Timo Rein, Co-Founde of Pipedrive
Pipedrive’s Timo Rein on How to Stay True to Yourself and Find Success as an Entrepreneur
Timo Rein keeps a note to himself on his desk that greets him every morning. It reads:
“Let it be easy.”
In spite of these words of wisdom facing him daily, he admits that it can be tough to follow his own advice. After all, working 12 hours a day isn’t easy. Juggling fatherhood into his schedule certainly isn’t easy. And building a startup from scratch is anything but easy.
But no matter how busy things have gotten, Rein’s path toward entrepreneurship has always seemed inevitable. A psychology major in college, he started his career as a consultant, expecting to be helping clients build better things for their businesses. Instead, he found himself selling sales CRMs (customer relationship management systems) to clients, which he did for 18 years. A salesman that sold sales tools—pretty meta.
But the itch to build something new never left him.
After working in sales for so long, Rein realized that there was a huge gap in the industry: an easy and usable CRM. Rein decided that he was done with simply counseling people on the products to buy—he was ready to build something entirely new and better.
That’s when Rein was jolted out of his steady sales career in Estonia, and into the high-powered tech startup world of Silicon Valley, with the creation of Pipedrive.
Pipedrive has since grown to more than 50,000 customers with over $1 million in recurring monthly revenue. How does he do it? Rein thinks it’s pretty simple: He and his team have a rare combination of resilience and determination.
That’s definitely part of it, but it’s only where the Pipedrive story begins. Rein has learned some major lessons in his long career in both sales and as a CEO that have made his journey easy. Sometimes.
From Idea to Reality
As sales industry specialists, it was the tools their customers used every day that gave Rein and his co-founder the initial idea for Pipedrive. They’d seen what was working, what wasn’t, and what customer need was left unaddressed. They were ready to build the perfect CRM.
By 2010, the group relocated to the United States, and today Pipedrive has offices in San Francisco, New York, and Estonia, serving businesses around the world.
In 2016, their database grew to include 50,000 customers worldwide.
Referring to his team of 200+ Pipedrive employees, Rein says their impressive growth is because of “this amazing organization of people, without whom I don’t think we would have ever been able to scale to this point. Together, we’ve been able to continue building towards the vision that we have.”
Rein says that developing himself as a leader is one area of business that presents a continuous challenge.
“How can I help these people by serving them, in order for them to be really good at what they do?” Rein continually asks himself. “The more we’ve developed a company, the more I’ve understood that I’m really there to serve all the team leaders that we’ve brought into the company in the best possible way.”
Lessons From a Veteran Salesperson
Timo Rein’s sales experience actually became even more relevant once he became a CEO.
Salespeople need thick skin. Sometimes they even need to develop an alternate persona, and sometimes they can take that too far. As a result, the attitude and confidence that sales reps sometimes see as necessary to make deals can actually distance themselves from customers.
During his time in sales, Rein learned that when you lose that real connection, trust is lost, and that hurts your results. It’s a lesson that’s translated well in his life as a founder and CEO.
It is truly amazing how people will react and respond to genuineness and sincerity, Rein says. When you learn to be yourself in customer conversations, you gain a certain level of trust and understanding with your prospect, even though you both know that you’re there to sell them something. Openness and trustworthiness can take you a long way.
What’s the best piece of concrete advice Rein would give, both in sales and entrepreneurship?
“Ask new questions as you go along.”
He says that entrepreneurs should get into a routine of asking the tough questions that will move their businesses forward.
“When you’re not getting the results that you want, you just have to raise the game in terms of questions you ask,” he says, noting that the desire to keep asking is just as important as the questions themselves.
In the early days of Pipedrive, the team was pulling in around 15 to 20 customers a month, until one of them asked, “What would we need to do to get 100 new customers a month?”
Rein was a little shocked, mostly because he’d never asked that question himself. He found himself wondering: How do we reach that level?
“I realized I was both intimidated by this question, and also inspired. Ever since then, we’ve always asked ourselves: How do we get 1,000?”
Rein encourages entrepreneurs to ask the uncomfortable questions and tackle the seemingly out-of-reach goals, because the risk is worth the reward. When you don’t get the feedback you expected, it simply means that your reality isn’t quite there yet. “But if you answer that successfully,” Rein says, “you will raise the whole game, and get the results you want.”
