When I talk to my friends these days, their first question is ‘How’s life in the US?’, and in many cases, the second question is ‘How’s life with FullContact?’ or ‘How’s life being NOT a CEO?’ So I thought I will jot down a few random thoughts I have. This may not be comprehensive by any means, but probably a few on top my head thoughts.
For new readers, a brief context — I was the Founder/CEO of Profoundis based out of Kerala, India. 4 of us started the company in 2012, bootstrapped for 3 years, raised 2 rounds, grew from 4 to 72 and then sold the company to FullContact. At FullContact, I’m the Head of Data Strategy and part of leadership team. Profoundis has morphed to FullContact India and growing. (currently at 114).
How’s life at FullContact? How’s it different from Profoundis?
Short answer: It is still going awesome, just like Profoundis.
Long Answer: Obviously, a few things are the same and a lot of things are different.
Change Of Responsibility
As the CEO, you are THE responsible person. You are responsible from end to end, whether it is the product, investment, sales, marketing, customer support, HR, documentation, PR, and to an extent of success vs failure, it is all the CEO’s responsibility.
As the Head of Data Strategy, I have more focussed responsibilities. I don’t have to worry about fund raising or PR for eg. not that I don’t, mostly in FullContact, we all share responsibilities and chip in wherever possible, but you get what I’m saying. I don’t have a dream of an investor meeting these days.
Profoundis, though we grew to 72, was still a small company. We didn’t reach a position where we started worrying about branding or compliances. At FullContact, we are a global name. Companies across the world use FullContact. So, the learning is on a different pedestal.
I get to see, experience and contribute to a wide set of operations of a medium scale company. For e.g., at Profoundis, we never did a budgeting process. FullContact budgeting process for 2017 was a totally new and amazing learning. I’m not a financial guy, so I wouldn’t pretend I know all about it now. But I’m much better than I used to be.
Team Around Me
At FullContact, I can vouch that I’m not the smartest person in any room here. This is a big deal for me. I have written about this before. FullContact has some super amazing folks at our helm. All of them have been there, done that (multiple times). It is fascinating to listen to thoughts while I try to match their thought process.
Decision Making Has Changed, For The Good
At any startup, in my case, Profoundis, decisions are more gut-driven. You trust your intuitions. It is not a bad at all, but not the best case.
At FullContact, I still follow my intuitions, but we look into hard data to validate (or invalidate) the premises before we get to the decisions. Being a bigger company, we need to get multiple stake holders on the same page before we can execute an idea or a project. For this, you cannot blabber, they will ask for data.
There are a couple of things which haven’t changed:
Values And Culture
I have written about Profoundis values here. FullContact value/culture is here. When you go through them, you will understand that it is pretty much the same, written in a different way. In both the companies, we were/are people-first companies. We believe in being fair and ethical. The team is awesome to work with — — so on and so forth.
I think if this wasn’t the case, probably this one thing could have changed pretty much all of the other positives that I mentioned. Culture/values drive a company and its people. It is the purpose of why the company exists.
At FullContact as well, I have enough freedom to pursue the projects that excite me. The company understands personal motivation and supports it. Our CEO, Bart Lorang keeps telling me and the Profoundis team. ‘You guys have an entrepreneurial DNA. DON’T let that die’. He also talks about ‘Decide quickly, ask for forgiveness later.’
Is it all colourful and rosy? No, it can’t be. Right? Everything will have pros and cons.
At Profoundis, we didn’t have departments at all because we were too small for that. FullContact is a global company with 4 offices on 3 continents with 225 employees. We have to have departments. Though we try to keep it as ‘startuppy’ as possible, at times department comes in (like budget, resource-sharing etc).
At Profoundis, we had ONE formal meeting every week. At FullContact, I have numerous meetings. I’m pretty much controlled by my calendar. It gets filled as far as 2 weeks out. There are many people involved at different levels and departments. So it is imperative to bring all on the same page in relevant cases.
We know we don’t need all the meetings that are happening. But it is difficult to figure out the 10% which isn’t needed. We are still trying to figure out the exact cadences of meetings. As we are growing we are evolving and learning on the go.
Things Move Slower
A boat can turn pretty quickly, but a ship can’t. FullContact isn’t a ship (Microsoft or Infosys are ships), but we are a big enough boat. Though we have ‘Speedboat teams’ inside FullContact, especially FullContact India, it overall will always be slower than a startup. Since we can’t turn quickly, we take our time to vet and make sure we are making the right choices and then move forward. Although, I would say, recently, I’m pretty amazed at the speed at which we are moving and shipping our products.
Less Responsibilities And Stress
I know. It is an advantage. But not for me. I like having more responsibilities. This is from one of my presentations I did long back.
I have made up this difference between a player and a performer. A player is a person who is good at playing. A performer is a person who, when most needed, exceeds his abilities and delivers the best.
I’m not saying I’m a performer, but I want to be one. So with more responsibilities on me, the happier I would be.
There is more to this story I’m sure. But this is what I could think of in the past 20-30 mins while typing this. I will try to keep writing more as I come up with more.
[This post by Arjun R Pillai first appeared on Medium and has been reproduced with permission.]