Our founder Chadwick Rose recently joined Kyle Maloney from FullStack PEO, a turnkey HR solutions for emerging companies on his podcast, Savage to Sage. The podcast explores the journey of entrepreneurs, revealing insights, breakthroughs, and practices that helped them evolve into the leader they have become.
On this episode, Kyle explored Chad's entrepreneurship journey and what he has learned along the way. Watch the 30 minute episode below and see some highlights from the transcript after the video.
Chadwick Rose: My path has been largely around data analytics and data engineering from the very beginning. It’s what I started doing coming out of college, working primarily in the financial services industry and the enterprise space, delivering the data that investors needed to make decisions.
I learned a lot of skills, figured I had maxed out in terms of what I could learn at that organization, and wanted to take on the new challenge, that being always having wanted to start a company, I figured that was the hardest thing to do, and that’s what I went after. It turned out to be that way too, but that background within enterprise analytics is where I started Treehouse Technology Group, which was the first company I co-founded with my brother, Darton Rose, and Phil Wess.
And it started as a professional services organization helping middle market to Fortune 500 companies get the most out of their data through data management, technology and data analytics capabilities.
And we did that for about five years, it still runs as its own business right now. And then from there we founded InsightOut, which was a platform, end to end data management analytics platform designed specifically for the middle market. And it was really an evolution of the things that we felt were missing within the market. We had used everyone else’s tools and we felt like they were good in certain areas, but definitely missing the mark in others. So we developed our own product to meet those needs.
Kyle Maloney: That’s great. So, tell us about the current company that you’re at. You kind of alluded to it, it’s just like it’s the thing that was missing in the market from what it was previously, can you give me some more specifics about it?
Chadwick Rose: Yeah, absolutely. So, we service the non-technical executives like CFOs, CEOs, COOs who need enablement but still in a self-service manner to get the enterprise level data analytics, the visualization, and the insights they need.
As much as possible, we want to remove the dependency on engineers to come in and create these data models, or create these visualizations or the dashboards that we’re delivering and give the end user the ability to do so in a self-service manner. And ultimately the vision is as an end user, as a CFO or a CEO, the platform is telling you what you should be paying attention to within the business.
If there’s a flat line of revenue from quarter to quarter, there might be a lot of stories underneath that that indicate really good growth in certain areas and maybe lower growth than others. And the idea with InsightOut - we bring out those trends and those indicators to your attention automatically, versus having someone else have to find them in the weeds.
Kyle Maloney: That’s amazing. And so, it just seems like you’re taking analytics to a whole another level for an organizational management process in a sense, is that correct?
Chadwick Rose: Absolutely. And there are a couple of different ways of looking at it too. We primarily service the lower to middle market with InsightOut, and in those companies, they have extremely capable individuals who are running the businesses, but they’re overwhelmed with manual reporting and trying to understand where the business is going. And they don’t have internal expertise around data analytics, they can’t afford the same people that Amazon and Google can to come in, the data scientists, and everyone else to come in and do all this work for them. So, the whole idea is to bring that enterprise analytics capability down to the middle market.
Kyle Maloney: That makes amazing sense. And so when you define middle market, what type of size organizations are you talking about specifically?
Chadwick Rose: Sure. So, we’ve helped organizations as low as 5 to 10 million, but typically our sweet spot is 20 million in annual revenue to 200 million in annual revenue. A lot of which are owned by private equity, so they’re proven organizations that are growing, they have a proven business model, and it’s about scaling it up from there.
They need a tool where they connect their CRM, their Salesforce system, that plugs it into their QuickBooks or other finance system, which extracts that data and then tells them automatically as much as possible what’s going on.
Kyle Maloney: Amazing. Let's back up a little bit and talk about what went into that decision to say hey, I’m going to start my own business, I’m going to take the risk, take the jump, join the savagery of entrepreneurship?
Chadwick Rose: Yeah, sure. I would say a number of different factors, to be honest. So, going back to childhood, I had an uncle who was an entrepreneur, very successful, always looked up to him. That entrepreneurial spirit was definitely in there, my older brother took that over straight out of college, he just started his own companies and kept on doing it. And we had always said we wanted to do something together, and so that was a big impetus there as well.
And beyond that, like I said, I love challenges and took the hardest major I could in college, pushed myself as hard as I could in my first job and then I saw this is clearly the most difficult thing I could do with the highest reward, and that’s what I wanted to try.
Kyle Maloney: Can you tell us like, what were the early days like, starting your own company? What was the pace, the intensity?
Chadwick Rose: Yeah, it was very intense, probably no different from a lot of the other folks you’ve talked to. There is a balance of trying to do the work, especially since we were in a consulting model, professional services model in the beginning. There was a balance of trying to do the work always with an eye towards how we continue to grow. And how do we build up a big of enough customer base, a name for ourselves to continue to scale and find additional people and so on.
The space we are in, data analytics itself is very difficult, like no matter how good you are, it’s a challenging thing to deliver on, and oftentimes we have clients come to us who are just coming off a failed implementation after failed implementation. So, there’s a lot of pressure there, there’s a lot that we wanted to deliver for our customers, and balancing that with how we find a bigger market.
Kyle Maloney: Yeah, and especially if in the data analytics realm, there’s been past promises and experiences that didn't work out, I can imagine that’s just even more of an uphill battle to want to execute with professionalism.
