Strategy| Growth| Brand

How to not kill your SaaS business with Mike McDerment, Co-Founder of FreshBooks

Jun 8, 2021 28 minute read Advance B2BAdvance B2B

Last updated 09 June, 2021.

“A lot of times, just going heads down and sticking with something over a long period of time is better than just thinking you have to do everything now and immediately and I think startup culture confuses that.”

—Mike McDerment, Freshbooks

Freshbooks is the #2 small business accounting software in America, but the road there wasn’t easy. In this episode of the Growth Hub Podcast, Mike McDerment, former CEO, and Board Chair of FreshBooks, tells us how the company came about almost by accident and the journey it went on from there to success.

Now, with over 24 million users worldwide, he can look back and see where they made good choices and which decisions nearly killed the business. Insights not to be missed!

In this episode, Mike talks about:

🚀  How he accidentally founded a SaaS company

🚀  Why moving too fast almost killed FreshBooks early on

🚀  Why he underestimated word of mouth as a growth driver

🚀  Why raising at the wrong time can be very dangerous

🚀  The counter-intuitive idea of why Mike decided to start a direct competitor company to FreshBooks called BillSpring

Those and more fascinating thoughts and pointers for SaaS businesses can be heard in this latest instalment of The Growth Hub podcast.

Don’t miss out on our upcoming episodes! Subscribe now on iTunes, SoundCloud, or Spotify to The Growth Hub podcast ❤️ 


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Links

Freshbooks

The E-Myth, by Michael Gerber

Connect with Audrey on LinkedIn

Follow Mike on Twitter

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Advance B2B

Follow The Growth Hub on Twitter 

Follow Edward on Twitter

 

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Transcript.

Edward Ford:
Now joining us today on the show is Mike McDerment, co-founder, former CEO, and board chair of FreshBooks. And in this episode, we're talking about how to not kill your SaaS business.

Mike went from accidental SaaS founder to CEO of a SaaS company with over 24 million users, and he's learned a lot of lessons along the way since FreshBooks was founded back in 2003.

In this episode, Mike talks about how he accidentally founded a SaaS company, why moving too fast almost killed the company early on, why he underestimated word of mouth as a growth driver, why raising at the wrong time can be super dangerous, and we also hear the counter-intuitive yet genius idea of why Mike decided to start a competitor company to FreshBooks called Bill Spring.

Now there's all this, and there's a whole lot more on episode number 71 of the Growth Hub Podcasts with Mike McDerment, co-founder, former CEO, and board chair of FreshBooks.

Edward Ford:
Welcome to another episode of the Growth Hub Podcast, and it's my pleasure to welcome Mike McDerment to the show, who is co-founder and CEO of FreshBooks. So, Mike, thank you so much for joining us today here on the Growth Hub Podcast.

Mike McDerment:
Thanks for having me, Edward.

Edward Ford:
Yeah, this is going to be a fun one with some seriously important lessons, as you've gone from accidental founder to CEO of a SaaS company with over 24 million users, which is quite amazing, and you'll be sharing your stories and lessons on how to not kill your SaaS business, which I think is something you've almost done about seven times if I recall correctly. But before we jump into that, I would love to kick things off with hearing how you accidentally founded a SaaS company.

Mike McDerment:
Well, it's a classic story. It's a scratch your own itch kind of story.

So I was running a marketing firm, I called it design firm because we were helping people design their websites, their newsletters, their logos, and their marketing collateral, if you will. So it was talked about as a design firm. But I was running that small firm, I was working from home. This is early 2000s. And I accidentally saved over an invoice. I was using Word and Excel to bill my clients and prepare the documents and invoice them once it was time by email. And I just said, "Hey." I saved over that invoice and I was so frustrated with the way I was doing it. I was just like, "There's got to be a better way to do this."

So I built something. And I really just built it for myself so that I could bill my clients, and it turned out my clients really liked it. So pretty quickly we were like, "Hey, I wonder who else could use something like this?"

