Hernan Charry Of Split One Technologies On 5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Scale Your Business
An Interview With Ken Babcock
Build a team: It is extremely rare for a company to grow to $1 million in revenue with just one person. It can be done, but it is much easier when you are sharing the load. You want to build the right team of people. Ideally people who can come in and either have strengths or skills that the business owner isn’t good at or are capable of offloading tasks that don’t need to come across your desk.
Startups usually start with a small cohort of close colleagues. But what happens when you add a bunch of new people into this close cohort? How do you maintain the company culture? In addition, what is needed to successfully scale a business to increase market share or to increase offerings? How can a small startup grow successfully to a midsize and then large company? To address these questions, we are talking to successful business leaders who can share stories and insights from their experiences about the “5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Scale Your Business.” As a part of this series, we had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Hernan Charry.
Hernan Charry is the Director of Marketing at Split One Technologies. Charry is also the Co-Owner HQ98.com and previously owned a pet products ecommerce store. During his time at Split One Technologies, he has helped grow dozens of businesses, including startups, to over $1 million in revenue.
Thank you for joining us in this interview series. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’?
When I was growing up, I always dreamt of working on Wall Street. After studying finance at Northern Arizona University, I joined the banking world where I worked as a banker and an investment banker for 10 years before walking away. In my time helping my clients with their capital needs, I found myself often wanting to run my own businesses.
The best businesses I worked with back then were online. So, I started an online business and then went to work for the company that built our website. That is where I’ve been ever since helping small businesses grow.
Most people get referred to me for search engine marketing but what they learn once they hire me is they get a comprehensive business consultant. I use my background in finance and marketing to analyze many different facets of their business.
You’ve had a remarkable career journey. Can you highlight a key decision in your career that helped you get to where you are today?
When I first started at my current company all we did was sell websites. Our first intern had this side hustle of an SEO agency. I watched this young kid run his business and he would ask me, “Why aren’t we doing SEO?” That is when our marketing division was born.
The thing that really propelled us to where we’re at today is I didn’t want to be just another search engine marketing agency. I wanted to run the kind of agency that I would want to hire. So, our mission has always been to go above and beyond for our clients in our search engine marketing efforts. We use the ethic of under promise and over deliver in many facets of our business. This approach has helped us survive two economic collapses and grow every year I have been here.
What’s the most impactful initiative you’ve led that you’re particularly proud of?
We’ve helped 15 businesses grow from start up to a million dollars in revenue. It’s not just the dollar number I am proud of. I am prouder of the number of jobs that has created. Often when I start working with a client they are questioning if their business will even be successful. Walking into client meetings seeing new faces in their offices is one of the reasons I do the work that I do. I love helping small businesses because I can directly see my work impacts families.
Sometimes our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a mistake you’ve made and the lesson you took away from it?
One mistake I would say I’ve made is not trusting others early enough in growing this agency. I tried doing everything myself for too long. The obvious lesson I took away from it is no business owner can do it all themselves. You must empower other people and build a team.
How has mentorship played a role in your career, whether receiving mentorship or offering it to others?
I see mentorship as a huge component for the rest of my career. I want the rest of my career to involve mentoring and bringing up others. Just last week I got to share in the success of a client. He is a relatively new business owner and had a big technical issue he had to overcome. The person he was a year ago probably wouldn’t have tried to tackle it, but he called me to share how far he feels he has come in the last year because of the mentoring. He said he now feels empowered to run his business and make decisions on his own. Those moments are gold for me.
Certainly, receiving mentorship and being teachable had a huge impact on my early career. Just listening to people who had already done it before and how they got there. Then applying those lessons to myself and my path helped me to be in the right position to capitalize on opportunities. They say, “fortune favors the prepared,” and I feel like being mentored really helped me be prepared for anything that came my way.
Developing your leadership style takes time and practice. Who do you model your leadership style after? What are some key character traits you try to emulate?
Growing up I always thought leaders were people like Bobby Knight or Bill Parcells who got in your face, yelled at you, and whipped you into shape. I know those traits aren’t representative of who they are but that was a part of who they were. I have made a lot of mistakes in that aspect of my life, so if anything, now I try to be the antithesis of a drill sergeant.
I think leadership is an ever-evolving skill you must continually work on. I do my best to be transparent and regularly improve. I try to be patient, have regular communication and practice what I preach. I also take responsibility when I am the one who drops the ball. I do my best to model these characteristics because these are the traits I think every team member needs.
Thank you for sharing that with us. Let’s talk about scaling a business from a small startup to a midsize and then large company. Based on your experience, can you share with our readers the “5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Scale Your Business”? Please give a story or example for each.
- Start with a tightly focused set of services/product offerings: You want to focus on what you are good at. Put all your energy into growing that part of your business and find more customers for that area before going broad with your offerings. For example, marketing agencies might try to do it all instead of being known as an expert in one facet of marketing. An e-commerce store might feel like it needs thousands of SKUs but really the top 20 are what is driving revenue. In the beginning there is only so much time in the day and you only have so many resources. You can’t be an expert in 50 or 500 different products or services.
- Have an effective marketing message: One of the advantages of focusing is it becomes easier to craft marketing messages. You become known for that one thing or set of things. People want to do business with experts and people they know are knowledgeable. If you present yourself like you have 15 disparate services they are going to wonder how good you are compared to the guy who only has one area of focus.
