Ryan Holmes, Founder & CEO, Hootsuite
‘Great Product Wins’
The entrepreneurial journey of Ryan Holmes is similar to that of your average startup founder. The age-old story of first running a paintball company, then a pizza parlor, then a social media giant that manages 5 million posts a day.
OK, so maybe not that similar. While Holmes certainly has a lot in common with other successful entrepreneurs, his rise to the top and the rise of his company, Hootsuite, is anything but typical. The social media frontrunner was founded 1,000 miles away from Silicon Valley, entered the marketplace late, and wasn’t expected to ever go viral, but did so anyway, minus any paid advertising.
As CEO of the social media management platform, Holmes oversees the daily posting of millions of social media messages, and with 16 million global customers, Hootsuite’s community now spans every country in the world.
With his unlikely backstory and his product’s astounding viral growth, Ryan Holmes is yet another example of the fact there is no one formula to building a wildly successful business. For him, it was all about having confidence in not only his product’s quality and appeal, but also in his early team and the global talent he would eventually recruit.
Holmes’s track record of humble leadership, creative marketing, and eye for talent is far from average, and Hootsuite is evidence of that.
Great Products are Created from a Need
At its root, Hootsuite was designed to solve a problem, as most great products are.
After the stints in paintball and pizza, Holmes eventually ended up in tech. His final stop before Hootsuite was a web service and digital company founded in 2000. Out of Invoke Media came a handful of startups, one of which was Hootsuite.
As the agency’s team grappled with how to manage multiple networks and collaborative teams, Holmes and his colleagues created a solution, and what would become Hootsuite was born.
“[Hootsuite] helps make it easy for brands to connect with their customers. It helps empower that human social connection,” Holmes says. At its core, the tool allows users to manage multiple social accounts from one place, making it easier for brands to engage with an audience and track growth.
After a few years, the service started gaining traction, customers, and users. Like most founders with numerous startups on their resumes, Holmes had to choose where to dedicate his time, money, and energy. He chose to invest his focus in Hootsuite, leaving behind two trusted partners to run the agency, and bringing us to where we are today.
If You’re Not First, You’re…Going to Be Okay
In the past eight years, Hootsuite has skyrocketed to become the top social media management tool in the world. But they weren’t the first.
In fact, they weren’t the second or the third.
But that’s okay.
“Early advantage is a little bit overrated,” Holmes says. “Third or fourth to market is often the best place to be.”
Consider Facebook. First movers Friendster and Myspace laid the first stones in the social networking space. But look where all three stand today.
The few companies to introduce a new product or explore a new market space carry the burden of breaking the ice. The late movers, although not first, can glide on through—practically kayaking through an ice shelf once rivaling the North Pole. They have the advantage of learning from the mistakes of the earlier companies.
“In our case, there were other people out there before us,” Holmes says, “but we were able to pinpoint what they were doing, the features and functionalities that worked really well for them, and what our users and customers were going to want. [From this], we incorporated the best of the best.”
Hootsuite may not have been first to market with their tool, but that hasn’t stopped them from rising to the top. “Don’t over-fixate on being first.”
At the end of the day, though, “good product wins,” Holmes says.
In his experience, many founders focus so much on marketing and breeze right over their product without ensuring its market fit or overall virality. Paid advertising for products without market fit or virality only inflates usage data. The second paid advertising is pulled, product usage melts.
Instead of spending time and money on paid advertising right out the gate, Hootsuite figured out what their customers needed. They nailed down the best way to help them use and share their product.
So not only did Hootsuite delay entry to market, but they also withheld paid advertising for the first year. Instead, they focused on garnering organic shares on social media. In the early days, Holmes says, you’ve got to become obsessed with how to get people to share your product.
Hootsuite’s strategy for virality was threefold.
First, Hootsuite offered a Freemium option, creating a low barrier to entry for their software. (This option is still offered today.)
Second, every message shared by Hootsuite was attributed to the software, meaning that their users’ followers saw Hootsuite’s name associated with every post.
Finally, in the first couple of years, they also offered opportunities to upgrade account functionality by sharing on social media. This upped Hootsuite’s growth rate and made it the most talked-about social media management tool—all without a dime spent on paid ads.
“If you nail the foundation of product virality, it can take care of itself,” Holmes says.