Rein’s rules for serving as a leader, and leading as a servant:
- Find the best people possible.
Strong teams aren’t just built by hiring talent, but by growing key figures within your company. Consider whether you can elevate a teammate into a leadership role before looking outside for new people. Place value in the players who came first, and let them know you appreciate their loyalty.
- Put them in a good place.
Getting all of your talent to work together toward the same goals is a fascinating and challenging objective. Their individual ambitions may shine clearly, but aligning your team to work as one is crucial to your overall success. A leader’s job is to ensure departmental teams and structures can function in a productive manner and to an effective degree.
- Get out of the way.
Coworkers need to be able to show each other respect, and that often means leaving each other alone to let them do what they do best. When you give them space, your team is more likely to be building something together rather than fighting over the process.
- Serve them to reach your collective goals.
Teach your talent to carry their own loads, and hold themselves accountable for their contributions, while you all move toward your shared future together. Separate you may struggle, but together you will succeed.
Finally, when working with sales professionals, Rein’s #1 tip is:
“Figure out how you can be the real you—while doing your job.”
Crack that code of how to stay true to yourself within your work environment, and the rest is, well, easy.
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- How to choose between building a service-based or a product-based business
- Rein’s own tips on how to improve your own sales regardless of the niche
- How to find and develop your own leadership style
- What types of people you need around you to launch and grow a successful startup
- The key to continue moving quickly and efficiently as you grow
- & much more!
Full Transcript of the Podcast with Timo Reinr
Nathan: Today’s episode is proudly brought to you by our sponsor, FreshBooks. FreshBooks is an easy to use cloud accounting software that’s completely transformed how over 10 million entrepreneurs deal with their day to day paperwork. It’s an absolutely amazing product, and you can start your 30-day trial at freshbooks.com/foundr.
Hello, and welcome to another episode of the “Foundr Podcast.” It’s Nathan Chan here, I’m the host and CEO of Foundr Magazine, and I’m coming to you live from Melbourne, Australia at about 3:00 a.m. burning some midnight oil. Sometimes, I find that that’s when I do my best work because everyone’s sleeping and I can really, really focus. So yeah, just recording a whole ton of podcast episodes, intros, and here we are.
So let’s talk about today’s guest. His name is Timo Rein. And he’s the founder of a company called Pipedrive. They’re a CRM that allows you to manage your sales pipeline. And this was a really, really great conversation. We talked about leadership. We talked about how it feels. I asked him a really good question that I’ve never asked anyone before, and it was how does it feel, you know, to have raised $10 million from investors and have, you know, a reasonably large-sized team, and having these growth pressures, and managing a team of 50-plus people? And yeah, it was really interesting, his thoughts and response to that question. Because I think as entrepreneurs, you know, we always want to grow more, you know? It’s never enough. That’s one thing I can tell you. I can tell you Foundr coming up to its fourth birthday this year. March 5, 2013, I started the magazine.
And you know, it’ll be four years soon, and I can tell you this much that it’s never enough, you know? I was like, “Oh, I hope I can build up the magazine to leave my job.” And then, “I hope I can build it up to be, you know, able to support myself.” And “I hope I can build it up to be able to do X amount of dollars.” And “I hope I can build it up to have X amount of users and readers.” Yeah, now I’ve got, you know, all these staff members and all this big…like 10-X, you know, 10-X ambition. And you just kind of just keep raising, raising, raising the bar. So it’s interesting to hear someone else’s perspective that’s a little bit further down the journey than me.
Anyways, that’s enough rambling from me. If you are enjoying these episodes, please do take the time to leave us a review. It really does help more than you can imagine. And tell your friends. I know if you’re an entrepreneur or founder, you’re listening to this right now, you would have entrepreneurial and startup friends. Please let them know about the podcast if you’re enjoying it. Do them a favor as well. And you know, the more you help spread the word of the brand, the more that we can grow. And you know, we’re a grassroots brand starting from scratch. No venture funding. All right, so that’s it from me. Now let’s jump in the show.
So the first question that we ask everyone that comes on is how did you get your job?