One of the most important parts about having an effective marketing message is being able to craft a simple benefit for your ultimate customer. You should know what problem it is that your company is good at solving and craft your marketing message around that. Then find the right marketing channels to distribute that marketing message. If you can do that, keep it simple and follow through by doing an excellent job for people, then you become referrable. Then your customers will tell their friends about you. One of the best ways of scaling any business is getting that referral, word of mouth is huge in building a buzz type of marketing.
3. Build a team: It is extremely rare for a company to grow to $1 million in revenue with just one person. It can be done, but it is much easier when you are sharing the load. You want to build the right team of people. Ideally people who can come in and either have strengths or skills that the business owner isn’t good at or are capable of offloading tasks that don’t need to come across your desk.
4. Create the right processes: If your people have too many different tasks they can’t be as efficient as possible. Be clear on what the processes and roles of responsibilities for certain people are so they can get out of their own way and do the work. In the past a lot of my clients during their startup phase would get bogged down on the accounting function. Most people don’t get into business to become accountants and it begins rubbing some people the wrong way. That is one of the first things we do when we can afford to offload it. We do our best to do that either by outsourcing it or having a person on the team take on the role of bookkeeping. That frees up the business owner to focus on the tasks that make the business go.
5. Don’t compete on price: A brand new business often feels like since they have nothing else behind them, they’ll be the cheapest and that’s how they get clients. That might work for a solo entrepreneur to make a living, but that person will have just created themselves a job. They’ll likely never have enough profit to reinvest in hiring someone and training that person. If you are constantly trying to be the cheapest company there won’t be enough in the budget for marketing, offloading the accounting, etc.
Can you share a few of the mistakes that companies make when they try to scale a business? What would you suggest to address those errors?
Some of the mistakes that get made are not spending enough time working “on” the business. Instead, they are spending too much time working “in” the business. You get bogged down in the day-to-day operations then you get home and you’re exhausted so you don’t spend the time to see how processes or marketing can be improved. You should always block out a set amount of time every week or at least every month to analyze where you’re at, how far you’ve come and where you can be better moving forward. Make that a consistent effort as I said at least once a month but if you have the time even weekly would be better.
Another mistake I see is people who get caught up in the status of scaling a business instead of making the important business decisions. For example, a person who gets too big or too luxurious of an office space. Most businesses don’t need a premium office address to grow. The high rent is something that can wait.
The same can be said for people who try to raise capital too soon. A lot of people think if they raise capital, they will have this pool of money to solve all their problems. The truth is if you don’t have the right processes and the right team in place a lot of that capital will go to waste on prestige projects or hiring certain people who may be overpriced and not really contributing to the bottom line.
Scaling includes bringing new people into the organization. How can a company preserve its company culture and ethos when new people are brought in?
Make sure you have a company mission and a company vision that is being communicated with everyone at every level of the organization. Having this in place allows us all to understand what we’re doing here and our core values as a business.
Then it goes back to mentorship and leadership. The people at the top must hold themselves accountable for that leadership and they must raise up the right leaders. You could have leaders at the bottom rung of your company, and that leader will take responsibility for the things around them. If you instill this strong sense of mission and purpose your company will be better off. That purpose might be as simple as do the best job for our customers. If you have leaders at every rung of your organization then you’ll have the people there to spot the problems before the problems become a big issue.
In my work, I focus on helping companies to simplify the process of creating documentation of their workflow, so I am particularly passionate about this question. Many times, a key aspect of scaling your business is scaling your team’s knowledge and internal procedures. What tools or techniques have helped your teams be successful at scaling internally?
One thing we have found with clients is, as quickly as possible, have redundancy of roles. You want to avoid a single point of failure and cross training can help get you there. Make sure your company isn’t relying on just one driver, you need two drivers. Have two people answering phone calls.
Often the first hire is a mini clone of the owner. As the business scales and your team grows you want each person to specialize in a primary activity, but you also want them to be capable of a secondary function in case someone is sick, can’t make it into work or leaves the company. One of the biggest problems I’ve seen businesses have with scaling is relying on just one person and when that person leaves an entire initiative or service offering is put on hold. Cross training your team in the early stages is important.
What software or tools do you recommend to help onboard new hires?
I think most startups should avoid software or tools. In the beginning when your budget is tight you need to go the traditional route of onboarding people and a lot of it ends up being on the job training. The other facet of that is for a startup you are still creating your processes.
That said, once you know what your processes are you should begin the process of documenting. This can be as simple as a companywide folder with Word documents. These tools will not only help people learn their job faster but help with the cross training I discussed earlier. I think once a business scales to a medium sized business then software solutions like Trainual become viable.
Because of your role, you are a person of significant influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most people, what would that be? You never know what your ideas can trigger.
I would bring the topics of entrepreneurship and civics back into schools. I would start teaching these topics at an earlier age. I’m a big fan of what Junior Achievement does, and I wish they could do it for every school.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Check out our work at: https://www.splitone.com/
Connect with me on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/hernancharry/
This was truly meaningful! Thank you so much for your time and for sharing your expertise!
About the interviewer. Ken Babcock is the CEO and Co-Founder of Tango. Prior to his mission of celebrating how work is executed, Ken spent over 4 years at Uber riding the rollercoaster of a generational company. After gaining hands-on experience with entrepreneurship at Atomic VC, Ken went on to HBS. It was at HBS that Ken met his Co-Founders, Dan Giovacchini and Brian Shultz and they founded Tango.
Hernan Charry Of Split One Technologies On 5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Scale Your… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.