Gather the Troops!
When you have a great product ready to take the world by storm, you must take into account your founding squad. Your A-team. Your “early 30.” From his days building up Hootsuite’s early team, Holmes has developed some serious wisdom on this topic, which he explains with a couple of metaphors.
“[When a company is founded], it’s essentially going to battle,” Holmes says. “Your early team are your paratroopers. They’re your crazy ones. They jump out of planes, into the darkness, with unknown terrain below them.”
Essentially, your early team doesn’t need to be specialized, but strong. Bold. Versatile. Risky, yet smart. Once your paratroopers invade new land (infiltrate), set up shop (innovate), and introduce a budding civil structure (incorporate), this team isn’t needed as much anymore.
“At that point, your paratroopers are looking around, and don’t recognize this world,” he says.
The second metaphor Holmes uses to explain early team building involves cutlery.
Consider Swiss Army knives compared to steak knives. While Swiss Army knives are good at a lot of things, steak knives are great for one thing.
Holmes ensured his early team was made up of Swiss Army knives. Instead of obsessing over making sure each person was an “A-player,” he brought on folks who were versatile and adaptable.
When you establish a company, you’ve got to do a lot with a little. It’s as simple as that. So, your team needs to be lean while being able to operate on a broad scale. Because of this, founding teams are better off with a few people who are good at a lot of different things.
As you scale, you can afford to specialize.
That’s what Hootsuite did. As they expanded past their initial 30 team members, Holmes was able to bring in people who were passionate about things that he wasn’t. Although literate in all facets of founding a business, Holmes’s passion didn’t extend beyond marketing, product, and company culture.
Once Hootsuite was big enough, Holmes hired his steak knives, spoons, and forks and sent his paratroopers on another mission.
The Who vs. the Where of Scaling
Companies are scaled with great product, great marketing, and great people. When it comes to the third component, Holmes did right by his company.
Today, Hootsuite boasts 1,000 employees located in over 15 offices around the world. They’re currently headquartered in San Francisco. But upon Hootsuite’s launch in 2008, many considered Holmes at a competitive disadvantage, because he was located in Vancouver, BC.
He didn’t see it that way. For Hootsuite, a foundation in Vancouver was actually a competitive advantage. As the software company grew, it attracted an army of underemployed, overzealous people. As for Hootsuite’s engineers, they were, and still are, able to work under the hood of a massive Amazon cluster.
In fact, according to Holmes, Hootsuite is doing some of the most progressive engineering in the world. “Our team is delivering millions of messages a day with high, high up-time,” he says. “[Hootsuite] is a really cool engineering opportunity and challenge.”
The professional talent in Vancouver was hungry for something new, and Hootsuite delivered. Over time, as their engineering talent grew, they also built up a brilliant global marketing and sales team.
Holmes filled his ranks with people passionate about doing something at global scale, and building something that provided huge purpose and value to its users. He provided an interesting and exciting opportunity, and brought value to his employees’ lives, not just the other way around.
Regarding seeking amazing talent for your company, Holmes has this to say to up-and-coming founders: “Your job is to share the vision, excitement, and opportunity of what you’re doing and building. That can be done anywhere … it doesn’t have to be in Silicon Valley. There are smart people everywhere, and you can grow them and build them and have them join your team.”
And as your team reaches the hundreds and then thousands, Holmes recommends expanding based on where the talent is. Whether you build new office hubs, provide remote working opportunities, or bring your team to you, there are many ways to garner new talent without relocating.
Instead of fixating on location, focus on people. You may be surprised at the talent located exactly where you are.
How Holmes Leads
Whether made up of paratroopers or permanent fixtures, no team can function well without an effective leader. When asked about how he’d describe his leadership style, Holmes found it hard to answer at first, giving a glimpse of his humility.
“It’s hard to be introspective on that,” he says. “Looking into the mirror can be a challenge.”
Eventually, he shared with us what he’s learned the most about, and been surprised about, while leading the growth of a new business—communication.
“When I had a small team, it was easy for everybody to be on the same page, to understand what we’re doing, and in many cases, it was purely on a need-to-know basis,” Holmes says. “A small team can be very nimble in terms of turning on a dime. As you get bigger, you’ve kind of got a bigger ship.”
