For this episode, we spoke with Timo Rein, Co-Founder of Pipedrive. Pipedrive is simple sales management software for any business focused on growth. Their customers are small businesses all over the world, across languages and industries.

Building a simple and useful product early on was key to Pipedrive’s success. Other contributing factors were focusing on support early on, breaking down goals, and hiring for character-fit. Here’s a quick company overview:

  • Founder experience: 7 years
  • Team size: 250 team members
  • Customers / Revenue: Over 50,000 customers
  • Company founded: 2010 (7 years old)
  • Business model: SaaS

Hear their story in the full episode:

Episode highlights

Remove the easiest roadblocks preventing viral growth. In Pipedrive’s case, this was language and localization for their product. They focused on making the product available and localized in the beginning, allowing them to quickly grow globally.

Identify your influencers as early as possible. Timo said that effective marketing when you first launch is about getting your product into the hands of the right people early on. Pipedrive focused on the best tech incubators and accelerators with portfolio companies who would benefit from it in each market they served.

Ambition and conviction are key when doing something new and scary. For Timo, building a self-service product was scary because, before Pipedrive, he had over 12 years experience in hands-on enterprise sales. It was terrifying to build something that people didn’t need him for. But market trends pointed in the direction of SaaS and he had the confidence it would work out.

Focus on quality support from the beginning. This was key for Pipedrive. One of their co-founders worked solely on customer support for two years before hiring for the role. This gave the founding team an intimate knowledge of how their customers interacted with the product and the type of support people they needed to hire.

Segment your goals into easily digestible areas. Timo splits the company’s goals into three pillars: 1) organization/team, 2) product, and 3) business/revenue. Defining short and long-term goals for each, this breakdown creates definition and meaning around the company’s goals for the team.

Find the right routines (or processes). Timo says the most important thing when setting goals was to find the right routines for their team. This includes how they as a company talk about goals, where they talk and set them, what the cadence is for setting and tracking them, and how each individual team sets and tracks goals.

Take a holistic approach to measuring success. Pipedrive tracks the typical KPIs for a SaaS business: website visits, trial signups, MRR, churn, etc. However, Timo says the real driver of the business is measuring the whole Pipedrive experience - support, sales, and the product. This is done through Net Promoter Score (NPS), as well as some manual analysis.

Always ask yourself “Do you have enough focus?”. Timo says this is an ongoing question for the company, along with, “do we have too many goals?” and “are they still somewhat vague?”

Communicate only the most critical goals. Even if you have seven goals for your team this year, Timo recommends picking two to three to communicate with your team to maintain focus.

You can’t repeat your goals and vision enough. Timo learned that “you have to repeat, repeat, and repeat the things you want to see happen.” Even today, this is a work in progress for the company.

Sustaining a company culture comes down to hiring. Timo says you have to find the right fit because you’re not going to influence a candidate to be a different person once they join. That’s why Pipedrive has a pretty rigorous hiring process with at least three or four interviews. More importantly, they define the right competencies for each role and the right character in everyone. A culture doesn’t come from talking about it, it comes from each individual being themselves and finding people who align with the company’s character.

Ask character questions when interviewing. During the culture-fit interview when hiring, Timo looks for people who get more energy from their work than they spend. He wants people with high standards for themselves no matter what other people say. He looks for people who are teachable and able to control their ego -- people influenced by their team and not only worried about their career moves. To determine if candidates fit this profile, he asks:

  • Do you feel the work you’re doing is what you’re meant to do? - do you have an emotional connection to it?
  • How do you feel about other people in the world? - what do you dislike about other people?
  • What do you think makes you difficult for others to work with?

Define your fit and create your own questions. Timo suggests reflecting on what makes a person a fit for your culture and developing your own questions based on your company’s values.

Record your problems and make sure they’re visible to relevant team members. Communication is not only important for aligning around team goals, it’s also key for ensuring your team knows which issues to focus on. When problems arise, Timo advises to record them, discuss them with your team, and keep them in front of your faces until they’re solved.