podcast | June 22, 2015
Case Study: Scaling from $13 Million to $160 Million in 3 Years
If you are a sales leader, in an emerging growth company, click here and listen to this podcast. It is an interview with Paul Rosen, who is the Senior Vice President of Sales for OnDeck Capital. Paul joined OnDeck Capital in 2012 when the company was doing $13 million in sales. Today, just 3 years later, the company is doing $160 million in sales and recently had a successful IPO with a market cap of $1.5 billion.
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If you lead sales for an emerging growth company, and need to scale revenues rapidly, click here and hear from one of your peers who has done so.
Speaker: Welcome to the SBI podcast, offering CEO’s, sales and marketing leaders ideas to make the number.
Greg Alexander: Good morning, good afternoon, good evening. This is Greg Alexander, CEO and co-founder of SBI, a sales and marketing consulting firm committed to helping you make your number. This is the SBI weekly podcast show. Today I have a great guest. Let me introduce him.
Paul Rosen is the Senior Vice President of Sales of On Deck Capital. If you’re not familiar with On Deck Capital they are a financial services company who provides capital to small businesses. They were founded in 2006 and just went public this year with an astounding 1.5 billion dollar market cap on about 90 million dollars in revenue. Wall Street clearly believes in this growth story and they should. Since Paul joined the company they did 13 million in 2012, 37 million in 2013, and 90 million in 2014. Now that is making your number. At a boy, killer.
Paul Rosen: Thank you.
Greg Alexander: Those are incredible numbers. I really can’t wait to dive into how you did that and you’re going to inspire a lot of guys. Let me tell everybody a little bit about what you did before you joined On Deck. You lead sales primarily in the payroll processing industry, ADP, Paychex, and Ovation. You got your education at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. Now that I have your credentials out of the way, because whenever you have a podcast, people are always saying, “Why should I listen to this guy?” You’re clearly qualified to be on this show. Paul, welcome to the show.
Paul Rosen: Sure, glad to be here. Thanks for letting me participate, Greg.
Greg Alexander: Let’s jump into it. The IPO was a monster success no matter how you measure it and now you have lots of capital to invest. How are you, as the sales leader going to invest that capital, short term and long term?
Paul Rosen: Well I think that …I’ll take a half a step back. When I first joined the organization, we were very heavy in working with brokers. When you don’t have a lot of money, going out to market quickest and the least expensive way is to use third party brokers. We did that over the last several years and we built up a nice broker business. Then, over the last, I’d say, two years, we really focused on our direct business and having our own sales people work leads and reach out directly to customers. I think now that we have some money to invest, I think what you’ll find from us over the next couple of years is we will get a little bit more aggressive with hiring outbound, cold-calling sales people. We will get a little bit more aggressive with marketing into the marketplace. I think you’ll see us start to get more aggressive in the international markets.
We just made a public announcement on Tuesday that we’re going to be going into Australia later this year. We have a relationship with NYOB, which is the largest accounting services software provider in Australia with about a million small business customers. We’re growing in Canada and then we’ll also probably look at ancillary products that we can offer our customers, as well. Right now we offer loans and line of credits and there’s a couple other products that we think could fit nicely. We expect to have a very aggressive growth path going forward. Just a slight correction, we did have about 160 million in revenues last year.
Greg Alexander: I’m sorry. I was looking at the income statement here.
Paul Rosen: No worries at all.
Greg Alexander: Still, 1.5 billion market capital on 160 million, that’s about 10x revenue, that’s pretty good.
Paul Rosen: Yeah, no, the market certainly feels like we have a lot of growth to do and it’s a very exciting time at On Deck.
Greg Alexander: You just mentioned there, which is something I want to dig on … When you’re a pre-public private company, capital is scarce so you go to market with cost-effective channels, in your case the broker channel. It’s very common for companies to have a lot of success and have some type of event and growth capital gets infused into the business and now we want to expand in geographic markets. Want to bring out new products and on the sales side, it typically means building out a direct sales force because you have the capital to do it now. Just to put this in context, when you say broker, for those that might not be from your industry, what does that mean to you?
