This interview is with Paul Stillmank, the founder and CEO of 7Summits, a super fast growing company based in Milwaukee, WI. 7Summits is one of those rare hidden gems in Wisconsin.
They provide a community solution platform to schools, retail, manufacturing and other companies, working with some of the largest companies in the world.
Paul gives a great explanation on how they started and grew so quickly over the last few years. I enjoyed it a lot, and I hope you do too.
Here are some questions Paul answers:
How did you come up with the idea for 7Summits?
How did you think about distribution?
How can your community platform change an organization?
Dave Kruse: Hey everyone. Welcome to another episode of Flyover Labs with Dave Kruse from Madison, Wisconsin and today we are lucky enough to have Paul Stillmank with us. And Paul is the Founder and CEO of 7Summits, which provides a community solution platform to schools, retailers, manufacturing and a variety of other companies, which we’ll talk more about it. It’s quite interesting what they’ve built. So I’ve brought on Paul because 7Summits is a fast growing company based in Milwaukee and of course I’m always interested in Wisconsin companies. So I’m really excited to hear about 7Summits and Paul’s background. So Paul, thanks for coming on the show today.
Paul Stillmank: Yes, thanks Dave. Glad to be able to join you guys.
Dave Kruse: Yes. Well, we appreciate it. And maybe we’ll do – we’ll talk more about 7Summits, because I’m curious to learn more, you know how you developed over the years and got clients, but first off, it would be interesting to hear a little bit about your background and kind of how that impacted you and led you eventually to 7Summits.
Paul Stillmank: Yes so, it’s an interesting inauguration [ph]. So I grew up in Wisconsin. I went to school at Marquette and did the engineering program there. So I’m kind of a Major in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. So I’m kind of a geek-tech guy, but over the course of my career I spent ten years over at Rockwell in Milwaukee. I then went in to the consulting business, where I did everything from project management, to working in agencies and ultimately all that kind of coalesced in terms of what 7Summits kind of became, because I didn’t want to just think about technology for technology sake. I wanted – in terms of the consulting part of me maybe want to solve a customer’s business problem, but I knew with all the social stuff that we’ll talked about in a second, that we needed to create engagements that drove business value. Well, I don’t care if that was revenue or more sales or renewal rates or better customer service for companies out there. So those were the things that probably impacted me the most. It was the engineering background, thinking about products and how do I create something reputable. Some of the consulting background has to be put through from an advisory perspective. How do I solve some of these business processes in a better way and then ultimately doing it in an elegant fashion from a creative stand point, from an experience and design standpoint would really get the engagement that people will come and participate and that participation with then drive benefits for our customers. In the tech part, and that’s civil [ph] space, all right. I mean it’s everywhere, it’s online, its internet. Back when I started it was Web12, but the online community stuff has really become intriguing in terms of how it applies to the business.
Dave Kruse: Definitely, definitely. What were your positions at Rockwell and when you were doing consulting, what were you kind of in charge of?
Paul Stillmank: I was a Software Engineer at Rockwell when I started back in ‘87 and then I ended up – over time I ended up going into more of a management overset perspective, where I had teams to do everything from product management, marketing, building out the hardware to the software and packaging all that up to take it to market. So that was my Rockwell role, so and software engineer finished up as like Director of Project Management.
Dave Kruse: Wow! What is example of one product or project you worked on?
Paul Stillmank: Yes, we did some good stuff. So when I first got there, probably the funniest part there was some of the first things I did. They had a group they had launched called the [inaudible] products. Now we talk about a ballpark code and RFID, but we also did some cool provision systems. So we have a lot of data and analytics coming into these products that was kind of being used to make a decision in the factory, automation and those types of things. That was pretty good stuff.
Dave Kruse: Interesting. Yes, I mean that’s like talk about making factories more intelligent. You guys are a little ahead of the curve back then.
Paul Stillmank: Yes. I mean no doubt, no doubt.
Dave Kruse: And then how about – so you were at Rockwell for what was it, 10 years did you say?
Paul Stillmank: Yes.
