This is the first of four short articles about holding an opposing point of view.
Can you admire the author and hate the book? Love the book and have disdain for the author? Can you love your spouse and hate aspects of what s/he does? Can you be a vegan and adore BBQ ribs? Can you believe in your company and dislike some of its policies?
The two opposing points of view I’m holding in this article are related to Hubspot. Why have strong feelings about an East Coast Inbound Marketing company I didn’t know existed a few years ago? You know how it goes. You become aware of an idea, company or person, and start seeing it everywhere. This exposure led me to read The Sales Acceleration Formula by Mark Roberge, Chief Revenue Officer at Hubspot.
As a consultant and coach in Revenue Generation, I picked up a few new tools from Mark’s book that I could start using right away. Immediate application is my #1 criterion for rating a business book, and The Sales Acceleration Formula rates highly on this point. Hubspot helps organizations grow their customer base, and from what I’ve read and learned, they practice what they preach. Ask any consultant, this is not an easy feat.
This morning I read the teaser for Disrupted, Dan Lyons’ book about what it was like to work in Hubspot’s marketing department as a 52 year old former Newsweek and Fortune magazine writer. Although based on the same central character, Hubspot, these two books couldn’t be more different. Each book looks at Hubspot’s culture, practices and principles. And they look at them from two very distinctly different lenses, one clearly being far sighted while the other near sighted.
Reading this book as a 48 year old entrepreneur, a year into her first tech start-up; I laughed out loud more than once reading Dan Lyons’ describe his misadventures at Hubspot. I found myself nodding, chuckling and yelling out to the guys coding “You’ve got to hear this, he’s totally nailing what it’s like in well-funded start-up”. Dan skewers the leadership at Hubspot, his words are scathing, and I enjoyed reading them.
So the question is, do I admire Hubspot or have disdain? Can I hold both opinions?
As Chief Revenue Officer, Roberge’s methods and results make him a prophet to my belief that scalable, predictable revenue can come only from a capable and repeatable revenue generation process. Mark Roberge studied engineering and used the scientific methods he learned to build out the sales function at Hubspot. No one would mistake me for an engineer; but as a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt I can easily relate to this method for building a continually improving sales organization. Establishing a high tempo, data driven, process focused approach to improvement is critical for faster decision making. It allows for quick pivots to meet changing market demands. In today’s marketplace, the ability to make the right change at the right time determines whether your company lives or dies.
What I learned from Mark’s book and his decade of experience building a company with annual revenues of 100 million dollars, is that in today’s world, where the buyers journey starts online, the size of the gap between marketing and sales is what will kill a company. The wider the gap, the more likely prospects will fall through, taking their dollars with them. Hubspot’s success validates my belief that companies must start by looking at their End to End Revenue Generation process, manage based on the buyer’s journey (not their sales process) and perhaps most importantly – hold both marketing and sales to the same high level Key Performance Indicator – revenue.
Now on Dan Lyons’ perspective of Hubspot shared in his new book Disrupted. I can’t put it better than this direct quote from Amazon.com. “With a cast of characters that includes devilish angel investors, fad-chasing venture capitalists, entrepreneurs and “wantrapreneurs,” bloggers and brogrammers, social climbers and sociopaths, Disrupted is a gripping and definitive account of life in the (second) tech bubble.” I think you get the idea. The author spent 20 years writing about an industry that he believed was built on creating amazing technology, to advance the human experience. What he learned at Hubspot is that some tech companies are built on ideas and marketing capability, with life changing technology coming in very a distant second.
In many ways I can relate Dan’s perspective on the “cult”ure at Hubspot. He doesn’t hold back in describing his take on the cool kid offices with napping rooms and candy walls. I took my first step into the start-up space in 2014 when my tech entrepreneur partner and I founded Four Eyes Financial, an online wealth management platform. Our workforce is comprised of young, productive, introspective, comic book loving coders. As co-founders setting the culture we’ve often talked about what foosball tables and unlimited cappuccino represents and the fact it didn’t fit the culture we wanted to create. At the same time there must be some acknowledgement that to thrive in a start-environment a non-standard culture is required. For example, I’ve never worked in a more silent environment. Everyone wears headphones, presumably to stave off unwanted conversation. The Iron Man posters on the wall (which I helped select) are a comical contrast to the offices adorned with rare Canadian art I’d become accustomed to in my consulting work. Which environment is better, is purely a matter of taste.
I can certainly empathize with how Dan must have felt going from the serious newsrooms of Newsweek and Fortune, to a culture of innovation and growth at Hubspot. New cultures are fun to visit, tough for most to live and thrive in. Although I’ve not read Dan’s book yet, based on the teaser, I have a feeling he was trying to survive in a culture that wasn’t horribly worse than other corporate cultures, just one totally different than what he was used to. I admire his honesty and integrity . I admire him as a writer and a survivor. I will seek out his work.
In the end I believe we benefit from Hubspot, they help companies generate revenue. We also benefit from Dan Lyons’ no holds barred, hysterical take on his time there – don’t drink all the Kool Aid kids. Is the leadership at Hubspot to be followed or feared? Is their culture producing good or evil? I am comfortable not being able to answer these questions definitively. I’ll continue to reference this company’s work to help my company and others. I’ll continue to seek out Dan Lyons’ work for perspective and a good laugh. No hard feelings Dan.
Lori Weir, President, Above The Line Inc.