DSMN8 Team: Introducing Roel van de Ven – Enterprise Sales

Regardless how innovative the idea, or how widespread the problem that it solves, any start-up must sell their solution to the masses: communicating why, exactly, a market must embrace and adopt a product.

While the start-up world turns at a head-spinning pace, and traditional thinking has long argued for a stripped to the core, lean approach for the start-up team – without the right sales talent, even the most ground-breaking products would falter.

As others around us in the software industry continue to advocate services teams as nothing more than a cost – to be replaced instead with third-parties, we know that strong customer communication and on-the-ground insight can only come from the right sales talent – for which, we’ve found Roel van de Ven, our new Enterprise Sales Executive.

Introducing – Roel van de Ven – Enterprise Sales Executive

From taking his first steps into the corporate world as an office assistant at an Attorneys’ Firm, Roel has taken increasingly larger leaps – moving onwards from Junior Business Developer at G4S, onto Henkel, a world leader in adhesive technologies, beauty care and home care, grossing 18 billion a year.

Roel’s initial internship would transition into positions on steadily higher levels – Regional Marketing Assistant, to Regional Product Management and finally securing Regional Pricing Manager, all in the space of 3 short years.

This heady rise into the upper echelons of a global leader’s business team demonstrates an impressive business acumen, yet Roel’s career history has been far from all work and no play. Following a stint as a Wealth Manager, he would go on to become co-owner in a wakeboarding business in Dubai – quite the stark contrast to the straight laced and serious world of financial services. The tenacity to be just as effective for high-net-worth individuals seeking financial advice, as adrenaline junkies looking for a speed thrill, is not to be underestimated (and truth be told, as an avid wakeboarder for over a decade, this is also a real labour of love).

As DSMN8 prepares for growth, it is in Roel’s direction, communication and insight that we’ll secure interest, clients and, ultimately, long-term sustainability.

Q&A 

What did you do before joining DSMN8? 

I ran my own water sports company called Wake Evolution, based in Dubai, which is still going strong. Prior to that I was part of the Regional Marketing team at Henkel – spearheading campaigns and growth in India, the Middle East and Africa (IMEA).

Describe your role in 5 words

Develop and maximize growth opportunities.

Who or what inspires you?

There are many great people in the world who I’m inspired by, but I would say my top 3 would be: Tony Robbins, Will Smith and Richard Branson. Each of whom have taken on industries, questioned the status quo and achieved progression by breaking with convention. They also know what true leadership looks like, Branson puts this best:

“A company is people … employees want to know… am I being listened to or am I a cog in the wheel? People really need to feel wanted.”

Why did you choose to work at DSMN8? 

For the challenge, potential and opportunities – challenge comes in many forms when positioned in the fast-paced start-up world, whereas potential can only be realised when ground-breaking opportunities are fully understood and strategically exploited. Around me are a team of leaders who have track-records for success – alongside them, we’ll be hitting the ground running at a speed that start-ups demand.

How does your role fit into the rest of the DSMN8 Team? 

I bring the business to the table – but this begins with a robust understanding of the product features and the ways in which I can bridge the divide between the end user, and our development team. In this way, I’m the cog that makes refinement of features and UX possible. This link is critical to developing a product that users need, and that users love to use.

What are the main challenges for Enterprise Sales at a Startup organisation? 

Starting from ground zero is fraught with many challenges – from an enterprise sales perspective, the most imposing is getting your name out there in front of big brands, over and above your more established rivals.

We’ve achieved this with vigorous research on what customers want from an advocacy platform – this has ensured we’re developing the right features and user experience. Of equal crucial importance, is our robust sales funnel, and our CRM that helps us talk about the right things, to the right people.

What sales tech do you use to make your life easier in identifying leads and booking pitches?

We use HubSpot which is an awesome tool for prospect and pipeline management. Besides that, we use old school tools: LinkedIn, cold calling and networking. Perhaps the most vital form of networking are trade shows, which place us face-to-face with industry leaders. We’ve met some fantastic brands at CES, NAMM and most recently IPSO.

