How to Scale a SaaS Business
Ved Rasic Joins Me On the Podcast to Discuss Serious Growth
Episode Transcript Below:
Welcome to Saas-Story in the Making. The podcast that features the people who made the software world what it is today and the leaders who are shaping the future of technology. Here's your host, Matt Wolach.
Matt Wolach: Yes, yes, this is Matt. I am your host. It is Saas-Story in the Making. I am very excited today to talk to Ved Rasic. He is the chief Revenue Officer of Autoklose. Ved, how you doing?
Ved Rasic: Hey, Matt, it's good to be here. It's good to know you, and I'm looking forward to this conversation.
Matt: Me too, me too. I know Ved. We've talked a while and this is a really good guy. He really focuses at Autoklose on helping people understand the platform. It's a sales engagement platform. It's got millions of verified b2b leads in an integrated database. So it's a really, really cool deal. I've seen it, I've been through it, I have a license for it. And this is a slick system for sure. So I'm interested to learn about how it's been created.
Ved: What's under the hood.
Matt: What’s under the hood, exactly. That was also a former CEO at Sylidra. And he oversaw the entire SaaS lifecycle growth. And prior to that, he has extensive technology experience over in Europe as well. And he's even the author of the b2b sales handbook, which is 15 irresistible insider stories on the success of high growth sales teams. So if you want to talk about SaaS, if you want to talk about sales, this guy knows his stuff. So Ved, welcome.
Ved: Thanks, Matt, again. This will be a fun ride, man. I'm looking forward to your questions and share a little bit more with your audience of exactly what's under the hood in Autoklose and who are the people behind Autoklose.
Matt: Perfect. Well, let's jump right in. Let's talk about that. Tell me about what you're doing and what's going on at Autoklose?
Ved: Yeah, so Autoklose has been around for two years. My partner and CEO Sean Pinder, he started the first business some four or five years ago. That's parlayed it into Autoklose. But I mean, if I tell you that we're a bootstrap, self-funded startup, with up to 50 employees and consultants that just crossed over 1 million in ARR, the real answer of what I do would be a little bit of everything. So some kind of six months ago, we started hiring a bit more aggressively.
And growing your team is a kind of wonderful thing but it also tends to be hard to lead effectively when you have 15 to 20 people in a line, right. So we kind of restructured the team into two main functions of the organization, which is production and business, right. Same as any other business, not necessarily related only to software businesses. So I’m managing the business side with a huge support from my CEO, and with team leads responsible for marketing, brand, sales development, account executives, customer success and support. So effectively, my job is split between managing the budget teams, brand. And I still do a lot of sales and contracts myself. So it's really, to be honest, it's really a little bit of everything.
Matt: That's awesome. Yeah, I've been a part of early stage companies just like that. And it is fun when you kind of wear a bunch of different hats. It gets crazy sometimes, of course.
Ved: Right, most of the time.
Matt: Yeah, most of the time. That's well said. But it is interesting to kind of focus on one thing, really work hard on that, and then kind of pick up and say, oh, now I have to fix this problem. I have to work on this challenge and get to talk with these types of people. It's pretty, pretty neat. I bet you're loving it.
Ved: Right, yeah, I mean, wearing different hats definitely, sometimes it's inspiring and mostly on podcasts, it’s super inspiring and sounds good. But in day to day operations, you really have to stay focused. And even if you have six to eight to ten things to do that day, you really need to, I found the best hack that I've ever heard to self-organize. You know, just write it down in your notebook and put a little star next to the top three things that you really absolutely have to finish that day. And then you become a little bit more sane, and you don't blame yourself if you don't cross check all your to do lists or tasks for that day, right. So I think wearing different hats can be tiring, but also rewarding, especially when you introduce a lot of great teammates and team leads to work with you on those functions of the business, right.
Matt: Yeah, for sure. And we’ve spoken about leadership and that brings up a really good point when you have all these tasks and the other teams and people that you're working with, your teammates. So talk about, I know you wrote an article on this and something that was pretty popular. But talk about how are you delegating responsibility?
Ved: Right, so the only way you can create leaders, instead of a bunch of followers, is to give them a responsibility. So the basic premise is that you want to surround yourself with leaders and people of action instead of followers, right. That's the basic thing. If you just want a bunch of followers don't listen to this advice.