Dave Kruse: Okay, and then…
Paul Stillmank: Then I hopped over to a company that was founded in Chicago. It was a company called Whittman-Hart and they had kind of a office space model where they were launching practices and offers in certain markets across the country, really serving more of an end market from a technology stand point, and so that company had partnerships with certain technology platforms like SAP and JD Edwards and so forth, Seagull, and they would basically have teams that were really expert in those technology platforms and that’s brave, but I think what I brought from my experience was how we are solving a business problem. So I was always after more of a solution. I could use the technology we’re probably trying to sell. Whether or not we were a great company and ended up going public in ‘96 and had a pretty nice run until the dotcom crashed and then had to get re-factored. And I followed the Founder over to his next generation company, and that’s quite frankly an important deal when you look at traditional an impact we ended up following. That founder when he started the new company called Form & Function and that’s where I kind of really got the DNA to say, hey, you know in a down market by the way 9/11, in 2001 when we were all trying to raise money for this new company which was difficult and I got being one of like the first handful of the employees there, was able to really get some insights about what it took in a down market to get a company off the ground. In fact it’s actually the best time to do it. If you subscribe, you know you were well protected right. People are fearful, so it’s a great time to get greedy and say, hey, I can get resources where the last other companies were downsizing, talent was available, Milwaukee was no different on that. When we launched the company we literally were going to banks and fire sales with companies that were closing down. So we were able to completely furnish office and stuff for pennies on the dollar, what would have possibly done it in that market. But you have to have great idea to be able to fuel all that, but that was a little bit of the genesis thinking of 7Summits back in 2009.
Dave Kruse: Got you. Okay so 2009 was when you started 7Summits?
Paul Stillmank: So Whittman-Hart was a 10 year career and I stayed with the Founder. When we started Form & Function we raised some money, basically about $8 million and probably a few years later we were able to reacquire some of the assets of Whittman-Hart and rebrand that company and grow it into a substantially strong consultancy and at the end of the day, I mean it’s a sad story. I mean the Founder had a heart attack and I made a decision at the point that he couldn’t, he wasn’t going – he was the money guy and he wasn’t going to be there to get us to some level of liquidity. So I made the choice to go to Global Manpower. I had really strong colleagues I knew there and I took the position to help them maybe go to market globally with some of these same – for the technologies that I’m working with today, online communities and retro [ph] technologies. And so they had some efforts they were doing there that needed a shot in the arm, but then there were some branded platforms that we built and took the market around some of the same DNA that I base founded the company and I was only a Manpower for a couple of years and ultimately from there I started 7Summits in early to mid 2009.
Dave Kruse: All right. So at what point were – what signals occurred or signal that said, okay, this is a good time to start 7Summits. You know what kind of gave you the belief that it was a good timing and that that deal was good.
Paul Stillmank: Yes, it was two things. One, is the market was down again and this was from my old boss at Metro that felt it was a great time to start a company, back to my time at Warren Buffett. And then as well, I basically spent two solid years of doing nothing, but study its online community space. Well, it became obviously, other than the fact that Manpower was spending a good amount of effort harnessing those platforms and technologies to their market and so I said, hey, if one large organization is doing that, many is going to want it. But I understood the connection between the social aspect of these technologies and what it makes the inside of the business. And I’m not talking about Facebook and Twitter and all that, I’m talking about all that stuff that’s swept through popular culture days and people get it and that’s how they want to work. Nobody wants to grow through folders to find stuff. They want to be surf content, they want to – and it’s really intriguing what happened, because on Facebook you and I might link up and I’m follow you and I see stuff that you see and what you’re doing with the baby at breakfast and you are off at a ballpark doing something. But in business I might be following a project and getting a feed on documents getting posited or I’m on-boarding an employee and the last employees marked certain documents five stars to be able to think they got productive most quickly. That both metaphors that are in it and closed in these social networks have actually found benefit in these online communities that are being used to drive business, both externally, right, we think about channel partnerships at customers, but also internally like we are replacing entire internets with the stuff because of its basic core efficiency, right. If I email you, you and I are on that thread and anybody else I copy, but nobody else knows what we are talking about and if we are trying to close a deal and that’s actually published out at an online community, anyone can access our conversation, contribute, mark something a correct answer and it will increase our ability to pose more business, because we are getting the best thinking from everyone. It’s not sliding off somewhere, putting a few people in an email thread, it makes sense right. So that’s what we are doing.
