Leadership Recruitment for Series A/B/C and PE Firms

The Free Agent Podcast

with Beau Billington

Finding that Next Gear- An entrepreneurial discussion with Brandon Powell, CEO of Hatchworks.

CEO of HatchWorks
Posted 2 years ago

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Interview with Brandon Powell  Host: Beau Billington Guest: Brandon Powell    Beau 00:07   Hey everybody, Beau Billington here with find the next gear super pumped about this podcast. I got Brandon Powell, CEO of hatchworks brand. Thanks so much for joining.   Brandon 00:15   Thanks for having me, Beau.   Beau 00:17   Yeah, man. So, this is exciting. I’ve known you for about four and a half years. So right after you started passwords, you guys are already kind of revenue positive, you’re already making money. So, you’ve already kind of taken a company from inception and ideation to creation. And now it’s all about scaling. But I’ve really had kind of the enviable position of watching you kind of grow into a leader and build this company. From what like maybe five employees to how many of you have now?   Brandon 00:44   Yeah, I mean, I think you’ve been through the whole process with us. We’re up to 150 across five different countries. And yeah, you’ve been with the whole ride over five years.   Beau 00:55   Wow. Yeah, super impressive. I remember us sitting down. I think we were eating hamburgers or something. And I was pitching my idea. Five years ago, I just got a corporate America and didn’t even know where I was going to make my first cent. And we sat down. I appreciate, you know, some of the mentorship you’ve bestowed upon you. So, thank you for that.   Brandon 01:11   Absolutely.   Beau 01:12   Yeah, well, awesome. So, the purpose of this podcast is really to talk about, you know, high growth entrepreneurs like yourself, you know, talk about how they brought a company from, you know, ideation, Inception, and then ultimately scaling and maybe selling, which is the goal of a lot of entrepreneurs. Prior to doing that, you know, let’s learn a little bit more about you and who you are. And did you always plan to be an entrepreneur? Or are you the reluctant entrepreneur, it just kind of happened? organically.   Brandon 01:38   I’ve been an entrepreneur since I was a kid, or at the time, I think I called it a hustler. 12 years old, you know, mowing yards, stealing the high school guys yards, you know, cutting them on price. Yeah, so I started when I was young, just basically I grew up, single mom. And so, I needed to make money to try to buy the clothes that I wanted. And then when I wanted a car, I had to do that.   Brandon 02:02   So, I, I had a lot of different side hustles, I would say, and it’s just been in me, it just took years and years, like, until I was 35 years old, they really have the courage to really want to go and do it. Even though inside of me it had always been there.   Beau 02:19   Yeah, I can relate a similar story as well, my parents split when I think I was like, you know, two or three. And my father’s always in the picture. But my mom really kind of, you know, took me abroad. And so, I started working at 15 as well to golf course, and never really stopped. And it’s kind of instilled in me as well, kind of a work ethic. And more so the interest of doing it on my own. So, I can completely relate.   Beau 02:38   And I think I jumped out at 37. So, there’s some parallels there. But it’s funny, I personally have been talking about being an entrepreneur since I was like 16. And it took you know, 21 years before I literally had the courage, but also to the meat. And so, I had the financial backing that I had which allowed me but yeah, man, that’s awesome. So, tell us a little bit about hatch works, what do you guys do there?   Brandon 02:59   Yeah, so Hatchworks. We design and build software solutions using nearshore on us agile teams. So, we blend our teams, all of our teams work in the same time zone as our client. And essentially, we’re always helping companies with their transformation efforts, whether that’s accelerating and getting their technology projects done faster, or building new products that have never existed, or just modernizing existing software that has been around for 20 years, and they need to rebuild it so that they can scale their business.   Beau 03:28   Understood, I Have you always been you know, super interested in software? Did you build this business strictly to make money? Or is it something that you’re passionate about? And obviously, I know you’ve been dealing with software for years since you left college. But tell us a little bit about kind of why you started HatchWorks. And you know, maybe there’s an underlying interest, huge interest in the software development space.   Brandon 03:48   Yeah, so I’m not an engineer at all, even though we have 150 of them. But I do love, and I’ve always loved how technology has improved people’s lives. And I don’t just mean at work, I mean, look at our look at the thing you carry in your pocket all the time, and just technology in general, in the way that it can make life easier and more efficient. And that’s been a passion of mine since I was you know, probably a kid or you know, at least in college. I knew that I wanted to be in the tech field.   Brandon 04:17   And then over time, I started to see software, just eating the world. You know, it’s just becoming prevalent in every single industry. And so that was kind of the driver of like, I want to be specifically within the software space. And we do a lot of data analytics work as well. But those two factors in wanting to be in the center of what’s transforming the world was very important for me.   Beau 04:42   Make sense? Yeah. And so, what’s the current makeup of your company? So, when you started the business, you were solopreneur I believe but do you have partners and financial backing Have you bootstrapped this business yourself for the last five years?   