So you want to focus on leaders, who are action makers, who are those that are going to raise hand and be proactive. In order to do so, you want to start with a bulk of tasks and just trusting people that they are going to get it done. But now, trusting is definitely not enough, just giving someone a bunch of tasks and tell them that go figure it out is definitely another way to do it. So there's a process behind it. So one thing that definitely is another premise is that you don't want to overwhelm people, you don't want to give them responsibility that's such a huge challenge that overwhelms so they didn't know how to do it and they basically don't survive in a position.
What do you want to do over time, you want to build a capable business partner, instead of a follower, and slowly work your way up depending on the experience of a person, right. If you're working with a junior, if you're working with someone that has three to five years of experience in a position, you probably can give them a bit more of a responsibility. And obviously, if you're working with an executive, the direction is the only thing that matters, right. The only thing that you need to do is what's the B point, where are we going, walking towards, right.
But I think the basic five step process that I picked a while ago from one of the amazing, most amazing books of all time, that has a little bit of a cheesy name, and it's Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. But if you think about it, and if you think about the content, it's actually, yeah, I mean, a lot of nowadays gurus and coaches and everyone, right, it's just taking a bunch of content from the book.
So it's really like one of those that you got to read, right. And there, I've learned about a five step process, which is start with a goal, start with a goal in mind, with the endpoint in mind. Then move on to a guidelines, right, when delegating a task, when delegating a group of tasks that there is responsibility. So start with goal, move into guidelines, which parameters the individual needs to operate within, right. Provide resources and now the resources point depends on the experience, right. Make sure you talk about a financial, technical organizational resources, even identify human resources that a person can count on.
And obviously it's just like we mentioned before we started recording, coaching is an important one. So goal, guidelines resources, then move on to a very clear standards of how are you going to evaluate the results, which is the responsibility. And then talk a little bit about the consequences of one or the other thing.
And now, I know that it sounds like yeah, sure, like, in a startup, I'm gonna sit down and go over all five to delegate responsibility. And yes, it can be mundane to begin with. Yes, it might take a lot of time to begin with, but then midterm, even like, one quarter to the next one, you will have a bunch of highly capable individuals that can take on any project. Which means that now you have more bandwidth and more time to think about what's really important, what really matters, right. Instead of you getting into daily operations and doing everything yourself, which is one of the other things we're going to talk about. All these issues that, we as founders, run into, right.
Matt: Yeah, I mean, I think that's fantastic. I love, personally, I think you've laid out a lot of the reasons why you should do this business wise. But for me personally, I love taking somebody under my wing, coaching them, giving them some responsibility, ramping up that responsibility as they grow and learn from it, and seeing them develop into great leaders themselves. I get a lot of personal satisfaction out of that, not just the fact that it helps the business. How about you?
Ved: 100%, I mean, I always say people before the tools or anything else, because eventually… I mean, all of us I think, you know, I… You know, sometimes I'm an extrovert, sometimes I'm an introvert, it really depends. But at the end of the day, I do enjoy working with people. Even when you reflect on all the positives and the negatives, eventually, it's all kind of part of life and laughable. Life without people, around you or without a community, like it just wouldn't be, it's not possible, right. So I think working with people one to one, even nowadays, once a week with every team leader, I spend at least 10 to 15 minutes. Just to... And usually I start with personal stuff, man. I want to be friends, right. And I'm not saying that this is the right way or wrong way, right. It's just is the way that I prefer. And I prefer connecting on that human level, and then we talk about business and what we can create or co create together, right. Like, that's an important angle.
Matt: That’s great. I love it. And I've seen you as somebody who really understands growth and sales. So, a lot of our listeners are founders or leaders within their companies. So what are some of the things about growth in sales that a lot of the founders you talk with are really unaware of?
Ved: Right. Well that's an interesting question. I did work with a lot of founders on my kind of freelance gigs and whatnot. And most founders start with their own network and their personal brand. And indie project founders drive that strategy quite successfully. But again, if you want to build a business and scale a business that scales beyond 1 million or 10 million annual recurring revenue, you need a process, and you need to make that process repeatable. So basically, early on you need that network or personal brand effect. If you're in a crowded marketplace, if your product is not very, if your product is b2b, right, like most of the markets in SaaS are now very saturated. So you've got to start with brands, you've got to start with your network, but at some point that becomes your weakness. So I think that's number one thing. The other thing, people often go for a silver bullet. you know self-funded, there are no extremely large projects, but rather small, incremental improvements and progress, even wins every day, right. And that's what matters the most, that's what you need to be focusing on. There are no silver bullets.
