In this week’s instalment of the Future Tribe podcast, we chat with CMO of Thycotic and best-selling author, Steve Kahan. Steve has worked in the start-up scene for over 30 years and in that time has been able to help companies such as Thycotic go public or be sold, resulting in a total value of more than $3 billion. As you can imagine, Germaine and Steve spend a great deal of this episode talking about the benefits of starting your career off at a start-up as opposed to a large corporation. Our guest also gives some solid advice on how to differentiate a good start-up from a bad one and how to find positions in these companies, as they can often be hard to find. The episode concludes with Steve talking about how he was able to find a good work-life balance despite his busy schedule.
What we talk about
- Working at a start-up vs. working at a large corporation
- Alternative employment routes
- Content marketing and value creation
- Finding a work-life balance
Links from this episode
https://beastartupsuperstar.com/ (Steve’s Website)
https://www.linkedin.com/in/stevekahan (Steve’s Linkedin)
https://www.amazon.com/Be-Startup-Superstar-Ignite-Working/dp/1119660408 (Steve’s Best Selling Book)
Find us elsewhere
https://futuretri.be/ (Future Tribe Website)
https://www.instagram.com/futuretri.be/ (Future Tribe on Instagram)
https://www.linkedin.com/in/germainemuller/ (Germaine on LinkedIn)
https://www.instagram.com/germa_ne/ (Germaine on Instagram)
https://futuretheory.com.au/ (Futuretheory Website)
Disclaimer: This transcript was generated automatically and as such, may contain various spelling and syntax errors
Germaine: [00:00:00] . [00:00:00] Hello, future tribe. Welcome to another episode of the podcast on this week’s episode, we’ve got Steve Kahan from Thycotic. How are you, Steve?
[00:00:08] Steve: [00:00:08] I’m doing great. Thank you for having me.
[00:00:10] Germaine: [00:00:10] No worries at all. Um, let’s get the ball rolling. What’s what’s Thycotic all about to start off with and what do you do there?
[00:00:17] Steve: [00:00:17] So Thycotic is a cybersecurity company focused on protecting, what’s known as privileged passwords that exists throughout any organization’s infrastructure. And I’m the chief marketing officer.
[00:00:31] Germaine: [00:00:31] Okay. So is it sort of like a last pass, but you know, were way more advanced for sort of enterprise? Is that, is that how we can think of you?
[00:00:41] Steve: [00:00:41] In a way, right? So last pass a good product, and it sort of works for, personal users, some, sometimes small businesses and really where Thycotic focuses in on is nonhuman passwords as well as human as well. So if you think about [00:01:00] it, Every operating system, database application, et cetera, has a password associated with them.
[00:01:06] And big companies have no idea how many passwords they have. And so they go unmanaged and as a result, they’re not secured and we help to secure them and reduce their risks.
[00:01:19] Germaine: [00:01:19] Right? So API keys, things like that as well, I assume.
[00:01:23] Steve: [00:01:23] Yes.
[00:01:24] Germaine: [00:01:24] Okay. And how big Thycotic to get, give an idea of, the, the team behind you?
[00:01:30] Steve: [00:01:30] Sure. So actually when I started at Thycotic a little over four years ago, we were 6 million in revenue. And now , four years later we’ll be 106 million. So we’ve been on a rapid growth, Trajectory. And it’s really the result of the market that we play in. And I think working with some amazingly talented people and just really great solutions,
[00:01:56]Germaine: [00:01:56] let’s, um, let’s sort of rewind a little bit.
[00:02:00] [00:01:59] How did you find yourself at Thycotic? You give us an idea of sort of your journey to get there. Yeah. And, let’s start with, what you sort of did out of school. and you know, Give us a bit of a timeline.
[00:02:12] Steve: [00:02:12] Sure. So, uh, now, as you might be able to see if you, if you happen to be able to see the video that I’ve got a few lines in my face and some gray hair.
[00:02:22] And so I’ve actually been in the technology space and mostly in cyber security for 30 years. And so, when I graduated university, I went to school and would hear very often from my father when I would grow up, he’d say, Steve, get your degree, go to work for a large corporation. You work hard. They’ll take care of you and you’ll have a great career.
[00:02:47] And of course he would say your mother and I would much prefer that you become a doctor or a lawyer. But short of that, getting a job at a large corporation will do. So that was the path I took. And so I [00:03:00] graduated university. I went to work at a. A large, organization processing claims. And I remember staring at my bank statement and the pile of claims.
[00:03:11] I had a process that day. Wondering how on earth will I ever get ahead? And I work long hours, the student loans would take a hold of my paychecks before they ever get a chance to hit my bank account. So about a year or so into that role, I asked myself an important question and that was how could I earn a great living and love the work I do.
[00:03:36] And that led me into the startup world. And now I am, at my seventh startup, in a 30 year span. all six prior have either sold or have gone public, generating over $3.5 Billion in shareholder value.
[00:03:53] Germaine: [00:03:53] Wow. That is a, that’s some big numbers right there. so how’s the Thycotic. So cause you know, one of a [00:04:00] 106 million, quite a solid sort of traction for, for a startup, how old’s Thycotic to start off with.
[00:04:07] Steve: [00:04:07] So Thycotic. When, when I joined, I joined along with our CEO. He and I had worked together in the past when a venture capital company invested in the company. And, and Thycotic was a few years old when we joined and now, we’ve are about eight years, uh, in the making. And so the, the first few years, it sort of struggled the around, around it was bootstrapped company.
