on board and built that sales function, as you said, started it. No, they didn’t have a sales team at the time. At the time. It was just the two founders, Chris and his co-founder, Trey. And so I came on board to create and build a sales team within the company.
Pete Thornton 12:37
Okay, excellent. Okay, that’s really interesting. So where was Firstbase at that time? What maybe size of employees funding round?
Adam Long 12:46
I started talking to Chris, before proceed. So they had raised about 100k, and pre-seed capital, they hadn’t hired any employees, it was just him and Trey just the two of them, the two co-founders. And then by the time I actually joined the company, they had raised the seed round, they did about a $2 million seed. And then they had also, they hired a couple of contractors, and the week before I started, we had a VP of ops. So I was effectively the second full-time employee after the two founders and the VP of ops.
Pete Thornton 13:20
Okay. Okay. Excellent. Yeah, that’s interesting. So you’re getting the entire play, like the push all the way through? It’s not really Atlanta, but like funding rounds because it’s not like the whole point, but it does, like show you growth of a company like what stage it might be in.
Adam Long 13:37
Yeah. And so yeah, so I joined and there was nothing I remember, I had a conversation with the guy who, as I said, during the week before me as the VP of ops, and after he had been at a company for about three or four days, I called him up. I said, so what should I expect? What skeletons are there in the closet? And he said, Adam, there is no closet. There’s nothing here. So it was really a case of, of building from the ground up. But on my first day, I remember on Monday morning, I had my laptop, I open the dock. And I had a call with Chris at 8am That morning, and I said right, Chris, so So what do you want me to get on with? And he said, I don’t know. You’re the VP of sales. You tell me. I hadn’t done and that was out and off. I went and I had to try and figure out what it is that we should be doing.
Pete Thornton 14:26
Okay, okay. Well, then here’s where it gets a little bit more like specifically interesting: audiences comprised of people from go-to-market enablement, sales, customer success leaders, or those who are kind of like seeking to one day become. What did you do? What kind of closet did you build?
Adam Long 14:48
Essentially, I think it’s always going to depend on what the situation you have at the company you go into. Firstbase was in a situation where you know we suffer content So Firstbase does is we essentially we have a platform through which companies can set their employees up for remote work. So we believe fundamentally that we believe in remote work flexible work and the ability for employees to work from anywhere we see the pandemic has caused a big shift in more and more companies allowing that to happen. But although companies are allowing that to happen as a policy, the system sending those employees up for success remotely for getting them the hardware and the equipment they need to be productive, to be healthy, to be safe and working from home is broken. And first basis is here to fix it. It’s designed on proximity is designed on companies having an office from which to warehouse and ship out equipment. And it’s all broken. So first place essentially has a platform through which companies can give their employees access their employees can select what they need. Firstbase takes care of all the logistics, the platform acts as a system of record for who has what, where is it? How old is it? When is it due for a refresh, we’ll collect stuff from an employee when they leave the business, we help out if something breaks, basically everything to do with hardware that an employee has at home first basis is taking care of that on behalf of our customers. And because the pandemic had come along, so I joined first base about six months into the pandemic. There was definitely a tailwind for us and shifted had owned companies were going crap, how do we deal with this? And they needed a, they needed help. And so first place had it for especially for a company at that early stage. It was actually one of the reasons I decided to join first place, a huge amount of inbound interest, there are loads and loads of people coming onto the website, and registering an interest in the company and saying, you know, I want to download I want to learn more. And so the most important thing for us at that stage was figuring out how to prioritize those leads. Who should we be who have those? I think when I joined, there was something like 5,000 people on the list who hadn’t been reached out to who were, which of those 5,000 Should we go after. And when we go after them, you know, we didn’t really have a pitch. You know, Chris, and Trey had kind of bootstrapped the business and they had at the time, I think they’d close for customers. So I do struggle to understand how given how there was no, there was nothing that here at the time, but we had four customers, but those deals had been signed in many ways. I think Chris wouldn’t, wouldn’t complain about missing through luck to an extent, we needed to build a pitch, create a talk track, create a pitch, create a sales process, and a sales motion that we could apply across all of these leads that we wanted to sell to. It didn’t need to be perfect. I think that’s the key thing. You know, you can’t strive for perfection when, when you’re brand new, and you’re going after it. But we needed something to start with which we could then use for to grow the business and then take learnings and iterate on us as we continue to grow and expand. And so that was the first task for me, I spent a good chunk of those first few weeks going through the lead list reaching out to them and pitching I think in my second or third week, I had 17 or 18 first pitches with companies. So it was just kind of a factory of pitches and trying to touch as many of those leads as we could to get learnings as quickly as possible around which were the kinds of companies that and the kinds of people and roles within those companies that we could sell to and we could close deals with.