And one of the most effective ways, again, in software and b2b, is a brand. But not necessarily your personal brand, but company as a brand and people recognizing your logo instead of a person because a person is not scalable. And in my personal opinion, building a brand just around yourself. And like if you're, if you're running a software business, right, building a brand around yourself is just not fun. I prefer to see my people shining through and being the face of the brand, which eventually they are. I just love that drift they had on their website, there are people they're supportive. They were the one of the first ones that published that and they had a lot of photo shootings with their teammates and put it all across their website. Which I think is really useful. Because eventually you end up working with these people, right. You're not going to work on it with one single founder. And of course, there are exceptions to it but speaking general broad terms, I think that that is what matters.
Matt: Yeah, I think that's great. That drift about page is something that people have pointed to as kind of iconic and something that's very innovative in how to feature your people. I think that's fantastic. You've worked with a lot of different companies and startups, existing companies, and you've worked with a lot of leaders at those companies. So for our people out there, which traits and characteristics have you’ve seen for, have you seen that are important for leaders who want to get ahead and want to scale?
Ved: Right, so one thing that I it doesn't, people don't talk about it as much, is most of the successful founders that I worked with balance time and money really well. They really understand when it's important to spend money and when it's important to spend time and preserve money, right. Which also comes to a different environment, an environment that we're in at the moment, right. Like we are almost kind of in war times, right. And for war times, for most businesses, you need wartime leaders or CEOs, right, people that can preserve the money, get the money, and all that kind of stuff. And then you have CEOs that are really good for peace times. But I think balance between the two and people that really know when to invest their time and work on a problem themselves, versus when to spend money, I think is really an important virtue of a good leader. They hire people better than themselves. One traditional trait that everyone kind of talks about, and it truly is important, because again, are you building a business or are you building a job for yourself, right? And I think all the best leaders that I worked with are very much self aware, clear on what they bring to the table and, lastly, I have a couple of things that I wrote about. Be goal oriented, find a mentor or a coach, like Matt.
Matt: Nice plug. Thank you.
Ved: Learn how to delegate, learn how to delegate and unplug. Like, I think that fourth thing is so important, right. Like in order to be a good leader, in order to be really supportive to your teammates and working in infrastructural things, like big things instead of small things you need to unplug. And I think that is so difficult nowadays, especially here in North America. I think it's so hard, right. There's information everywhere. Like funny funny fact when I had to visit a doctor for whatever reason, and I went there. And it was kind of wellness slash spa type of thing. And you go in and there's a big TV with news on it. How the heck man? I'm just running away from screens and then you show me like, you just scream like with news like, oh, damn it. Like, it's so hard to unplug. So I think if you can find a little cottage and just leave your phone. I mean, if you're afraid to unplug just because your business will fail, then just ask yourself, do you have a business in the first place, right.
Matt: That's a great point. I knew a CEO, and he could not get away. He had a scheduled trip to Europe with his family. And halfway through the trip, something happened back at the home office, and he left the family in Europe and flew back to the US in order to take care of something. I just kept thinking to myself, I can't even believe that. I can't imagine doing that. How is he not set up his team? He had a whole team. It wasn't like it was just him. How has he not set up the team to be able to handle a situation that came up while he's gone with his family?
Ved: Right, I mean, that's just an example, right. I mean, and who are we to say that that's right thing or wrong thing. It's just I think both you and I, we agree that that's a little bit heavy. And you've got to have your priorities set and have them clear in front of you. So even if you forget, you remind yourself what's really important, then why do you do what you do. So I mean, it's such a cliché, but like, I mean… Even now, in my condo, I do have a bunch of walls with notes around. They're just reminding me of things. And it's been like that since college days. I remember people making fun like what is this guy doing like with all these books and sticky notes and messages and stuff. I mean, for instance, I'm a very passionate guy, I'm very, pretty much, most of the cases I'm an extrovert. So it's really important to me not to get too high or too low. So I usually had this little image that after Sun comes to rain, after rain comes to Sun, it's just trying to keep balance, be balanced and like, while that's happening, right. Don't go too high, don't go too low, right. So I think it's important to be self aware to understand who you are, what are your pluses and minuses and keep that in check if you really want to be a leader, right.