Paul Rosen: A broker is somebody that actually sells the product for us. They are a group of probably 1000-2000 brokers in the financial services phase that sell different financial services, loans, and other financial products to small businesses and we’re one of the arrows in their quiver. There’s a lot of lenders that are in our space. We feel that we’re differentiated and now we’re by far the largest in our space. There’s other lenders and we compete for the brokers share of the business just like every other lender does. They handle everything from marketing to sales and then we’re responsible for managing the relationship, making them feel good about On Deck and working the customers through the process.
Greg Alexander: Okay. Very good. Let’s take a look back in history and let’s discuss this broker channel a little bit. In our world, we call that the indirect sales channel. In your world, you call that the broker. The challenge there, when you’re a small company and go back a few years now when you first joined, is getting those brokers to pay attention to you. Getting their mind share, getting them to properly represent your product or service. Signing up brokers and making them productive is a very hard thing to do. Obviously, based on the numbers, you did it very well. What’s your secret sauce there?
Paul Rosen: The challenge that we had is we’re a technology based lender, we sell business loans. Within the loan space, we pay the least amount of commissions out of any of the other lenders and we have the lowest approval rate. We have to walk into a broker and say, “We’re going to approve less of your customers and we’re going to pay a lower commission when you bring us a customer.” We certainly had a challenge and our value add to a broker is we’re going to help you improve your business. We provide a lot of sales consulting to our brokers. We help let them know, “Here are things you can do for marketing that work. Here are things that don’t work.” We share a lot of best practices. We try to become their partner. We’ve also tried to develop our product so that it’s faster, easier, and simpler to sell than the products of the other organizations, and that was three years ago.
Now as we’ve become more of a brand name and we have branding, brokers like to be associated with On Deck. They like to have the brand of On Deck but that wasn’t the case 3 or 4 years ago. It was mostly just trying to add value within their organization other than just providing loans that they could sell.
Greg Alexander: Right. When I hear that, I hear broker less commission, I say, “My Gosh.” How do you get a broker to sign up when you have that scenario? I also hear, you guys are approving fewer of the loans, which means not only less commissions but more difficult to get a deal done. You’ve talked about your product, which is something I want to dive into, as a way it’s probably the innovation itself may have helped you overcome those things. How do you … What was the product and why was it so disruptive to being a lender in the small business community?
Paul Rosen: There’s really three things that we’re selling into the marketplace. The first is access. Even though there’s other lower tier alternative lenders that will say yes to almost everyone, we say yes to a lot of businesses that banks will say no to. The first thing that we’re selling is access. A lot of small businesses don’t have a good reputable place to go get a loan. The second thing that we sell …
Greg Alexander: So that’s access to capital?
Paul Rosen: Yes, so the first would be access to capital. That’s the first thing that we’re selling. The second is speed. Through our technology and through our platform, we are hands down the fastest way for a small business to get funded. A small business can go onto our website and in a matter of minutes get approved and literally get funded that day. The second thing we’re selling is speed.
The third thing that we’re selling with our technology and our data and our infrastructure is simplicity. We need a lot less documentation, obviously, than a bank but we also need less documentation than many of our competitors. What’s been an interesting shift over the last couple of years, the name On Deck really derived from, “Hey, go to your bank and if your bank says no, then you can come to On Deck and we’re waiting here for you.” What’s interesting now is we do get bankable customers that choose to go with On Deck anyway and pay a premium for the loan, just because how fast and how simple we are. If you’re a small business owner, you have opportunities and obstacles that happen to you all the time. There’s going to be quick needs for capital. Even though your bank might say yes, when you look at the amount of paperwork you need and the amount of time you’d have to spend in order to get a bank loan, a lot of times it’s much easier and better go with us.