So we've learned a whole bunch of lessons along the way in terms of marketing because we started out and we were cloud before cloud. So there was no category to describe what we were doing. People were buying boxes of CDs on software and installing them on their computers when we got going. So we had to learn about categories and we were very we were pre-internet marketing almost, and that's because I grew up in the cottage industry of SEO and things like that before Google AdWords and Overture at Yahoo were even started. So that was our Petri dish to learn about customer acquisition and help the business get going.

So we've just seen a ton of things over the years and we were always a touchless, demand generated business until recent times we've got a sales motion going as well.

So I can speak about all of those things and more, and it's been a heck of a journey to now be one of the world's leading accounting software platforms, we're global with customers in a hundred countries, and frankly, if I'm not mistaken, our largest segment of customers is marketing agencies and firms.

So if anybody out there is still using Word or Excel or they're using accounting software they find intimidating and not built for them, do go ahead and check out FreshBooks. We're built for owners. It's super easy to use. And the thing that makes us special is we're built for owners, but specifically owners who are service-based in nature. So not doing retail and not doing hardcore e-commerce exclusively. It's really people who have clients they bill and charge in an ongoing relationship.

Anyhow, that's a bit of a primer about me and the business and some of the lessons we learned along the way.

Edward Ford:
Yeah, that's incredible. And you spent, I think it was over three years, working out of your parents' basement to grow FreshBooks, and you spoke earlier about operating in a pre-Google ads paid acquisition world. So thinking back to the early days, how did you get that traction and acquire your first customers?

Mike McDerment:
Just very simply, when we got going, I knew something about SEO, effectively, organic search engine marketing, and we were helping a lot of customers with that. So the design agency, we'd build a website, but my thing... I loved internet marketing from the get-go.

I was a business school student. I started building websites for myself first and the question like, "What the heck is the point of having a website if people don't show up to it." And then I started to ask myself, "Well, what the heck of doing it if the people..." You can get a lot of traffic but some of them are just not super qualified, so what's the point unless they are the people who you want to show up?

And then once I start getting the people I wanted to show up, I was like, "Well, what's the heck of having a website and having people show up if they don't do what you want and convert?"

And that led me into.. My design firm actually turned into basically what I call conversion consulting, but what is now pretty common with a lot of websites doing split testing and AB testing and all this stuff. We were in 2002, helping people do those kinds of things.

So that was the early days. So specifically to your question of how did we get going? That's what I was helping other people do. So I saved over the invoice in 2003, it took us a while to get to market because we were doing it on the side, and a lot of the technologies people used to build web applications, they didn't exist.

So we launched in May 2004, and between those times, when we knew we were going to launch, we were building the website, we actually put up a landing page and started doing link building to get organic search there before we even launched the company.

So you were listing in directories and all the stuff that you did back then, it' pretty old school. But that's how we started getting things going. And then we launched and we had some partners who put up links on their websites and that helped as well.

And then we started buying $30 ads in email newsletters to, frankly, marketers and people who we were... The communities I participated in. So it was a very much continue to serve ourselves, go find other people us in the communities we already knew approach.

Over time it started to evolve and we got into things blogging, which was really early as well. I didn't know the first thing about it, but we kind of got into, I guess, that form of social media before... This was before Twitter or Facebook or LinkedIn existed. We were out there blogging and checking Technorati, and I'm really dating myself with some of this stuff.

But I think it was a really good proving ground to understand, "Hey, what content matters? How does the social web work with people pointing links to people and how..." Frankly, you can go buy a lot of advertising, but the earned media have a link on a blog post is way more powerful, frankly, than an article in an important newspaper. That was a mind blowing moment. Like, "Hey, a blog link is more valuable than national news coverage."

We're based in Canada. I mean, it was kind of a stunning revelation. And it's like, "Okay, well, how do you continue to focus on your community and earn more of those links?" Anyhow. So that's a big part of how we got going, and also we did get into live events, and with anything that we did, we always tried to be different, basically. We recognized we had less money and we knew, frankly, a lot less about marketing in a lot of ways because I was a tactical internet marketer. I didn't grow up in a company that had a packaged goods background around branding and all this stuff.