Matt: I think that's fantastic. I totally agree on that for sure. One thing I want to ask you is these leaders that you've worked with, and you've done a really good job of this at your own companies as well. But what tips would you give software leaders on how to scale and really how to scale globally?
Ved: Right, so do you mean like scale globally in terms of hiring globally or like just generally scaling the company globally? Like to sell globally is what you mean?
Matt: Yeah, sell globally, more than just the hiring. But how would you do that?
Ved: Right, I mean, it's quite easy, right. If you have a scalable product and if, most of the cases, you don't need a second third language to sell your product. English is… I can tell myself I lived in multiple countries, in Serbia in Austria, Russia, Germany, so I've been all over the place and people speak English, right, so you can always sell. What I would say though, the cultural background is really important, right. Sometimes here in North America, we tend to be a little bit more aggressive, a little bit more to the point, like, no fancy kind of emails. Like let's get it done.
Whereas in Europe, the relationship really like… It matters in a different way, right. Like it's all the same, we're all human beings in every corner of the globe, but underlying way how do you become friends is a little bit different. And in Europe people can find that a little bit uproot approach. And I know myself because I was going back for a couple of conferences and speaking gigs and whatnot and I know that a few times, I was a little bit, I forgotten that I'm in Europe. I was a little bit too harsh on certain aspects. So I mean, understanding the cultural backgrounds is really important. I think Harvard Business Review has a ton of articles on how to scale globally in terms of culture. I think having someone on the ground is always useful, because everything is software, everything is remote, and I mean, definitely, that's a huge advantage. However, finding someone local to navigate a community to be there is also useful. To give them a portion of a business, in a way, I think, is also useful. To have someone as a country or region manager is greatly useful.
And a lot of people might be asking themselves, how do you start? Well, if you're not familiar with outsourcing projects, and which is really rare nowadays, everyone's doing some sort of outsourcing or working with people from around the globe. Start with small projects, start with up work or whatever, online platforms, marketplaces there are to post jobs and to find people to work with. Ideally, find someone that has roots or connections to that country and find recommendations. And then eventually, like the sales strategy can vary, it can all, depending on your product, it can be anywhere from b2c strategies like Facebook ads and retargeting and whatnot into just doing a proactive outreach. But I find it, usually what happens on your website, you track traffic and you see where your leads are coming in from. You can see what’s that second, third fourth country where people are coming in from and start with that. You probably have some user base in there and it might be useful to fly there and find someone that you are willing to work with to scale the operation, right.
Matt: Yeah, I think that's right. I think that's some really good stuff for sure. And, man, I've really enjoyed hearing all of your points, your takes. This has been some really great stuff. You have a really sharp mind for leadership and for sales and growth, and this has been a lot of fun.
Ved: Yeah, man. It's like, fun questions, amazing host. So it was a good conversation, man. It was definitely a good conversation.
Matt: Thank you. Well, how should people contact you? I want to make sure that I spell the company name correctly for everybody. So it's AUTOKLOSE.
Matt: Autoklose with K. How should people in touch with you?
Ved: So yeah, Twitter or LinkedIn, both works. My first name and last name, Ved Rasic, I probably will have it on landing page, is the easiest way to get in touch. Always on LinkedIn, most of the times on Twitter, so be happy to answer any questions or follow ups that people might have.
Matt: Perfect. I need to follow you on Twitter myself. I'll go ahead and go do that.
Matt: Sounds good. Well, I'll put all that information in the show notes for everybody who's listening. But Ved, thank you very much for coming on. This has been really helpful, really enlightening, and I'm looking forward to seeing how I can personally implement a lot of the things that you discussed.
Ved: My pleasure, Matt. Happy to have you as part of our close family.
Matt: Thank you very much. Well take care of folks and we will see you next time. Bye bye.
Thank you for listening to Saas-Story in the Making. Join us next episode for another look into how today's visionaries are creating the next generation of innovation.
Find more episodes where you get your podcasts, or click here: