Bootstrapping? Invest In Your Employees

By Nigel Lobo W’08/WG’13, CEO and Founder of Quikchex

Quikchecks founder Nigel Lobo W'08/WG'13, Penn Wharton Entrepreneurship

As the CEO of Quikchex, a 50 employee, 3 year old bootstrapped Payroll and HR Software startup, I sometimes find it difficult to relate to my fellow founders who have opted in for the VC funded path. Right from the beginning of my entrepreneurial journey, I made a conscious decision to avoid external funding as long as I could. Bootstrapping offers a number of obvious benefits, including greater control on the strategic trajectory of the company. Yet, bootstrapping also has significant drawbacks, the primary one of which is the ability to hire the best (aka most expensive) talent in the market.

The price for talent is determined by the market, and those with the deepest pockets tend to drive the price higher and push the best talent out of reach for those with smaller pockets. At this point, as a founder, one has three choices:

  • Option 1: Engage in a price war, and pay the big bucks for top talent, while taking a significant gamble that the investment pays off
  • Option 2: Settle for mediocre talent, which also translates to mediocre results
  • Option 3: Identify latent talent, and build the systems and processes to develop that talent

Based on my experience (having been in the startup community over the past 3 years), many organizations tend to go in for Option 1 or Option 2. In the short term, these appear to offer the quickest results, the consequences of which are sometimes realized a few months or years down the line.

At Quikchex, we have made a conscious decision to go in for Option 3. This means that instead of looking for the most experienced candidate or the most polished resume, we look for latent talent that we source through comprehensive assessments. Thus we know that when we hire the employee, he/she has the potential to excel at their job within a few weeks/months within the right support framework.

For us, the support framework falls into 4 main building blocks:

  • Training during Onboarding: When any employee first joins Quikchex, they are put through domain specific training that lasts anywhere from one to three weeks. At the end of the training, the employee is assessed through both practical and test based measures. For example, every new sales rep is initially trained comprehensively on the features of the product, as well as instructed on how to conduct demos, handle leads, manage the CRM and negotiate pricing. At the end of the training, the sales rep is assessed through a mock simulation of an entire sales lifecycle, and only upon clearing the given benchmarks is the rep allowed to start in the field.
  • Shadowing: Once the employee enters the field, we have the new employee work closely with a more experienced member of the team, to help translate their training into practical application.
  • Mentorship: Within one to two months, the employee is now ready to work independently. However we realize that the learning experience is continual, which is why we pair the employee with a mentor, who they can count on for informal guidance.
  • Workshops: Even when an employee is settled in, there is constant need to develop both tangible and intangible skillsets. For example, whenever a major new feature is released, our product team conducts a 1-2 hour workshop educating our sales and product support teams, so that they are always updated on the product.

Investing in your employees (if done right) can pay off significant dividends in the long run. In a competitive environment, it is also the best way for bootstrapped startups to work towards leveling the playing field with their VC backed peers.

Nigel Lobo, Founder of Quikchex, Penn Wharton EntrepreneurshipBio: Nigel Lobo W’08/WG’13 is currently the CEO and Founder of Quikchex, an HR and Payroll Software platform, helping small and midsized businesses automate their backend HR processes. Prior to doing his MBA at Wharton, Nigel worked as an Investment Banker at J.P. Morgan in New York, focused on the Metals and Mining Sector.