Pete Thornton 18:23
Okay, so I’m hearing that you get there, you understand like, Okay, I’m going to build this ground and what are we here working with? And it actually turns out that there’s some true context for hypergrowth being that this is kind of like handling the remote first push that was happening with the tailwind of the pandemic and all that that brought with it. And in tech in general, like it just solidified this thing that people are going to be remote first. And throughout the pandemic, like everybody was kind of remote before field teams were all already having those types of issues. And this was just like an accelerator, it sounded like.
Adam Long 19:01
A lot of those companies that we first spoke to still weren’t sure that remote work was here to stay. I think a lot of them were just that kind of they have the craziness of the pandemic, everyone going remote trying to figure out, okay, people aren’t coming into an office anymore, how do we get them the stuff they need to do their jobs? And they kind of just got through that phase. As I said, I joined about six months into the pandemic. And they were kind of curious so a lot of those leads a lot of those first calls and in many ways were a bit of a waste of time because the people weren’t necessarily interested in buying they were just curious about any company that did some kind of remote thing they were signing up and just wanted to hear what was out there. But then as time went on, and in sort of over the next three to six months that curiosity definitely shifted and solidified and the companies that we were speaking to became file so I wonder You know what, how are other companies thinking about remote work and became far more around? Okay, remote work is here to stay. We’ve managed to Get through and muddle through the situation for the last 912 months, we now need to actually put in place proper systems and processes to try and upscale and improve how we do it. And then those companies were then much more interested in getting solid solutions in place. And by that point, as I said, I’ve been at first place for about three to six months by that point. And by that point, we had that pitch, we had taken learnings, we understood who our buyer was, which when I joined, we didn’t. So we understood that the majority sort of 70-80% of the time our buyer was going to be it, which was different to my thesis, when I joined my thesis, when I joined with it was that we would be selling to HR more often. But that wasn’t the case, more often it was it we learned and then HR was often an influencer or a stakeholder, but they weren’t the actual budget holder or buyer. And so that allowed us to, we could use those early learnings and focus on on the right people focus on the right companies, we had started to identify a pattern of the kinds of companies not only the kinds of companies that wanted to work with us, but also because of companies that it was worth us working with. I think that’s one of the big challenges that a lot of startups have is especially when you are in a position like first base was in, in, in some senses, we were spoilt for choice with all of these leads coming in, you can easily get distracted. And I would definitely say we did, there were definitely mistakes we made and trying to, you know, chase our tails and go after every lead that comes in, you know, you see a lead come in from a 300,000 person global business and your eyes light up and you go incredible, let’s, let’s throw all of our energy at that. But in reality, when you’re a 10-person startup, you are not going to be able to close a 300,000-person global business, that’s just unrealistic. And so we wasted, we wasted cycles on that sort of thing. But once you’ve identified the kinds of company that you want to work with, that fit you the kind of product that you offer they offer you good revenue, they offer you good growth, potential, all of those things, then focusing your time and effort on those and remaining focused is super important.
Pete Thornton 22:06
Okay, so a couple of things I like on there. You mentioned just like, hey, it doesn’t have to be perfect. So you got on the phone, like you started setting meetings, you said 16, 17 meetings, just to go ahead and find out like, Who do I need to be speaking to like persona, what type of messaging seems to resonate what seems to work, so you’re not like, back there trying to script it and make it just so so you can maybe finally jump on a call and like, I think this is the right one, and then you know you’re in number is still one at that point, as opposed to closer to 20 where you got so I do kind of love that that that is a very, like zero to one startup like hypergrowth kind of mentality to have. I just gotta go back a little bit when you come out of that much schooling, especially that, like, professional of an atmosphere, like what is it that gave you the competence to just go ahead and jump in and do that, versus wanting to go get a four-year degree first? Because these are different routes of learning how to be.