Dave Kruse: Got you, okay. And that’s what I was going to say is, you kind of just did it, but I mean do you have like a brief overview on 7Summits just so somebody…
Paul Stillmank: Yes, I mean we – one of the things we did well when we started is I went out and I got a business coach. I actually used action coach as a team [inaudible] was my direct coach. I believe in him. So those guys kind of helped me create some structure. I setup an outside Board, so we made sure we had a mission and a vision and brand promise. May be those helped us describe what we do. So our mission, in terms of talking about the mission, we are creating online community experiences that will transform your business and in and along the way enhance peoples’ lives, mission statements, so we are getting back to that duty as well. And our brand promise to our customers is that we are actually going to enable your customers, your partners and your employees to the business; you don’t have to do it by yourself. So for example when I say how did you get your customers to help build your business, well that’s ratings, and reviews, its – I go out on Apple Forums and I’m upgrading my phone and I have an issue and you can solve it. I ask a question on the Forum and you post the answer. You get some points towards efforts for discount, my problems solved, but Apple didn’t spend a penny on that customer service case. So we are actually saving them money deflecting a call, right. So that’s pretty cool and that’s what we are here to do, to get your customers, your partners and your employees building the business for you and engaging it in a different level.
Dave Kruse: So you have both, so your – to me your platform is both internal and external facing in some ways or it can be.
Paul Stillmank: Yes, so let’s talk about that a little bit. So we are doing internal and external. So we actually are working on top of other platforms and creating accelerators, templates and our own products on those platforms. And one of the things I often tell people and I say, hey, you build a company, how did you get it out of the gate so quick, and how did it grow so fast that you should have your own channel partners. So when we launched the company we partnered with Jive Software out of San Francisco. They actually had a community platform; our job was to say so how do I apply that to very specific business problems to solve it. So we might create sales enablement community, so that sales people can quickly find assets and pull the deals faster. And they might be using a sales platform like Fable or Salesforce.com, but where the community was elemental to where they were going to go to engage, a team that is closing there deals and we were able to show in many case studies that when sales people joint they were active in a community and had higher growth rate, that’s pretty cool. And then later we partnered with other companies like Salesforce.com. They now launched their community cloud and so they actually have a platform that gives access to all the data inside their ecosystem. But again, we are coming and saying that’s great, you can’t just turn on these communities and hope the people will engage. By the time we partnered with them we had 170 pretty robust communities under our belt and we knew not only how to build them and make them beautiful and engaging, but we knew how to get people to use it in a fashion that if you were a bank the consumers that were using and engaged with bankers and the community we saw deposit growths or if you were a software company and you wanted people to build stuff on your platform, let’s call that developer network. People in that developer network actually had higher renewal rates. They had much higher renewal rates than customers that didn’t have access to that network. So there was more value there. I think we were always tying back to, are we moving the needle for the customer with these solutions.
Dave Kruse: And you may have a good point. So everyone wants to create these networks, but for one the software is not always the hardest to create, but to actually make it accessible and engaging, that’s the hard part. And so you said that, by that time you had 170 communities up. How did you make it more engaging or how did you get, maybe that’s part of your secret sauce, but whatever you can share.
Paul Stillmank: It is and our secret sauce is, part of our secret sauce is we have some – we have a range of capabilities in the company. It can just like – like what we run into with our competition is they may be working with Jive or Salesforce or Lithium these are the platform companies, but they literally come in and platform you. They’ll come in and say, hey, we’ll get this stood up for you, now you got one; we don’t do that. We actually – we have tech people, we could do that. But we go in with our advisory team and we spend some time understanding your audience and what their needs are. And if we can make them delighted, and their delight causes them to get engaged and their engagement causes the business outcome like the ones I mentioned, you know renewal rates, you know bank deposit growth whatever it is, that’s a home run. And so you actually have to have some consultants and some advisors to understand those vertical businesses. Then you have to have a great creative team and that’s not just because, not only just visual designs and colorization. I mean someone who is going to go in and do a journey map for that customer, that end constituent; how they are going to behave in this environment and how we bring that to life and put the community in the path of their work and the things that they need to get done.