Essentially, leading a large team is about ensuring everyone is rowing in the same direction. If you can’t clearly communicate your company’s vision, alignment, and purpose, everyone will be moving in all sorts of different directions, resulting in wasted resources, confused customers, and lowered morale.
“[Communication] has become a bigger part of my role,” Holmes says. “My job as a leader is to communicate vision more and more clearly.”
Hootsuite’s leadership teaches us that great leaders communicate and keep everyone on course. As companies grow, leaders essentially assume the role of captain, among other things. Great leadership can also involve installing solid infrastructure for good communication, including recognizing where your passions are and hiring strong leaders for where your passions aren’t.
What’s it like at the top? Is it everything you dreamed of? Is it ever enough?
As founders, we tell ourselves that once we reach this income level or that market position, then everything will fall into place. Surely other founders, CEOs, and business leaders have to agree.
So, what does Ryan Holmes, founder and owner of Hootsuite, the world’s largest social media management platform, have to say?
There’s no such thing as the top.
“When you get to the top, you look up and find another hill,” he says. “Founders and leaders of companies have always gotta be pushing themselves; it’s what got us into what we do.”
If the world doesn’t stop spinning, neither should we. As founders, we have an inherent need to keep working, pushing, solving problems, and fighting our way through challenges. It’s part of our nature. That drive is not going to evaporate when we reach the proverbial summit.
And as business leaders, we should be thinking ahead anyway. We should be good at foreseeing the next challenge and finding the next peak. Our businesses will demand that of us, as will our teams.
“If you’re not able to provide [that foresight], to answer your team when they say, ‘What’s next, leader?’, if you don’t have vision of that, you need to take some time to figure out what that looks like,” Holmes says. “But you always need to be researching, always need to be learning, always trying to figure out what that next hill is by the time you get there.”
And if you’re not interested in looking forward on behalf of your business, Holmes encourages looking around instead. Is it time for you to move on? That’s not necessarily a bad thing, he says.
Referencing a favorite book called Good to Great Often, Holmes says that one of the best measures of a leader is when they decide it’s time for them to move on, that they have all the right people in place throughout a business, so it continues to grow.
“As a leader, the most important thing you can do is leave a legacy of a business that you helped shape,” Holmes says.
Given the current success of Holmes’s former agency, Invoke Media, we’d say he’s well-versed in leaving behind a legacy. Upon his decision to pursue Hootsuite full-time, Holmes ensured he was leaving great leadership in his place.
For now though, as Hootsuite continues to expand and innovate, we can only assume Holmes will continue to lead from the helm of his ship.
- Why having first-mover advantage means nothing in the startup world
- What the number one focus of any startup should be in the early stages
- Building virality into your product. Why, and most importantly, how.
- Where to find and deploy the “shock troops” of your team
- Why you should actually stay away from Silicon Valley when looking for A-players
Full Transcript of Podcast with Ryan Holmes
Nathan: Hello, guys, welcome to another episode of the Foundr podcast. My name is Nathan Chan and I am the host of this show, and also the CEO and publisher of Foundr magazine, and I’m coming to you live from hometown Melbourne, Australia. Hope you’re all having an awesome day wherever you are around the world, whether you’re listening to this podcast while you are taking the dog for a walk, going to the gym, or commuting to work, or you know, maybe you got it running in the background. Whatever it is you’re doing, I hope you’re having an awesome day and you’re getting a ton of gold from these shows.All right, so, now let’s talk about today’s guest. His name’s Ryan Holmes, and he’s the founder of a company, a little company once again, called Hootsuite. You may be familiar with it, you may not be, massive SAS company. These guys are absolutely killing it when it comes to social media management. They have over 15 million users for their product, perhaps, even more, this was a stat that I got a while ago. But, pretty much, guys, you know, Ryan is at the top of his game, he’s you know, a market leader with his company Hootsuite.
And we talk about growth, we talk about scale, we talk about leadership, and we talk about… Also, you know, what’s interesting is, he started this business with no background in software, and he actually started it out as building out from building an agency. And the way that this problem came about, that he looked to solve was from his agency business. So super interesting story, really really smart guy, a lot of experience shared, and I know you’re gonna learn a ton from him.