Adam Long 23:01
That’s an interesting question. If I’m painfully honest, probably didn’t fully appreciate how early-stage Firstbase was when I joined. You know, I knew as a startup, I knew it was small, I knew there’d be a lot of building, I didn’t fully appreciate what that meant. And the reality is, building a company from the ground up is incredibly difficult. It is incredibly difficult it is every single day, you have new challenges, things go wrong, things don’t work out the way you thought they were going to work out things that you were prioritizing a week ago, you realize was the wrong thing to prioritize, you’ve got to prioritize something new. Your pitch changes your materials, you’ve got changed the support, you don’t have any support. If you go into somewhere like a sales force, you have sales, engineering, finance, you have legal you have all of these different teams that support you in selling or serving customers. You don’t have any of that in a startup. And it’s is really hard. It is really, really hard. It takes a lot of work. I’ve worked harder over the last 1819 months than I’ve ever worked in my life. And it can often feel like it’s not, you’re not achieving anything. It feels like you’re putting all this work in and you look back and you go well, we haven’t made any progress in the last three months. I just three or four months ago, we were in I’ve been here for nearly a year and a half at that point. And, and I was kind of scratching my head and I was like, what what? What are we missing here? I feel like we haven’t kind of perfected our sales motion. We haven’t perfected our go-to-market strategy. What are we doing wrong? And I phoned up an old friend of mine, an old mentor and I said, here’s the situation. What do you think? And he laughed at me, he said, Adam, you’re at least two years away from having a solid go-to-market strategy. And this is a guy who founded a publicly listed company. He said, you’re at least two years away from having that in place. And it’s, it can be tough, it can be very mentally draining. Tap, always have that uncertainty to always have that change to always have that. That sense that, you know, there’s no one else there to step up and support you, you’ve got to figure it out yourself. And it’s really hard. It’s really, really hard. So coming back to your original question, what made me do it? I don’t know. I was always interested in finding my own business, I never had an idea that I thought was worth pursuing myself. And this was kind of the next best thing the Charleston getting on the ground for and helped to build something. And, you know, could I have gone and stayed in a career in consulting? Yeah, sure. And plenty of people do that. And they have great careers. And I take nothing away from that. But to me, that seemed boring. To me, that seemed like all I would be doing is essentially repeating with what other people have done before me. Whereas a chance to build a company and you’re not repeating what other people have done, you’re creating something yourself. And that just made was far more interesting and exciting to me.
Pete Thornton 26:22
Okay, so you viewed yourself as a bit of like a founder or like, that was a desire that you had. So this, even though the background would have said, like, structure and just a different path, like to talk like, it’s a different path.
Adam Long 26:38
And I came from— my background, my childhood, my father worked for the same company for 42 years, he was in banking. And he worked in the same company for 42 years. And he had a great career. And I, in many ways, looked at that and still look at that, and kind of a bit jealous of that and think, Could I have done that. But at the same time, as I said, to me, it’s far more interesting, and to be honest, intellectually stimulating, to be somewhere where I am creating something myself, where I’m working with Chris and the rest of the leadership team and making decisions that are forming and shaping the company and the direction that we’re going in. And that, you know, for all of the hard work that I was just talking about, and the sacrifice and the long hours and the challenge, is it, I would say it’s definitely been a worthwhile experience.
Pete Thornton 27:31
Okay, okay. Yeah, it’s beautiful, awesome to hear those challenges. Like, we always get to that portion, too. It’s like, those are the obvious challenges of like, hyper-growth, like, where you’ve kind of moved into. How far have you made it in 18 months? 18 months is a snapshot. It’s so brutally short, but I know it feels so long, like you’re Are you still the only member of the sales team? What’s the growth been like?