Greg Alexander: Got it. That was great context and that is innovation. I get access to capital, I get it quickly, and it’s not a headache to get it. That’s a very strong value proposition. We’re going to take a quick break. I want to make the audience aware of SBI TV, which is our new monthly webcast television program. For example, in an upcoming episode we’ll be featuring the Chief Sales Officer of Ryder, a gentlemen by the name of John Gleason. He discusses how he took a Fortune 500 company in a legacy industry fleet management trucking and got them growing new accounts by 30 percent. If you’re not aware of SBI TV here’s some information on it.
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Greg Alexander: Welcome back everybody, this is Greg Alexander CEO and co-founder of SBI and I’m joined today by Paul Rosen, who is the Senior Vice President of Sales of On Deck Capital. Right before the break, we were talking about Paul’s incredible track record in their successful IPO and we were retrospectively looking at how he grew that company, as a way to lead into how he’s going to invest this capital short term and long term to grow the company. He shared with us that one of the investment areas is he’s going to be building out a direct sales force. Paul, this brings me to my next question. That’s an awkward transition so you have these brokers who have been your primary go to market channel and now, are you going to be competing with them with a direct sales force?
Paul Rosen: Yeah, we have been competing with them and you’re absolutely right, Greg. It’s certainly awkward and it’s certainly a challenge. What you have to do is you have to get your brokers comfortable that even though they’re going to be competing with us that we’re not taking any of their leads. We’re going to be doing things above board and it’s certainly in any broker sales, where you have direct sales and broker sales, it’s always been a challenge. Not to sound too arrogant with it and it might and if it does, I apologize. I think to a broker … If you were a travel agency, you would want access to all of the airlines. If you were a travel agent and you didn’t have access to United, American, Southwest, or Jet Blue, that would probably hurt your business. For us, we try to continue to find ways to add value to our brokers. Because we have such a large portion of the market share right now in alternative lending, although our goal is not to be the best in alternative lending, our goal is to be the best lender.
Right now, as of today in the alternative lending space where we have 25-30 percent of the market share, it is important that a broker does work with the best organization in the industry, even if they’re competing with them directly. We also see many other lenders also developing direct sales organizations. I think in order to grow in this business you need a multi-channel approach. You need brokers, you need a direct business, you need strategic partners and you need to be doing a lot of different things.
Greg Alexander: Yep. It’s a fascinating transition point that you’re at right now. We do some work in the health insurance business and everything that’s going on in that industry where it was sold exclusively through brokers is now being sold in new things, public exchanges, directly to the consumer. What that’s doing is it’s forcing the brokers to increase their own value add. I have to have On Deck as an offering, I’m going to have all these other offerings and if I’m a customer and I’m going to buy through you, through a broker vs. going directly through the provider, “What value add are you giving me, Mr. Broker?” They’re going to have to elevate their game quite a bit as well, don’t you think?
Paul Rosen: Yeah, I think you’re right. I always think that there’s going to be room for brokers in our business. I think the difference is, you have to be value added. Different customers have different criteria. There are some customers that just like going through brokers because they have more choices and they don’t want to have to individually do the legwork for 5 or 6 different lenders. If you’re criteria is you want the most amount of money, that may be one lender. If you’re criteria is if you want the fastest, simplest product or least expensive product, that might be another criteria. You may have horrible credit, which we wouldn’t touch that customer, so you’re looking for a different type of lender. There is value added for good brokers in this space that can kind of steer the customer to the right lender.
Greg Alexander: All right. Let’s switch to a new line of questioning here. I would imagine with numbers like yours, that expectations are extremely high for your sales team right now. A miss and things can get bad in a hurry.
Paul Rosen: Sure.
Greg Alexander: My guess is you’re scrubbing the forecast like crazy and constantly trying to make sure that you’re peaking over the horizon to manage to a number and meet expectations. Tell the audience a little bit, how you look into the future to determine if you’re going to make the number. Let’s say maybe, oh I don’t know, maybe in the second half of 2015.
