SM: Describe some of your team-building experiences.
CL: From the start-ups I was associated with before TAN, I know that team building is perhaps the most difficult aspect of entrepreneurism (aside from spelling the word, of course). You start, and it’s just you and you are alone and you are screaming at the world, saying “you need change and I have it”.
And then you convince some people. And they’re usually lunatics. Wild, idealistic, un-tamable lunatics like yourself that stop at nothing to realize the vision. And the passion spreads, more of a disease or mass delusion than a business. And you attract a few more lunatics.
And then you grow some more until you realize you don’t know what you’re doing and you hire a few more not-so-lunatic people who know what they’re doing. And you’re like “YES—this is growing. I need more people.”
But people don’t scale without systems. So you create systems and organization. And the days become more predictable. And then the lunatics are like “this isn’t fun anymore” because you’re slowly turning them from cavemen into librarians and they go into revolt.
And then you’re trying to keep the librarians on the same page as the cavemen and persuade them of a group vision that’s bigger than the sum of its parts. And that’s difficult because you’ve got generalists and specialists and, like I said, lunatics. And then you have to put them in a room and say “Guys, this is your company and this is the direction we’re going, its your future, you decide how we’re going to get there”. And then everyone brainstorms and beats each other up and they beat you up and some of them quit and then, slowly, a new vision emerges and it is greater than the sum of its parts and it’s greater than you are because it’s a living, breathing, self-sustaining organism. It’s a company. It’s no longer you and a bunch of lunatics.
We are a company now, I’m happy to say, because we’ve been able to recruit people with lunatic passion but the professionalism to grow with the needs of the business.
Bob Sacco, for example, came on as our first sales rep, then evolved to sales manager. When we found ourselves with 10 sales reps and no marketers, Bob took on the challenge of creating a unified product from 50 different publishers, and he’s excelled at that as well.
Scott Cherkin, who signed on when we had 12 publishers and built it to 50, has risen through the ranks and to oversee publisher relations and product development.
Adam Humphreys and Marisa Woodbury-Wagner have all evolved way beyond the initial skill-sets and responsibilities that they started with.
As we’ve evolved and as the vision we created has gained traction in the marketplace, we’ve been able to attract more and more talent. Brian Silver’s been an amazing new addition to the team as the COO. But we will continue to promote from within wherever we can.