Art Harrison has been with me since the beginning, not just the start of the company, but since childhood. With FormHero taking on new growth and venturing into new territory we took the time to reflect on where it all started and where we hope it’s going.
To hear what I had to say, when Art put me on the spot, check out the companion article here.
When I suggested the concept of FormHero to you, what was your first reaction?
I thought “That’s a pretty good idea…” But I wasn’t convinced I needed to be a part of it. My wife on the other hand, just looked at me and said “Of course, you are going to do this with Ryan. It’s what you want and need.” She was right. As soon as I fully understood what you were building, combined with the timing and the target client – everything was so very tangible. There was a real opportunity here; to come at it and solve this problem from the business’s perspective was a rare thing for a startup – really unusual for a FinTech where people are looking to disrupt the whole business model as opposed to help it run more smoothly.
We came in with a ton to learn about each other but a comfort level of interacting with each other literally since we were six years old. It’s remarkable to have that shared language and knowledge.
What’s the hardest thing about working with me?
I’m whatever the opposite of modest is. I think very highly of myself and I’m confident in my skills. I imagine I’m the smartest person in the room. The hardest part is knowing that it’s not true when you are in the room. It’s a blow to my ego, but it’s the same reason I was able to make the leap and join you.
What’s your elevator pitch? Knowing you, and how you like to expand on things, I also need to know, how long does this elevator ride have to be?
The elevator pitch is ‘We change the way organizations think about collecting data. We give your customers the experience that they desire and demand. We don’t need you to change the way you do business; we make it easier to collect the information you need in a fraction of the time and effort.’ That’s only 30 seconds to entice someone into wanting to know more. With an additional 10 minutes, I can describe everything we do.
Another approach I take is stating up front what we all know ‘Everybody hates paperwork. If you’ve ever applied for a mortgage, a loan, or a passport then you’ve filled out a form that is not meant to be friendly. It’s full of nonsense and repetitive questions. We turn it into something easy and conversational. When you’re done, we turn all the data we’ve collected into usable information to complete applications or forms.’
I borrow what you say, Ryan, that we are humanizing paperwork. That’s what we do with our platform and our processes. FormHero takes an impersonal experience and makes it human. When I can convey how we eliminate the pain points for a business and their customers, that’s when we can win people with our pitch.
We’ve known each other a long time. Do you think we actually learned anything as Beaver Scouts?
Let’s be honest, I was five or six and I was there for the snacks! Though between you, another VP I hired in the past, and a few others who were part of our troop, I apparently did some good networking at that age.
We’re still knocking out our official mission, vision and values. What do you think we’ll see come out of that?
At the end of the day, from a company perspective, what we value is relatively simple and it works.
A company’s success is intrinsically tied to their values. We are transparent and honest. I genuinely believe that’s how we won our first RFP even though we were up against one of the biggest tech companies in the country. We presented our product, but also the value of our service to them. We were upfront about our size and our capabilities. It’s not about being Boy Scouts; it’s about being in a better position when you are open about your strengths and weaknesses.
When we look at how we are building our teams, we know we need people who want to succeed but not at the expense of others or their happiness. There are a lot of other values about our team and how we want to grow together, but at its core, honesty and transparency will be the foundation upon which other values are built.
Why would someone want to work for me? And for you?
I think working for you is a reward in itself (and I’m not just sucking up). First of all, you are brilliant and people like to work with someone who has that combination of a clear vision, experience in the technical world and the business acumen to back it up. Secondly, you are willing to take an idea and build upon it. You bring all of that to the table and encourage people to do the same, to be their best.
Me? I bring a different management style. I’m someone who is always going to manage from a place of optimism. I want to bring joy and fun along with a drive to deliver results. Lightheartedness is my natural state; I don’t have a strong negative side. I can be serious, but I think people respond to and enjoy working for me because I can take whatever the challenge is and support them finding a solution with positivity rather than fear.
What did you think when the possibility of joining OneEleven came up?
It seemed like the next logical step. Part of our journey is that we’ve been graduating and travelling through a lot of accelerator networks; and I think we both realized we needed to make the next step. We were both excited about having the chance to build our space out; join the maturity level of the companies here; be part of the network and take advantage of the operational infrastructure available to us as part of OneEleven. We cared about scaling our business and the last thing we wanted to think about was running phone lines in a new office and calling the internet providers. Additionally, OneEleven has managed service offerings like TalentMinded. It allows us to stay focused on the unique parts of the businesses.
One real regret is that I’ve never been able to participate in the peer groups- it’s been a whirlwind since we arrived – but I know our hiring managers have. We’ve joined in demo days and we participate in the open house. We know how important it is to have mentors or even sounding boards, so we encourage our hiring managers and our teams to take advantage of the networking that’s right in front of them.
What advice do you have for other startups that are ready to scale?
One, and it’s a cliche, don’t waste time on things that you personally don’t have to do, that aren’t where you bring value to the table. That’s why we’re at OneEleven and why we use managed services. We always look for a way to work with partners, contractors and tech that already exist. I want to build FormHero; I don’t want to reinvent how you do lead generation or ticketing. There are a lot of areas where you can waste time – don’t fall for that. Spend your time building and growing the things that are unique to your business.
Two, trust the people that you are bringing on and look for ways for them to take on more. A common mistake founders make is trying to be sensitive to new employees by holding onto the pieces they brought them in to take over. Let go. The only way to scale is to stop being the bottleneck in as many spaces as possible. Ultimately you need to get out of the way, convey your values and manage not execute.
Lastly, what do you think our combined superpower is?
We bring a rare combination of skills. We have technical backgrounds, we are people focused and we are socially minded. What we say we are best at is firefighting. In a pinch, we can cover so many different areas from technical to finance; from product to marketing. We have an uncanny ability to swiftly and effectively solve any problem in the moment. Then, we go out and we look for amazing people to bring onboard, take on those fires and innovate a long-term, evolving solution.
If you are a problem-solver and firefighter, we want to talk to you. If you want to join us on our mission to make life easier for anyone interacting with financial institutions, consider joining Art and myself at FormHero. Check out our opportunities here and stay updated by following us on LinkedIn and Twitter.