But when we would go to a conference or we got out into the world, we always tried to just find a way to be interesting. So if we went to a conference, our objective at the conference was to have everybody talking about us when we left. So it could be a number of things.

I think one fun example, and this was in our later years where we were at a conference in New Orleans and we actually hired a marching band to walk through the common areas of the conference. And they were wearing FreshBooks swag and all this stuff. But you can't miss that.

So you prepare all these stunts along the way to just do everything you can to get people's attention and make them aware of you. I don't know, that gives you a flavor for the breadth of marketing related things that we did, just to try and get the word out and get people's attention in the early days.

Edward:
Yeah, that's really interesting to hear, and I think everyone is going to be hiring a marching band for the first conference they attend after the pandemic is over and everyone can get back face to face.

But I think one of the really interesting things as well from that is that the actual tactics and channels haven't really changed since you guys started. Of course, you had first-mover advantage and you've been doing this for a long time, but really it's all about the fundamentals, understanding your customer and getting into places where they are, so super interesting to hear.

And moving to the core of this episode, you've listed several ways that you almost killed your own SaaS business over the years and want to pick a few of those to dig into now on this episode, and one I'd to start with is quite interesting, as that was moving faster than you did. Now, a lot of startups have this move fast and break things mentality. So why did moving fast almost kill FreshBooks?

Mike:
Yeah, so I think that blog post, just to put it in context, I think I wrote it, Seven Ways I Almost Killed FreshBooks in 2006 or something this. So just when we were getting going. And by the way, all the things in there are true and still relevant for anybody starting a company.

So when you think about, when I take myself back to that time, and I think the quote is, almost killed us by moving... I guess it was moving faster or thinking we had to move faster than we actually did. So when you're in a... When you're in your parents' basement for three and a half years, and your competition is a company that is public and has a market capitalization of I don't know how many tens of billions of dollars and has market share of 80%, you start to say to yourself, "Yeah, I'm going to get killed." It's a paranoid mindset.

And again, we were doing all these things we could to get the word out and to stay alive and keep things afloat and manage the expenses and all the things you do when you're a startup and you're in a really precarious position. So one of the things that... I used to just think we were always two quarters away from somebody snuffing the business out, which doesn't paint a pretty picture, but it gives you a window into the mindset.

And the truth was, a lot of times just going heads down and sticking with something over a long period of time is better than just thinking you have to do everything now and immediately. And I think startup culture confuses that.

In fact, I am the founder chair of another company that I've been involved with for the past five years alongside FreshBooks, and we're looking at a thing right now where it's like, "Hey, what if we just focus and we're quiet and we progress and then pop up down the road."

It's not all about being out all the time, doing it faster, because then you're maybe educating the market or your competition or whatever it is. So there's a lot of goodness that can come from just being deliberate, focusing on execution, serving your customers really well, that is a good thing to focus on versus reacting and being terrified of doing things you think you should, because you're supposed to go faster because that's what the article on TechCrunch or whoever says you're supposed to.

Edward:
Yeah, definitely. And another thing that you did was underestimate word of mouth, which is a really incredible way to help grow your SaaS business. So two parts to this question. Why did you underestimate word of mouth and how did you eventually get word of mouth firing later on down the line?

Mike:
I think you largely have the answer to the second part with those things I talked about already, where we were always trying to be interesting and take a novel approach to things and serve our customers really well, and I'll give you some examples in a second.

But as for the first part, why did I underestimate it? One of the things I love about marketing these days and certainly internet and digital marketing is everything's still measurable. You can run a test and it's test and response, and the math behind that, the measurement is seductive and it's like, "Oh, I want to take all of my dollars and put them over here because I can measure it and I know the costs," and all this stuff. So that certainty is a big deal. But certainly in the market that we serve, which is small business, one of the biggest drivers of growth and product selection is what an owner will hear from another owner.

That actually might be the most influential thing for them to try a new product or services, is not did they see an ad or did they hear about it in the media? It's more, "Hey, what did my friends say?" So it's almost consumer in that way.