Brandon 04:54   No, we have people that have shares or equity within the company that are employees but no, I bootstrapped the company. There Are some crazy stories. I mean, the most, I guess risky one that I didn’t realize at the time is when I was in probably the second year, we were doubling in size, from about 3 million to 6 million, I had to take a home equity line out on my house, to be able to float the cash.   Brandon 05:20   At the time, I really didn’t realize that I could have lost the business and the house, which has no place to live. But yeah, I mean, over time, it went from just me, I haven’t taken investors, yet. We have a lot of conversations, we’re getting to that size, where it is time to look at possibly getting some additional funding to try to scale the business. And I just haven’t found the right partner and model to do it.   Brandon 05:45   So, to date, we’re Bootstrap. You know, we depend on lines of credit and stuff like that from the banks that allow us, you know, cash to scale. But I know, you know, at some point, there will be a day when we must take investment to help us get to that next level.   Beau 05:58   Sure. Understood. Yeah, I think there’s a big misnomer out there, though, about entrepreneurship, and the float will kill you. Right. So, like, I’ve been in business five years, it was to be seven months before I got my actual first paycheck, which was a monumental event. I mean, my wife and I went to dinner, and it was this whole thing.   Beau 06:13   And the thing was another two months, we got paid again. But you know, what I feel is a lot of folks out there who haven’t walked a mile in your shoes don’t realize how tough it is. I mean, waking up at three in the morning, four in the morning, like, you know, worrying about payroll or about paying yourself, like figuring out where cash is to come from, and then also to be beholden to like payment terms of your big customers.   Beau 06:34 Because when you first start your business, I mean, I don’t know about you, but I will say yes, man, like you need 60-day payment terms. Absolutely. You need, you know, smaller margin on my side 100%. And it’s tough to get to a position as well, we can start saying no to customers, but it’s not easy. Those first couple of years are very, very tough. And you never know what’s going to happen.   Brandon 06:54   Yeah, I mean, I feel like, you know, my first year, I took no payment and so no salary, you know, and I left a very good corporate leadership job. And we can talk about that later. But I went to note to no pay, and then you know, everything I could find to leverage to get cash, one of the biggest things I did in the first year was I factored invoices, meaning, you know, I would do work, I would send the invoice and then I would sell the invoice to get money, and I would lose 3% Off the top of whatever it was, but I had to Yeah, I mean, between, you know, home equity line on the house factoring invoices not getting paid.   Brandon 07:34   You know, that was the first few years, and I would say, you know, even today, you know, you we’re not 100 million or a billion-dollar company. So, I still feel like we’re yes, people at times, we must take the payment terms with these big companies that we want to work with, when they say 90 days, I mean, we don’t have the weight.   Brandon 07:54   So, I still feel like there’s a bit of, you know, how we started, I mean, now, we don’t have to worry about factoring invoices, but we still have to be really scrappy, and kind of looking at opportunities to be able to, you know, we have a very entrepreneurial culture, because of how we started, and we don’t have outside funding. And so, we are always looking for ways to make sure that we can make cash flow and payroll and all those things, even five and a half years in.   Beau 08:20   Yeah, it’s funny how the issues never go away, they just get more complex, you know. And everything you did prior is now broken, and you need to create new processes need more cash, and it’s just, that’s what I love about it personally, but that’s also what I hate, you know, I, missed the days where you could come in and just do like 70% just like get a 70% of your total capacity for a full time company just float through for a month because you needed some time off.   Brandon 08:43   Yeah, and but one of the things I’ve taught, you know, people are always, you know, they’re like, hey, how did you get to there? And you know, thinking that, you know, you’re running a, you know, we’ll probably we’ll do 13 14 million this year. And they look and say, well, I mean, that’s just a great growth and everything. And then I look, and I talked to him and say, well, can you quit your job?   Brandon 09:04   And they think for a second about that, like, yeah, I can quit, you know, I can go tell my boss that I’m leaving, and I can go work somewhere else. And as an entrepreneur and a founder, and there’s no outside funding, there’s no board over, you know, I can’t just go leave my job tomorrow when I don’t think people you know, it’s like when you’re a solopreneur if you decide that you’re going to leave, there’s no other people depending on you.   Brandon 09:26   But once you get 150 employees and five countries and whatever your story is, you can’t just walk away like even if you’re tired, I’m not. I love my job. I love what I’m doing. But some people get, you know, they just want it so bad to get there. And then when they start to get there, they didn’t quite think of like well to wait, I can’t exit like I can’t just walk out of here today. You got customers you got you know; you’re going to get sued if you just walk away breach contracts and stuff like that.   Brandon 09:54   So, I think that entrepreneurship has, it’s shiny and it looks like this one amazing object, and I love it. But I also think that there’s some things that you can’t do once you go down this road in terms of freedom that you have, when you’re working in corporate America and can just say, Alright, I’m going to go get my next gig, I’m out.   