[00:04:35] It had a good product, uh, but really the founder, uh, needed some help and capital to grow the company. And it’s when the. Insight venture partners actually bought into the company and brought in people like myself and the CEO. When we. Really took a great start and a great foundation that the company had also a tremendous culture [00:05:00] and, uh, built on it and did sort of the things that, that experienced, technology executives would do too.
[00:05:07] help, the company, get on that growth path that we have been fortunate enough to achieve.
[00:05:13] Germaine: [00:05:13] Yeah. Yeah. That’s amazing. And, we’re jumping around a little bit, but now you said this is your, this was his seventh startup you worked at, is that correct?
[00:05:21] Steve: [00:05:21] That’s correct.
[00:05:21] Germaine: [00:05:21] Yeah. So let’s rewind. I’m actually, how old are you now, if you don’t mind me asking, just to sort of pull things on an actual year, year sort of timeline.
[00:05:30] Steve: [00:05:30] For sure. So I’m actually 58 years old, so, I’m old and over the Hill.
[00:05:37] Germaine: [00:05:37] Hey, Hey, you, you don’t know how science is going for, for all we know we’ve got a, you know, another hundred years left in ya. ,So let’s go back 30 years. So that’ll put you at say 28. Um, is that when you started your first startup job?
[00:05:51] Steve: [00:05:51] Yeah, actually a few years before that. Right. So I, I started, at first startup, I kinda made all the mistakes in the world just in terms of [00:06:00] joining that company. But, the company that I joined, it was pretty cool. It was a, I was the first person hired into marketing. And, it was, hired into a company with a small team of crazies hell bent on changing the world and changing the way applications were being developed.
[00:06:18] And so it was pretty cool. I mean, uh, when I joined, uh, interestingly in the first week, I remember looking at the office next to mine and there were people. Rolling out the copy machine. They unplug, plugged it, put it on a Dolly, roll that right out. And I came to find out a few days later. It was because of the company couldn’t afford to pay for that copy machine.
[00:06:43] Germaine: [00:06:43] Wow.
[00:06:44] Steve: [00:06:44] And, uh, it was, you know, pretty interesting, but I was blind to it. I was so pumped and excited to work on this venture with this team that just was so passionate, had this just a total commitment and belief that somehow we would figure it out. And just a [00:07:00] few years later, that company that couldn’t afford to pay.
[00:07:03] For the copy machine, it went public and I got the bug and never left the startup world.
[00:07:08] Germaine: [00:07:08] Wow. , what year was that? When you joined?,
[00:07:11] Steve: [00:07:11] Oh my goodness.
[00:07:11] Many, many years ago. I mean, it was probably 25 years ago.
[00:07:16] Germaine: [00:07:16] Yeah. Yep, yep. Yep. So you were the first person going into marketing or into that? Sort of the marketing roles at that, that organization.
[00:07:23] How did you manage to actually nailed that one down? Like, did you have marketing experience before? Did you study marketing? how did, how did you manage that?
[00:07:32] Steve: [00:07:32] I really didn’t. Right. And so, I was just super aggressive just in terms of, being persistent with the company’s executives. Uh, they probably couldn’t afford a, an experienced marketer either.
[00:07:44] So circumstances were such that it worked on both ends and they knew that I’d stop at no ends to, do what it would take to really learn the ropes. That it was cool because, you know, if you think about, if you’re hired [00:08:00] into a large corporation, you’re oftentimes hired into a smaller pigeonholed role where your sphere of influence is quite small.
[00:08:09] And so, being hired into that startup, if the work was going to get done, I was going to be the one to do it from a marketing perspective. And so what that gave me the opportunity to do was to try everything right. And it was just so cool that get that opportunity to try things that I had never before.
[00:08:28] And I took the opportunity if I would read articles or read about some cool marketing that organizations were doing. I would contact the people that were referenced in those articles at that time. And oftentimes those people, um, they realized that there were others that helped them to achieve the success that they had achieved.
[00:08:50] Yeah. And we’re happy to talk about themselves and. share some of the lessons that they learned to help me to, navigate around some of the [00:09:00] trial and error approach to helping a small company, um, learn how to market effectively. And so it was really cool. I was working, you know, sort of, very closely with some amazingly talented, executives.
[00:09:13] Again, if I. Was working at a large corporation, for example, even right now at Facebook, I mean, you couldn’t even get it around Mark Zuckerberg, security ever rub elbows with him. Right. And so I wasn’t working with people of the Mark Zuckerberg type, but also very talented people, very smart. And so, I took the opportunity to learn everything I could to go to, to just take control of my own training.
[00:09:42] To, really focus on doing and learning and failing forward sometimes. And, and as I mentioned, we were more successful than, I had ever dreamed when I joined. and it was why the company just a few years after I joined, was able to grow to the point that we’re able to go [00:10:00] public,
[00:10:00] Germaine: [00:10:00] go public.
[00:10:01] Yeah. I mean, this, this story, your story really hits home because, It’s sort of similar to how I sort of did things, you know, going my first real job, was at a not for profit who couldn’t afford to be honest, you know, couldn’t afford a hot shot marketing guy. ,In fact, they could only afford me two days a week, or three days a week.
[00:10:20] I think it was, and the beauty of it and why I can see why you fell, fell for startups is that you go into this. A organization who’s just essentially created this role and, you know, yes, there’s, there’s individuals in there who can have the foresight to see that marketing is important and that marketing sort of something that they’ve got to focus on, but there’s, there’s not the rigidity around it that you’re for forced to sort of go in and you’re boxed in and there’s people saying, no, this is what I want you to do.
[00:10:51]especially when you’re starting off, it gives you that. Freedom to experiment freedom to, you know, look into things and say, okay, let me try all this. And, [00:11:00] and yes, Hey, the budgets might not be there and you might not know be making, you know, a hundred thousand dollar ad purchases and things like that.