If you're selling to enterprises, maybe it's what Gartner has to say that matters, but for small business owners, it's often just what other owners had to say. So you can't see that, you can't track it, you don't know what's happening.

But we had the good ones fortune to have an advisor around us early in the company, and he actually worked in all things... He was a marketing manager at an oil and gas company, Esso, at one point he was helping from headquarters, run the various gas, whatever you call it, the gas pump stations, the gas stations.

And he just said something to me that really stuck, which is, "Listen, just pick a vertical and be very focused there, and right when you think you've tapped out and you can't grow anymore, push through that wall and keep going, because there's actually invariably more depth there and more opportunity than you realize."

So in our case, what that meant was we started buying ads for the marketers and what have you, and it really swerved into... We really just for the first seven years of the company targeted web designers and we got to them through serving marketers and we got to them through websites, cool website pages, they went for inspiration and we got to them through pay-per-click ads. But that was the one vertical we went after.

And when you start going after a vertical and trying to reach them and you realize, "Okay, I buy my ads like this, I go to these online properties." And then it's like, "Okay, I'm going to go to these conferences." And you just have a very verticalized marketing effort that really never goes out of style, and what was interesting in our case is while we were targeting this one vertical, we were getting customers... We were signing up lawyers, we were signing up IT folks, we were signing up all these other verticals who came across us for one reason or another. And we were setting up people in countries all over the world. We have paying customers in over a hundred countries.

So I think the lesson is, if you go focus on one vertical and you do a good job for them, they're going to tell the people in that vertical, but they'll also start telling other people, because they'll see applicability that's not just for them in a lot of cases, and that becomes really powerful. So you get concentrated in one vertical and you start to get a level of penetration and then that builds out.

So even from those early efforts today, those are still places where you get the lion's share of our customers today, and that's from over a decade ago of starting to invest in staying very focused there. So that gives you a bit of a sense of things.

I think the other thing I'll just chip in is, as a startup company, I feel like... If you think you're going to win because you have more budget to spend on Google ads, you're probably in real trouble longterm.

So whether it's because your product's great and people want to talk about you or because your marketing is really interesting and people want to share and talk about you, I think that drive to be interesting and be of high quality and to serve your clients really well is really, really important, because to make a channel Google pay-per-click go, you have an unfair advantage if you also have a word of mouth engine that can help basically lower your average cost per customer, because they join and they tell somebody else, or because somebody told them, and then you're paying pay-per-click ad to have them find you after they go searching. So I hope that makes sense, but that's the way I think about some of it.

Edward:
Yeah, absolutely. I think that's super great to hear how you thought about word of mouth. And another way you said you can kill your SaaS company is raising at the wrong time, which is something you've learned, and there seems to be a thing in SaaS and startups that raising is wildly celebrated, but why can raising at the wrong time be so destructive to your SaaS business?

Mike:
I have some pretty contrarian views on fundraising relative to a lot of people these days. I think a lot of people have an idea, they want to get started, they raise the money so they can do the idea.

And I'm a little more of the, "Hey, you need to know how you're going to return the capital before you take the capital," which is a bit of a different way to do things. For me, I just want to de-risk the relationship. And there's a lot of investors who are like, "Hey, it's risk money. I'm not too worried about it." But anyway, so that is my orientation. So I think to be... There's maybe even another way to say that. So timing is a factor, but it's alignment with your capital.

We almost raised, and the reason I put that bullet in there, was we almost raised $300,000 in the very early days of FreshBooks, and it would have been for 30% of the company.

And we actually tried to get it done. We didn't know what we were doing. This was an angel group. We really liked the people, we wanted the money, we thought that's what you were supposed to do. Those were different times. But I will tell you this, if we had raised that capital, I don't think we'd be in business today.

I think that would have set us down a certain path with a group of people who would want investor returns that we're not going to be coming anytime soon, and then we would have made the decisions because we had them involved with us and were interested in their considerations and looking after them and we probably would have sold or done some pretty unnatural things because the business just hadn't developed enough yet.