Beau 10:17   No 100%. My friend’s thing, I play golf a lot and have this strict quality of life, they don’t know that I wake up at 5:50 Every single morning, you know, even if I had a late night out, and I’m working a good amount in the evenings. Now I’m not hustling maybe as hard as I was the first year or two. But it’s not easy.   Beau 10:33   When I go on vacation. You know, I’ve kind of come to grips the fact that I’m going to have to do emails, I’m going to have to take calls. And I can’t just kind of pause my work life for a week, things The show must go on. So, I think it’s good segue to talk about kind of you and what you’re doing for your business now.   Beau 10:47   So, what is your day to day look like? And how has that changed over the last five years? I mean, are you still sell it? Are you the face of the company? Are you more so embedded in the operation side? Are you still kind of architecting? Maybe engagements, what does that look like?   Brandon 11:01   Oh, there’s good and there’s bad, unfortunately, I’m still selling. Because, you know, one of the lessons for me and blind spots is how do you build a high performing sales organization. And we haven’t done that we’ve scaled off client referrals and delivering, which is a good thing.   Beau 11:16   That’s super impressive.   Brandon 11:17   What if we could get the sales is kind of getting that Sales Machine is where I spend almost all my time, more so trying to get where I can get out of it. So that I don’t have to spend I spent over 50% of my time in sales. I, you know, I’m out hunting, just like, you know, our other Sales teams. So, we’re trying to build that higher performing sales team that’s more on rinse and repeat.   Brandon 11:41   And I’ve always had to do that right from day one I had to sell. I would say what shifted a bit for me is, you know, with people across multiple countries and cultures, I’m I spent a lot of time talking to my team members and trying to learn their cultures. And like this week, I’m traveling to Peru for the first time we’ve had it team down there for about a year, this will be my first trip to Peru, we’ve obviously got the team in Costa Rica, the team in Colombia that I see, you know, at least once a quarter.   Brandon 12:08   And so, I spent a lot of time traveling and engaging with team members. We didn’t have that when I started five years ago, we were all US based mainly all in Atlanta, that was the first couple years. And then as I decided to scale nearshore just needed more product and engineering talent, wanting all that talent in the same time zone.   Brandon 12:28   My life changed a lot because I didn’t speak Spanish, I speak very little now. But I started spending a lot of time on an airplane, going down building that infrastructure, building those relationships. So that now as we go into the next chapter of hatch works on the scaling side, we’re you know, one integrated team across the Americas, all in the same time zone trying to deliver great solutions for our clients.   Beau 12:53   No, that makes total sense, especially to have the war on talent. And if you’re not close to your people, they don’t know who you are, they haven’t shaken your hand, you know, the chances of you keeping them slim to none these days, right? So, kudos to you, but I will challenge you.   Beau 13:06   I mean, in my opinion, I will say that, you know, the goal of the CEO is to be kind of the lead salesperson so is your goal ultimately to kind of transition out of that role and men more so move into more ops focus more strategic focused, more so kind of the I guess the individual that’s bringing everybody together and walk out into sales?   Brandon 13:24   So, I think you’re right, I’ll always be in sales. But you know, I also must sell my clients are not just the customers we sell, my employees are also my clients. I have a two-sided model I have to have, we’re in the people business. I need great people. Because if I have great people, they’re going to deliver for our clients, and then our clients are going to be happy our people start the flywheel.   Brandon 13:48   So, I’ll always be selling hats works in our culture that side, on the sale on a day-to-day sales side, instead of hunting and accounts. I would rather spend more of my time around what are we selling? What are the offers that we need to take to market when I’m this far in the weeds of hunting? I’m not able to think about the bigger picture like example, we’re looking at going into gaming.   Brandon 14:10   We’ve got some possibilities that we could build out a gaming practice, meaning video gaming, right and it’s growing like crazy. Yeah, it’s the foundation for you know, web three Dotto. A lot of that’s the same coding language, AR VR. It’s all going to be there with metaverse. Let’s go down that path. And then like I I’m not able to allocate enough mindshare to that because I’m spending so much time just selling our current offerings around product design, software development, you know, agile coaching.   Brandon 14:38   And so, if I can take a step back, that’s where I would like to spend more of my sales hat and then also obviously, keeping a head of sales accountable for where we are metrics wise, you know, getting everything very data driven. So, I won’t be ever out of sales. As you stated, I just want to I want to spend my time in sales a little bit differently. More On the higher level, bigger picture, things that are going to make the overall company grow.   Beau 15:04   So, I think this is, again, another misnomer about entrepreneurship. And the theory I’ve struggled the most is ensuring that we’re asking my time is in the most effective areas. And so, I totally agree, I mean, because like, what I find is that I’m being pulled in multitude of different directions, and then I’m doing low value work, that’s not moving the needle at all, you know, where’s the high value work that would grow? My company is not getting, you know, proper attention.   