July 16, 2024

Building the Team: My Second Chance in My Second Job

Building the Team

Hiring, firing, and training in a new era.

Last week, I wrote about my experience and missed opportunities in my first job, at Trilogy, a software company based in Austin, Tex. Today, I want to discuss how I tried to learn from my mistakes to achieve success at Callidus Software, my second job in two years.

My “miss” at Trilogy drove me to completely reassess how I approached this second experience. I was ready to do whatever it took to be successful.

First, I was ready and willing to start at the bottom. At Callidus, I really did start at the bottom, literally. Right before I was hired, the company leased a second floor in a building in San Jose, Calif. They put their current employees on the original floor (the top one) and the new employees (me) on the bottom floor. My desk was the only one occupied amid a sea of empty cubicles. Needless to say, it was not the most welcoming of office environments, but I didn’t care. (I’ve written previously about more welcoming environments.) I was ready to make my mark.

Second, I was ready to go to great lengths to achieve success. In this case, it meant driving long distances. I had moved to San Francisco from Austin, but Callidus was based in San Jose — 50 miles away. It didn’t matter. I commuted every day, 50 miles each way, and didn’t mind at all. It’s helpful that Highway 280 between San Francisco and San Jose is absolutely gorgeous.

Third, I was ready to work hard and long. Even though I was driving a long way, I was usually the first to arrive (getting there early helped to avoid normal rush hour). I would work through the day, and then, when everyone else left for the evening, I would go to the gym down the street to work out. This would allow me to re-energize so that I could return to the office in the evening to do a couple more hours of work before heading home.

Fourth, I went in search of revenue. I learned from Jason Wesbecher at Trilogy that revenue is the lifeblood of a start-up and that the people who generate revenue are highly valued. So I did what I had watched him do: cold-call and e-mail potential customers, follow up doggedly to schedule meetings, consult with these potential customers to begin to understand their processes and uncover their problems, devise presentations and proposals that illustrated how our software could solve their problems and the benefits that would be gained, and push to close new deals.

Fifth, I realized when I started that I didn’t know how to do sales, so unlike my time at Trilogy (when I missed the opportunity to learn from Joe Liemandt, Ajay Agarwal, Jason Wesbecher and many others), I sought out mentors early at Callidus. Reed Taussig, the chief executive, was extremely helpful. He took an interest in me from the start and helped me chart my career path. My day-to-day mentor was Chris Cabrera. Chris and I were hired around the same time, but he had more than a decade of experience in the industry. I learned a tremendous amount from him — essentially everything I know about sales. I would schedule lunch or coffee with both Reed and Chris, and constantly ask questions.

Sixth, I was prepared to achieve success and then do it all over again. When I started at Callidus, I was told that I was too young to be a salesman for the company. We were selling multimillion dollar software applications. What company would buy that product from a 24-year-old who wasn’t old enough to rent a car? Undaunted, I started doing what I had seen Jason do at Trilogy. I reached out to potential customers with the goal of filling the sales pipeline. Eventually, I cultivated a qualified lead in Miami, but we didn’t have any sales people on the East Coast. So Reed told me that I should go there myself. And I did.

Thankfully, that first trip turned into another and then another, ultimately culminating in a multimillion dollar deal. I marched into Reed’s office and said: “I’ve sold a deal. I’m ready to be a full-fledged account executive.” He responded without hesitation: “You’re right. Now become our No. 1 salesperson.” So that was my new goal. I worked hard the rest of the year, signing many more customers and achieved the goal. I marched back into Reed’s office, and he said: “Great job. Really well done. But anybody can do it once. Really talented people do it two years in a row.” So I focused my efforts on repeating the feat. And I did.

Seventh, I was ready to go anywhere and do anything at any time. From Christmas to New Year’s Day of 2001, Reed, Chris and I met at the Callidus headquarters in San Jose. The mood was somber: we had built a software product to sell to banks, insurance companies and telecommunications companies, the majority of which were on the East Coast. But the locus of our customer activity was on the West Coast. We had hired experienced sales professionals on the East Coast, but none seemed to be effective. So in the meeting in 2001, Reed argued that we needed to “take someone from headquarters and move him to the East Coast.” I leaped at the chance. I didn’t care where I lived or where I had to move. I just wanted the opportunity to prove myself. When I moved to New York, the company’s revenue had plateaued in the mid-20 millions. One year later, after we got the Eastern half of the country working, the company’s revenue jumped to more than $70 million.

Finally, it’s important to point out how luck plays a role in these things. Because Callidus grew relatively quickly, it afforded me the opportunity to increase my responsibilities. I was lucky that it was a terrific vehicle for me to redeem myself. In the course of my time at Callidus, we expanded the business from start-up to more than $100 million in revenue and an initial public offering in 2003. (The company is still publicly traded today.)

So this is my message to this year’s college graduates: I hope you avoid the mistakes that I made at my first job at Trilogy and embrace the philosophy that I adopted at Callidus. If you do, and if you are lucky enough to land a job in the first place, I am confident that you will make the most of the opportunity.

Bryan Burkhart is a founder of H.Bloom. You can follow him on Twitter.

Article source: http://boss.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/07/16/my-second-chance-in-my-second-job/?partner=rss&emc=rss

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