Chadwick Rose: Absolutely. Managing the client expectations and making sure you’re just doing as much as you can to bring value. We also had the challenge of making that transition from service to product. So, at Treehouse, we ultimately decided we wanted to develop our own product, and we funded that product and built it out through the service business. And so we bootstrapped the whole thing. And the dance you have to do to get from a service to a product is very hard, most people advise you not to do it, right?
But we made that transition, and that was a really hard thing to do in terms of remaining focused and giving the company as much structure as possible to give the team the ability to focus on the different parts they were going to deliver on. Making sure the service business got the attention and love that it needed, as well as being really mindful of how much we were spending on the new product and making sure it was going to work and deliver for our customers. And so, that balancing act was definitely challenging, but I felt more prepared for coming through the experience I had at starting Treehouse from the beginning.
Kyle Maloney: That makes sense. So, now that you’ve moved, you’ve transitioned from service to product, and you’re developing a team around you, those types of things. How did you find the right team members to join your team?
Chadwick Rose: We’ve come to realize a number of key attributes, especially within the data analytics space, is a certain curiosity around solving puzzles and really being interested in a variety of topics. A lot of our engineers come from, especially on the data side, come from a variety of backgrounds, nuclear physics or social sciences, or physics in general.
And so, they don’t necessarily come computer science background, as you might expect. And we found that to be a really key indicator, a good indicator, and then measuring their grit. And we get to know that early on, it’s something that we look out for when we’re talking to folks about coming into the team.
Kyle Maloney: That’s great. Yeah, grit is a common theme as well that we get here. How do you attract people that subscribe to your why? You’ve mentioned that you want to make sure your customers know that you're going to execute, how do you find those people of high integrity that are completely dedicated to your organization’s mission?
Chadwick Rose: Yeah, there are a couple of different ways. We value their education and their background. But also, we try to understand where they’re coming from. So, if they’re coming largely from an enterprise background, it’s historically not been a good fit, because they’re super siloed and focused on delivering for a single part of the business. But if they come more from an entrepreneurial background or a smaller technology startup, they’re more than likely exposed to the customer in that process. They’ve been exposed to tight deadlines and that desire to deliver. And while that can be hidden within an enterprise culture, within a start-up and smaller entrepreneurial culture, it’s a lot harder to get by.
A couple of other things we’ve done - we’ve added request at the bottom of the application to submit a video or submit a cover letter. And we know if they don’t actually do that, they probably didn’t read through the application, they’re just going at it like everyone else. So, just little indicators like that, attention to detail is important too.
Kyle Maloney: That’s great. Let’s get into it a little bit further, like, one of the reasons why we do the podcast is we want to give space to entrepreneurs as they transition in their journey. What kind of sage advice have you learned as you’ve grown your business? What are some key things that you’ve learned in this process of starting your own company, being a CEO?
Chadwick Rose: As you scale, a number of things, obviously—probably a lot. One thing is by starting your own company, you’re going from savage to hopefully sage a lot faster than you would otherwise, right? So, it’s like a pressure cooker, it’s an accelerated education, it’s an accelerated MBA, you’re going to learn so much. It's a great way to really accelerate that learning process.
There’s so much that I’ve learned personally, I think from a marketing standpoint and positioning standpoint, I’ve learned just how important that is. We started the company more just focused on delivery and networking and selling our services, but just from the advice of our advisors and others and just looking at the advice generally in the market. Being able to position your business in the right way and being able to speak about it in the market, being able to test your value proposition or the service that you want to offer on the top of the funnel.
And so, we’ve done more and more of that, we’re continuing to do more and more of that, where it’s anything from just tweaking the way you’re speaking about the business, to presenting new product ideas and doing a really lightweight test of those within the market before you actually go out and build them. So, becoming really nimble from that standpoint, and leveraging the power of just the marketing tools that are out there today has been really something that I’ve learned.
As you scale, the importance of process is critical. If you can’t write down the process and put it in a document, then there’s no way you can hand it off to someone else and expect them to do it. And what I’ve also found is by creating names of those processes, just something that’s a little unique, labeling a certain component of how you do the business, and how you do work, and labeling it as something that’s unique and easily understood, that gives the team the ability to reference that throughout their day to day to go back and say, okay, let’s use this approach over here, let’s use this named approach over there.
And that starts to spread across the business much faster than if you just put a document that lives up on Google Docs that stipulates how you should do X, Y and Z without really any why behind or without a good name behind it. So, just naming the process itself in short is one thing I found to be really effective in distributing that across the company.
Kyle Maloney: What has been one of the most rewarding things for you?
Chadwick Rose: Definitely the lessons, the knowledge that I now have and feeling like I could, if I started another business tomorrow, make it work even better. Just having that level of competence built up is a great feeling, very rewarding. Also, seeing our customers get so much out of data. Our customers will say, "Wow - This is exactly why I bought the product, and it's actually better than I could have imagined."
That type of response is very rare within technology and software as a service. And to get that repeatedly within our customer base has been incredibly rewarding, because we built this tool from the very ground up, we didn’t use anything else, no other third parties, no other solutions, it was all our own. And there’s nothing like that in terms of seeing that come to life.
Kyle Maloney: Wow! Like you fulfilled your mission, you completely fulfilled it. Well, Chad, I just want to say thank you so much for taking the time to be on the Savage to Sage podcast, I’ll be honest with you, what you’re doing at InsightOut is incredibly appealing, and I can imagine so many businesses can benefit from it. So, thank you so much for taking the time to share about your business, and specifically all the things that you’ve learned on your entrepreneurship journey.
Chadwick Rose: Yeah, absolutely, Kyle, thank you so much for having me, really appreciate the questions and the conversation.
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