[00:11:07] But what you get instead is. This very, I mean, this bootstrapped, you know, everything that you do you have to test yourself, you have to understand the parameters within which to work.
[00:11:19] You have to report,
[00:11:20] and it’s almost like you just get a whole bunch of training. It’s like the real life training that you can’t necessarily get from school and college.
[00:11:30] Steve: [00:11:30] Yeah, no doubt. And I learned a very important lesson early on in my career from getting that opportunity. And essentially it was, this is that at least, uh, from a marketing perspective is you can talk to all sorts of marketers. And, you know, the world of marketing certainly has changed. It’s changed for the last couple of years, but I can assure you, it has changed dramatically from, from that time.
[00:11:57] But the important lesson that I learned [00:12:00] was that, that marketing needs to contribute to revenue. And it might sound like, well, of course it does. I mean, that’s a simple statement, but you be surprised how often you will talk to those who happen to have a marketing expertise and like the last thing that they’ll focus in on, or.
[00:12:24]that they’ll talk about is the stuff that they’re doing and how they’re actually contributing to the revenue growth story of the company. And it was that very simple concept that I have always kept in the back of my mind, no matter what the challenge, no matter what the industry or the, the stage of the company.
[00:12:44] And it is that perspective and lesson learned has served me well, in 30 years.
[00:12:51] Germaine: [00:12:51] Yeah. Yeah. I mean, at the end of the day, you know, it can be, revenue can be valued, but market marketing has to generate something. I think, [00:13:00] um, especially nowadays I’d know, I’d know what you, what your thoughts are out there.
[00:13:04] But marketing is one of those, you know, everyone seems to have their own marketing agency or their own digital agency. they build a websites and chatbots and it seems to be this thing that. Anyone and everyone sort of does, because you know, relatively low barrier to entry, saying that, you know, we both know that, you know, the difference between someone who really knows what they’re doing in marketing and has no idea is just huge.
[00:13:29] Like, there’s, there’s just no comparison between the two, but, but the lay person doesn’t see that. which makes marketing, I think one of those spaces aware. People see it as a black hole. Sometimes, you know, people just say, you can spend a whole bunch of money on marketing, but all you’re doing is giving Facebook money or giving Google money.
[00:13:48] What are your thoughts on, on that sort of perspective on marketing?
[00:13:52] Steve: [00:13:52] Yeah. I mean, I see that all the time and I, of course work with Thycotic, but I meet with, uh, companies and entrepreneurs [00:14:00] that sort of ask for advice. And essentially when you look at sort of a strategy that I found that works, it’s, it’s essentially this.
[00:14:09] First of all, if you want to be successful from a marketing perspective is that you, you have got to know your customers as well as you know yourself. And so it really starts with that understanding the customer, implicitly and oftentimes. What you’ll find, is not what you think. So, take Thycotic, for example, we’re in cybersecurity.
[00:14:31] However, the users of our technology actually, oftentimes aren’t security people, they’re, IT admins, right? And these are people who are very busy, have diverse roles. Security is one of them. And so they want technology. That’s super easy to use. It’s customizable. It works away. They want to work. It doesn’t get in the way.
[00:14:53] Right. It’s fast and simple. And so, you know, you would say, well, gee, you’re in [00:15:00] cybersecurity. You’re, you’re supposed to be all about, you know, value proposition. That includes security. And of course we have that. But, but we focus in on our customer. We realize who’s who’s influencing. So it’s really first and foremost understanding the customer.
[00:15:14] And then I think once you do that, I have learned that I spend a great deal of my time. even right now on I’m making sure that we are creating a. amazing value proposition. That is a differentiated vis-a-vis our competition on the basis of that understanding , I focus personally a good deal of my time on our company’s content.
[00:15:39] Uh, and when I say content, I’m saying things like free tools or trials or educational materials or surveys that they could take to find out how they, and relative to their peer group where they’ll get immediate feedback. And so, and it’s that content that has to be so great that it [00:16:00] causes. Those target buyers to actually respond.
[00:16:04] Right. And so, and the response is a lead, right? And so most people. if you’re like me, you almost never give away your contact information online. And so, , when you come to our website, what you would see as a 6% visitor to a, to a lead conversion rate, which is world-class. Wow. Well, I focus on the content because I know it’s gotta be so good.
[00:16:31] That the people that come to our site, actually give up that information and enable us to get that a visitor to website conversion rate in. And if you’re able to then drive that conversion rate, those are leads. Then you’re tracking that ultimately, too. Pipeline and then, and then revenue, right? Yeah.
[00:16:50] And it’s some of those very basic points , that may sound quite funny or simple, but you’d be surprised how few [00:17:00] companies actually get that overall mix. Right.
[00:17:04] Germaine: [00:17:04] Yeah. I mean, and it sounds like what you’re talking about is, yeah, you guys do a lot of content marketing and content marketing has been big for a long time.
[00:17:11] I’ve been going on about it. And you know, , when we start talking to clients who are just starting off and, you know, Let’s say they don’t have a huge budget. What I generally tell them to do is start writing blog posts that are very insightful, very, very niche are very specific to what they do. and it sounds like you guys have sort of grown past that, which is no surprise, because you would have, you know, run out of the run out of content, right.
[00:17:36] About or running out of people who just want to read about that stuff. And you’ve. Kicked content marketing up another level. And that is to create surveys, create tools, basically put in more investment into what is content, but content that is providing, more value to the, to the end user as well. And therefore, like you’ve been able to do, get [00:18:00] them into sending you their contact details because.
