The other day I was browsing around LinkedIn to try and find inspiration.
I got distracted, as one does on social media, and ended up clicking on my own profile.
As I was looking at my profile, I noticed I made it to 2 years on LinkedIn since founding Always Hired (LinkedIn generously gives you an extra month).
It made me emotional.
I remembered all the ups and downs of trying to make it in this world. I remembered being younger and hard-headed and having terrible bosses that I worked for - they blatantly lied and manipulated me.
On the flip side, I also remember great bosses that I undervalued - they never gave up on me and always believed in me. Above all that though, I remember the rejection. All the times that I was so hungry for a position, but there was a reason one way or another on why I didn’t fit the role.
I want to take a moment to share some of the highs and lows of my journey thus far, from sales novice to startup founder. Even though on the outside victories might shine, there were many moments of failure. What's learned is that when you make a mistake, it's rare that you're the first one to do so. Someone out there has made that same mistake, and lessons were learned from it.
In 2014, I had to lay off my 2nd sales team as a sales leader. I was not controlling the strategy, moreso just executing for the CEO. When I arrived to work one morning the CEO asked to go on a walk with me. He told me he was shutting down the sales team. We walked for 45 minutes in the rain. When it was over, we returned to the office and told the rest of the sales team.
The first team I had to lay off a team was in 2012 when I got a call from new corporate HQ in Austin. “Gabe we are laying off the sales team in Oakland today, and we need you to tell them. You can move to Austin and have a job here if you’d like.”
It’s worth noting, both times we were breaking records for sales but other parts of the business were not doing well (product, customer success, margins) --- I say that because my job was to “sell” and I had no input in customer success. I often told upper management my concerns about the pace at which we were moving (selling too fast, product not ready), only to be told to fall back in line and keep selling. What a surreal moment in hindsight.
Given my reputation for execution, I had multiple sales leadership roles lined up, so I decided not to make the move to Austin. I felt like a free agent after a monster breakout year. I ended up taking a job that my sales mentor recommended for me.
I lasted 3 months, and was terminated for lack of performance even though the sales cycle was 4-5 months and in my 2nd month we had the largest month in company history. That’s another story though.
As I was driving back from Berkeley to San Francisco (where I live), I had an epiphany: there were so many schools and bootcamps in the market solving hiring needs. Need a coder? There’s a bootcamp for that. Need an entry level marketing hire? How about a recent college grad with a marketing major. Engineer? Yup, there’s lots of those who are highly trained out there. After you get these hires, you need someone to start bringing in revenue - you need sales. I had yet to hear about the successful sales bootcamps, that give companies entry-level SDRs with some industry knowledge.
As I was coming to this realization, I also was doing sales consulting for companies and noticed a trend: most companies I was working with were struggling to hit their sales hiring targets. Congruently, I was getting asked for tons of advice calls from my local friends/family community asking me “How did you get into tech?”
I have no degree and got into tech, while these people had degrees, had experience, were clearly extremely smart and kept getting rejected by companies. After doing some digging it turned out this problem is called the Skills Gap and is one of the biggest problems affecting the Business and Consumer markets.
So basically between hearing these things and getting fired, I came up with the idea for Always Hired.
Always Hired launched in 2015. We had a lot of early victories and a lot of failures. The victories were clear to see from the outside, the failures - not so much.
I started the business with an awesome co-founder who had simultaneously landed a job at Facebook. She is an expert on Product Management and Operations. Our third co-founder was a whiz at Biz Dev but with a newborn and growing family, the life of a startup was too much. Another early co-founder was ultimately offered a position as an SDR manager that he couldn’t pass up.
Sigh --- what was I doing wrong here? Am I impossible to work with? I did a lot of soul searching, realized my communication was often too harsh and direct (and if you know me now, imagine me saying I was more direct before). I also realized I sometimes avoided tough conversations and preferred to just keep moving.
Between July 2015 and June 2016, Always Hired churned 2 founders, generated $200k at a profit, and had become my entire life.
In Q1 of 2016 I received an InMail from Aanand Radia of University Ventures. He wanted to be our first investor. I know Always Hired had 20+ 5 star reviews, was already profitable, but it was still a dream come true. Not a dream come true, but moreso a sign from the universe (University Ventures pun?) telling me I was doing the right things. Finally, a sign telling me I was not crazy and needed to keep working hard. Thank you Universe(ity Ventures-- okay i’m done). July of 2016 I turned 28 and received a $250,000 check from University Ventures. In September ‘16 Fresco Capital followed, and in Jan. the check from Kapor arrived. Kapor has an excellent reputation for promoting diversity in the workplace, which I’m proud to say Always Hired practices in both our employees and classes.
Fast forward to today, and Always Hired has turned 2 years old. We have an amazing team, who is all-in and committed to our vision. They are open, honest, and know to share feedback with me when they have it. I love our little team.
So what keeps me going?
Here is a list of some of the graduates we have gotten a job for. (Some did not want us to mention them even though I bribed them with free publicity).