Timo: Well, it was a decision…
Nathan: If you want to call it a job.
Timo: It still is when we look into the day of mine, it very much is. So yeah, it was a decision to start a company in 2010 when we founded the company, along with four other guys. And before that, there was already a decision that I wanted to start something like this. And that’s how it basically happened.
Nathan: Yeah, okay, awesome. So you’ve got four other co-founders?
Timo: Correct, yes.
Nathan: And are they still…still with the company right now?
Timo: All but one are still active in different roles, and they have obviously evolved over the years quite a bit trying to find out what’s the best way to contribute. I mean, early days, we were much different, obviously, as it is right now, as we are six years since we started it almost, coming to seven. So yeah, it’s been good to see that we’ve been holding it together and finding all the…starting members actually useful. One of the guys has moved on to have a new startup, and he’s definitely doing well in the very early stages. So it wasn’t too much of a surprise that he would go at one point.
Nathan: Interesting. Because you have five people for a founding team. That’s…or co-founding…
Timo: Large, yeah?
Nathan: Yeah, that’s right.
Timo: That’s what I’ve heard. That’s what I’ve heard is that most people say that this is somewhat larger. Ideal, I don’t know who says that, really. But the ideal seems to be around maybe two, three max. But yeah, I’ve got done quite a lot. Five seems to be like a large group.
Nathan: And how did…is this your first startup?
Timo: Yes, tech startup, definitely. Because before that time, I was one of the three partners in a business which was in a consulting and training industry; sales, consulting, and training. And that’s what we did for about 12 years before we started Pipedrive. But you could say that that was also a startup because it started up from the very ground in 1999. But it wasn’t in the tech industry. I understand that people normally call startups…companies which are somewhat in the tech industry.
Nathan: Got you. Interesting. And that other company that you were running for 12 years, did you exit it, leave? What happened there?
Timo: So we had three partners in it. We wanted to, you know, scale that business as much as we could. We did really well. We were in sort of a market-leading position not only in Estonia, where we actually started and where I’m from, but also in Latvia, Lithuania, so doing really well there. And at the same time, what we also realized was that it’s a type of business which is quite difficult to scale more globally. It has to be done through a number of, you know, different steps. And we felt that, you know, having a chance to build a product and have that product, you know, out there in a SaaS business mode-type of manner provides a much better chance to globally scale the business.
So you know, consulting and training tends to be much more centered around the person who actually does that. It’s somewhat more local. And I think we realized…I personally did, at least, realized a little bit of that. And even though parts of the job I really liked, at the same time, I also personally felt that there’s definitely quite of a bit of an ability in me to be a consultant-type of role or a trainer, or what do you have there. But I had too much of this builder/engineer-type of, I don’t know, gene or whatever that I had to go towards. And that sort of formed or shaped this decision, for me at least.
Timo: So we didn’t…if you asked it…sorry, I kind of missed the beginning of the question. We just decided…two of the three guys in this group, two of us became two of the founders in Pipedrive. And the remaining guy continued for a while. He supported the decision, but he continued for a while, and ended the business after some time. So we knew that that was probably gonna end at some point.
Nathan: Yeah, okay. Wow. And how did Pipedrive come about? Because you guys are doing really, really well. So you guys are quite massive, too. Talk to me about how that came about. How did the idea come up to build a SaaS-based product? How did you validate the concept? You started in Estonia, but now you’re based in San Fran?
Timo: I’m personally in the San Francisco Bay Area, yeah. People know that area more by San Francisco city. I live in Redwood City, though, which is like a 45-minute drive south, but pretty much the Bay Area. But the company that we have, the main offices we have are both in Tallinn still, and also in New York. So I’m in California right now. That was the first sort of landing place for us in the U.S. And we came to an incubator called AngelPad in 2011, and that’s how I sort of pretty much stayed here, brought my family. And then as we moved our office closer to Estonia to have a better chance to communicate with each other, I decided that I’m not gonna make them move to New York; I’ll relocate back to Estonia at one point. But as our kids were already in schools, it became kind of like a personal decision of some sort.
