We're excited to introduce our new VP of Sales. In this introductory blog, Allon Massil explains why he chose to come aboard.
My Start-Up Journey
My start-up journey began about 7 years ago. I had spent nearly a decade working for a large corporation, and while I learned a great deal from and have tremendous respect for the people in that organization, I felt constrained by my ability to enact change. I concluded that this was due to the size of the organization, so I took a leap of faith and in 2016 ventured into a new, unknown world of startups.
Throughout my time working at startups, I’ve identified that they share a collective experience. Unlike large corporations, startups’ resources are limited. They need to work harder, smarter, and faster to gain market share. Startups also need to develop processes and methodologies while simultaneously signing up and retaining customers. It’s kind of like sailing a ship that’s taken on water AND whose sails have also caught fire. It’s probably why many people liken joining a startup to “drinking out of a firehose.” But, I’d be lying if I didn’t say it was also absolutely exhilarating! Every win, every success, no matter how minute, is cause for genuine celebration. This is because you’ve likely achieved it based on sheer wit and determination. In addition, as I alluded to earlier, you have the ability to really shape and influence a company. To put your stamp on it. And if you’re a person who cares about your work having an impact, it’s pretty damn hard to achieve that level of satisfaction in a large corporation.
That being said, as much as startups share a collective experience, they are also uniquely different. Every startup has slight nuances in regards to how they think about goals, customers, problems, collaboration, and feedback. It’s important to try and find alignment between a startup’s approach and your approach. Synergy often leads to harmony and disparity can lead to discord. So what do I look for when joining a startup?
Six Principles for Vetting a Start-Up
I’ve come to synthesize my approach and what I look for in a startup to 6 principles:
- Passion - without passion, you are nothing. Successful start-ups are more than just ideas. Ideas are a dime a dozen. Passion is what will drive you to work long days, long nights, to push through difficult times. Passion motivates, inspires, and pulls your team together to achieve great things. Start-ups need to have passionate leaders. If there’s no passion, run the other way, no matter how cool or how attractive the company or their compensation is.
- Product - in my opinion, the worst thing a Salesperson can be asked to do is to sell a crappy product. And I’m not talking about a product that has bugs; every application I’ve ever used or sold had bugs. I’m talking about a product that doesn’t solve a customer’s pain-point. A great start-up has a product that solves a real customer pain-point, not a perceived one (and ideally, several of them). Believe it or not, most people in Sales are in the profession because they genuinely like helping people. Give them a product that truly does that, and you will create champions that will evangelize your cause to anyone that will listen.
- Strategy - if you don’t have a plan for how you’re going to get there, you’re just floating around in the ether. I know many people like to quote Mike Tyson’s “everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth”, but that doesn’t mean that startups should just wing it. It’s important to be dynamic and adaptive (more on that in Experimentation), but it’s equally important to have a destination and a workable plan on how you get there. The key, imo, is that start-ups need to frequently, if not constantly, look at their plan, compare it to their actuals and adjust as needed. Start-ups that do this have a much higher consistency in success. And trust me when I tell you, no one wants to work at a start-up that is considered unscalable.
- Collaboration - every start-up will talk to you about and tout its own teamwork. But what kind of team work are we talking about? Teamwork within a department? Cross-functional teamwork? Project-related team work? Collaboration can come in varying levels and degrees, so what type of collaboration should you look for when talking to start-ups? I suggest looking for collaboration in two ways: top-down and bottom-up. Top-down collaboration is teamwork that you see being championed or promoted by Leadership. This creates a genuine feeling that teamwork is not isolated or dependent on team members, but is at the heart of a company’s culture. Bottom-up collaboration is when individual contributors don’t wait to be told to help each other. They do it because they care and want to see each other succeed.
- Experimentation - one of the barometers of a successful start-up is its willingness to experiment. There are several reasons for this. For one, it fosters an environment where people aren’t afraid to take risks. If something works, great, but if it doesn’t that’s okay as well, because you’ve learned something. Another benefit is experimentation gives you the greatest chance of maximizing success. When you experiment, you’re constantly pushing the envelope to see how you, your team, or your company can get what I call “Bigger, Faster, Stronger”. Lastly, experimentation keeps the team and company dynamic and fluid. By having a mindset of experimentation, if you happen to hit a roadblock or come upon some unexpected bad news, you don’t shut down. You quickly hit the white board and figure out how to iterate and pivot.
- Praise - how and how often a startup issues praise to its team is a great indicator for how much they will recognize and value you. I don’t know about you, but I tend to spend a lot of time working. Many people do. And why do we do it? Because we care. We’re vested in the company’s interests, in its people, and its customers. We want to see it succeed. And when you put that much time and effort in a company it’s important to know that they see it and they appreciate it.
Why I Chose Toolio
So why did I choose to work for Toolio? Well, after meeting and speaking extensively with its Co-Founders and team, I found the following:
- I found they are passionate about their mission and what it means to them
- I found they have an amazing platform that customers unequivocally state “they’ve been looking for something like this for years”
- I found they have a clear plan - well documented, well thought out. They don’t have all the answers but they know where they want to go and are trying to figure out how best to get there
- I found they collaborate - from OKRs to slack channels to break-out sessions, they are trying their best to support each other, knowing company goals are inter-connected
And finally, I found they really want to do right by their customers, whom they correctly see as long term partners. I guess you can say I found something special…synergy.