All right guys, if you are enjoying these episodes, as always, please do take the time to leave us a review on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, wherever you are listening helps more than you can imagine. Please do make sure you share us with your friends, whether they are an entrepreneur, whether they wanna become an entrepreneur, or they’re an experienced entrepreneur, I know they’ll get a ton of gold from these episodes we produce. And make sure you check out the Foundr website, any of our products, any of our other content. We put out a lot of stuff. We really are here to help and serve, and help you grow a really successful business. All right, that’s it from me guys, now let’s jump into the show.
Nathan: The first question I ask everyone that comes on is, how did you get your job?
Ryan: Well that’s a great question, and I think like a lot of founders out there, I created this. And you know, I’ve been a lifelong entrepreneur, I’ve run a number of different businesses that I founded myself. My first business I started in high school, it was a paintball company. I, next, started a pizza restaurant, did that for a couple of years. I started a web service, some digital agency around 2000. And within that business did a lot of idea conceptualization, built a couple of different startups from within the agency, and around 2008 we started building up Hootsuite. And that was really to help solve a problem that we were having at the agency which was managing multiple social networks, and multiple team members all working together. So, you know, for all these, all these different businesses I created my own job.
Nathan: Yeah, amazing man. And do you still run the agency to this day?
Ryan: I don’t actually. It was kind of tough because, you know, I started the agency in 2000. It was my baby, and you know, as I worked on it so many years and, you know, then launched out Hootsuite from within the agency. Hootsuite was blowing up, we were, going, gaining so many users and I really had a tough decision which was leave my one baby to go work on the other, and you know, it was a challenging decision, you know, kind of stepping away from that. I had two really good partners on board at that point. They stuck with the agency, and I went on to work with Hootsuite, and you know, I’d sit on the board of Invoke, which was the digital agency to this day. But, I’m, you know, very focused on working on Hootsuite.
Nathan: Hmm, yeah, wow. And, man, Hootsuite is massive. Like you guys are, I would say the market leader in this space. And I’m really curious, like can you give an insight to our audience, how much traction you guys have had in the past, you know, eight years?
Ryan: Yeah, well we, you know, have 16 million customers globally. We’ve got customers in every country in the world. And, you know, we service and help make social easier, help make it easy for brands to connect with their customers, and help power that kind of human-social connection. And, you know, all the way from small businesses to you know, power users, constrained through to, you know, over 800 of Fortune 1000. So we really run the gamut of small, medium, and big enterprise businesses. And we have a free offering at the kinda entry-level point of the market, and kind of go up from there in terms of features and functionality and service that we provide for our bigger customers. We send about 5 million messages a day, and those messages reach billions of fans and followers globally.
Nathan: Yeah, wow. And how did you grow it so fast? Besides having an amazing product. Because there are a lot of…there are…you guys, you know I know this space quite well, like we’re pretty strong on social, we have millions of followers across all of our channels, and there are many different tools that allow you to do social media management, you guys had it appears like an early mover advantage. But, like, you guys crushed it.
Ryan: Well thank you. I think, you know, you mentioned product, and there’s a couple thoughts there. First, and you also mentioned early mover advantage, I think that early mover advantage actually is a little bit over-rated. And I think also that third a force to market is often the best place to be. And if you think about it, let’s take social networks. There was Friendster, then MySpace, then Facebook.
First two guys often are the icebreakers. So if you picture a big, you know, icy ocean, they’re going out there and breaking all the ice up. It’s expensive, it’s slow, it takes a lot of time, and what happens after the icebreakers go through like you can go through that in a kayak, you can go through that in whatever, and you can move really fast. And so, sometimes the first few people, they break the ice for you and I think that’s a great thing.
So in our case, there actually were other people out there before us. But, we were able to kind of pinpoint and look at what they were doing, the features and functionality that work really well for them, and what our users and customers were gonna want, and we incorporated the best of the best. I mean, if you look at what’s happened with Snapchat and Instagram recently, in some ways Snapchat was out there breaking the ice. They were figuring out a new model for ephemeral content, content that disappears. And guess what? Instagram incorporated a lot of the work that they did, and they didn’t have to do any engineering work to go and product validate and find product-market fit, it was already determined for them. So, I would say to the founders out there, don’t over-fixate on being first, sometimes a great thing could be second, third, fourth, or fifth.