[00:18:03] You’ve shown them that you’ve got the expertise and you’ve essentially helped them for free because, I mean, all these tools, I’m going to guess these tools take once. You’ve set it up. Yes. There’s maintenance, but there’s no, there’s no manpower needed, you know, a tool that just scales up, completely sort of hands free.
[00:18:21] And is that, is that right in terms of what I’m thinking, how, how that the, the reason that you’ve been able to sort of really leverage those tools.
[00:18:31] Steve: [00:18:31] Absolutely. Right. And you said a key word and that is value, right? And so a lot of times people create content that is more self serving in a way, rather than serving the customer and the contents got, gotta be hugely valuable.
[00:18:46] I’ll give you a couple of examples. So, you know, one example is we do, what’s known as a privilege. Password, risk assessment. Right? And so in this case, it’s, it’s like very, the [00:19:00] methodology is sound and basically someone could come in, take, answer some questions and then they will get a grade, like university a through F how they’re doing.
[00:19:12] It’s, really solid for them to, to understand where they stand relative to their maturity within, and what’s known as a privileged access management. And so they will not only get a grade. They will find out where they’re doing well, where they’re not doing well. And then, they will also find out, yeah.
[00:19:35] Where are they stand for each of the, questions that they responded to relative to their peer group, which is companies in the same industry and, of a similar size, around the globe. And so people love that stuff. Like they want the immediate feedback. They want a grade, they want to understand where they stand.
[00:19:53] And then what’s cool is because it’s integrated then with our Salesforce, the sales people could then be [00:20:00] very consultative and say, gee, tell me a little bit about the results that you. That you achieved and let’s talk about how we might be able, we’ll help you, you know, that is real value. Or we have retool that discovers these, passwords that you might not know that exists and we do it for free.
[00:20:20] Right. So, you know, people have no idea. Yeah. Just given the complexity and the size of. Of of their infrastructure, what they have. And so this is functionality that is actually, or paid for product that we decided to give away for free. Right. And so, it’s offering real value. And when you do that, you create a great first impression, of the company.
[00:20:46]it’s a win, win, and then you have positioned yourself to earn the right to do business with the people that requested that, content.
[00:20:57] Germaine: [00:20:57] Yeah. That’s something that I’ve found. naturally [00:21:00] as, these channels get inundated, the quality has to increase. And again, that’s what you’re talking about as well.
[00:21:07] It’s it’s. Increasing quality. And that, that, that takes just more investments. So it’s no longer, you know, getting someone to spend two, three hours writing a blog post it’s, spending hours and hours and testing it all out. But what you’re able to do is get, get some of that proprietary information that you’ve been able to collect and understand why working with all your clients and then, boxing that up in a way that, gives value, provides value, not the complete value, but enough to sort of.
[00:21:34] Show them what life can be with what you guys are doing and, you know, becoming a customer. so that you’re sort of raising that bar where in the past, I mean, there was a time where, you know, all you needed to do to, you know, ask someone to give you, give you the email address was just put a box and say, enter your email address.
[00:21:54] And nowadays I think people are much more hesitant to do that sort of thing. I mean, I sure am. So [00:22:00] you’re, you’re. Sort of it’s, it’s becoming more competitive. Right. and you just gotta, you just gotta beat it, beat out your competition cause, I’m actually not sure. Who, who, who are your competitors?
[00:22:10]you know, Thycotic is competitors. Are there some really big players in the,
[00:22:14] Steve: [00:22:14] Yeah there’s a larger competitor public company by the name of CyberArk. Right. And so, you know, it’s key that, they’re a good company, a good people, that products. Right. And so, you know, we think we’ve, we have some, , competitive differentiation that actually a lot of customers desire.
[00:22:33] Right. And so, you know, for us, what we try to do is we try to focus on how we can, offer value in ways that they cannot. And, and obviously, the, the growth that we have achieved is, is pretty fantastic. It’s, it’s, three times the growth of the industry. Right. And so, clearly we’re, we’re doing something right.
[00:22:55] And, and probably, , doing a good job of being a worthy competitor to [00:23:00] CyberArk.
[00:23:01] Germaine: [00:23:01] Yeah. That’s, that’s a, that’s a very politically correct way of saying you guys have a better product.
[00:23:07] Steve: [00:23:07] Well,
[00:23:07] I think so. I, you know, I think we do, but, you know, it’s, I, that ultimately is judged by a share of wallet, right.
[00:23:15] We definitely were customers or potential customers. They buy technology and they want it to work and meet their needs. Right. And so they want to be good stewards of their company’s money. And, you know, we have focused on , some areas just in terms of differentiation of, for example, ease of use, simplicity of the product.
[00:23:37]just being, being one area that, that we think we shine. And we think that a lot of people, they, they, you know, they want to move away from complexity, now more than ever. And, and that has been a big focus, uh, namely usability of our
[00:23:54] Germaine: [00:23:54] technology. Yeah, just making things simple. Um, I mean, again, um, when I’m looking, looking for a [00:24:00] particular type of software, what I do is I sign up for trials around with it and if I can’t work it out, um, within the first five or 10 minutes, I just, that they get.
[00:24:11] Crossed off, straight away, because it doesn’t matter how powerful it is, but, you know, if the onboarding process, especially nowadays with so much knowledge around that area, I mean, there’s, there’s just, I’m sure there’s millions of articles around just optimizing the onboarding process and make it easier for people.
[00:24:28]and my thought processes that if that first five minutes is difficult, Oh boy, you know, I would hate to think how that the next five minutes and so on and so forth and let alone, you know, if it’s a program that I have to train someone else to use or that I need other people to use, that’s just not a road that I want to travel down.