And then we have to have all of the technology, that’s regardless of the platform to bring this together for you. And sometimes people have already picked platforms. We certainly are biased towards whom we think the leaders are. We are doing some work on platforms that we don’t think are the greatest, but its people who are hiring us to pick the platforms, not the end game. It’s the science that we bring to understanding the customer journey and your audience and how that’s going to drive business for you as they get engaged to these communities with your change. And so I think that’s part of our secret sauce and then ultimately we want to stay and help you realize that value. So we’ll do something to call social business management or community management service. We’ll get in there with you as a retenture [ph]. We can help make sure the engagement is happening; removing content in your community, looking at example our participants and promoting them to the landing page is really trying to make sure that we are driving that activity. So that’s element to getting the business projects.
Those are all – you want to just do one of those and we are run into companies all the time Dave, where somebody does the strategy work, somebody does the creative. Maybe they already have an agency and they want them to do it, and then somebody comes in and does the tech. We do it all and there isn’t admitting together or a message that we are using we call it the 7Summits way, with a hand off between those teams that are very specific. So that we are doing it fast and now opting out we got templates and accelerators that ultimately productization of somewhat we do so that we can get it and we’ll get very fast maybe after that business value..
Dave Kruse: Well, that’s great, and I can see it from a perspective clients, you can walk them through the entire project, like you just did with me, the entire process and they can feel good that like by the end we are going to have kind of – it want be a complete customer product but it will be quite customer for their needs which gives them the best shot actually making this platform work. Ha! That’s interesting.
Paul Stillmank: Yes.
Dave Kruse: So, I’m curious how do you decide to build on top of another platform, because I’m guessing there is some additional customer development and some cost there. So like Salesforce you know, maybe that’s a no brainer, because it’s so huge, but some of these other platforms do you need a certain number of customers on board, on that platform to show some interest or are customers going to pay for that customer development to go on in your platform and how do you make that decision?
Paul Stillmank: Well, I mean the customer, ultimately we are kind of guiding them to a direct solution for their business right. So by the time you – and the analysis have done the workshop and understood specifically what they are trying to do, one or more of those platforms, they make sense. We made the decision to build than have a platform, because in terms of getting the market we started in 2007 and growing very quickly. If I was only building my one product I would have to do everything that for example Salesforce has done or Jive has done and they have traded enterprise package, its secure right. I mean if I’m working with financial services companies or healthcare companies, there are some regulatory compliance things, I want to go solve all that. I want it soon that table space and the data is secure and protected and I’m going to work on building value on top of that, right. So those packages might not do the things that we do for HigherEd, for example you mentioned for schools. So we are building an alumni network. We’ll take Jive, we’ll integrate it with Box, so you can – all that stuff that get sent to your house from your Alma Mater, that’s all in a directory and Box. We’ll take Red Hat service bus and integrate PayPal for donations, and then we’ll badge it using Bunchball, you know I went to University of Chicago, School of Business and Student Preliminary Network, kind of like four square badges. But we don’t really care if its Mayer, we are trying to track behaviors that fit to earn those badges and then be able to profile those folks and say, hey, there’s some other alumni over here just like you. They probably wanted some of the content to include them and the way they are earning that badge. So let’s just take that content and give it to them. Like get them activated, because nobody owns that skew of alumni networks. So I think that’s alumni networks based out on your communities. Bunchball sells badging, Box sells binary storage, we sell a solution for HigherEd that we’ve integrated and built that solved a very specific need and drives up donations and activity and participation and events as alumni. We have an admission solution too. So it kind of makes sense right, that why do I want to be spending all my time building the base platform when I can get a ton of value on top of it with the thinking I just described.
Dave Kruse: No that makes a lot of sense. I think you need to talk to my alma mater too, so I’ll make the introductions. I’ve been…
Paul Stillmank: Happy to take the introduction.