Beau 15:26   And so, I’ve had to literally sit down the spreadsheet, and create buckets of where I’m spending my time. So, I can visually see like, Okay, this is good, this is bad, this is bad. You know, so you can reallocate your time. And that makes total sense. And it’s funny to how like, as you go through this continuum, like where you spend your time changes, because your business goals instead of the needs of the business.   Brandon 15:44   Absolutely. And I think I’m blessed to have a good leadership team, someone which you helped me fine. And, you know, if they’re able to take like, for example, I know, notice, I didn’t say that I’m heavily involved in the operations, right, a lot of a lot of founders are heavy, like they can’t deliver without some of their time and effort. On the operation side.   Brandon 16:05   You know, we’ve got great team members and leaders that handle the delivery and the client, client satisfaction of what’s happening. So, I’m only on the front end of getting in and making sure that work, but I still I want to pull back from there and be able to drive that. But I do think Your time starts to change. If your time doesn’t change, then your company’s probably going to be throttled in terms of growth.   Brandon 16:28   And, and I see that now. All right, I mean, for us, you know, our goal, we’re trying to go to 100 million, and in order to go to 100 million, we’ve got to have, I can’t be in the role that I’m in in sales, I’ve got to be at a more visionary, like what should we be selling and to who, and working with that head of sales or chief revenue officer to help get us there. And they’re managing the day to day the sales team members and keeping those people accountable for what we’re doing. So, that’s how I see my time shifting if we’re going to be, you know, continued growth and be successful in the next stage of scaling hatch works.   Beau 17:03   So, when you say that I’m in the exact same position, you know, five years in every single week, I look at what I have planned for that week. And again, am I spending my time wisely? And sometimes I don’t have the answer.   Brandon 17:12   Yeah.   Beau 17:13   You continuously just review, iterate, and move on. Alright, so let’s go to the fun stuff here. So, what were you doing prior to starting hatch works? You know, you mentioned you’re always going to be an entrepreneur was hatch was always proud of that part of the plan. And then like, was there an inflection point where you just you knew like, hey, the time is now. I’ve got product market fit, like, let’s roll.   Brandon 17:33   Yeah, so I spent my first 12 years of my career all in consulting and technology consulting. So, I worked at Accenture, I work at slalom, great companies. Then I went to 18 t and I ran product for cricket. So, I kind of flipped over to the client side, loved product. And during that time, I did an MBA at Harvard. And when I was there, I met all these people running their own businesses highly successful, some of which, you know, Mom and Dad gave them. But it was still it was still interesting.   Brandon 18:02   And I started to realize like, look, they’re smart. But you know, I also know that I can at least hang with them. I’m not the smartest person, but I work hard. And I think I can do this. So being there. And like I was so nervous being in the program there and like I don’t come from the same background. And once I went there, I built confidence and that it always been in my mind, I wanted to start my own company, I just never had the courage, the confidence to go and be like, Alright, I’m going to leave corporate America, whether it’s Accenture, slalom, at & t, you know, I’m going to go start my own thing.   Brandon 18:34   And the that was the inflection point. When I was there. I came back. I worked at att for probably another year, starting to figure out okay, what do I want to build, I wanted to build a product business, but I didn’t have the right product idea. So, I kind of use my background, which was services, and then my experience running product to say, Okay, let’s start by helping other companies design and build their software products.   Brandon 18:58   So that was what you know, that’s where the name comes from hatch, like hatching an idea works is another word for services. I mean, I made a lot of the mistakes founders made. I spent six months trying to get the right logo. And I spent probably longer than that trying to get the right name, like what are we going to call the company. And so, I spent a lot of time what like just kind of like, I got to get this perfect. Before I leave.   Brandon 19:22    And again, I had a great job. I have no complaints about any of the companies I work for. They gave me and instilled in me ideas and ways to lead, and I learned something I took a nugget from all the companies that I worked with. And that started to come in to hatch works and the culture that we’ve built. But yeah, it was just a point where it was a confidence thing, really. I mean, I had it in me since I was little. It’s just that I didn’t have the guts to go and say I’m going to give up a six-figure income to go make nothing and I’m going to take that risk.   Beau 19:56   It’s funny how big of a part confidence plays out entrepreneurship. And to your point about, you know, taking six months to create a logo, I went through the same thing. So, I started my company two years before I dropped out of corporate America. And I was so scared shitless like, I really was in like, I came to a point and my wife and I were having dinner and I was like, I’m working on this nights and weekends, is this a hobby, if it’s a hobby, I’m going to sunset it, because like, you know, I had two young kids, we just build a house like I was, I was super busy man, like life was like, was crazy. And it all seemed like a lot of risk.   Beau 20:26   And I came to conclusion that, like, I’m never going to get this business to 100%, especially while I’m like working for a company. And maybe 80% is good enough. And I don’t know about you, but I literally woke up one day, and he’s like, you know what I’m putting my two weeks in and one week from now. And that’s the most nervous I’ve ever been in my entire life. And it wasn’t nervous because of my boss. It was nervous, because like, it was definitive, like, I made up my mind. It was happening. And you know, walking into that meeting, and again, sure that I was getting my two weeks my boss like, where are you going? going nowhere, like I’m starting something.   