NXT: What is TargetRecruit (“TR”)?
TR is a workforce management platform, which streamlines the recruiting cycle from front to back office. Typically, companies hire directly through their HR department, or through a staffing firm, or via a managed service provider (“MSP”) that helps manage hiring vendors and staffing firms. Our platform caters to all 3 approaches.
Over the years, we have evolved from recruiting to a complete talent management solution. Clients can use TR to manage recruiting, on-boarding, billing, vendor management, credentialing, employee productivity and much more. Our product is built on a leading CRM platform so it can help companies with sales, marketing, candidate relationship management – all of which have become a key part of the recruitment process.
This way, our clients can bring all their talent management operations into one system.
NXT: How did you start the company?
Back in the mid-2000’s, I was working as a chief technical architect for a company that was acquired. They let me go as part of the acquisition, but then they called me back a month later to join them again. At that point though, I was expecting a child and had made up my mind to do something on my own. I decided to start a consulting company (Avankia) and work with them on a part-time basis while focusing on expanding my company, which worked out great.
As their needs grew, they turned to me for help. I evolved organically from an independent consultant to an IT staffing firm and on-boarded consultants for many clients.
While doing that, we came across the Salesforce platform and immediately fell in love with it. We decided to specialize in it and became their consulting and implementation partner.
Next, we realized the Salesforce partnership had a lot of expansion potential and that we could build products on top of that platform. The final step of our evolution was to turn into a product company, building products like TargetRecruit and DBSync.
That’s our 15-year journey. From consulting, IT staffing, services provider, and finally to a product company.
NXT: It seems that the Salesforce platform has played a big role in your company… can you elaborate on that relationship?
In 2007, we became one of the first 10 companies to be incubated by Salesforce. When the Salesforce platform was launched, we ideated building products over the platform (that was the niche that we defined for ourselves) and also decided to specialize in its implementation. The incubator gave us a great environment that helped us with transitioning from a service to a product company. We had to learn and manage product architecture, go-to-market strategy… how to BE a product company.
So, TR was launched out of that program in 2008.
We were one of the first implementation partners of Salesforce in the state of TN. We were one of the first few companies to put our product on Salesforce’s AppExchange– the iTunes of business apps.
NXT: And once you developed TR, how did you start getting clients?
What’s great about developing for the salesforce platform is that they have an app marketplace called the AppExchange, where companies go and look for solutions, and then they reach out to the vendors.
So as soon as we put it on the AppExchange we started getting a good number of inbound leads. We’ve been so lucky to be early and be part of an ecosystem so we’ve never actually had a challenge with sales & marketing.
NXT: As you’ve matured, do you look more into outbound?
We still get a good amount of leads from AppExchange but our efforts indeed have expanded towards warm introductions, content marketing, digital tactics, outbound, etc. In the last few years, we have been able to stabilize these channels for our business.
NXT: What works best for outbound?
The best way to grow is of course through customer referrals and introductions but you’re not always that lucky.
The next-best thing is warm introductions through the Salesforce Account Executives.
Then it’s working with referral partners and resellers.
But frankly, cold sales just don’t seem to work in our business.
NXT: How do you find channel partners (referrers and resellers)?
The Salesforce platform has an ecosystem of implementation partners but also thousands of mom-and-pop shops. We partner with them and they bring us into their deals or showcase our product to their clients. When they implement our product, they’re called “resellers” and when they bring us in to do the implementation, they’re called “referrals”.
We also go to industry conferences, where we find HR / Payroll companies, who can introduce us to their customers and they earn a referral fee. These HR / Payroll companies help you position the product within their ecosystem. Think of it as adding the product as a menu item to their client offerings. It’s similar to referrals but we have to work harder to develop and educate them.
NXT: Why didn’t you go after larger clients sooner? When do you think a company is ready to start going after the bigger clients?
I’ve always believed in growing at the pace that you can handle. I started the company after my child was born and I’ve been running it entirely remotely ever since. So, we haven’t been too aggressive with our sales and marketing efforts.
That said, the answer to your question is that selling to SMBs is very different than selling to larger clients.
For larger clients, you need to have or build a relationship, you need to get your foot in the door. And in order to accomplish that, you need boots on the ground, you need sales people. You need folks on the ground ready to wine and dine clients.
If you’re in relationship sales but don’t have close relationships it’s very difficult to close deals with larger clients. That’s why getting the first enterprise deal is a big challenge for many companies. You can’t just call them over the phone.
SMBs on the other hand need much less of that and can be serviced remotely because they don’t have huge projects to bring your team on-site for implementations.
Since we’ve been a bootstrapped company without any outside funding, we couldn’t invest in Subject Matter Experts (“SMEs”) and sales people early on. Without funding, you want to make sure you’re profitable and taking baby steps at a time.
However, lately we have added some larger enterprise clients lately to SMB clients (our typical customer set), and our revenue and customer base is seeing a push.
NXT: What’s your plan to continue growing?
We will continue to build out vertical niches. We can tweak our solutions to service other industries, like going after healthcare with very specific functionalities like credentialing, scheduling embedded into our platform.
NXT: How do you go after a new vertical?
First, take the product and make specific vertical-industry features and functionality.
And then, replicate the team. The most important part is to find the right SME to lead the team. Then you can transfer over some resources temporarily while you’re building out the vertical and until you can support a full team.
NXT: And you still manage everything remotely?
My philosophy is to be very focused on making sure that I stay with my kids and be there for them. You can choose career AND family.
I have actually hired lots of stay-at-home moms and trained them. And now I’m working on replicating this success through a big initiative Mom Relaunch, which is all about bringing stay-at-home moms back to the workforce.
Companies can re-skill moms themselves, or they can work with us, where we train moms and we work hand in hand to provide companies with the right talent. Our focus as of now is in IT and HR industry to start with.
We just ask companies to participate by giving job openings to moms. If you look into IT and HR, there are so many jobs that are getting outsourced but there’s great talent right here at home.
There are so many benefits from a program like this. Companies get great talent that’s very cost-effective and adds to their diversity. And at home, if you have a strong and self-sufficient mom, she can be a great role model for the kids.