Dave Kruse: Yes, I’ve been talking – yes, they’ve been needing to sort of like this for years. So anyways that’s a side conversation for – So I’m curious, I want to go back to the beginning of 7Summits. Before we do, what’s the current state of 7Summits? Whatever you can disclose around revenue, number of customers and then who are some of your kind of – give an example of some your customers and what names or industries.
Paul Stillmank: Yes so it’s kind of the – the light that I can share, the ones on the website, we are doing some really cool work with companies that I can’t share yet, it’s not live or they don’t want to take the hand and engage with a company like us, but there are some pretty cool ones I can share. So in 7Summits there’s about 80 employees right now. We also have some complementary partners offshore that we use to help us do some of the listing on the technology side. So we are probably keeping about 100 people busy on average right now. When we started the company back in 2009 it was completely self funded. At some point we were growing so quickly we wanted to pour some gas on the fire, so we worked with our local offer in Whitehurst [inaudible] that tied us into an agent or a private fund that poured some gas on the fire, it was – we probably went out with that effect, that we then pulled in about a $1.4 on the road to growing the business to about just under $12 million by 2013 when we then made the decision to – because a couple of people approached us and wanted it, we basically made the decision to go out and get a banker and decide how would we go faster? Can we get some DC money, can we take some debt, should we look at a private equity situation, are there any strategic companies that could fuel us faster. So I feel the whole process of that and ultimately part of which as you can see on our website, Sverica International out of San Francisco. And so that’s our private equity and they’ve brought some great thinking and took that further cap highs and capitalized on some of the things we had done, to create revenue opportunities, to create value for our shareholders, but at the same time they love to get a deep pension. In fact I was just in a strategy session with them thinking about how we are going to market, how do we – we are here to be a great company and how do we more benefit for our customers across our entire ecosystem by applying communities in a very repeatable way, and so that was 2000 – late 2013. So we are couple of years into that partnership and that’s been great and we’ve seen pretty good growth last year. We’ve grown through somewhere between 35% to 40%. The last two years we’ve been in $85,000. We’ll be on that list again. It will be our third time this year running the rough math. So I think we are continuing to grow and part of it is the customers right. So we are working with some cool new mid market companies like Acta [ph] and Avid and these companies we are working with some really cool big companies like working with Sea Ray that we are trying to bolt on our community, which basically helps them with customer service, connect distributors, with board owners, so board owners try to get access to information and have a great outings with their boards, gets Sea Ray some helpful data to think about how they better strip the needs of those couple of board owners. And so there is an example of a micro cause of a committee that’s doing multiple things, not only for the board owner, but connecting them with the right distributor, even when they are traveling, that they throw up a teller or they need to get a part. Just proving the overall experience and then along the way allowing Sea Ray to offer more and more support and benefits for their end customer. So that’s a cool one. We are – in terms of some our other customs I think kind of own our backyard pretty well. We’ve done some great work for AllStates jobs control. We’ve done – we’ve got, you know what I’m trying to make sure I know my list here; the brands that I can and can’t mention here. But I think we found ourselves in a situation where when we look at for example Arora is a very large client, Milwaukee Tool is a very large client. We built Groupon’s [ph] entire intranet. It’s very cool because we met them. They didn’t really have one yet. They are a really rapid growing company and they were contacting people through directory spread sheets and we’ve traded this pretty nice experience for them that both let the whole person come to work. So we were there to kind of come up with go to markets and sell produces, but you also had a really cool employee base that you were trying to let connect with each other in many ways right as part of their whole employee engagement and culture model that they were doing. So anyway some of the higher end ones I mentioned already right here versus Chicago, Hayward Dentist School. There’s some pretty marked key ones there that we spent time with and Wes Collage, we are working on their alumni network now, that’s an entrepreneurial school. Now I mean those are probably some good examples over others.
Dave Kruse: So you went from – in 2010 is when you officially launched right, went from zero in revenue to $12 million in revenue by end of 2013.
Paul Stillmank: Yep.