Paul Rosen: Any leader that has been in a high growth organization for an extended period of time knows that the numbers are always aggressive and there’s always huge expectations. I think that you need a culture and discipline for continual improvement and optimization. What we found at On Deck is there wasn’t like one silver bullet. It wasn’t one “A-Ha! If we go in this direction we’re really going to grow.” It’s been more our discipline and we’ve had a core competency of being really good at finding little wins. What you’ll see, Greg, is that if you can improve by 2% per week, you add it up, it doesn’t add up to 104% because all the little wins compound on each other and set up a new baseline, so it adds up to … I’m not a mathematician but it probably adds more to closer to 240% with the compounding effect.
One of the things that we work real hard as a management team on and this isn’t just sales, we’re very collaborative with marketing, and with product, with finance, and with credit to find little wins that we can have. A couple of examples is, we added a 59 auto dialer so our outbound sales people can make 100 more calls per day. We’ve added a tier system with leads, where we’re now doing a better job of routing the right leads to the right sales people. For sales people to get the better leads, they need to stay within their tier so there’s a healthy amount of competition for every single month. As I mentioned before, we made our product less paperwork intensive so that it’s faster and easier to sell. The less paperwork you have to do on a deal, the more capacity to have as a salesperson to do more deals.
We added risk based pricing so that our higher quality customers are paying less and our lower quality customers that are willing to pay more are being priced based off of risks. We’ve done a couple of product add-ons like a line of credit that have helped round out our product a little bit. Every week, I’m sitting with all of the different functional departments to figure out, how can we move the chains a little bit? How can we develop some leverage that we can pull to continue to grow the business?
Greg Alexander: I’m struck with the simplicity of the 2% per week. I think that’s such a great philosophy for many of us to follow. I’m also struck with the humbleness of your organization. You guys created a billion and a half in shareholder wealth in less than ten years and you personally have taken a sales force from 13 million to 160 million in a very short time period. Normally when I run into that, I hear a very different tone. The tone is more of, “I know what I’m doing. I have all the answers. Leave me alone.” You guys are just the opposite of that. Where does that culture come from?
Paul Rosen: I wish I could take all the credit and I won’t. I think as a leader the most important thing that you can do is hire really good lieutenants. I’ve been very, very fortunate at On Deck that the individuals that I hired that are now in director and VP roles are really, really good at what they do. One thing I learned, this was several years ago at the University of Chicago, we had a CEO of a Fortune 500 company come in and talk with the class. The one thing that I pulled from him, which I look at to this day as being the most important thing that I can do as a leader, is A’s hire A’s and B’s hire C’s. Right? If you have a B, B’s are intimidated by A’s, so a B doesn’t want to hire an A because a B is worried that an A is going to take his/her job. Also, an A is unlikely going to work for a B for a long period of time. B’s also aren’t comfortable hiring B’s because they want to hire people beneath them.
If you start your organization or management team with B’s, you end up with a lot of C’s. One of the things that I think we’ve been very fortunate at On Deck, is we’ve been able to attract a lot of A’s, which is really what you need to have at this type of growth rate.
Greg Alexander: Well said. We’re going to take another quick break here. I want to make this podcast audience aware of the SBI Magazine. In particular, an article in this edition with Alex Schulman. It’s a before and after recap of the Eloquest story. I’m pointing that out to this audience because the Eloquest story and the On Deck story are very similar. Alex Schulman started when the company was very small and they created a billion dollars, went public and sold to Oracle. Some of the lessons that Alex shares in that article are similar to some of the ones that Paul is sharing today. If you don’t know how to get a copy of that magazine or if you want to subscribe to it, here’s some information for you.
Speaker: Are you tired of the superficial approach to sales and marketing best practices served up on the internet by self-proclaimed guru’s with glib answers to your problems? If so, subscribe to the SBI Magazine. It’s about time that you have a credible publication to turn to that delivers strong, compelling stories and insightful analysis. Go to salesbenchmarkindex.com and subscribe to the SBI Magazine.