[00:24:46] So usability is a huge thing these days. cause again, the, the usability, just in general, I would say that usability has, has improved across the
[00:24:56] Steve: [00:24:56] Yeah. I mean, and certainly, It worked for Apple. So if [00:25:00] it’s good enough for Apple, I think it will be good enough for Thycotic.
[00:25:04] Germaine: [00:25:04] Definitely, definitely.
[00:25:05] Hey, I know you’ve released a book recently as well. Tell me a bit more about that.
[00:25:10] Steve: [00:25:10] Yeah. So, I wrote a book, called be a startup superstar. And so, it’s really geared towards, young professionals or those who feel stuck in their corporate career. And so it focuses in on why someone should choose.
[00:25:26] A startup over a large corporation, how to find and land a job at a good startup and how to select a good startup. Uh, and then what I call under seven keys to the C suite 35 actions, attitudes and behaviors. One would have. to achieve success at a startup, it’s very much, a quick read it’s written in a, how to, format and, it actually has become an Amazon bestseller.
[00:25:55] Germaine: [00:25:55] Oh, wow. Congratulations. it, do you have an audio book company that as well?
[00:26:00] [00:26:00] Steve: [00:26:00] Yeah. Yeah. So it’s a, it was published by Wiley as well as Audible.
[00:26:05] Germaine: [00:26:05] Okay. Awesome. I’ve got an audible subscription. I’m a big audio book fan. It sort of, it’s just a good way to digest content while I’m still getting things done. I find so, we’ll, we’ll link to that in the description as well for, for you to check out, but could you give us, could you distill some, some of the, some of the messages you pass on in that, in the book.
[00:26:24] Steve: [00:26:24] Yeah. I mean, I think that, uh, one of the key messages is some of the things that I, I look for when I select a startup, right? So there’s lots of startups, , the CEOs of which have, great stories. But, but for example, how do you. Differentiate a startup, that has a good story versus a startup that has both a good story as well as a good chance to succeed.
[00:26:48] So I talk a little bit about some of them, the criteria that I look for when I joined a startup. so for example, one of the things that I look for is [00:27:00] quality. People who share the same values that I have. And so people reflect a company’s culture. And so, you know, if you’re meeting with the you’re interviewing with the company, if you, if you are meeting with the management team and, you know, look for a team that really rocks your world, and if you sort of.
[00:27:20]see that there could be some disconnect in terms of values. I oftentimes say move on. And one of the questions that you could ask to determine those values, if you’re in the interview process that I often ask is if you weren’t building your startup, tell me what you would be doing. Right. And so that really gets at a question that, um, Highlight some of the values that that person has, for example, are they potentially going into the direction where they’re a micromanaging workaholic?
[00:27:55] Do they have other hobbies or things that perhaps you may share in common, [00:28:00] in which you might, start to build a little bit of a deeper relationship? Does the person, for example, talk a little bit about their family. as well. Right. And so, you really could uncover some gems. another question that I’ll ask, to understand the values, uh, is tell me what you love about your team and why are you the ones to solve that problem?
[00:28:24] And so there again, you’re is a very insightful question where you’ll oftentimes be able to find out if, if this is an organization that is team-oriented. Are they, I, people where they’re taking all the credit or are they, we people where they’re sharing the credit. Right. So I go into a number of, items that I look for, uh, as well as the very specific questions that I would ask underneath those items, such as the ones that I’ve, that I’ve outlined.
[00:28:57] And these are sort of. [00:29:00] Some of the lessons that I’ve learned in being fortunate enough to having selected now seven amazing startups that, that achieved a great growth.
[00:29:11] Germaine: [00:29:11] I mean, it sounds like those, those tips can be used for almost any sort of job interview or, I guess even, even just other interviews, I could imagine asking some of those similar questions on a first date.
[00:29:23] So maybe, maybe we’ve uncovered sort of a whole new market. Maybe you can change around the title and, look at selling into, you know, maybe, maybe the dating and relationships space as well.
[00:29:34] Steve: [00:29:34] Yeah, well, actually my wife who is listening to me right now probably will ask me to shy away from that. but, yeah, I mean, that’s a, that’s not a bad idea.
[00:29:46] Once the book sales start to trail off.
[00:29:49] Germaine: [00:29:49] Exactly. You can, you can diversify swap out the cover. Um, I guess it’s just my way of saying that, you know, it’s, especially nowadays. You know, I think it’s, it’s a big thing. [00:30:00] Everyone’s sort of saying you should start your own business status, get into a startup.
[00:30:04]but you know, there are a lot of people out there who, who, wouldn’t do well starting their own business. but then the next best thing is to join, an organization that is doing that is in line with what they want to do that shares their values. and arguably, you know, there’s more power now for someone to do that, then.
[00:30:21] Than ever before in history,
[00:30:23] Steve: [00:30:23] with that. And I, you know, I could give even your listeners a couple of tips of how to find them, right? So for example, in most, every , major city throughout the world, there’s a, what’s known as accelerators and these, accelerators particularly in technology. But what they do is they provide capital, expertise.
[00:30:46]to the, companies that they, uh, that they perhaps might fund. And you’ll often find if you Google the startup accelerators, within your given city or city that you might want to [00:31:00] live a lot of the portfolio companies or the ones that are, involved with that accelerator, they are listed and a lot of times they will be posting their jobs.
[00:31:11] Online right there and think of it like that. Startups. These are not the companies that like are they’re going, they’re not going to career fairs. They’re not doing some of the things that the large companies have, the benefit and the resources to do to go find talent, but they’ll put their jobs. , on these websites.