Beau 20:59 And it was surreal man, it was really kind of an outer body experience. And again, super nervous. But the second I did that, I was relieved. I felt like I had built up the confidence in two years, I knew where I was going, I knew what I wanted to do. Of course, I completely pivoted, but I do now is completely different than I thought it would be seven years ago. But confidence is a big component. And you’ve got to do whatever it takes to get that confidence. So, you feel, you know, comfortable making the leap.   Brandon 21:26   Yeah, I mean, it’s still I mean, like, look, my mom thought it was the craziest thing she’d ever heard of, like, you know, she worked at AT and T she retired at at & t, she’s like, you have this great leadership position. What in the hell are you doing? Like, I mean, she thought I was crazy. I mean, I’ll say this. Entrepreneurship is lonely, like, and when you make that decision, suddenly, all those employees that worked for you, and that boss you had, like, it flips on you quick.   Brandon 21:52   And for me, you know, they thought I was crazy to like, why would you leave this great career. But you know, for me, it was about wanting more than just being an executive at a big corporation and having a lot of shares. And at the end of the day, when someone says jump, you still say how high I don’t care what level you’re at. In the company, if you’re the CEO of AT and T you’re the shareholders and the board, right. And for me, it was about trying to make a bigger difference in terms of what I wanted to do in terms of personal impact and building something from the ground up.   Brandon 22:29   And I had this one question that I asked myself, before I did it, I said in 10 years, when you look back, so that was you know, now five and a half years ago, when you look back, what do you want your legacy to be? Do you want it to be?  Okay, I was a number, their social security number at a large company with 100,000 plus employees? Or do you want it to be, you know, something that you built from scratch that you grew from the ground up with a whole team of people, and you’re climbing the mountain with them. And at some point, there’s an exit, and you’ve you know, you’ve kind of put your hand and your fingerprints on what you built, not something that someone else built, you know, in some cases like a TNT 100 years ago.   Brandon 23:15   And so that was that was kind of a deciding factor. To me, it was when I started asking my question around, what do I want to see when I look back in five years and 10 years? And that kind of helped with the courage? And then the other thing I said, myself is good, I get this job I have again, and I would say, maybe not, but not, I was convinced that I could always go back to corporate America, if that’s what I wanted to do.   Brandon 23:43   So those kind of factors in me saying, look, how much am I really losing by leaving right now to go do this? Yeah, I might lose some time, I might lose some money. I’m going to learn so much from this, this journey, whatever happens, that maybe I can always go back, and maybe it’s not the exact job, but it’s a career, you know, kind of similar career path. So that’s how I kind of looked at it. It’s like, what is my like, but in 10 years, I can’t go and do this, like, I can’t, I’m not going to maybe have the opportunity to try to do this, where I am now.   Beau 24:13   Conversion is going to increase. It’s a whole a whole slew of factors. It’s funny how I don’t know if this rationalization, but I went to the exact same thing. It’s like, Alright, give myself two years, you know, I can go back at the same job, I will lose money. You know, it’s I had to put money away to do this. But, you know, if I don’t do this, and for me, the biggest point was like, this would be the biggest regret of my life. And I shared that with my wife. I was like, if I don’t do this, and I’m 65, you know, like, I look back at my career, this would be a big, just kind of, you know, x.   Beau 24:41   And I can’t afford to do that when we have one try. And once you start thinking about terms of that, and to your point, the ability that I pay, I could go find a job, I could go back, and I can kind of refill the coffers. The decision got a whole a whole lot easier, you know, got a lot easier. So, couple more questions for you. How long did it take you to find success? You mentioned it pay yourself for a year. But like, how long did it really take where you felt, hey, we got some clients billing things are happening. You know, this is no longer a concept. I got a real company here.   Brandon 25:11   Yeah, you know, the first year, we did two and a half million, but it was all we’re all contractors, I didn’t get paid. Second year, I think I would say it was probably the third year we did second 6,000,00 in 2nd year, third year, started working towards eight. But I would say there was always and there still is like, unfortunately, I’m not where I have a goal, a longer-term goal of where I want to get to. So, I don’t feel satisfied in terms of like, I want more career path for my employees, I want to be able to pay more.   Brandon 25:42   And so, I think there became a point around the third year, though, where I’m like, you know, we can do this, we can make this we can do it. I think I was running so fast the first two years. And I tell this, I didn’t stop long enough to understand the wake of risk. And things that were happening, like the home equity line, for example.   Brandon 26:03   I wasn’t even listening to the negativity and the things you know, once I left and I heard Yeah, you’re crazy doing this while I think I started running so fast, and so determined that I didn’t listen to the all the things that could have stopped us whether it was cash, or there was something, something else.   