Adam Long 28:00
I brought on very soon after I joined a guy who had worked with a previous company, and he joined about a month after I did so he’s been here almost since the beginning, in a sales role. And then since then, we’ve, as I said, I joined just after our seed round, since then, we have we’ve, we’ve closed our Series A we did that in March of last year, we closed our series B at the beginning of this year, so we raised series A was led by Andreessen Horowitz, and Series B by Kleiner Perkins. The team has grown as I said, there were three or four of us when I first joined, we’re now up to over 100. Our revenue, Braves revenue is up about 52x inside joy, and our customer base is up about 20-30x. Inside Jordans, we’ve had some pretty impressive growth. So it’s been as we’ve come a long way, and in many ways, but here’s what I’d say, you know, people often talk in the best kind of pair parallel, I can drawers with social media, people look at other people’s social media person, it looks like their lives are perfect. You know, they’re having great holidays and having going out for nice meals or what have you. And that only presents a very partial picture of what that person’s life is like. They’re not posting the picture where they’re, you know, hungover and depressed that day on a Sunday, you know, that that kind of thing. And it’s very similar with a startup. If you look at first base from the outside, all of those numbers, I just talked about the growth, the funding rounds, the success, it looks like it’s just been plain sailing up into the right, everything’s been going great. That’s just not the case. It’s been extremely difficult. And I’m not going to repeat everything I’ve already said about how hard it’s been, but there have been a lot of setbacks and a lot of difficulties and challenges that you have to overcome. So I guess what I’d say to anyone who’s embarking on a on a GNU joining a startup or in a startup, looking at the so-called success stories, the companies that are growing quickly where they announced that they’ve just become a unicorn or what have you. That only stuck tells part Have a story. And for all, for as great as that looks from the outside, don’t forget that on the inside, there are huge, huge challenges that they are facing and having to deal with.
Pete Thornton 30:11
100%. So like, first of all, just congratulations on that, because we were focusing on the challenges in some way. But that is only because you want to, like balance it out with 100 employees and like a series a followed by a series B with those levels of investment companies like having partners like that. Unbelievable. And then yeah, and then the I know when you’re going from small to big like the but 52x Stupid. So it’s, it’s, it’s fantastic. Now I will say like, so I postman, I’ve, I’ve been a postman, like 20, like, we probably almost had the same journey at our last organizations like first base in postman. So that was that was a 250 employees. And now we have 650 employees, that was it. Like, I mean, the revenue has more than tripled. I guess in that time period, like an unbelievable, kind of like a cent same kind of journey. But it feels different on the inside because of the same types of things. Maybe like one, like funding round ahead, or maybe like to just slightly removed. So what about the sheer growth challenges, like, fortunately, you are a company actually built for remote for first growth. And I’m sure that’s how you’re growing. But like, what have been the major challenges of just growing your team and trying to communicate some of these learnings that you had embodied? But now you have to like, you know, moving on to this messy mass of humanity that you’ve hired?
Adam Long 31:37
Yeah, it’s really hard. It’s really hard. So I think as you go through that growth you have, there are different types of challenges that you face the different stages. So I think I already touched on when I first joined, that kind of the challenge was fine, it was kind of finding that first of all, finding that product market fit, then it was building a pitch that could sell to that product market fit better fit, then it was building a process. And then we’re starting to get sort of beyond sales, but just more broadly across the business building processes that allowed you to, to sell to more companies across more reps and to serve those companies and to build the organization. And then as those processes start to get built, you then have to think about well, actually, how do we build the team and build the culture and build, if you like, rules of engagement across the business that actually allow business processes to interact with each other, because it’s all well and good me saying, right? This is the process, I run my sales reps to follow and to close deals. But if that is not in any way, in sync with the processes, for example, that our product team need to follow to be able to build the product that our customers want, or the processes that our operations teams need to follow to be able to serve our customers operationally in the way that they need to, then it is worthless. And so you go from at first just having to focus on your in terms of what you’re building and the process you’re building focusing on, on getting your function rate to as you scale, then having to not only get your function, but get it right in conjunction with all the other functions. And that’s top to heart. You know, I think a lot of books I’ve read and podcasts I’ve listened to from founders is, it seems to be consensus that kind of between about 2025 people and 100 people that as the company grows between those two numbers, that’s the hardest part, for that very reason. Because teams are starting to form. It’s no longer you just have tribal knowledge in the heads of everyone in the company, which you can kind of have up to about 20 people, you’ve gone beyond that. But you’re not yet at a point where you’re at scale where the processes and the norms are already established. And so in that growth period, you have to establish those norms. Now, we’re first base, although we’re now beyond 100 people we grew so quickly from 20 to 100, that I don’t think we’ve yet gone through that. We’ve made huge strides and huge progress in in establishing a lot of that stuff. But we still have work to do in order to get there. So there are still challenges in terms of how does you know how to sales web product, how does product work, work with operations? How does the engineering team fit in? All of these things are big challenges that we face and building a cross-functionality is hard. And I think the key things that I would say that are important is number one is personalities, making sure that you’re hiring people with the same values and the same goals. Because if you don’t have that, it’s very difficult to achieve that cross-functional collaboration. And number two, is making sure that everyone is aligned on what the priorities should be. It’s, you know, we had very in the early days of first base, we had issues that arose because different people just had different priorities. And they would then get frustrated with each other because my priority might be I don’t know closing the next deal and then someone else’s priority might be you Making sure that we, you know, the finance priority, for example, might be making sure that we don’t run out of cash. And so we’re both approaching the same problem from a very different mindset. And then we get frustrated with each other because we don’t understand why the other one isn’t, isn’t trying to achieve what we’re trying to achieve. And so making sure that everyone is on the same page, just what the goal is super important.
