A conversation with David Schmaier, Founder & CEO, Vlocity
Vlocity is a leading provider of industry-specific cloud and mobile software built in partnership with Salesforce. It is the fastest growing company ever built on the Salesforce AppExchange platform and grew from inception to $100 million in revenue in less than five years. Vlocity’s founder and CEO, David Schmaier sat down with Software Business Growth to talk about scaling a software company, what he learned from his previous ventures, and attracting/retaining top talent. An extended Q&A with Schmaier was featured in the October/November 2019 issue of Software Executive magazine, “Reaching $100 Million In Revenue In Less Than 5 Years”
Q: What are the challenges for a software company doing $100M in revenue versus earlier stages? How should a CEO or founder adjust his or her focus and time as a company scales?
Schmaier: From zero to $10 million in revenue, you have to solve the fundamentals. What’s our mission? Do we have a product? Can we sell it? Can we repeatedly bring customers live and demonstrate value? And, can we attract a core team of smart people that are all passionate about the mission? To name a few examples.
From $10 to $100 million, as the founder/CEO, in my experience you have to put your mission and company on your back. You have to believe as much or more than anyone in the company. You have to go out personally and see customers, meet with partners, and evangelize why what you are doing is different and why it matters. You have to be passionate about what you’re doing.
Post-$100 million, then you have to start to think hard about scaling the company. You can’t do everything yourself. Now it becomes time to delegate more decision making, implement processes that scale, hire trusted and proven leaders, make sure your product can be easily and repeatedly implemented. You need an ecosystem of systems integrators, training, 24x7 “follow the Sun” support. You have to scale globally.
I feel fortunate to have been part of each of these three stages in my career. It helps if you’ve seen the movie before!
Q: Did you do anything differently with this company?
Schmaier: Yes. What’s different this time around is simply that the Cloud is way better and an order of magnitude easier than previous computing environments. This is simpler and easier – and far more fun, I might add. Like our children, adults now want immediate gratification. The cloud delivers on this and allows us to not only implement faster but deliver far faster business agility so that companies can easily make changes due to the flexibility of their cloud-based systems and processes.
Second, the workforce is different now. I look at what Marc Benioff at Salesforce has done in terms of giving work meaning and that’s the model we’re following here. It’s not just about winning and making money and building software. People want to feel they are part of something important and something meaningful. They want to be part of something that is larger than themselves and makes a positive difference in the world.
At the same time, I like to say, ‘The Cloud never sleeps.’ You have to stay on it 24x7. I’m texting and talking to people all over the world, all the time. This cloud-first world moves far faster than the old days. You have to stay on top of the details. Of Sales. Service. And most importantly, customer success. But if you do, the benefits are enormous. Companies across industries are in the midst of a digital transformation, or at least they should be, to survive and thrive. The cloud enables digital transformation like no other technology has ever done so before.
Q: How does a software company today attract, hire and retain the best talent in such an incredibly competitive market?
Schmaier: People are looking for more than a paycheck. As I said, they are looking for meaning in work. Purpose. How does the company, its products and its services help the world, their city, and their local community? We constantly talk about our mission and purpose to attract the right people.
We believe strongly in equity compensation as another way to attract the best talent – we think employees should be owners in the company. Everyone has stock options because we want them to act like owners.
We benchmark ourselves against the top cloud companies and we’re right there with the best in terms of employee satisfaction, Glassdoor ratings, etc. In cloud software, we’re running a tight ship full of talented and highly motivated people and we intend to keep it that way. I’m proud of our high employee (and of course customer) retention. People like working here. I love my job at Vlocity and what I am doing every day.