Brandon 26:24   But I believe that third year was where I saw it. But I would say even to this day, I run my business knowing that, like I don’t ever feel like, oh, we’ve made it, we’re there. I don’t know what’s going to happen. I can’t predict the future. You know, COVID for us was a wakeup call. We’ve been a profitable business for years in a row. Honestly, we got killed for a year, you know, and now we’re just coming back out of it. And I didn’t see that coming.   Brandon 26:49   How do you run a business in a pandemic that require you know, many times before people go into the office now, we’ve used COVID as the opportunity to pivot our nearshore side of our business because now working from home, San Jose, Costa Rica and San Jose, California don’t matter. There’s like why would argue one’s better because it’s in the time, same time zone. And that’s Costa Rica.   Brandon 27:09   And so, we’ve pivoted coming out of it, but there were some rough years there where I thought I was making him and we were fourth year we did $12 million, that’s 2020, that’s going into COVID. I mean, I was like, man, we got this, right, and then boom, like, like a pandemic comes out of nowhere that we haven’t seen in ever, how many 100 years. And in so that’s why I feel like as a CEO, if you’re not constantly thinking about risk, and like what not over indexing on but constantly looking at, as soon as you get comfortable is when you turn into blockbuster.   Beau 27:44   I think the superpower of an entrepreneur is not getting complacent. And like the pandemic was horrible. Like, we ended up having a relatively good Year that year, despite the situation, but it was such a wakeup call to me as well. And it’s put me in a position where to your point, I’m always evaluating risks, where the numbers were already how’s our funnel, like, I’m much more in tune with kind of my business as it is today.   Beau 28:06   And what we have planned, you know, in the future, whereas before that, not that I was flying by the seat of my pants, but I was less methodical about what was going on with the company. So, was there ever a point where you thought about hanging it up? As it happened?   Brandon 28:21   I had some points, I would say last year where I was like, do I just look to exit you know, look to, just kind of say, Alright, who wants to buy it, and let’s go, but then I just put one foot in front of the other, you know, I had some leaders leave during it on their own. And I made some tough decisions around not laying off anybody and taking the loss, which was you know, then it’s hard to be invest.   Beau 28:48   So much now, like a lot of the folks I talked to them asked me about the companies that we work with, like, what did they do during COVID? Did they lay people off? Like what was their MO and I think that’s fantastic that you made that decision? Of course, you got crunched. Right?   Brandon 29:06   Yeah. But you know, again, we got best place to work again for the third year in a row in Atlanta, and we won Ink Magazine this year, best place to work for 100 companies. And so, at the end of the day, you know, sometimes you must put your people in front of the profit, and that’s what I did last year. But I still didn’t know if we would live like flip through that right? I mean, it was brutal.   Brandon 29:27   And this year, we’ve rebuilt our business, our sales are going to be higher than they’ve ever been in the five and a half years, but I’m telling you, I had a time trouble getting out of bed some days and I’m like you I’m a 5:56 o’clock riser. And get on it. And you know, I think what people don’t understand is like when you start to build like I said earlier when you start to have 100, 150, 200 And on depending on you know, kind of like that’s you know, you’re providing for their family stuff like that.   Brandon 29:59   When you get that call If built up like that, and something like a pandemic causes the bottom to fall out of it. I mean, it’s hard. I know a lot of companies that had a lot of challenges with it. And different CEOs make different decisions, and every CEO must do what’s best for them and how they want to run their business.   Brandon 30:16   But I’m telling you, Beau, there was moments there, where there was no light at the end of the tunnel. And that’s not how I run a business; I see that light. I chase it, you know, I know where we want to go. But I had some moments in 2021, you know, especially when other companies were pulling out of it.   Brandon 30:32   And we were, we have typically longer-term contracts. So, we’re like, you know, 12-month minimum type of contract. So that’s why in 2021, is when we got hurt, because our 2022 are a lot of our contracts were already good, even though we didn’t sell anything. So, 2021 just killed us, because we didn’t have any pipeline to carry us over from 2020.   Beau 30:52   Yeah, but you made it through. And that’s all it matters. And I guarantee you build a stronger business because of COVID. You know, all things considered to be more questions here, we’ll get you out of your brain. Thanks for your time.   Beau 31:01   If you could go back and give yourself one piece of advice prior to starting your company. What would that be? Like? Like? How could you? How could you create a success? Quicker? What it would not have been spent six months on a logo? Like what would that look like?   Brandon 31:13   Yeah, definitely, I think I would have iterated faster on things like failed faster, you know, you hear that term, fail fast. I mean, there were some things like give example, I spent probably one to $2 million on an Amazon partnership versus saying, look, these guys are working with big consulting companies. And we never got one leak out of it.   Brandon 31:34   But I kept at it for like, I think two years, investing and investing, not getting anything back, we built a platform that we use for time tracking and stuff internally that you know, I’d like to take it to market but we are over you know, we put too many features in it without really getting outside feedback.   