So I think it's a little bit in this bucket of the speed thing before where, "Oh, the playbook, TechCrunch says you have to just do everything faster." Well if you go and bring somebody onto your cap table, meaning you raise money and they become a equity holder in the shares of your company, that is now... You're now responsible, not just for your employees, not just for yourself and other investors that you have, you're also not responsible for that investor. And it becomes a lot more to manage, and their expectations...

Things may not go as planned, so their expectations are changed. And all these kinds of things. So I would just say there are times when it makes sense to bring on new capital partners. And there are times and reasons when it doesn't.

And I think it's important to know which you're at and why, and just be deliberate and have it, and a lot of entrepreneurs just think they have something great and they really want the money and they haven't gotten to a place necessarily where they know that... It's not as simple as that. There's more to both sides of the coin and setting up the conditions to be successful with the right capital partners.

So we basically dodged a bullet by failing to secure financing from an early firm. They were great. I really liked them, but it would have been the wrong thing. Plus we would have diluted ourselves enormously, which would have been too bad.

Edward:
Yeah, for sure. And following from this question, because now after years of bootstrapping, you actually raised $75 million for FreshBooks. So following from that previous question, why did you decide to take on funding?

Mike:
So again, back to my contrarian points of view, we had bootstrapped the business. We did raise a little angel money later from some people who were more in technology versus general business people. And we used that capital to go ahead and scale the business and progress it, really for 10 years, and making millions... I think we might've been $10 million or something this before we raised our first venture round.

And that took patience and diligence and saying no and focus and execution and taking care of customers. So don't get me wrong, it was not easy, but we stayed focused. And I was always terrified of raising capital because I was afraid that... Not so much losing control of the business, though I suppose that's part of it, but I was really concerned about if I didn't have enough influence, what would happen to the customer and the customer experience? And this was the time when everyone was outsourcing everything.

So people are outsourcing customer service to far-flung places. Dell went and outsourced a lot of the customer service to India to save money. And the feedback was starting to come into Dell. Like, "Hey people, it's just not the same experience you used to offer." The reps aren't as knowledgeable, just all these kinds of things.

So I was afraid of showing up to a board meeting and having somebody tell me we're going to outsource service, and I would be like, "What?" I felt I'd have no control over it. So basically I just... I didn't know a lot about venture. I didn't know a lot about how this stuff works. I ended up just taking time to learn about venture, talked to lots of VCs, take lots of calls, to say, "No, we're not interested." And then continue to work on the business and get it to a place where I thought, "Hey, we've de-risked the product, we've de-risked the market. I know how we can return capital for people," because they want basically a 3 to 10 X return and I felt like I could see that.

And then the last remaining thing for me was just we got this team in place, a management team that I was like, "Okay, now I feel like we can credibly scale the company." And then I was like, "The only thing that was stopping us was capital." So I said, "Okay, let's go raise capital." And that was my process to get in there.

People might say, I don't know what, maybe they're conservative or whatever, and it's not the path that I would necessarily take now, knowing a few more things. But I think it was the right thing. Our category and our market situation was very early back then as well. A lot of the things that are true today were not as true back then around the technologies you can use to build things quickly, the development of some channels, just a bunch of things have changed. So anyway, for those reasons and more that's why I took my time on deciding to bring in institutional capital.

Edward:
Yeah, absolutely. And I think another thing you did that sounds counter-intuitive was to actually create a competitor to FreshBooks in secret, and I find this super fascinating. You called this competitor Bill Spring. So tell us, why did you create a secret competitor company?

Mike:
Well, there are a few reasons why. First we decided, "Hey, the market..." We started in 2003, and a lot had happened since then. For example, smart devices, an iPhone or Android, were not a thing when we started and they were very much a thing by the time we were talking and thinking about this.