But how did the company come about? Then it was…you know, I told you about the context of two founders, me included, being in this business of consulting and training and in the sales world. We did realize at one point when we started talking to each other that there’s a strong desire in both of us to build something which is a product rather than just go and give our advice or figure out the best ways to influence companies from being, like, an outsider through service, through advice, and counsel. And then it was just a matter of what it is that we’re gonna build and how we’re gonna do it, because we felt similarly.
And what it is became clear quite quickly, because there was nothing that we knew more about than sales. And we had been using different tools for tracking sales of sales. We had seen our customers do…and personally, it was just realizing that definitely, there was a chance to build a product which would fit in this market, as most of the products are built for more managerial roles in the sales world, CRMs, that is.
And we realized that however we tried to use the different products which were out at the time, I think 2005 and ’06, we’re still sort of, as salespeople, still don’t find the right fit with these products. And then I think it dawned on us that maybe they are not even designed with these people in mind, and then that’s how I think we got it clear that we should be building…we should either find a product like this or build a product like this. We didn’t find exactly what we were looking for, and decided to build it. And then the second question was we knew what we wanted to build, we knew what would sort of help we needed as salespeople, and the technical side was completely missing. I mean, we are stupid in terms of…we were and we are, I think, stupid in terms of technology, and that’s expertise, and we wanted to look for a group of technological founders, and luckily, we found them in 2010, and that’s how we got it started.
Nathan: Got you. And how did you find your tech co-founders? Did you meet them in Estonia as well?
Timo: Yeah. I mean, Estonia, at that time…first of all, some people know it, some people don’t, but Skype was founded by two guys from Sweden and also four guys from Estonia. And Estonian guys were the the technical founders. So that scene at that time when we founded Pipedrive was already pretty big as far as engineering talent, understanding of what the guys can actually do given the right chance. And the startups were coming up every now and then, and we did actually meet a number of different startups through certain projects that we’re all thinking of how they could sell better, and then realized that “Oh my god. We can ask these guys, maybe one of the groups…maybe they care about what we want to build.” And so, that’s how these sort of discussions started.
And then we met with three guys who had built a number of different startups already, and the last one was a site for pet owners who wanted to connect throughout the world. Almost like a Facebook group, but or something like this. And they had been building this and scaled it throughout the world. They had users in multiple countries. And we felt like, “Oh, my god. That’s a good chance. Let’s talk.” And we talked and we clicked, and this is already what we’ve done together.
Nathan: Yeah, okay. Awesome. Now, talk to me about Pipedrive. You know, you guys have been running, you said, close to seven years, coming on seven years. How far have you taken it? Where are you guys at? Can you give us some numbers around traction?
Timo: Yeah, I mean, we’ve been…the last year, we were happy to see that we moved beyond 30,000 customers around the world as one sign of the scale. We’ve been able to serve businesses which are actually in all of the continents. Meaning that our customers are divided quite equally by North America and Europe and all the other areas of the world. Australia included.
And so, that has been a very good thing to see. We’ve been able to continue building towards a vision that we had, which was always, as a founder, you kind of think that you could be doing this job quicker. But I’m happy about what we’ve been able to do. And also, building this amazing organization of people without whom I don’t think we would have ever been able to scale that to this point. And that number is around 200-plus now. There’s an exact number as well, but I’ll probably be wrong when I say that. So these are some of the numbers.
Nathan: And when it comes to being a leader, what type of leader do you think you are, and what do you do to develop yourself as a business leader? Because I know many people in our audience, you know, they might just be starting to hire, or they’ve got a founding team, or they’re just starting to scale up and build out their team. You know, leadership’s a hard thing. So if you’ve got around 200…in the 200 mark, that’s a lot of people. So what kind of leader are you, and what are you doing to develop yourself as a leader?
Timo: Yeah, it is a hard thing. I think that’s one of the areas that you will probably have continuous challenges, regardless of what sort of a stage you’re at. I mean, there are certain ones when you start off, and then you have certain ones when you’re getting off the ground a bit, and then you have certain ones as you scale through different phases. So that’s always there.
What kind of a leader? I like…there are different ways of being a leader, obviously. But I like the way when leaders figure out how they can sort of position themselves where they can serve the other leaders in the organization. Of course, you need to first find who are the suitable people for certain roles and positions. Whether they can come from the starting group or whether you need to hire them, or you can grow some people into these roles. Whatever, right?