Brandon 31:50   And so, I think if I did it again, and we do this now is like fail fast. And like one of our values is iterated to improve. So, we want to iterate as fast as possible, right. And that’s kind of like how you build software these days. That’s how we do recruiting, like, we want to iterate fast sprint to get it done. That’s one of the biggest things I would give myself. The other thing is I didn’t join my EO group, like having that tribe. I think I was probably two years in. Yeah, I’ve been in iOS three.   Brandon 32:18   So, two, or three of the five. And having a tribe of I would say peers that all have their own business. And being able to plug in with them the psychological part of that of like, okay, the ups and downs, like last year, I would not have made it through that psychologically without them, because some of them were hurting.   Brandon 32:37   I mean, one business was like in the retail space, and you had to close went from zero, right. And so that really helped me having a group that’s going through the same wins and losses together, I would have done that from the get beginning.   Brandon 32:52   And there’s groups out there EO accelerator, there’s other groups out there, that help you get from zero to a million and then one to 10 million. And it’s not about necessarily the X’s and O’s as much as it is like, you know, your wife, you tell her what you’re going through.   Brandon 33:08   And she’s like, cool, and I understand honey and stuff this but then to have it with others that had the same problem, their business got killed by COVID. And like, how are you doing and checking out and I feel like there’s a huge benefit to that as an entrepreneur. Because I’m telling you, and I tell this to a lot of people, entrepreneurship is over 90% mindset,   Beau 33:29    It’s 100%, 100%.   Beau 33:30 versus X’s and O’s.   Brandon 33:32   And yeah, I’ve made all kinds of strategy decisions. But I’ve always lived to the see the next day, mainly because of mindset to say, All right, I’m not going to listen to these voices, I’m not going to listen to these people that call me crazy and knock out you know, so if your mindset is not a growth mindset, it’s going to get you because eventually, the questions keep getting louder and bigger.   Brandon 33:56   And if you don’t have that tribe that’s also dealing with those questions, and they’re not going to let you quit, they’re not going to let you kind of go back and it’s like, they’re always going to help you try to find that light at the end of the tunnel. And it might take a while. But those are the two things that I would iterate faster, and then get a tribe to go on the journey with.   Beau 34:17   I totally agree. Like, the number one trait I’ve kind of uncovered over my five years is perseverance, you know, from but it’s 100% mental game. And that ties that that ties back to perseverance, you know, if you’re not mentally strong, you’re not going to persevere fact. And I went through the same thing, you know, I would try to talk to my friends, family, my wife, everybody’s in corporate America.   Beau 34:36   And they didn’t understand about this career path that I chose with all the risks, even though it’s relative, and that’s a topic for another day, but they didn’t understand the path that I chose, and so I couldn’t really talk to them about what I was experiencing. Also, like, you know, I couldn’t get ideas from them on where I should spend money because they had a completely myopic and different view of the world.   Beau 34:55   And then I did and then I do now, so I get it, and I would think about the tribe too. We agree, like I try to, you know, the only people I talk about entrepreneurship with is entrepreneurs, and that’s where my safe space is where if you’re comfortable, and I totally agree, we all have kind of the same problems, even if the business is diverse.   Brandon 35:12   Yeah.   Beau 35:12   Alright. So final round lightning round here, Brandon, go through this quick and get you out of here. What’s your favorite aspect of being your own boss?   Brandon 35:23   I think the biggest the biggest thing of being my own boss is really being able to lay out what I want to do each day. And each week and each year and like, there’s no one else really deciding that and in terms of like, no one’s laying and telling my vision for me, and my career was always like, here’s our big goals for the year, how are your goals going to fit in with these goals? Well, now I make the big goals for the year.   Brandon 35:49   And that allows and that’s not more of a, an ego thing. As much as it is like, I want to be able to kind of put my fingerprint on where I want the company to go. And so, you know, a lot of people will be like, I want the freedom of times, I don’t have more freedom of time, I have less freedom of time. But I have more freedom of direction of where the company’s going. And that’s what I really like, is terms of being a boss.   Brandon 36:11   And really, I always think about my team, and I hated it. When I was told to do something that I knew would impact my team.   Beau 36:20   Right.   Brandon 36:20   I didn’t have the freedom to be able to kind of say, no, there’s another way to do this. And anyway, so that’s what I like, is really the freedom of being in control and being able to lay out my vision for where I want to take the company and then we go and execute on it.   Beau 36:36   Totally Great. All right, the flip side of that, what’s your least favorite part of being your own boss?   Brandon 36:41   I think the pressure around honestly or even around payroll to these days, right? Like I always think about, like, you know, there’s a dip in business, I always want to be able to pay these people that trusted hatch works with their career. And you know because we’re not there’s no one else’s money involved.   