So we had a bunch of what I would call design debt and technical debt that needed addressing, and this is a classic thing with a software company is, "Okay, we need to replatform or something like this." My counsel to anybody would be don't replatform. Do everything that you can not to. But for a variety of reasons, mostly around design debt and wanting to set up the next 10 and 20 years, in the way our technology was working where it just didn't have good architecture. The front end and the back end were too intermingled.

We determined that, "Okay, we really ought to do this for the long run." So that's what we did is we went and replatformed. But then once you start doing that, it's a very risky project, it takes a large amount of time. And I always saw these new software releases from companies. Half the time, the software just got worse. And that's just depressing.

So when you go from Windows XP to Windows Vista, that was not an improvement. That was a step backwards. So I wanted to figure out, "Well, how do we know if the software is actually better? How would we empirically know?" So that was one thing. And then I also started to realize that if you have your name brand on something, people are afraid to take risks. They won't be as creative and adventurous and all these kinds of things.

So what we decided to do is basically incubate and create a second company, and we competed with ourselves. We literally bought AdWords for the new company and acquired customers for it.

Until one day we got a phone call and we got a FreshBooks customer calling into customer service saying, "Hey, you know what, I'm leaving you guys. I'm going to this new company called Bill Spring." That was the name of the company, and that was the day we were like, "Okay, I think we're onto something." And then not too long after that, we acquired Bill Spring and brought it under the FreshBooks banner and made it the new offering of FreshBooks.

Edward:
Oh my goodness, that is genius. I've never, ever heard anyone do something like that, actually execute. But yeah, that makes a lot of sense when you talk it through.

And one other thing I would to cover that's almost led to the downfall of your business is that you doubted yourselves too much, and you also said previously that you rebuilt the entire FreshBooks platform as well, which I think was over two and a half year endeavor. So how do you embrace things like imposter syndrome and fear as a founder?

Mike:
Yeah, I mean, I think that's a long and separate topic, but if you think about imposter syndrome as you're leading a company, and this is true for anyone in their career at various steps, and certainly for a lot of founding CEOs, I think founding CEOs have mixed reputations, but one of the things that is hard to fathom is the many multitude of dimensions upon which they're trying to solve problems at the same time, and oftentimes, especially the younger ones, like I was and a lot of the ones you certainly hear about in technology these days, is it didn't necessarily have a lot of experience in industry or anything that before to build up their capability sets. So doing everything almost for the first time.

So if you're not basically completely out of touch with reality in that situation, then you'd start to say... You'd start to probably doubt yourself and wonder like, "Hey, this little voice in your head saying, 'maybe...'" I don't know, seeding doubts. "Why are people following me? How do I know this the way forward?" Those kinds of things.

And I think those are very natural. Imposter syndrome to me is something everybody has to contend with. And my counsel for somebody who's dealing with those kinds of thoughts is just to observe them and accept them and then just move on, and that sounds easy.

It's much, much harder to do because a lot of cases you're completely beholden by these thoughts and can't even extricate yourself from them. But at the end of the day, what lots of people don't know is there's lots of really successful people out there who... They just like to get themselves into a place where they don't know and it's uncertain, and these are reasonable questions.

I mean, if you think Elon Musk literally has all the answers, I would contest that, but I think he likes being uncertain and trying to figure it out along the way, and he's not going to get it right every time, but I think that's the nature of entrepreneurship. And I think more than anything, it's the nature of personal growth.

So for these reasons and more, I think it's just something to be embraced and accepted, and it's a gift when you think about it, it's trying to motivate you to be better, so don't be afraid of it. Try and channel it and continue to grow.

Edward:
Yeah, absolutely. That's really good to hear. And these lessons were all from the early days, you said earlier around 2006, so one final question before we jump into our rapid fire fast five challenge, any more recent lessons on how to not kill your SaaS business, now that you're a much bigger company than you were back then?

Mike:
First of all, I think we did actually... The article I wrote, the seven ways, was a long time ago, and then some of the more recent examples, Bill Spring was 2016, 2018 timeframe. So that's a little newer.

Imposter syndrome is a thread throughout. so I think we've covered a lot of good ground there.