Dave Kruse: Wow! That’s pretty fast. And you didn’t raise a whole of money. So, how – I mean yes, how are those – how did you get rolling initially and then how did you grow so quickly. Did you bring on a good sales – when did you kind of bring on the sales team and how did that all kind of flush out?
Paul Stillmank: Yes I mean, a couple of things. First of all, having channel partners like big Jive and Salesforce, they actually may have opportunities where – just imagine the alumni example I just used Dave where Jive or Salesforce, Box or Bunchball, they all know we have this alumni network and if one sells, their software sells, their software sells as part of the solutions, right. So if the overall solutions brings in and if now the customer is going to buy this integrated solution, well guess what, Bunchball’s sales reps and I think it’s the time they maybe had eight, Box had 55, Jive had a couple of 100, they are all trying to sell that skew. And when they did, we got the benefit of doing our work, but we collectively were resellers for those platforms and they would all – basically we would get a part of the transaction for each of them, because technically we kind of sourced that for our solution. So I could say, well back in ‘09, ’10, ’11, ’12 was we grew from one, I mean me, a handful of sales people, I actually had a couple of 100, because I had the leverage of all those partners who would love it if someone bought an alumni network, kind of get us in wherever they could. So that drives tremendous efforts for me for scale.
Dave Kruse: Got you. That makes senses. I mean, that’s smart. Did you think through that before you even started 7summits about the kind of distribution channel?
Paul Stillmank: Oh! Yes. One of the – I mean I actually reported over the last six years. I keep these little digital recorders and I have recorded all of it. It’s like pealing an onion right, you are doing this for the first time and I want to learn, because when we get through different phases and like we are now, we are kind of reintegrating and going into new directions you want to sit back and what worked? How do we do that again faster as we bring more and more products and vertical markets there? Like we are getting after like software and hi-tech and manufacturing now.
Dave Kruse: Got you, okay. And so who would be – a couple of questions. I know we are kind of running out of time, but I want to move to your more of a being based in Wisconsin and more about your role. But before we do, and I just lost what I was going to say of course, because I got too involved. Oh! Well, what was I going to say. Well.
Paul Stillmank: One of the things we talked about before the call was what’s it like building a tech company here, you just mentioned Wisconsin.
Dave Kruse: Yes
Paul Stillmank: That was your line of thinking, but I think back in ’09, ’10 there was a tremendous amount of talent available and there was certainly technology skill sets. A lot of people say, hey guys, we are a Tech Company, but as I described, we are doing many things, but we strongly benefited from the fact that there is a strong creative contingent in Milwaukee. Think about Milwaukee into its department side and use your experience and how we are creating and people who have been building websites, what we are really doing is really building a very tailored sort of engaging web property on these platforms. So I think a lot of the people we hired here from across a lot of the other agencies and companies and town and have to work with some really cool brands creating experiences that are really cutting edge, so I think that’s been a big part of it. I mean as we started to grow, there are certain skill sets in terms of advising and consulting. Some of the tech stuff, especially as we get into the Salesforce platform, there aren’t a lot of those here, and so we’ve had to spread our wings and so we first went to Chicago because we had a lot of customers there. You know I’ve mentioned [inaudible] Motorola and others. So we ended up putting an office in Schaumburg and we get a lot of customers there and with some of the changes that we have in that market, again we are able to get a lot of good employees there, and that’s probably a good fit to the staff and then we actually use this stuff that we sell to run our company base. So we have a social intranet that we call The Hive and we have a community for our customers that we call The Peak and every customer had a private area that we can work with us on projects. So technology is ubiquitous so we can work with customers anywhere and the employees could be anywhere. So we’ll hire people away from our competitor who might be doing Salesforce work and they are actually in a community with people in Milwaukee, Chicago where it feels better than maybe sitting at home with your customer directly as a one-off person. So we’ve created these very engaging team environments and that’s allowed us to start bringing people out of New York, people to New York, Orlando, Austin, Dallas, San Francisco, Denver. But they are actually part of something, they are not just a 7Summits mission, but our overall purpose of how we engage employees and that’s also allowed us The Peak community, which performance always had to peak, that whole mountain thing going on that the customers – we have customers in the UK, in Munich. Some of our customers in the states have taken us to some of their international locations to do work, but also we have just organic in Europe countries that we have done work for or are about to do work for and that’s pretty cool, because to them other than some time zone challenges, it doesn’t really matter where we are with our thinking and we are unique and so we’ve worked really hard to make sure that the online communities in our business allow employees to come from anywhere and that’s to serve customers across the seven continents which gets back to the name 7Summits.