Your other point around product, I think that good product wins. And I think that a lot of founders and startup guys that I’ve talked with, you know, they think too much about, okay I built a product now I need to get ad words against it. I need to do Facebook advertising. And they haven’t really found the product- market fit yet. They haven’t built a product that has virality to it. And, if you put ads against a product that doesn’t have virality, you’re actually just artificially inflating your numbers the second you pull away the advertising, the product usage just melts.
And so, what we did for years, we didn’t do any paid user acquisition. All we did was focus on product by product, figuring out what the customers needed, what was the, you know, most viral way that we could help them use the product, but also share the product with their friends. And if you nail that, the product, you know, growth takes care of itself.
Nathan: And was the viral component for you guys, when somebody shares it, it posts at the bottom like, but like not as actual text, but from Hootsuite? Was it the freemium model?
Ryan: That was a part of it. It’s all of the above. It was, we had a freemium model that had very low barrier to entry. We did have attribution and have attribution today on Facebook, and some other social networks still. We also had ways that we allowed people to upgrade in our product through sharing. So if you shared certain types of, you know, objects in Hootsuite to create this message, if you shared that you were using us, we would give product functionality. So, just being kind of obsessed on how you can get people to share their usage with you.
And I guess another area is like workflow, like teams. We had people working together with teams, they would invite team members in. This has been a hugely powerful, viral, mechanism for Slack, for example. Where, you know, you start using Slack, and you wanna pull your teammates in because you need to talk to them. And so, thinking about how you can get people to pull other people into your product, is going to give it really great virality, or something called K factor, which you can look up on Google or Wikipedia, K factor being the viral component of your product.
Nathan: Yeah, no, I love that. Basecamp, very very good at that as well. Same with Trello.
Ryan: Exactly. Yep.
Nathan: Okay, interesting. So, along the way did you have to raise any capital? Or, you guys, like are you fully funded or self-funded?
Ryan: Yeah, I boot-strapped the company off the agency for the first year. About six months in, we started looking at, you know, we had three, started with three then got to seven people. And we had a small agency, so seven people from a 21-person team, working on a zero-revenue product, which, you know, if you’re running your own business you know that that’s an expensive proposition and the economics aren’t great after a long period to sail that.
So, we kind of looked at where it was going, you know, the growth was fantastic, but concerning on the other side of expenses. And so, you know, we were gonna need to fundraise, so we did around a year ago, $1.5 million round, that got us to cash flow positive. And then we did a couple of other rounds thereafter. You know, this is all on Crunchbase, which is a great access, you know, data access for people, if they haven’t looked at that, a great way to look up companies. All of that’s laid out on Crunchbase and talks about our funding rounds.
But, I’ve done a few rounds of funding. You know, all of my other businesses prior to this were self-financed and boot-strapped, but I think that there are times and situations where getting venture is absolutely necessary, and there are times when you don’t need to do it at all. And, I think that this is one of those times, and the business that really benefited from bringing in venture capital, and the velocity that we got with that.
Nathan: So, one thing that I think is also extremely important, that doesn’t really get talked about as much as I’d like is, to scale a company obviously you need great products, and also, to an extent, decent marketing, great marketing, but also a great team. Like what have your strategies been around attracting great talent? You guys are in Vancouver, you know, talk to us about that. You know, you guys aren’t based in San Fran, but you need great talent, you need to, you know you scale a company with people as well, right?
Ryan: Yeah, so we have grown our company from Vancouver, we’re now over 1000 employees globally. We’ve got offices, over 15 offices around the world, you know, including in Australia, Singapore, London, New York, Toronto, and others. And, I think that we started, as I said, from three people. And, if you think about, you know, where we were at being in Vancouver, you know, a lot of people thought it might be a competitive disadvantage versus being in Silicon Valley.
For us, it was a competitive advantage. We were able to get some amazing talent, people that were maybe underemployed in their roles in Vancouver. And, it was, you know, it is, and continues to be, a pretty amazing platform for people to build on and build into, you know, or from, just from our engineering team, they’re able to work under the hood of a massive Amazon cluster, delivering millions of messages a day with high, high uptime.