Greg Alexander: Welcome back everybody. This is Greg Alexander with SBI and I’m talking to Paul Rosen, the Senior Vice President of Sales at On Deck Capital. Right before the break we were talking about the astounding success story of On Deck and some challenges that Paul is dealing with right now. For example, going from a broker channel to a direct sales force to being an organization focused on continuous improvement and recruiting new and more advanced A player talent into the organization, etc. and Paul, I want to turn our conversation at this point to you personally. You’ve been around the block. As a sales leader, in this particular instance, you’re going from a small private company to a fast growth Wall Street darling. Many of the listeners on this call are hoping to make that transition. They are inside of high growth private companies and they’re hoping to have an event and life after the event is going to be very different than it is life before the event. How is your life changed and what advice would you give people to help them prepare for this?
Paul Rosen: Well, I think I’ll answer the second question first. I think to prepare for something like this, I think the first thing is it can be very, very distracting and you’ve got to be able to keep your head down and keep all of the distractions on the side. In 2014, we spent a lot of the year preparing for the IPO but it really didn’t distract us from the sales organization in terms of making sure that we executed. One of the goals that I set and I communicated to my sales team was I was fortunate enough to be on the floor when we rang the bell and when we left the New York Stock Exchange, for three weeks, I didn’t look once at the stock price because going public wasn’t the end. It wasn’t like, we’re going to public, everyone’s going to get rich and everyone’s going to retire. To us, going public was just the beginning. It was the opportunity for us to expand. Expand into new markets, expand into new countries, expand into new channels.
As much as a public company there is inconveniences with compliance and other things that you need to do that you don’t have to do as a privately held business. We’re still as focused on execution as we’ve always been. It’s pretty much … If you have a culture of continually improving and growing then things shouldn’t have to change that much outside of the compliance and regulatory stuff that you need to work through.
The other thing that I would say is that as a sales leader, you can’t do everything on your own. There’s always natural tensions between sales and finance. Sales and operations, sales and product, sales and marketing. Those tensions can be healthy or they can be distracting. I think as a sales leader it’s really, really important to have a collaborative effort with all of the different functional areas in order to help you win. That’s something that I’ve gotten better at over the years. I wasn’t great at that ten years ago. You mentioned seasoned, that’s probably another world for old. Because I’ve been around the block a couple of times, I’ve made mistakes earlier in my career that I’ve been fortunate to learn from.
Greg Alexander: My compliments in fighting human nature. How do you not look at the stock for three weeks after you go public? That’s like me pushing a piece of pizza away. I’m Italian, I’m never going to do that.
Paul Rosen: I’ll tell you, it wasn’t easy. People would inadvertently provide me with updates. At the end of the day and I’m not saying that there’s necessarily an end, to me it’s not about what the stock price is today or tomorrow. I’m more concerned about making sure that we’re in a good position 2 or 3 years from now, to be in a position to grow.
Greg Alexander: The takeaway there is that the event is not the end, it’s the beginning. That’s a great philosophy to live by. All right, we’re going to take one more break. When we come back from the break we’re going to ask Paul to put this into an action plan. Maybe give some practical advice to the listeners and what you can do immediately based on this wisdom. I’ll offer my comments as well. As we lead into the break, I want to point out another podcast and I want to recommend to the audience that if you’re listening to this podcast, that you may want to consider subscribing. If you subscribe, these podcasts will be pushed to you. In particular, Jim TeDesco. We recently sat down with him. He is the Senior Vice President of Sales at another hyper-growth company called Veeam Software. He discusses how his sales strategy changed as they hit hyper-growth. Here’s some information on how to subscribe to the podcasts.
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Greg Alexander: Okay, welcome back everybody this is our last segment with Paul Rosen, Senior Vice President of Sales at On Deck Capital. This is Greg Alexander with SBI. Up to this point, Paul, we have been talking about your remarkable journey there at On Deck and how life has changed for you and how to move from one channel to the next and what you’re planning on doing in the future, which has been great. Try to wrap all this up for us. If you were listening to this and you were a sales leader in a fast growth company and maybe speak to yourself as if it was 2 years ago. What would you tell him?