Pete Thornton 35:20
Yeah, yeah, that would be. Yeah, so I’m hearing so like, like, from product market fit, and to go to market messaging, the processes, rules of engagement and alignment, some of these words are like a little bit triggering, because like our organization, and like, have, like, Ah, that was a terrible April, like, when rules of engagement were such a like, you know, a head to head struggle, like trying to bring people into the same meetings and like, try to, you know, and these things, again, we’re not in a room, fleshing it out together. This is my first company, like lots of pros, but sometimes it’s nice to have proximity to other human beings, when, especially at that stage, when you’re trying to get those things lifted. And then sales, Product Engineering ops, like coming around the same, just having the same like, ultimate goal and values— It’s a lot to try to, like, bring all together. But it seems to be working. There’s always collateral damage. So again, like these things are going very well. Your vision for the team moving forward, like maybe in terms of is very broad. So any or all of these: people product process. And I don’t even know how far you can like vision cast, when you’re like, rolling the month, as hard as you are, but maybe like just h2 or even into q1, like what would be some wins to see if you could make it to the next level and some of those pieces.
Adam Long 36:39
So I think you’ve kind of hit the nail on the head. Your vision is going to change over time. And that’s also one of the challenges with building a company is that what you have to prioritize and what you have to focus your time and effort on changes as the company grows, and as the circumstances change. And I think, you know, a good example of that is the kinds of companies we want to work with. And I rewind to my early days we were excited when we close a deal with a 20-30 person company. Now, we don’t even talk to 20-30 person companies, because it’s too small. And so that’s just one small example of how we’ve kind of how we think about the market and how we think about what we do changes. I think for me, what I would love to do, and I’ve kind of always had this goal, since joining Firstbase is I want us to be a true enterprise solution. I mentioned earlier, you know, getting a lead from a 300,000-person company, and it’s, you know, wasting time on that, I want to get to a point where it’s selling to a company like that isn’t a waste of time. You know, I think a lot needs to go into being able to do that, you know, you need to have a whole bunch of compliance programs in place around information security, and around staffing and around all sorts of things you need to have. You know, you need to have, the tech needs to be advanced enough with that with the ability to have custom integrations with all the different systems that a company like that needs you to integrate with, from a platform perspective, you need to have a defined enterprise sales motion, you know, selling to enterprise is completely different to selling to a 30 person company, it’s there are more stakeholders, there’s more complexity, with budget, there’s more you everything is different. And so you need to have an enterprise sales motion define, you need to have an enterprise service motion define, you know, you need to enterprise companies, for example, a global company expects round the clock follow the sun service in a way that a small company doesn’t, doesn’t need or expect that. And so there is a huge amount of work in terms of infrastructure that needs to go into being ready to sell to and serve as an enterprise customer. But that’s somewhere where I want to get to I think not only is that just a personal ambition, but I think that is the that is ultimately where Firstbase will truly scale and truly deliver, you know, big, big customers with big revenue, which allows us to really expand our revenue. So that’s my vision. And in terms of where I think we need to get to eventually I couldn’t tell you a timeframe for how long it would take us.
Pete Thornton 39:21
Yeah, that’s too much pressure right there. So like keep that timeline to yourself, but like, that is a worthy goal. It seems like it should be the goal. Is it one of those goals that like if you aim at that, is that almost like a Northstar? Where like if you aim that, regardless, these other things will take care of themselves along the way, or is it a bit of a risk in that like, Hey, I’m choosing B like is it a divergent path from choosing more of a mid-market motion or something like that?