For a lot of people are out there that are building their own products, that are interested in engineering, this is a really cool engineering opportunity and challenge. We’re doing some of the most progressive engineering in the world, and our team is super excited about that. I’d also say that, you know, we have people that are able to market to millions of people globally, able to sell to millions of people globally, so we’ve been able to attract a team of people that really are passionate about doing something at a global scale, doing something that has huge purpose and value for our customers and for their customers.
And I think that that’s where we kind of get back to them as we talk about the teams and building up those teams, is really just providing interesting and exciting opportunity. And so you founders that are listening, this is your job. Your job is to share, you know, the vision, and the excitement, and the opportunity of what you’re doing and building. And that can be done anywhere. It can be done from, you know, Auckland, from Vancouver, it doesn’t have to be in Silicon Valley. There are smart people everywhere and you can grow them, and build them, and have them join your team and be part of it.
And then when you get to, you know, hundreds and thousands, you can always look at where you, you know, wanna find and attract other talent, either bringing them in and courting them, or just, you know, building offices in centers where there are, you know, pools of talented people. But I think, you don’t need to fixate on that. We got really far off of our first 30, and first 100 team.
Nathan: One thing, I think is really important is, especially, like you know, your first 30 to 50, well…I’ve been told you can’t, I haven’t been there yet, but I’ve been told that you can’t, it is difficult to get every single, have every single person as an A player for your first 30. Is that something you focused on, just hiring just absolute A players for the first early hires?
Ryan: Well, I’ll tell you a story, an analogy that somebody gave me which I kinda like. First off, I think that a lot of your early team, think about them like Swiss Army knives versus steak knives. Now, a Swiss Army knife is pretty good at a lot of things, but it’s not the best at any one thing, whereas, a steak knife is really good at doing one thing, which is probably cutting steak. So, you have to think about your early team a little bit more that way. As you get bigger, you start to get more specialists. You get a fork, you get a steak knife, you get a spoon, and you know, they’re all better at their individual tasks than the Swiss Army is. So, that’s one way of thinking about it.
And so, it’s not that they’re A players versus B players, it’s that they’re different types of people. And, I guess the analogy, the second part somebody gave me awhile ago, which I kinda like, and it was a metaphoric comparison. Your early team, actually business, is going to battle. And so your early team, it kind of like, they reference them as being the paratroopers, a bit of the crazy ones. They jump out of the plane, into the darkness, and with unknown terrain below them, and they make the landing, and they go and secure a beachhead.
And then you pull in the guys jumping out of the boats, and they, you know, put up sandbags. And then you go and you charge a hill and you get more people in, maybe you go take the city. You take the city, you start bringing in the municipal police, and then you start, you know, having kind of a civil structure. At that point, your paratroopers are looking around and they’re like, they don’t recognize this world. And, what you need to do is continue to find airplanes for your paratroopers to jump out of.
And that’s the analogy of your early team, is that if they don’t have these kinds of like different ambiguous tasks and opportunities, they’re not gonna be the kind of police type people that are, you know, comfortable with structure and order and, you know, day to day operations. They’re more of the, you know, go get ’em cowboys. And I think that that analogy has been an interesting one as I’ve thought about you know, transition from a small group to a larger group, and an early stage team to a later stage team.
Nathan: Mmm, yeah, I love that. And when it comes to leadership, what kind of leader are you?
Ryan: Well, you know, I think it’s sometimes hard to be introspective on that because you’re pretty close to it, and so looking in the mirror can be a challenge. But, you know, I think one of the things that I’ve learned and been maybe more surprised about than I thought I’d be, is that as we’ve grown from a small team to a larger team, communications have just become so much more important.
When I had a small team it was easy for everybody to be on the same page, to understand what we’re doing, and in many cases, it was purely on a need-to-know basis. But as you get bigger, you know, a small team can be very nimble in terms of turning on a dye, you can do a pivot here and a pivot there. As you get bigger, you kinda get a bigger ship, and you know, maybe a lot of people rowing it. And you wanna make sure that everybody’s rowing in the same direction, so they have a vision, an alignment, and a purpose, and they understand where all those are and what they mean.
And, if you’re not able to clearly communicate that, you get people going in all sorts of different directions. And so it can get really messy, and people can get frustrated, and confused, and not know what’s going on. So, your job as a leader is to communicate vision more and more clearly. And so that’s become a bigger part of my role.