Paul Rosen: That’s a good question. I could think of a couple things. One is just make sure that you hire A players and the one example I’ll give is the direct team is very strategic to On Deck. I probably interviewed 22-24 candidates before I hired the individual that I hired as our director who is now our VP of direct sales. It was a little inconvenient at the time and our direct efforts took 2-3 months later than what we wanted to launch but by hiring the right person, it really paid off. The first thing is don’t compromise on talent, even if you’re behind in head count, even if you are delaying a launch because you don’t have the position, just make sure you have the right person.
The second thing is if you’re in a hyper-growth company, you need to do things in terms of expectations a little bit differently. I’ll give you an example, my first job right out of college, I was a sales person for ADP, a payroll service. Great company. At the beginning of the year, I was given my quota. “Paul, you’re quota is X.” I knew what my quota was every single month and it was very static and it was laid out.
For you to grow 10X over a 3 year period, your quotas have to be a lot more dynamic. We literally change quotas every single month, which could be an unnerving thing to do for sales people so you really have to set the expectation when hiring a sales person. “Hey, this may be a little bit different. You may be used to having an annual or quota changes every quarter.” With us, we literally change our quota every single month based on the inputs that we have marketing, the inputs that we have with product, inputs that we have with technology, inputs that we have with new strategic relationships.
One of the things I always recommend that all new team members read is “Who Moved My Cheese?” I think it’s Spencer Johnson, so that you have to hire the right people that aren’t going to say, “Oh, geez. I’ve had my quota raised four times already. I’ve been here six months.” You really need to do a good job of sifting those people out of your company in the hiring process.
I guess the last thing is just as I’m a firm believer of continual improvement, optimization, everybody on your team is … That has to be ingrained in the culture with everybody on your team. I think that there’s … When you look at urgency, focus, and panic, I think that there’s a fine line, a very thin line between there. I think you need to have a lot of urgency and focus, but I think if you go on the other side of the line, which is panic, then you tend to make knee jerk decisions. You get a little bit out of character, it’s a little disruptive. I think a healthy sense of urgency and focus is good, but don’t just paralyze your team with panic.
Greg Alexander: Yeah. You know, I’m fascinated with the concept of dynamically changing quotas every month. Some of the clients that I work with, when I recommend altering quotas and maybe even compensation structures more than once a year, they hit the panic button to use your urgency, focus, panic component. Listen, you’ve got to react to the marketplace. As things are changing, staying married to the old way, even if the old way was 30 days ago, doesn’t work. That’s really fascinating that you’re doing that and another example as to why you guys are doing so well.
Listen, we’re out of time here, which is a shame because I could pick your brain here for hours. Let me be directive with the audience myself, since we just captured your action plan. I would recommend that the audience go to our site, salesbenchmarkindex.com, click on the about us page and hit the services page. There you’ll see some methodologies, thinks that we advocate for. There’ll be some tools and some definitions in those. That might allow you to put some structure to the things that Paul recommended.
For example, he mentioned several times hiring A player talent. I wrote a booked called, Top Grading for Sales, with Dr. Brad Smart who created the terminology A player, B player, C player. We turned that into a methodology called the talent program that would allow you as a sales manager to interview candidates and only hire A players, that’s an example. That would be something that I recommend everybody do. Listen, I want to thank the audience for listening to Paul. I’m sure that we’re going to get lots of feedback on this and maybe we’ll have Paul on again at a future date.
Paul, I really wanted to thank you for generously giving us our time. I can only imagine how busy you are. Your wisdom was much appreciated. We are all smarter as a result of that and congratulations on your remarkable success.
Paul Rosen: Greg, thanks for allowing me to participate. At On Deck, we think very highly of Sales Benchmarking Index so I’m just happy to help in any way that I can.
Greg Alexander: Okay, great. Take care.
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