Brandon 36:58   And we’re bootstrap it, I still feel like it’s on me, even as we’ve grown to the size. And so, I think I won’t sleep easier, probably until I do take some outside investment. And then there’s some additional shared responsibility in terms of growth and direction. But that’s the thing that if I think about it too long, it can hinder me and the way I think about things.   Brandon 37:23   And so, when I do have nights when they’re asleep, it’s typically because okay, we’re growing, but we still you know, with growth comes cashflow constraints, and cashflow constraints are what you’re used to pay your payroll. And that’s always my number one priority is making sure that we can take care of our people   Beau 37:39   Understood, what’s your biggest success.   Brandon 37:44   To me, I guess I ran so fast in that, we got to 10 million, I was like, wait, I wasn’t really satisfied. But I looked and said we got to 10 million. And there’s so few companies, when you look at the data, it’s like a percentage of a small percent, that make it to 10 million. And it wasn’t because of me it was because of the leaders and all the people that we have working today. And it came before them to help us get here. But I think getting to 10 is a great accomplishment. Obviously, I want to go to 100. But I have to sometimes sit there and look and say look what a blessing just to get to this point.   Beau 38:25   So, what about your biggest failure?   Brandon 38:29   I’ve had a lot of failure.   Beau 38:31   That’s always a tough one.   Brandon 38:32   I honestly the biggest one that’s top of mind is last year, we backed out of a multi-million-dollar deal, I let myself listen to voices and around delivery and I didn’t have a growth, I was a little bit of wounded from, you know, kind of the COVID stuff. And there was a big deal out there that we could have had at a big company.   Brandon 38:53   And we backed out of it. Like, I backed him like I called the client was like, Yeah, we’re not going to be able to go forward with the way it is. And I regret it like I don’t have a lot of regrets. I’ve got a lot of failures. But I typically always learn from the failures. And I learned from this one, but I’m just like, Man, if I can have that back again.   Beau 39:14   Is the right-side guy. I don’t see that as a failure at all. I say that, you know, as you have in the wherewithal and the knowledge that maybe it wasn’t the right business at the right time for you. I applaud you. That’s a that’s a big time right there. Finally, where can people find you?   Brandon 39:29   Yeah, I mean, they can find me on LinkedIn, I’m starting to post a lot on LinkedIn and trying to build you know, more connections and followers on LinkedIn. Brandon Christopher Powell, if you’re looking for me, I’m on Instagram, but mainly LinkedIn has been my big kind of platform that I’m trying to grow. I love sharing thoughts around entrepreneurship culture, like I’m a huge fan of like how do you build a best place to work and try to share my learnings and love to hear from others.   Brandon 39:58   And then my third pillar There is around distributed agile teams and just how do you build highly functioning teams in your same time zone? And now that everything’s gone, distributed and work remote, everyone’s working in distributed teams. And so hatchworks is really dialed in on how you build high performing teams that are all distributed, and being able to, you know, kind of build the products and get them to market that you’re critical to your business.   Beau 40:23   Awesome. And then finally, you mentioned earlier about, you know, kind of your legacy and looking at 10 years and your five and a half, got to ask, are you trending? Or you trending in the right direction?   Brandon 40:33   I mean, the biggest thing, that one of the things we haven’t talked a lot about his hats futures is passion. For me, that’s my passion is, that’s where we, you know, try to teach kids about technology, kind of that next generation for STEM. And if my legacy is what I want it to be, that’s the piece that really accelerates in the next five years, we’re doing a lot now with our communities like trying to get these kids in, you know, think about kids in Colombia or the South in Bankhead in Atlanta, trying to educate them about being a developer, or designer, because those are the highest paying jobs, that’s the whole reason I had to go outside the United States is because there’s not enough developers in Atlanta, Georgia.   Brandon 41:12   It’s why our clients have to go outside the United States because they can’t find enough developers or talent. And so, hatch futures are what I really want kind of the thing that’s left behind, where we’ve really changed career paths and built talent pools of that next generation. And I’m Hope, you know, we’re getting these kids, now we’re starting to talk to him in high school, then we get them into an internship, then in they’re going to college.   Brandon 41:37   So, by the end of this, I should start to see those kids that we talked to early on, become eligible to be employed, and that thing has come full cycle. And so, I think, that’s the most rewarding for me, it’s not a revenue number. It’s not several people. It’s not an exit size. It’s the impact that we might be able to make on our communities through the hatch futures portion of our company.   Beau 42:02   That’s super cool. Grant and you truly are a visionary man, thanks so much for coming on. Really appreciate it sincerely.   Brandon 42:07   Yeah. Thanks, Bob. Appreciate it, man.   Beau 42:09   You got it man.  
Posted 2 years ago
Brandon Powell

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About Beau

FOUNDER, THE FREE AGENT

Beau spent over 14 years in enterprise-level software sales and was exposed to high-level talent by working alongside companies such as Apple, AT&T, Amazon, Coca-Cola, and more. 

In this podcast, Beau aims to interview high performing business leaders in the hope that their insights will bring about real positive change to the businesses of his listeners.

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