How do you spend your time out of the office? 

I’m a wakeboarding addict, when not in the office, you’ll likely find me in the water at Wake Evolution or at the cable at Al Forsan.

DSMN8 Team: Introducing Ryan Marsh – CTO

89% of employees believe that a social media presence helps promote a company’s products and services to consumers

Employees, on average, are trusted 16 percentage points more than CEOs

77% of consumers are more likely to buy from a company when they hear about it from someone they trust.

 source: DSMN8 White Paper: The Social Employee (2016); Edelman Trust Barometer (2017)

A compelling argument has been made for brands to adopt the previously unheard of marketing medium of employee advocacy. But no mistake should be made: this is an unexplored realm for the majority of industries. To say that this is a brave new world would be an understatement. And if the challenges of employers harnessing workforce advocacy is imposing, then designing an app to empower them in grasping this model is inevitably even more so.

DSMN8 is being developed to help brands do just this – coded to capitalise on the power of employee advocacy. At the helm of our tech start-up is CTO Ryan Marsh – central to our efforts to create a ground-breaking app.

Setting out in his career some thirteen years ago, Ryan began as a software and web developer; he moved onto increasingly senior roles spanning technical architect, lead developer and senior developer that would take him from New Zealand to London; and now to Dubai, stepping into the fast and furious world of tech start-ups, where agility is critical, and a clear direction is vital.

Q&A 

Describe your role in 5 words

Deliver the business’s product vision.

Who or what inspires you?

Curiosity, technology, mountains and space (the latter three of which we’d all likely know less about if it weren’t for curiosity).

Can you describe DSMN8’s current architecture?

Micro serviced distributed nodeJS.

How do you define the launch features of a product or service, and how do you prioritise features in a development cycle?

Quite simply, it always comes down to the purpose of the tool. Everything that is required to deliver on this purpose is given priority, anything else is placed on a back burner to be built upon later – features that are weighed up in terms of benefits to the users, versus risks to the business. As we progress through development, potential features naturally emerge as either required or redundant.

Maintaining a focus on a lean platform is key to being able to adapt to this. Ultimately, we aim to be agile – to get users onto the platform, get feedback, evaluate, implement and deliver.

What are your top tips for effective communication with a development team?

Trust and respect – it goes both ways and at DSMN8 we have an open door policy for all.

Every member of the team relies on each another to achieve what are our collective goals. You can have all the meticulous planning and impressive project management tools in the world, but without a solid team, you’re unlikely to succeed.

I always place great value on video calls with those working remotely – it adds something to the line of communication that goes beyond the average email or phone call.

What are the main challenges in creating a product that scales, and how do you overcome them?

Code that runs fine during testing but blows up under load can be hard to identify unless you are actively reviewing code for that reason, as the platform grows this gets harder to control. To reduce the risk of this I take a lot of time with the team to discuss the patterns that produce scalable systems, raising the teams overall understanding and knowledge on the topic is the most useful method I find to produce predictable outcomes.

DSMN8 is set to use machine learning – what challenges are you facing?

Machine learning is taking centre stage for DSMN8 – providing insights into optimal times for particular activities, offering useful suggestions about content and feeding back on common patterns that deliver higher click rates.

But here’s the crux of the matter – a machine can’t learn without data, and in development (when we lack real world data), this presents a challenge. To overcome this, our platform is publishing as many relevant data points as possible, which we’ll start feeding into our learning system. We already have a pretty good idea as to what the churned out insights will be – although the excitement lies in the data that is unexpected.

What are the main challenges facing start-up CTO’s today?

Talent. It’s as simple as that – building the right team, from the right people is something that a start-up’s culture relies on.

Of course the rapid evolvement and advancement of technology is also a consideration – as are the increasing number of platforms that spring up, but with the right strategy, tech advancement can almost always lead to opportunity.