In terms of recency, I would just say, "Hey, we've started to now contest with some other challenges," which is we were very good at touchless channels and developing new sales channels to go to markets. Most SaaS businesses will get most of their growth and most of their business through one channel, and starting to have multiple channels that really work for you as part of the growth effort, it's not easy to do.

So I think the question is... So that's one thing I'd say do not do too fast is to try and do every channel. If you have one that's scaling, stick with it for like, I don't know, 10 years. But somewhere along the line you do need to start thinking about, "Well, how do I get the next one going?" And I think a good and important lesson there is not to kill it before it's had a chance.

We came from the internet marketing background. I turn on the ads in Google, the results are happening tomorrow. You have this really serious expectation of a channel being developed quickly, knowing what's happening empirically really fast. Something like a sales channel takes probably years to develop and nurture. And you need to think about investing very differently to develop a channel like that.

We had a variety of things that over the years we started and stopped because the results didn't come the way we expected them on the timeframe. And as opposed to just maybe simmering the investment a little or really the expectations and letting the channel develop, I think is... I just think a really good lesson.

You can kill a lot of good business initiatives by trying to get them ready in 12 or 18 or sometimes even 24 months. And the question is, how can you incubate it long enough that it can succeed long enough that it can actually start to get scale? And I think that's a special and precious thing and it's hard to do.

Edward:
Yeah, this is really good advice, and I think a very common challenge facing many SaaS companies, particularly if they've been built through a touchless self-serve funnel to then go and layer on a sales assistant funnel on top, and how do you do that?

But I think also the other way, I've spoken to a lot of SaaS founders and marketers, who've traditionally been sales assisted, who then actually want to complement that with a touchless self-serve funnel, and that's also very challenging because you can run into situations where all of a sudden your sales team are competing against the website where you have a lower price and you need to figure out the whole pricing, packaging, and positioning. So, yeah, I think really good to hear that advice on some more recent lessons.

And I have to say, Mike, this was super good, but we could now move to our closing questions and our fast five challenge. So to wrap things up, I will ask five questions and all you need to do is answer as quickly as possible. So are you ready?

Mike:
Yes.

Edward:
Okay. Let's do it. First question. What is the one book you would recommend others to read?

Mike:
As an entrepreneur, the one I generally recommend is the E Myth by Michael Gerber. I think there are lots of people out there, and it may not be your audience so much, but if you're just getting started and trying to figure out how to fit the pieces together at the start of a company, I think it just gives you a really good window into how to think about building your team and organizing and orienting your operations over time.

Edward:
Awesome. Second question. A SaaS company you love and why?

Mike:
I would give a shout out to Nathan Barry over at ConvertKit. It's not something I use a bunch, but he's doing some really interesting things on the marketing thing, and I just love the story of the company and the founder there. So maybe just for marketers who haven't checked out ConvertKit, give it a look.

Edward:
Awesome. Third question. Favorite place to learn about marketing online?

Mike:
The truth is I do less of that today given I've been CEO of a company for 20 years, and a little less involved in the marketing and trusting in others now. But yeah, I will just give it some shoutouts, some crops to the folks in that search engine marketing land those kinds of communities were helpful to me back in the day.

Edward:
Love it. Fourth question. Most important growth metric?

Mike:
It's complicated, not straightforward. It really depends on your company and your stage, and what you're trying to accomplish. So I don't think there's one ring to rule them all. I think the trick is to figure out where are we and what's appropriate now, and what should we be using to govern and progress? And I think if you can answer those questions, you can probably come up with a metric and just be thoughtful about it.

Edward:
Awesome. And best piece of advice for fellow SaaS founders?

Mike:
I'll give you a couple, but let's go with this one. Every problem's a people problem, every solution's a people solution. It's all about the people in your team. So that includes the investors you bring around you, certainly the executive team, and the people you hire. So just be thoughtful, don't compromise, and trust your gut.

Edward:
Awesome. Love it. Well, Mike, I have to say this was absolutely amazing, and thank you so much for coming on the Growth Hub Podcast.

Mike:
You are most welcome.