Ryan Holmes is the CEO of Hootsuite, a social media management system with more than 10 million users. A college dropout, Ryan started a paintball company and pizza restaurant before founding Invoke Media, the company that developed Hootsuite in 2009.
Hootsuite was one of the earliest platforms on the scene, but it wasn't the first, and that fact has actually contributed to its success. In Ryan's view, what's often referred to as the "first-mover advantage" is more like a handicap. We explore that in our conversation!
I invited Ryan to Marketing Smarts to discuss how he engineered virality into the Hootsuite platform from the very beginning, what his approach is to hiring the right people for the right business phase, how providing a workout room at the office can improve productivity, and more.
Here are just a few highlights from our conversation:
You want to be early to market, but not necessarily first (07:46): "Whenever somebody says 'first-mover advantage,' I have a bit of a gag reflex. I think it's a bit of a fallacy. You take your business category—look at a social media—there was Friendster and MySpace, and then Facebook and then Twitter and Snapchat.... The first couple people often do the really painful work to make the 'Aha' moment within the consumer and customer-base."
Early on, hire versatile employees (AKA "Swiss Army Knives") (10:31): "When you're early-stage, you've got a small team. Division of labor and responsibilities is broad. I talk about the early team as being "Swiss Army Knives." You need somebody that is OK with that, that doesn't want to be a very deep specialist. They're comfortable wearing a lot of different hats. they'll come in in the morning and do marketing and in the afternoon do customer support, and maybe in the evening they'll be doing sales, and that's OK with them.
"As you get bigger, you start to bring in more and more specialists. You do need a blend, even at a big organization, that are generalists and specialists, but the mix tends toward specialization as you get larger. That's just something you have to think about in terms of the evolution of your workforce. If you hire a really, really deep specialist early days and you're going to ask them to do other stuff, sometimes that's out of the comfort zone of those specialists and it becomes a bit of a challenge."
Even if your business is tight on office space, fitness facilities for employees pay dividends in the long run (16:43): "We've made a huge commitment on health and wellness for our team. I think it's very important. I had some personal back issues a few years ago and I realized how devastating it could be, and that was due to imbalance and lack of focus on personal health. You eventually have to pay the price if you don't maintain. I really would love to see a healthy workforce at our company, so we have a yoga room, we have a weights room, and it's something that we always want to commit to having there for our employees.... It's an investment, but if we want to have a workforce that is healthy moving a head, it's the right thing to do."
Ryan and I talked about much more, so be sure to listen to the entire show, which you can do above, or download the mp3 and listen at your convenience. Of course, you can also subscribe to the Marketing Smarts podcast in iTunes or via RSS and never miss an episode!
Music credit: Noam Weinstein.