Adam Long 39:51
I think it is divergent. But I don’t think that when I’m not focusing on trying to work towards enterprise at the expense of the mid-market or the other more transactional sales brochures, I think if we were doing that, that that would be a big risk because then we’d potentially be leaving a lot of money on the table. In the meantime, I think at the moment, our customer base, our target, ICP is that kind of mid-market segment of companies, which is sort of 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 700 people in size. Yep. And that’s where we are focusing all of our sales efforts right now. But that doesn’t change the fact that when we think about the long term, and we think about the product innovations that we need to build, when we think about all of this other stuff that I’ve just described, it goes into an enterprise motion, that is what we want to get to. But does that mean we won’t be able to serve those mid-market customers in? Whenever we start focusing on enterprise? No. But it does mean that potentially, when we’re thinking about long-term prioritization of the development of the business, we might choose to prioritize certain things that we wouldn’t choose if we just said, we’re happy to sell into the market, and we never want to get to enterprise.
Pete Thornton 41:03
Yeah, yeah, totally makes sense. Yeah. And it is kind of like both plates at the same time. But like, with a worthy vision. That is awesome. Awesome. For like, 41 minutes, I always try to I’m aiming for 25 Every single time just like never, never, never gonna happen. So like, really, really interesting insights, great to, to kind of, like, unpack all this with you. You know, after all of this, like maybe a practical takeaway, say, so this scenario would be somebody who is maybe even yourself, like, if you were speaking to yourself back at the, at the consulting firm, like crystal suit and tie just thinking about what next steps might be. And then chose this pathway, like, what would be the tip of somebody else, or speaking to yourself at that time, that can just be like helpful knowing what you know now?
Adam Long 41:51
There are a few things I’d say. The first thing I’d say is, be careful about whose advice you seek. And then when you seek further advice, don’t just blindly follow it, you need to, you know, get advice is great. And I’ve referred several times over this conversation to times where I’ve, you know, I’ve reached out to someone and ask their advice, and listen to what they had to say, people who have gone through similar situations, you can share information with you about how they thought about certain problems that you face, super helpful. And it’s always worth seeking out advice from people like that, who you trust. But with that being said, You’ve got to set your own path, you know, you so just because someone has been through a similar situation doesn’t mean you can just outsource to them the decision making that you have to make. So you need to be willing to listen to advice, listen to why you always ask why someone gives you certain advice, why did they take the approach that they did, and then apply it to yourself and adapt it to yourself and be willing to make your own decisions. And sometimes you will just follow what they say, and that’s fine. But sometimes you need to be willing to listen to what they say and actually say, You know what, I don’t agree with that. And I’m gonna go a different direction. And this is why because ultimately, you’re in the position you’re in for a reason. And ultimately, you know, especially in sales, more than anything else, you live and die by results. And if you’re gonna live and die by results, I would rather die by the results that are caused by my own decisions than someone else’s.
Pete Thornton 43:22
Yeah, that’s great. So there’s asking why getting like in behind getting some contact for something that somebody else is telling you probably a good tip there. And then the rest of that is just a heavy dose of responsibility. Like, I am choosing every bit of it for the good or for the bad. It’s kind of like—
Adam Long 43:41
Exactly, and ultimately our experience is overrated. If you look at the company, some of the biggest companies in the world that have were founded by, you know, you can name all of the great entrepreneurs, the likes of, you know, Mark Zuckerberg and Jeff Bezos, and all these people, very few of them had, well, none of them, frankly, had any experience building a big company before they built the company that they were at today. And yet, they managed to do it. And so I think if you’d said to someone, if you looked at Mark Zuckerberg as a 21-year-old, you wouldn’t have gone yeah, he’s gonna build a massive company like Facebook, but he did. And so similarly, you know, you’ve got to be able to back yourself and take responsibility for your own decisions and go for it.
Pete Thornton 44:31
Yeah, yeah. Well said. I love it. So good, Adam, I appreciate it. I heard your calendar ding by the way. I know you got one coming up and like six minutes, you just gotta run straight to the next one. The life of a VP sales in a series B hypergrowth. wonderful insights. Thanks for letting us know more about Firstbase. And yeah, and challenge. Good luck with the next I don’t know what 52 It goes it goes 204x Next, I believe 200 employees. I think you just stay on that so everything will be fine. Well, cheers. Thank you so much. Really appreciate it.
Adam Long 45:04
Thank you, Pete. Appreciate the time.