But how can you help these people by serving them in order for them to be really good at what they do? So maybe the leader as a servant-type leader is the right or accurate way of defining that. But it’s difficult. Yeah, it’s difficult to self-define it. But yeah, that’s what I consider to be my most important job, is that we have the right people in a place where they not only have the skills and expertise to do something well, but also the type of character where you can see that there’s a lot of energy that they are getting. There is a lot of energy that they are radiating. And they are able to execute along with the plans that they make and that involves not only the processes and things that we want to get done and put in place, but also the team that they’re building.
So just try to serve…you know, find these people, put them in a good place, get out of the way, and serve them while we’re trying to hit the goals.
Nathan: Yeah, okay, I see. And what are you doing to grow and develop?
Timo: Yeah, personally, me. I think one of the best ways is that…that’s a heavy practice, I’d say. Getting a company started and going through the phases of asking these questions of “What can we get our customers? You know, “What exactly should we build?” “When should we do this? When should we do that?” And then as you evolve, you realize that you kind of…you understand that people exhaust their skills might also exhaust some of their personal ambition in terms of leadership. So I think that sort of practice gives an amazing chance to just…you know, if you connect it to it all and you want to do it better, you just…that forces you to evolve already on its own.
And at the same time, I’ve reached out to a number of sources where I see that people are doing a great job being leaders. And some of them are quite…how I can put it? Usual, traditional, like, you read the books where you can see that somebody has done a very good job of putting together of what leadership is and why you should do that. And some of them are maybe not as traditional, but still use…like, you reach out to a coach that you feel really good with discussing some of the most burning things in what you personally go through. And just having that sounding board every now and then, knowing that you have a strong person to help you, I mean, that’s something that I’ve done over the times.
And also, completely nontraditional things which I’ve found…just influenced me a lot, is I have a passion towards sports, and especially people who, in team sports, lead teams as coaches. And the way…you know, with sports, it’s that there’s always a portion of talent. And then there’s also a portion of “How do you put these talents to work together?” And that what really fascinates me.
So looking at, for example, this North American basketball league. Coaches like Greg Popovich over the years, or Phil Jackson when he was coaching the Bulls or the Lakers, and now, Steve Kerr, who’s just close here with the Golden State Warriors. And just trying to understand…even though it’s a completely different industry, let’s put it that way, but just the way they’re trying to achieve what they’re building, that is really intriguing and exciting for me. And I’ve been following, you know, anything that they conclude in their postgame interviews, postseason interviews, or during season interviews. And just following that really closely when I can read a book about them like Phil Jackson’s book, I do that.
I also get a little bit of leadership that way, and am just trying to reflect of what I’m trying to do and how I’m doing there.
Nathan: Yeah, I see. And you have a business coach, too, by the sounds of it, right?
Timo: Yes, at times, a person that I know that I can go to. So it’s not sort of like a regular routine. But it was much more early on, but a bit less now. But still, I need to know that I have that option when things get messy in my head and I need a reflection.
Nathan: Yeah, gotcha. And have you guys raised VC? You have advisory board, too?
Timo: Yes, we have raised money. We have investors that we really have been leaning on for not only support, but also some of the counsel, and Bessemer was a company, VC firm that I was really sort of hoping…the type of a VC firm that I was hoping that we are, at one point, able to get. You know, the long-term success rate that they’ve had, and the type of approach that they have to businesses. And we were able to form that relationship in 2015, in spring. Plus before that time, we did have a number of different investors throughout the world, really. A lot of them came as our customers have come through just word of mouth and then seeing the product, and just, you know, also inbounding and calling us up. But you know, without our own work, obviously, these sort of partnerships wouldn’t have happened.
But yes, a number of angels, a number of small VCs, and then also these stronger companies with, you know, maybe bigger ambitions, a longer track record like Bessemer.
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Talk to me around…you know, on that topic of leadership, what types of people do you need around you to launch and grow a successful startup, do you think?