Dave Kruse: Oh! Nice, nice. And thanks for saving me. As I always say, I like to try to make my interviewees look good. So I appreciate that and that always happens. So I always try – no – but I appreciate it. And well, I was going to ask about the name, so that’s interesting and it sounds like you have a wonderful work environment and – but I can imagine why, because you are building this community platforms and so the first thing you have to create is a good community within your own company in order to, right, to help other people.
Paul Stillmank: Exactly. I can’t tell you how many times we show customers to see how we work and they are like, I need more of that, because you want to work, and its scale all right, because we are smaller, but really large companies like Motorola for example completely see how this could scale for their business, not only internally, but how they engage their distributors and ultimately their B2B end customers with their products. And so it all comes down to this act that we are fundamentally changing business processes with social and online community to drive deeper relationships for their customers and that’s showing up on the bottom line and the top.
Dave Kruse: Got you. All right, two more questions, I promise and…
Paul Stillmank: Sure.
Dave Kruse: All right. One is, so as CEO what are some of your main priorities and on a daily basis and even on a monthly basis that you focus on?
Paul Stillmank: I mean I would say that I’ve got my priorities organized into four buckets; I call them the four P’s, right. So first one is, we’ve – it’s a People business, we are a human capital company. So how we are engaging our teams and our people and they appear to be finding great talent, getting them up to curve on what we do quickly, so they can serve our clients as a top priority. We actually have a – I can even put it, higher imparity in some cases is Pipeline, that’s the second P, right. How do we drive and generate demand for what we are doing? How do we wrap up our case study, get them out in the market, which is great even doing this podcast. I mean getting the word about 7Summits and having our pipeline become very predictable and smooth. And it’s the main priority to me. And then I’ve got, my next P is Product right, how do we take what we are doing and how say productize it and do accelerators and do templates or your sales force has these lightening components and we are going to be on their exchange doing that. How do we create other ways to monetize what are doing in our business and productization is a big priority for me. And then the last one is, Perform and that really is the combination of all of it where, are we hitting our objectives? Are we growing the top line? Are we doing it profitability and what are some of the underlying strategies for how we do that in our company? And it’s great for me, because I have somebody on my team who owns the pipeline, own sales and marketing. I have someone who owns product, I have somebody who owns people and then right now I’m searching for a CFO, so that they can kind of help re-strategize and think about the perform element as we grow the business.
Dave Kruse: Interesting. And do you spend about equal time on all those do you think or probably depends on the month or the week.
Paul Stillmank: I might – you could probably already tell from this whole thing I’m more of a sales and marketing guy, so I was delighted to get the part. But I had that product background from Rockwell right, so I liked to participate and involvement. When you get to the level and we are trying to be and probably becoming a very premier provider of what we do to be that CEO, I need to let go of some of those and focus on just the very main priorities. So I have a pension for division, the strategy and how we are going to evolve into these reputable products and then getting involved. I always love to be out with the customers looking at how they are using the things we do, helping to close business and make sure that we are all aligned in terms of what we can do to help them. That’s where I spend most of my time.
Dave Kruse: Okay, that’s smart. And so you guys have done a lot of things right. Is there one of two things you wish you would have done differently? I mean I’m sure there is a lot, but one or two kind of a main thoughts that come to your mind; well, these are some good lessons learnt.
