Ben Ridler is the CEO of Results.com, a two-year-old technology company that creates business management software, and which currently has clients in 16 countries.
When and why did Results.com get into the US market?
With my previous company, the business management consultancy Results Group, we did a course called Better by Design run by NZTE, and as part of that I did a couple of trips to San Francisco and Silicon Valley.
It was out of those trips that I decided to start the new company, Results.com. I decided from day one that I wanted to base the new company there, foot it with the best and the brightest on earth and join the ‘ecosystem’ as they call it there. I fell in love with it and wanted to be part of that.
So obviously those trips made a huge impression on you.
They did. In my previous business we had offices in LA and Canada, so I’d had some exposure to the North American market before. But what I saw happening in Silicon Valley and San Francisco was so expansionary.
My view is we can reach the whole world from San Francisco by partnering with other technology firms there; a big part of our growth is coming from partnering with companies like Salesforce and QuickBooks. They have global client bases that we can tap into without leaving San Francisco.
What’s the current state of your business in the US?
Our sales are slowly swinging more and more towards the US; this month we’ll make two sales in the US to every one sale anywhere else. We’re up to about 23 staff, roughly split equally between New Zealand and the US with a few other outliers, and we intend to take that to 40 in the next month. Two-thirds of those new staff will be based in the US.
You mentioned the ability to partner with US-based firms that have global reach is one reason for your focus on the US market. What are some others?
We intend to be a global leader in our space – which is technology to help manage high performing business cultures – and to do that you’ve got to be in the US, because they lead the way in this. As a culture they’re also very likely to embrace new technologies and are a very metrics driven society. And of course it’s the largest economy on earth; the scale of the market is very hard to comprehend from down here.
Results.com is just over two years old. What have been some of your learnings so far from taking this company into the US market?
The big learning for Kiwi companies going up there is unlearning a lot of the things we do here. We’re such generalists and in the US you really need to narrow your focus, and even as you keep narrowing it you find you’re still dealing with opportunities far greater than you could ever get here.
How have you had to narrow your focus?
We’ve got some very interesting verticals and horizontals we work with. So we’re just about to launch a vertical with insurance brokers, for example, and we have another where we work with people who manage churches.
The whole concept of design-led thinking is you’re designing based on the user’s experience of the product. So you start by targeting the early adopters and you watch what they do with the product, talk to them and see where it’s working best and adding the most value.
For us, that’s led us to look for companies that have big workforces across multiple branches in which they’re doing the same thing – so we’re looking at real estate agents, insurance brokers, distribution companies, that kind of thing.
Have you personally had to adjust your thinking?
Yes, but I think I’m a slow learner. The trick is to hire Americans. I think they’re the most advanced society when it comes sales and marketing. Both our head of US sales and our head of marketing are American, so they’ve knocked the Kiwi thinking out of us a bit. But I think Kiwis have a lot to offer too. We’re very good at delivering a product or service to a client need and we innovate really well, so I think between us it’s a really nice mix.
How have you grown your pipeline of talent in the US?
There’s a crazy talent war going on in San Francisco, so getting people is one thing, but keeping them is another. For us it’s always been about finding people with a good cultural fit and who are aligned with our values, so when we find them they’ll stay.
The US is very much a referral based economy, so we get a lot of business and team members by referral; I think all my key people in the US have come through either a client, friend or an associate referring them.
It’s also very much a favours based economy. People will get their rolodex out if they like you, and say ‘you should talk to such and such’. I think Kiwis get a bit blase about those things, but you’ve got to follow those up and then go back and thank the person.
And then you owe them one, so you’ve got to look for opportunities to refer them as well. It took us a while to learn how that game is played, but it’s a very important part of the way things are done.