5 Keys To Hiring The Best Talent

Dyson launched a recruitment campaign last week, kick-starting their quest to recruit three thousand engineers over the next four years. They have effectively done away with traditional recruitment techniques in favour of a series of ‘cryptic’ puzzles designed to attract and identify lateral thinkers.

Investing in staff is crucial for the growth of any business; whether start-up, growing SME or mega-corporation, each will face a different landscape when it comes to hiring. Whilst large, well-established corporations can rely on their brand, reputation and large budgets to create intricate recruitment campaigns and cherry-pick from a pool of talent, start-ups face several limitations. However, there are a few key things you can do to improve your chances of hiring the best talent out there.

1. Hire Early to Stay Ahead of The Curve

This does involve hiring more people than you need right now, but I don’t mean that you should hire people unnecessarily – what it does involve is looking to the future. Staff who are able to support customers, fix bugs and hold the fort when the time comes, need to be in place before they are needed. Try not to worry about excess employees sitting around with nothing to do. When it comes to start-ups, there’s always something to do…

2. Your First Hire Should Get Stuff Done.

Early staff within start-ups need to be willing, able and flexible enough to do whatever needs doing. There are often responsibilities from different sectors being undertaken by one person.Hiring staff in advance of their necessity means these ‘extra’ people can help to take the weight off and make sure that the workload is spread evenly. When hiring staff, it is important to make sure that they understand the need for flexibility, new hires must have an adaptable outlook on their role. As Miles Jenner, of Recruiter.com, says:

All companies must now assume the inevitability of change, if not disruption, for which there is no manual. It’s imperative to hire for this challenge, which can only be met with agile, adaptable and flexible minds that are capable of constant learning.

3. Employees like Money – It’s Not Rocket Science.

Knowing that your first few hires will be taking on much more than their specified position entails, it is worth thinking seriously about their pay. According to ‘JobVite,  61% of job seekers see higher pay as a bigger draw toward a job than other factors, including location, flexibility and company mission, especially when they factor in the often heavy workload and instability of the company. Clarity on this last point needs to be addressed directly and as early as possible, reassuring new hires that they will be looked after should the worst happen.

4. Recruit in The Same Way You Work.

The transition from candidate to employee can be fraught, but to make it as seamless as possible, and to avoid giving your chosen candidate a nasty culture shock once they’re through the door. Your recruitment process should match the company culture. For example, if online processes are an integral part of your business, they should be a part of your recruitment strategy. Recruitee.com have some great tips for integrating digital innovations into the recruitment process. Closely matching your recruitment technique to your company’s culture also allows you to see how well candidates will respond to, and integrate with the current working order of things – it may also give you the opportunity to receive feedback and opinions for improvement.

5.  Always be Looking

50% of employees see their current position as a placeholder and job satisfaction is no longer a guarantee of employee loyalty, therefore, it is impossible to know whether your current employees are planning to remain with the company. This does not mean that you should be hiring continuously, rather you should be making connections within your industry, reaching out to potential candidates and keeping them informed about future possibilities, so that they are primed and ready to commit, should the opportunity become available. Bas Kohnke, co-founder at Impraise says:

 “It can take a great deal of time to find the right candidates once you need them, so make sure you start looking for new talent way ahead. Developers especially can be hard to find, so ideally keep a watch list of talent that you can approach later.”

Whilst putting so much thought into a start-up recruitment campaign may seem daunting, these steps are the foundation of the recruitment process which will stay with the company throughout its growth and expansion. Even when you have grown to the point where you can justify an HR department, these guidelines can still be used to hire the best talent for your business.

Leicester City EPL Champions 2016

Team Building For Success

I am not the biggest football fan in the world, but it’s been hard to escape the news that Leicester City have just won the Premiership title. Their success got me thinking: How did it happen? Leicester City are a comparatively small club, with many larger and much better funded rivals. One website calculated that Manchester United spent more on new players in the last two years, than Leicester City have throughout their entire 132 year history. This is a triumph that to many observers seemed utterly impossible, so what made the difference?