Timo: A group of nutcases. It’s a rare combination that needs to happen. It happens, obviously, as you can see that startups are built and a number of them succeed. And a lot of them obviously don’t. And that’s why I’m saying, it’s a rare combination that needs to happen so that it will succeed.
But I think it requires, first of all, just understandable pieces of just drive and ambition and kind of like re-execute no matter what to get things rolling. And also, I think quite a strong degree of naivete, or you’re just like, you know, “It can be done, and there’s room for this, and there’s need for this.”
And regardless of what somebody else might say, like, even the pessimistic voices inside ourselves might say it, but you just do it, right? You just go for it. And I think that sort of a core has to be there, definitely, as you want to get off the ground. Because you will be hit by so many challenges that you will be provided enough opportunities to create it all.
And I think for me, what I need to see…what I’ve needed to see all the time is that I can see that we go through the different times; some of them better, some of them really difficult. And nobody’s letting up, right? You can see that everybody has their everything in the game, and then they just, you know, they just struggle, but they figure out how we can move forward, and we’ll do it. I think that sort of, like, resilience and just determination just…I think that beats everything early on.
And then also, I’m not saying that this is…because you asked about the size of the founder group. The ability to kind of respect each other enough to do what everybody can do best, so that you don’t end up fighting instead of building something together, right? So I think that also goes somewhere there, that you need to be able to not only see that you can trust people, but trust people when you just don’t know them. Because startups, in a way, quite often are…you just don’t know these people. Even if you know them, you don’t know them as you go through these unknowns right now.
And I think that ability to trust and also then taking it…taking this seriously, that you just need to respect what people can bring. I mean, that has to go hand in hand. And I think we had that in our founding group, which is I think why we’ve gotten to this point.
But then as you go on, I think you will develop a different set of things that you also need, which is forever thinking of scaling everything that works. Everything that you try and it actually works, how you could scale that now. And that might require a stronger leadership sort of sense, and understanding of what sort of teams to fill, what sort of teams to first draft in your head and then fill, and give your legals a way, as they say, to other people. Let go of some of the things that you think that you could do as well. You know, feel that you can have the control in somebody else’s hands, and so, these sort of things.
Again, I’m throwing some of the things in here. I’m hoping that they’re answering the question about what you asked.
Nathan: No, this is great. We’re going deep, man. Awesome.
Nathan: Talk to us about what your routine looks like as a founder of a 200-person company, and has it changed over the years? And if so, why?
Timo: In a way…some parts of it have not changed, but some parts have definitely changed. And I have a big differentiator here, because I’m in a unique position where the large portion of…let’s put it that way, my immediate team of executives, they are not where I am in terms of time zone or physical room right now. And that’s the situation that I’ve been in for a number of years now, as I’ve been residing in California. I do have some executives in New York, and most of them in Tallinn, and that’s like seven hours or ten hours’ time difference right there.
And that’s what shapes my routine quite a lot. So today, what it looks like is that my first calls are around 5:30 a.m. or 6:00 a.m. And as I complete these, I take my kids to school or kindergarten and then I continue with more sort of one-on-one meetings and calls still with over the video or Skype or Zoom or whatever the tools we use. And that’s where I either have the one-on-ones with our…my immediate team. And then they are regular, either weekly or biweekly. And then also, one-on-one interviews with the people that we are trying to hire that are at the very finals. And that’s also been part of my routine.
And then, as that part of the day gets done, which is normally around the time that we’re at right now, which is past noon, then there will be more time for doing the work sort of through e-mails, and just doing the work over the computer. And that requires creating documents that we need to do, wrapping up some of the things that we have done in different meetings. And also trying to be useful for our efforts in, you know, content marketing, which means, like, interviews like this, for example. Trying to have a voice out there. And also write about things in sales where we can see that we can help our customers, and anybody else in the world. So that also comes in it.
So I wrap my days up around 5:00 or 6:00. So all in all, it’s about 12 hours, but a few things in-between like a personal school run. That’s how it normally is. But obviously, there are different days and different weeks as well. But that’s sort of…it’s the usual.
Nathan: Yeah, I see. And the bigger your company’s got, do you work less or more?