[00:31:31] Right. And a lot of times they’re, they’re, they’re unknown. And so I encourage people to take a look at those accelerators in the Google then. And another is. That if you start, , following some, some companies and in particular, some of the executives at those companies that you might consider that you might want to join and take a look, what they say online and, uh, with, uh, technologies like LinkedIn.
[00:31:58]so long as you try to [00:32:00] do an outreach in a non salesy way in a sincere. In a heartfelt manner to the executives at those companies, if you’re following what they’re saying and, oftentimes, talk about how you would like to be able to learn from them to get some advice for your career. what you’ll find is that, as I’d mentioned earlier, that a lot of executives, they realize there are people that help them throughout.
[00:32:28] Uh, their career. And, now don’t be dissuaded. If not, you don’t get a response from everyone cause they’re busy people. But what you’ll find is you’ll get more response than you actually imagined. And, and so long as you take the approach that I mentioned, and then typically you’re able to bridge the conversation to you and then start to talk about, uh, yourself and what your aspirations are in terms of your career.
[00:32:53] Which then opens you up directly to jobs that may exist within [00:33:00] that organization or within that executives network. And so people do not go to the executives often enough directly. They oftentimes sort of apply in the same old way as everyone else, which is the standard HR route, which isn’t to say that that’s a bad way that you shouldn’t do that.
[00:33:19] But I’ve had a number of people, for example, outreach to me over the years. And, they, have. Created a strong relationships with myself, some of which, uh, I’ve hired or have referred on to others and many others just like me do the exact same thing.
[00:33:35] Germaine: [00:33:35] Yeah. It’s just, you know, that advice of, um, talking to people like, like they’re people, not like the, you know, big job opportunities or, you know, Opportunities to earn money or also on and so forth.
[00:33:48] It’s something that bugs me on LinkedIn. For example, I, I get these opening like four or five paragraphs about, you know, um, and it’s a classic format of, you know, this is what we do. this is how cheap we are. [00:34:00] These are, there’s some examples of some work that we’ve done. Hey, why don’t you work with us?
[00:34:04]there are no other, I I’m looking for someone like them. 100% of the time. I’m not. And second, if someone did that to me in person, I wouldn’t even, I wouldn’t even know what to say. I mean, how would you like that? If I can just sit you and said, you know, Hey Steve, you know, there’s a description of who I am.
[00:34:21] I am. I am very cheap. I any 25 bucks an hour, You know, I want to say someone while work, here’s my iPad. Just go through some of my work. How about we work together like that? It just wouldn’t happen. And, and you know, you’re talking really just about bill, just treating them like people and having that conversation.
[00:34:37] And I think even I’m putting it out there, And just, it’s not about sort of, you’re not owed anything, but if you approach it like, like a sincere individual who would love a helping hand, most people will look at that in that way. that they, that yes, they’re time poor and yes, they’re busy, but, they’re much more likely to look at it in a favorable way, [00:35:00] if you would approach it correctly versus just spamming people and asking for things.
[00:35:05] Steve: [00:35:05] Absolutely. and as you mentioned, you sort of are talking about people, selling you. I mean, probably a lot, like you, I get tons of, emails or even calls to my cell phone on a regular basis. In exactly the same approach and manner and style that you outlined. And I respond to none of them. Yeah. I mean, because at the end of the day, I mean, whether, you know, in the case that I mentioned, it’s, it’s really about people helping people.
[00:35:40] And, and again, not everybody will be willing to do that, but what you’ll find is, more often than not is that good people will. If they were approached in the right way, try and help others. , I certainly do. And I believe many others do. And so, I encourage people to, to try that.
[00:35:59] Right. And in [00:36:00] particular, if you’re thinking about, uh, changing jobs or thinking about taking your career forward,
[00:36:06] Germaine: [00:36:06] Yeah, and, and it won’t hurt. I just can’t think of any situation way. If you do it correctly, that there’s any sort of damage. The worst thing that can happen is that they won’t respond to you or they’ll just respond saying, sorry, you know, very time.
[00:36:19] Poor. Appreciate it. But, but can’t chat right now. Hey, have you, um, you you’ve told me so fondly about startups. Have you ever thought about getting into starting your own business yourself?
[00:36:30] Steve: [00:36:30] Yeah, I actually did. I did start , a technology company that, grew rapidly. It was ultimately sold to Novell and, there was a lot of fun.
[00:36:42] Uh, I like, uh, typically, getting in with a company that’s a little, a bit bigger. Right. And so there’s a couple of stages of startups. You know, one is starting it from the absolute ground floor. you know, in that case, you know, writing a business plan over a weekend and [00:37:00] seeing it through finding the funding and all of that, , I, I tend to prefer, I think that there’s a lot of amazingly great small startups, much like Thycotic was.
[00:37:11] And so I, I really enjoy those types of companies because they’ve gotten through the initial sort of. Prove it a phase and then it really, is all about can the company scale and grow. And it’s really that stage of startup that I, I in particular, enjoy it. Okay. And a lot of people are concerned about, starting a startup from scratch.
[00:37:34] I mean, you know, sort of. Well mentioning the name, Mark Zuckerberg. There’s not a lot of them. You can find the phase two, you know, maybe you’re like me and you’re not Mark Zuckerberg. Right. But yet you can still have a amazingly great career , professionally and, and personally, and financially.
[00:37:56] Germaine: [00:37:56] Yeah.
[00:37:56] Yeah. I mean, it, it is, it’s sort of funny because I [00:38:00] got in, I started my own business so that I can do more of what you were talking about and going, obviously we go in more as a, as a partner, as a, as a service provider, but, you know, just being able to jump in and, almost just like propel things forward, feel that fire.