The credit for their unlikely victory must be largely given to Claudio Ranieri, and his transparent management style. He spent as much time working on mental preparation as on physical skills. He helped the players to focus on one game at a time. He concentrated on building teamwork, and ensuring everyone understood the part they must play for the team to succeed. The strategy he adopted can be just as successfully applied to business start-ups as to football teams.

When well funded businesses define their employment strategy its often a matter of hiring the best people and assuming they will do a great job for the company. However, if you work out the performance vs the cost of the salaries it is frequently the case that the revenue per employee is actually less.

Consider Chelsea for instance, How much have they spent on employees this year? How many points have they ended up with in the league? Compare these figures to Leicester City and you will see my point. This is the same in business. In the past, I have made the mistake of hiring people who on paper should be the top striker for my team. I looked at things like:

  • they had worked for a competitor
  • they had industry experience
  • they had great contacts

Despite these apparent advantages these employees often ended up performing very badly. In fact one person I hired didn’t make the company a single dime in revenue. Compare this to our top performing sales person, who had no history in Sales but had a work ethic beyond most people’s comprehension. Having people with the right skills in your company is important, but taking those individuals, and turning them into a team is what can make the difference between success and failure.

I believe that there are three key components to building and motivating teams that can take on and beat the best:

 

1. Transparency

Having the right people and a positive approach to your business is great, but how can employees really be part of ‘your team’ if they are not able to see all the detail? Being totally transparent with employees on issues such as revenue numbers and business costs helps the employees to understand your point of view, and to start thinking in the same way you do.

I want my employees to understand the direction of my business and how their day-to-day work helps us achieve our goals. At the same time I want people to speak freely. A transparent business model means all employees are given meaningful insights into the way the business operates. They should able to understand the business priorities, and the progress the business is making against defined metrics. Everyone should be kept up-to-date with a real-time view into  all business activities throughout the week. By members of the management team sharing information with the rest of the company in such an open way, individuals will be encouraged to do the same.

 

2. Defining Success

One of the biggest problems with corporate culture can be employees becoming disengaged with company goals. How can someone know they are winning if they don’t know what winning is? Defining success is critical to achieving it. By outlining exactly success looks like, it becomes far more likely that success will be achieved. Every employee needs to know specifically how their routine tasks help the company to achieve its stated goal.

There must be clear criteria for measuring the success of each team member’s contribution to the company goals, and procedures put in place to measure whether those goals are being reached. The individual goals must be realistically attainable. No employee is going to invest in a goal that they know they will be unable to reach. Managers must have an appreciation for the day-to-day realities of their team members tasks.

 

3. Sharing credit for both failure and success

When your team is successful it is easy bathe in the glory of achievement. Even if you had only a small part to play in the achievement it’s still great to be associated with it. It isn’t quite so easy when the team fails. Everyone fails sometimes, it’s is a natural part of business life, and this can be especially true in sales. Encouraging people to admit when they have failed means they can assume total accountability, this makes winning even more of a big deal when success is achieved.

If you don’t risk failure, then you will not achieve anything. When failure comes, the important thing is not to think that an individual team member failed, but to decide how you respond to that failure. Failure should encourage the whole team not to apportion blame, but to review what happened, and why it happened, so that their methods can be refined and improved, and the next attempt leads to success.

It is vital that the team are prepared to assume responsibility for both success and failure, everyone must work together. Fear of failure is a major inhibitor to success, team members who are scared of being blamed for letting the team down, will never really take the risks needed to succeed. By working as a team to learn from a failure, achieving success becomes a team effort in which every member has a part.

For Leicester City every team member was vital to their success. They would not have achieved the League title unless they were focused on winning, and working together. For your business each employee is equally vital, and must be engaged in working towards the common goal.