Timo: I try to find, still, the right balance of working on the right things. And not fooling myself that if I just work my hours, then I will be more useful. For me, that doesn’t go hand in hand with being able to scale through other people. So during the time that I have, I try to make sure of what I should do, and that’s the type of effort that I just gave you in terms of the schedule that I have for the day.
I’d say that being over…and you asked, has forced this schedule to be somewhat longer than it was before. But I think it’s mostly because of the time difference. Otherwise, I try to make sure that I’ll just don’t go down the route of just working more by counting the hours.
But let’s be honest: the more we’ve gone on, the more the job and the ambition just doesn’t want to leave me. So it’s a deliberate effort during the weekends to fully let go. And I’ve been able to do at least a little bit more of that, because there have been times where I knew that, you know, some of the alarm messages that I had set up, which I still do, but sometimes, I knew that…sometimes, years ago, I knew that if I don’t do something right now, we might not have a speedy enough reaction to some of the things, either in infrastructure or, you know, responses to some of the customers. And today, I know that, you know, there are people in places who look at the same things, so I don’t worry about that. But it’s still…it doesn’t want to leave you. So a deliberate effort has to be there to do that.
Nathan: Yeah, I see. I’ve never actually asked anyone this question before, but I know it’s coming to me that I really want to ask you. Because from where we’re at with Foundr, we’re 100% bootstrap, man. We have not raised any capital.
Nathan: And we’re very profitable. Nowhere near as big as you guys, though, in terms of revenue, funding, number of customers. We do have tens of thousands of customers, but a much smaller scale, not in terms of SaaS. So I’m really curious, you know, you’ve raised well over $10 million. You’ve got a 200-person team. You’ve got…how many investors? It looks like at least 20-plus investors. And you’re the CEO of this company. How does that feel in terms of pressure, in terms of so much reliance? Everyone is relying on your direction, your vision, your leadership. Investors want to return. You know, how does that feel?
Timo: That is a very good question, actually, to both ask and to think about. I’m sure that I…even if I don’t ask that my question for myself, I have been thinking about some of the feelings that I feel, right, about this. And I do have a small note on my desk. I think part of this is also because of that, and then what sort of feelings you might also have, which says “Let It Be Easy.” It’s not just, you know, somebody wrote it, but it’s by a guy named Tolly Burkan, who’s been writing a couple of books about how you should manage your life and then also…I think he’s a in the U.S, at least in some parts of the U.S. And I did remember that. During certain times, I felt how heavy it all could feel, just because of how you look at this, and how much of that you take on to your personal shoulders.
And then, “Let it be easy,” I don’t want to use that so that I could feel that “Oh, it doesn’t matter at all. Like, whatever.” It’s not that. But I just want to remind myself that…I mean, the way we started it, already showed it, that if you want to build something great over the years, it’s not gonna be done by you alone. It’s a group and team effort. And for me, what gives me this sort of better feeling is that we’ve been able to move towards creating the sort of reality that we need as an organization, so that nobody in this organization should feel that they’re carrying their load completely on their own. But this like a really good group effort.
And I’ll have to be able to feel the same way. I just feel that that’s the only way to sort of survive through it. Even though…yes, I could be looking at this in a very heavy-type of way. But I don’t think that that’s how human beings would survive, or how you should…I don’t think that’s how we were built. So we should take our own load and understand what we can do in order for this all to move forward towards the future. We need to be dealing with whatever comes our way, obviously. Some of the things, you like, some of the things, you don’t like, and you suffer. And then you kind of rebound and figure out what you can do.
But “How does it feel?” is a very, very good open question about it. I’d say that…if you could ask me, like, “So, do you feel easy?” I’ll say not necessarily. There are different times. Sometimes, the morning starts and I feel a lot of that weight, and I need to sort of start a few engines in my head which tell me that, “Listen, it’s okay. You have that. And that person is in charge of that. If they need help, you can always check and then make sure that that’s there and you have that. Part of your organization, there’s a person in charge, and you can rely on that.”
So I do rely on the group that we have a lot. In order to feel sort of good enough every day and not get myself too down. Because as an insider, you know that there are so many things that you’re…that you still have as ambition, that it’s still not there. That it’s still not the way you want it to be. And that can actually, you know, get you quite depressed at times. And of course, all the things that don’t go the way you want to cannot do that.