Paul Stillmank: I would say that one of the things that I think we weren’t getting right, I mentioned earlier that I went and got outside help. Not just financial help, not just you know financiers, but just getting third party perspectives on what we are doing. I think a lot of people start a company and my advice would be you don’t know what you don’t know and so getting a business coach, whether it’s like actually calling for someone else you just know and I set up initially a small Board of Directors with three key people, but then I set up a little Advisory Council, and the Advisory Council maybe met a couple of times a year, but getting that small Board together and I had a guy in San Francisco which would take it to companies, I had a guy in Milwaukee who was involved in some of the venture funds here. You know I had the attorney representing some of the guys that put dollars in who turned out to be remarkable in terms of what she could bring to 7Summits thinking in terms of how we set up our operating plan and monetize the company. So we didn’t want to be a boutique you know. Nobody’s name is on this company. I mean 7Summits is its own brand. I mean I think we’ve made some good decisions early, but a lot of it got fueled by having some outside help and perspectives, because we don’t – no matter what you think you know about what you are taking to market and have a passion for your product, your services, building a company is a whole other matter. So I think I give a lot of credit for the folks that we had here as advisors to help shorten the timeline, make decisions fast and not fall into some of the holes and quagmires that you made along the way. Just even knowing to go, hey, we got a lot of receivables out there and cash isn’t flowing in from a lot of these big companies, but we go get a line of credit, right. I mean just having folks that have done it enough times to say, hey, that’s not a failure. That you couldn’t get it levered, get money in the door fast and that that instrument is there for a reason and even get introduced to the right banker. We use Park Bank, love them, what the team are doing over there. So I think using those networks and getting surrounded by people that are outside your company to get their perspectives and people who have walked the path already was probably one of the smartest things we did. And then in a way – I would also say, you have to have a mantra or a way of doing things and we had all of our employees back in ’10, ’11 and ’12 and even now reading a book called the Rockefeller Habits. And so it doesn’t matter what is all in that book. It’s super awesome by the way. Verne did a great job of helping people understand that you had to have priorities in your business, which we talked about are rhythm in your business. So we have weekly meetings, we have monthly meetings; we have quarterly all hands meet at five places in Milwaukee to focus on the business and growing it. I mean those, that was a critical super positive decision for us as well, because we created tremendous employee engagement. So I think those are probably some of the smartest things we did and also building our company on what we sell. Getting our own dog food if you will right and making it work. Yes, those were all critical.
Dave Kruse: That’s great advice and the last question, where do you want to take 7Summits? I mean, of course you want to keep growing it, but are there certain features your are really excited about, the industries or its just or more just as much spreading the word and helping organizations.
Paul Stillmank: Yes, I mean that gets to my main priority. I mean we are here to grow a great company that directly impacts the business value for our customers and we want to do that on a global scale. So we are here to build a great and global company over time and so when you look at it through that lens, we need to have an ability to scale the business to create some financial goodness in terms of ongoing revenue models right, and I think productizing what we are doing is essential. Ultimately we do want to get boots on the ground in Europe and help penetrate some of those markets and all that’s designed to create a great company that’s got year-over-year revenue and profit growth and that creates value for our shareholders. And along the way and elemental to it as I said, we want to keep this awesome culture going. A lot of companies create an awesome culture and as they scale, they can’t keep their arms around it. Companies like Zappos [ph] became so famous with their culture. So we are reading all of that and we and we are trying to keep a very edgy, employee driven culture at 7Summits. Those are probably some of the things that we continue to focus and aspire to in the coming years.
Dave Kruse: Great. Well, that was – like I said, sounds like a nice place to work. So I’m sure your hiring. So if anybody is listening, reach out to them.
Paul Stillmank: Yes, we are hiring, and there is a whole bunch of open positions; it’s on our website, so…
Dave Kruse: I saw it. Yes, there’s a ton. I mean you must have like, I don’t know, 25 positions open, maybe not that many, but…
Paul Stillmank: Yes, there is a lot of work to do.
Dave Kruse: Yes, I guess that wraps it up. So Paul, definitely I appreciate you taking the time to chat. You guys are – I mean you are a great success story, but not a real well know one in Wisconsin yet. But I think that could change over time.
Paul Stillmank: Yes, thanks for the complement. I certainly enjoy sharing the stories. So hope this was just one way to get some of the word out.
Dave Kruse: Yes, definitely.
Paul Stillmank: Thanks Dave.
Dave Kruse: Yes. Thanks everyone for listing. We’ll see you next time Flyover Labs. Bye.