[00:38:15] So you’re not, you’re not trying to help someone just even work out if there’s a market for what they’re, what they’re trying to do. They’ve already got past that stage. and it’s just a matter of then really, looking for exponential growth or, or looking at sort of triggers of exponential growth versus just trying to get traction.
[00:38:31] And, that’s, that’s definitely a really fun, Hey. In your last 30 years, you know, in, in your career, what are, what are some mistakes that you’ve made, whether it’s sort of specifically marketing related or if it’s just career related, would love to sort of look into some sort of a teachable learnable moments.
[00:38:49] Steve: [00:38:49] Sure. So I think one of the biggest. Concerns people have of startups in particular that I hear is that you’re going to have to work 24 [00:39:00] by seven. Right. And so that it is just all work all the time. You’re never off right hand. So, um, a lot of people just simply. I don’t want to, be out of balance from a work life perspective.
[00:39:15] And so I, am without question a workaholic, but what I learned early on, and it was such an important lesson was. how to actually, achieve more of a balance. And actually, I really don’t like the phrase work life balance because it suggests that there’s a right answer. I think that, there was a phrase I heard called work life harmony, and I really liked that because I think things ebb and flows.
[00:39:42] But what I learned specifically was this. Yeah, any of your listeners are like me. They live a lot of their life through their calendar, right? So you’re scheduling meetings, you’re scheduling your appointments. And that really guides a lot of what you might do during [00:40:00] the day. And so, um, What I would say that you can do to kind of have better work life harmony essentially is this is you’ve got to learn how to protect your calendar.
[00:40:13] And so, if you’re listening right now, what I would challenge you to do is to open up your calendar and take a look at it right now and see how many meetings that you have scheduled with yourself. And I’ll bet if you’re like most people, the way I was as well, many years ago that you probably have too few.
[00:40:35] And think about what that means. What that means is, is that people will. A scheduled time into another, you know, soul sucking meeting or you’re you’re missing time with, with your family or a kid’s game or not having a meal, a dinner, or maybe even a breakfast occasionally at home with your, with your family.
[00:40:57] You’re not, perhaps [00:41:00] working out at lunch. If that’s something that you like to do. Maybe you’re not blocking out time to think strategically, or maybe even to learn something new and focusing on your own education. And so what I learned was, was how to make myself the most important priority on my calendar and go schedule those meetings and I’ll do so in advance.
[00:41:24] And that really helped me too. just gain a, a better sort of harmony from, you know, both the work side of things, as well as. my family and, it is a lesson that has served me very well over the course of the years.
[00:41:42] Germaine: [00:41:42] Yeah. I never heard anyone sort of put it the way that you’ve put it, but you know, it makes a lot of sense.
[00:41:46] You, you book in meetings with other people or, or clients, but why what’s stopping you from booking in, in our meetings with your family meetings, with yourself. whether it, whether it is like you said, working out or even just going for a walk [00:42:00] at lunchtime, it doesn’t have to always revolve around just work.
[00:42:05] And I think, when you’re sort of in that hustle mentality, you, you, you probably falsely think that just. Every hour in front of a computer or every hour doing work , is how you maximize your time and maximize the productivity. But, , I’ve found again, you know, there, there are nights or there are there even days where yeah.
[00:42:23] I have more or less checked out, you know, I know I’m not as productive, but it’s just, it’s what I need because you know, maybe I worked for six, seven days straight. maybe I just, I’m, I’m a bit more tired than I usually am. And I just need to sort of check in with myself and sort of go, okay. You know, today is a day that I spend, Doing more of the working on the business, more of the fun stuff, you know, let’s work a bit on branding or work a bit on signage and you know, it’s not stuff that, , is essential.
[00:42:50] Um, but it’s stuff that sort of reminds you of why you, why you’re doing this in the first place, because let’s be honest, life is full of things that you have to do just, just absolutely have to. [00:43:00] And then, , all the other things that you can do or, or optional. So it’s a matter of balancing that as well.
[00:43:06] Steve: [00:43:06] Yeah, absolutely. And I would say right along with that, , one of the things that I had so learned is, uh, everything can’t be a high priority. Right? And so when you, you are someone that tends to work their tail off, and that’s a, it’s a attribute that I respect in people is that you tend to take on massive workloads, but, What is, very much true, is that not every thing that you’re focused in on, uh, can yield the same results.
[00:43:38] I actually liked the way, Sheryl Sandberg referred to sort of ruthless prioritization. And so, what I try to, also realize is not only am I sort of protecting my calendar, but I try to put as much focus as I can on the. Actions and the activities that will actually move the [00:44:00] needle. And so oftentimes you’ll see people kind of major in the minors.
[00:44:05] Right. They’re getting a lot of things done that really just don’t move the needle. Right. And so I think if you’re protecting your calendar, you’re the most important. A priority and you are making sure that you are focused on the right priorities with the time that you have available. Sounds simple, but it’s amazing how, uh, you know, many people don’t do it or they do it and then they sort of slip out of it.
[00:44:34] And it’s not about perfection. It’s not about sometimes you want to do the smaller things and maybe it gets you going or. , it’s just a day that you feel like focusing on it. Okay. Right. And so, or if, for example, there was a, a business got in the way of something, uh, family side or vice versa. It’s like not getting freaked out about it.
[00:44:54] Like you’ve got to be perfect. Right. It’s. It’s realizing that you’re, you’re striving to [00:45:00] get as good as you can be. And good enough oftentimes is, is what I strive for on, on both of those fronts.
[00:45:07] Germaine: [00:45:07] Love it, love it. And that’s, you know, putting in that effort is probably more important than trying to keep a close eye on, on everything and making sure that, I mean, we’re not robots.