I think you know, also I have had the luxury of bringing in some amazing leaders to help me. You know, back in the day I wore a lot of different hats. I, you know, had the luxury of bringing in a great CFO, and you know, I know enough to be dangerous on the financial front. I can read a cap table, a balance sheet, you know, an income statement, but I don’t get excited about working on those every day. But, I’ve got a CFO that is.
And so, when you get bigger, you’re able to bring in a really great team to help you, and they’re able to, you know, you’re able to get them working on areas of the business that maybe you aren’t excited about. Because, you know, when you’re working on things that you’re excited on in the business, that’s when things really go. And, you know, I get most passionate and most excited about a few things, marketing, product, culture, and values. And I work on a lot of those, and then kind of round-robin firefighting. And those are the areas that I work on the most in the business, and you know, I have a lot of help around those areas, but also other areas that I don’t spend so much time on.
Nathan: Mmm. Well look, this is great, mate. We have to work toward wrapping up, final question, no, two more questions. So, you guys, you know, at the top of your industry, really, really doing a great job, great products, you know, as you said, tens of millions of customers. Is it ever enough? Like, can you have it all?
Ryan: Yeah, great question there. I mean, are you talking about from a business perspective or a personal perspective, or how are you thinking about that?
Nathan: Both, because as founders we tell ourselves this story, once we get to this then it’s gonna be awesome, and you’re at the top, man. So, what’s it feel like?
Ryan: Well, I appreciate that. Yeah, I think that founders and you know, CEOs, leaders of companies, I think we always gotta be pushing ourselves. I think that it’s what got us into what we do. I think that you know, when you get to the top of the hill, you look up, and you find another hill. And I think that that’s part of our nature as people that love what we do, and love being in the space that we’re in. And I think, it’s not just part of our nature, but I think your business will demand it of you. And if you’re not able to provide that, you know, your business, your team is gonna say, “Hey, Watson, where are we going? So, we hit the top of this hill, what’s next leader?” You know, and that’s your job.
You need to be thinking ahead about what you’re gonna be doing next, what the next hill you’re gonna go and charge up. And if you don’t have that, if you’re, you know, don’t have vision on that, I think you know you need to go on a retreat, you need to go take some time and really figure out what that looks like. But, I think you always need to be researching, always need to be learning, and hopefully you figure out what that next hill is by the time you get there.
And if you’re not able to, and you’re not feeling motivated about it, I think you need a change. You need to think about, like something else, that’s, you know, gonna get you fired up, and maybe it’s time for you to move on. And that’s not a bad thing either. I think, you know, I reference a book called, “Good to Great.” often, I think it’s a really fantastic book about leadership. That you know, one of the best kind of measures of a leader is that when they decide it’s time for them to move on, that they have all the right people in place to help the business just continue to grow. And I think that, in many cases of a leader, that’s the most important thing you can do, is leave a legacy of a business that you helped really touch, and to shape, and that that business goes on to do great things with or without you.
Nathan: Mmm, yeah, I love that man. And, so, last question. Where’s the best place people can find out more about Hootsuite and your work? And also, what’s your biggest challenge right now? What’s the next thing that you’re dreaming about?
Ryan: Oh, that’s a great question. I mean, for more about Hootsuite, Hootsuite.com, super easy. You know, as I mentioned about a free product that anybody can get started today. I am on social on pretty much every channel, Invoker, I-N-V-O-K-E-R, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, you name it. And I also have a newsletter at Invoker.ca, where I share, you know, things I’m working on, and thoughts on business. I’ve recently written a book, and so, yeah, I’m just kind of, right now, just so excited about continuing to build out what we’re doing here at Hootsuite, and sharing that with the world, and you know, I love doing talks like this, to talk to other entrepreneurs. I’m so excited about entrepreneurship and innovation, and really big shout out to you for all that work that you’re doing in helping all your listeners out.
Nathan: Thank you so much, Ryan. Well look, I really appreciate your time, mate, we’ll wrap there. But, I hope you have a fantastic day.
Ryan: Thanks a lot, it was great being on.
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Key Resources From Our Interview With Ryan Holmes
- Learn more about Hootsuite
- Follow Ryan Holmes on Twitter
- Follow Ryan Holmes on Instagram
- Connect with Ryan Holmes on Linkedin