But yeah. I don’t know how far you want me to go, but that’s my quickest reaction to this, is that I feel okay. And it is a function of us looking at doing the work together as a group, so that I’m relying a lot on all the guys, while I’m reminding myself of letting it be easy and not take me down.
Nathan: No, that was great. Look, we have to work towards wrapping up, Timo. This is a really good conversation, man. I’m really enjoying it. I would be doing our audience a disservice if I didn’t ask just quickly, the number one sales tip being a sales guy.
Timo: I have to answer with what just popped into my mind the second you asked that. It’s figuring out how you can be the real you in this process and in this job. And just to elaborate a little, I’ve seen, personally, that it can be quite difficult. Because the job itself requires you to have a quite thick skin. For many people, it means that the only way to do it is to be a little bit somebody else. Like, not who you really are. I mean, you’re not as thick-skinned, or you’re not as crazy going into it every day with that sort of an attitude, or you’re not as confident all the time. Or you’re just…a little bit is missing.
What can happen, and I’ve seen that that’s a really bad thing, is that you can also kind of continue being that somebody else always in the role. And you never really get people. You never really get customers. You never really connect. Like, really. And that will probably…the way I understand things about sales, that probably, it will hurt you results-wise.
But the question is, how you can be really you when the environment is quite tough? That’s the whole evolvement, I think, in sales. So maybe not the best tip that you can immediately take and run, and you can see, “Oh my god, it works.” Or “It helps.” But just for the long-term-type evolving tip is learn to be you so that you can bring that you into every conversation. And it’s amazing how people react to this and how people respond to you, and how real conversations you can have. Even though both parties know that you’re in it to sell something, and at the same time, if you have a good angle, the other party might also know that you’re in it to help them.
And I think just being you. For me, that was a struggle for the early years, definitely. So that’s the tip.
Nathan: Okay. Well, look, final question, Timo, and that is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received that you’d like to share with our audience. And then the best place people can find out more about Pipedrive, and give a little bit more insight around Pipedrive and why people should use it.
Timo: Well, I think, and this is more general right now, right? So it’s about, you know, being a founder, starting things up. The desire and also the routine to ask new questions as you go along, I think that’s been probably the best advice. Is when you’re not getting the results quite as yet that you want to, you just have to raise the game in terms of the questions you ask.
An example that I had personally was that we were getting early days about 15 to 20 new customers a month. And then, at one point, when somebody asked, “So how do you get 100 new customers a month?” And at that point, I kind of…that question sort of shocked me. Because I never somehow had asked that. Like, really. “So how do we get that 100?”
And I realized that I was both intimidated a bit by this new level of question, and also inspired. And I think that this has been really good advice, because ever since, we’ve been trying to ask, “Okay, but how do we 1,000?” And so on and on. And it’s just an example about customers, but it could be asked about anything.
So just asking a new level of question where you don’t have the answers, where you don’t have the reality quite as there yet. But if you answer that successfully, you will raise the whole game, and you will get to these results in some time. So that’s the advice.
And then the question about where you can find out more about Pipedrive and what it is that we do, it’s…probably the best way, to go to pipedrive.com. You know, sign up for a trial and see for yourself. And we do understand that this is a sales tool which is meant for businesses around the world, which sells something more expensive than maybe the average. And definitely not the sort of cheaper and more commodity-type products, but services and products which are more expensive and take a longer time to actually sell to someone.
And this is where the product that we’ve built should be most useful because it helps you organize your efforts and focus on the action that matters most. And in sales, it’s, you know, most people look at their sales pipeline at one point, and we wanted to make that, like, the core of what Pipedrive helps you with, so that you’re really good at managing your ongoing sales efforts through your pipeline, and also communicating with customers most effectively there.
So this is what we try to do, is help small businesses to be really successful, knowing that there will be a lot of failure along the way. But that’s part of the game. And if you want to learn more about sales, in general, or startups and then also blog that we have, you could also go there and have a number of different pieces that you can learn about.
Nathan: Awesome. Look, thank you so much for your time, Timo. It’s been a really great conversation, man.
Timo: Nathan, it’s been a pleasure. Thank you for inviting me.
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