[00:45:16] There’s no reason that we have to fit in, you know, the exact hours and exactly. Blocks that we’ve, we’ve sort of outlined because we’re humans and sometimes our minds and our bodies are much better at telling us what we need then our calendar is as well. So, no, I love it. Hey, where can people find out more about you?
[00:45:34] Steve: [00:45:34] So you can find about me at the book’s website, which is be a startup superstar.com. And I have a number of people who’ve read the book who have reached out to me and I try my very best to respond to each and every outreach that people make.
[00:45:51] Germaine: [00:45:51] Awesome. Thanks for that. We’ll include the link in the description as well.
[00:45:55] Um, so you can connect with Steve on there. are you ready for the top 12? I surprised you a little [00:46:00] bit with it, but you ready?
[00:46:02] Steve: [00:46:02] I’ll try my best.
[00:46:04] Germaine: [00:46:04] Awesome. Let’s get the ball rolling. So top three books or podcasts that you recommend that are not your own.
[00:46:10] Steve: [00:46:10] So, , I, I’m going to give up a couple of books for you that I really love.
[00:46:15] So one is an oldie, but a goodie, which is winning by Jack Welch. Jack Welch recently passed away. He was the former CEO of general electric, and he has some absolute gems in that book. And, uh, to me, , it’s a book I’ve re-read many times. I also like a book, a little bit on newer cars, zero to one, which is by Peter Thiel.
[00:46:38] Peter is one of them, world’s most successful venture capitalists. And he also has some just amazing, advice in terms of, startups and really building a successful future in your career. No matter where you’re at.
[00:46:56] Germaine: [00:46:56] Love it love it. Peter Theil is from PayPal. Is that right? Or [00:47:00] PayPal fame.
[00:47:00] Steve: [00:47:00] Yeah. Yeah.
[00:47:01] Germaine: [00:47:01] Awesome. Knew that name was familiar. So, top three software tools that you can’t live without.
[00:47:08] Steve: [00:47:08] So I’m gonna, give, uh, two again, since I’m, stuck on that. So, for me, salesforce.com is a, is a technology I can’t live without. but then also Tablo, that is a, sort of a BI, dashboard that is, uh, able to distill the nuggets that we’ve actually built on top of salesforce.com, where I can see everything that I need to see in exactly the format.
[00:47:34] I need to see it. I love it.
[00:47:36] Germaine: [00:47:36] Yeah. And what do you use for your calendar app? Is it just the built in sort of iPhone or Google calendar or,
[00:47:44] Steve: [00:47:44] yeah, use the calendar app right in aisle.
[00:47:48] Germaine: [00:47:48] Sorry, I lost you there. Are we back?
[00:47:50] Steve: [00:47:50] Yes, you did. I am at my beach house in Galveston, Texas, and I, my internet, all of a sudden became unstable.
[00:47:58] Germaine: [00:47:58] That’s all good. Um, I [00:48:00] missed your response. So you just use the built in Google app. Use the built in calendar solution
[00:48:05] Steve: [00:48:05] from outlook.
[00:48:07] Germaine: [00:48:07] Oh, yep. Yep. Awesome. I mean, why not?
[00:48:10] Right. I think, even for myself, just the built in calendar apps are really awesome. I know some people like to go down the road of getting their own apps subscription, but often, it does what you need and, and I think people sometimes get a bit too complex with things that just need to be simple. So love it.
[00:48:26] Um, top three mantras, you try and live by.
[00:48:30]Steve: [00:48:30] I try to live by, , nothing matters more to winning than surrounding yourself with a plus people. I found that, , A-plus talent, , wins. , I also, , live by a mantra that is call out the elephant in the room. Right. And so oftentimes there are, , elephants that are there.
[00:48:51] That is the big sort of issue that people sort of dance around and, , And just basically, uh, never really focus in [00:49:00] on, and then I think I’m built to last. Right. And so what I try to focus in on is making sure that, then I’m always creating, focusing on creating longterm value, and being in it for the long haul.
[00:49:15] Germaine: [00:49:15] Yeah, definitely. I think too many people again, um, are too shortsighted and talk about, you know, just making his money, my mass much money upfront as possible. Just, you know, let it out. And that, that, that way, I think you also make sure that you’re in it for the passion of what you’re doing versus the, the money.
[00:49:35] Steve: [00:49:35] Totally agree. And what happens is, is that oftentimes if you are in it for the long haul and you know, good things happen along the way, but if you’re in it for the short, quick, uh, and easy, it, it rarely is.
[00:49:49] Germaine: [00:49:49] Yeah, definitely love it. Ah top three people you follow or study and why?
[00:49:55] Steve: [00:49:55] Uh, these are, I would say the people that are my, [00:50:00] my mentors, honestly, so I’ll, I’ll give one.
[00:50:02] So. one, in particular is, um, is Doug Erwin. Doug Erwin is not known to your listeners, but, he is a serial entrepreneur. he runs a venture capital company and is. one of the best, managers I’ve ever known. and so, Doug Erwin is someone that I, I, without question, follow and, and, and, and if folks could Google him, I suggest that they follow him as well.
[00:50:31] Germaine: [00:50:31] Awesome.
[00:50:32] Awesome. Yeah. I never heard his name, but, I’m definitely gonna look him up as well. Awesome. Um, so that’s wrapped up the top 12. thanks for your time, Steve. and yeah, hope to keep in touch and connect in the future.
[00:50:44] Steve: [00:50:44] Yeah, it was a lot of fun. And, uh, I appreciate you having, thank you.
[00:50:49] Germaine: [00:50:49] No worries.