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Scaling Your Business: Transitioning from a Startup to Growth Company

by Hannah Hanover

Learn how to scale your business and transition from a startup to a growth company 

Listen Time: 30 Minutes

We’re celebrating SmartRoute podcast’s one-year anniversary by sitting down with entrepreneurs and CallTrackingMetrics’ co-founders, Laure and Todd Fisher. 

When Laure and Todd first began CTM, they never imagined they would transition their business from a home-based startup to a $30 million dollar growth company with over 70 employees in just 10 years, without investors. But they did, and now have some practical takeaways for other businesses on the cusp of a similar transition. 

In this episode, host Courtney Tyson, Todd, and Laure explore both the moments of victory and pain points they’ve experienced over the years. From the hiring practices that accelerated growth to managing a hybrid team and adopting costly software to accommodate future growth, Laure and Todd reflect on the decisions they’ve made that both challenged and improved their leadership abilities while driving big payoffs. 

Stay tuned until the end for Laure’s top three pieces of advice you can use to sustainably scale your company and foster growth

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About Laure & Todd Fisher:

Laure Fisher, COO, and Todd Fisher, CEO, are the married co-founders of CallTrackingMetrics. They started the business in their basement just over 10 years ago and have since grown it into an Inc. 500 rated, top-ranked call management platform serving over 30,000 businesses worldwide.

Episode Transcript:

Courtney

Hello and welcome to the thirteenth episode of SmartRoute. I’m your host and strategic partnership manager at CallTrackingMetrics Courtney Tyson. If you can believe it, it’s actually been a year since we launched SmartRoute and had the opportunity to interview for our very first episode our call CallTrackingMetrics co-founders Lori and Todd Fisher about how they grew CallTrackingMetrics into a $20,000,000 company. Being that it’s our anniversary we wanted to bring back our very first guests and hear part 2 of their journey as successful entrepreneurs, and so welcome back Laure and Todd Fisher

 

Todd Fisher

Thank you!

 

Laure

Good to be here.

 

Courtney

Thank you for being here. We’re definitely eager to talk to you about the transition you’ve experienced from being a startup to now a growth company. First and foremost, just want to say congratulations to you on a very successful 2021. In 2021 CallTrackingMetrics saw even higher growth rates and an increase in the number of employees and we even moved into a brand new state-of-the-art office. So Laure and Todd, can you tell us a little bit more about you know what has changed since we last spoke both you know company-wise and priority-wise.

 

Todd Fisher

Yeah,  I think you know it’s been ah, it’s been a tremendous year or so , you know I think we’ve grown almost you know to $30,000,000 in revenue and we’re upwards of over 70 employees now.  you know I think there’s been a lot of learnings along the way with the new office space and we’ve also figured out more about how we want to target the product. We’ve done a lot of discovery around what is the right audience for our product and how do we refine our mission statement, which I think is has been really key to continuing our growth. What do you think, Laure?

 

Laure

Yeah, so across the past year I was thinking about the last time we did this we were all at home because you know last winter we were at home. So definitely really different because, as Todd said, we have our new office.

That’s something definitely very different. We’re all not at home, so it’s been really exciting kind of going through the transition from fully in person you know three years ago to fully remote for a year and a half to now hybrid with a lot of our employees now. So that’s been a really interesting evolution for us as a company and we’re learning a lot about how do you do remote after a year and a half, two years of doing that and now we’re figuring out hybrid and it poses all sorts of new things that we have to think about and challenges we have to solve but it’s great. It’s such a great balance for our employees and it’s also been really interesting to think about like what is it that people want to come back in person together to do and that was what we really had to think about with our new office is like why are we here when we’re here in person. Why are we here and what are those things we want to do and how do we make sure that the office is conducive to that and is really the kind of a place to foster what it is that people want to do together. That’s been a big project across the past year, like Todd said, we are you know we’re almost at $30,000,000 in revenue with over 70 employees now. We had one of our best years ever last year in terms of year-over-year growth rate which was really exciting and like Todd said I think it’s a lot because across the past year we’ve really been working on refining our positioning and really understanding. We’re now at a point as a company that really understands what we do well and so thinking about how do we really promote that first and foremost  and making sure that we’re bringing on customers that are right in our alley of what we do really. So yeah, it was an exciting year last year. Lots of things going on.

 

Courtney

Yeah, it seems as though having the office has allowed you to really kind of rebuild the foundation which then kind of goes hand-in-hand with our mission statement and our culture and kind of reshaping that as well as we continue to grow and as we build ourselves up within this new office. You know we’ve continued to stay in this growth phase through Covid through working from home, but what’s also rare is that you know CallTrackingMetrics doesn’t have investors. So can you talk to us a little bit more about how that works, and also your decision to go in that direction.?

 

Laure

Yeah I have I’ve been thinking about this one. So one of them is that we have a really strong leadership team, so you know when we think about investors and why we might go down that path at some point, part of it would be because we would need to bring someone in who can help us and tell us what we need to do to get to the next phase of growth. And what we’ve done is we’ve hired leaders who have done this before. They’ve set up HR teams. They’ve set up finance teams, they’ve scaled engineering teams. They’ve scaled product teams and so you know we’re still at this point. where we know what we need to do, right? We know we have the experience to know what we need to do to get to that next phase of growth and you know, maybe at some point will we reach the point where we’re like none of us know what to do now time to bring in some outside help. We might get there, but so far we all know what we need to do and it’s been working and you know we’ve also been in a position financially where you know our product is growing, we’re growing right, we grow every year, we grew 22% last year-over-year. And so financially we’re in a position where we don’t need to bring out on investors to finance the things that we need to do as a company to keep growing again. Maybe that changes at some point. But for right now we feel like we’ve got the resources that we need both internally and kind of financially to do what we need to do.

 

Todd Fisher

Yeah, just to add to that, you know for me when I was in engineering college I was computer science and I’ll never forget I had a material scientist hallmate and a chemical engineering hallmate. And mechanical engineering hallmate, so they were all in different disciplines of engineering, and when it was the end of the year and we needed to do our final projects for them it was this huge constraint to get time in the lab, right? They needed to be able to get access to the lab to perform their experiments, while I was sitting at my in my dorm room with my laptop.

 

Todd Fisher

And all I had to do for my final experiments or project was type on my keyboard, right? So if you think about that in terms of business and Capital investment there was 0 capital investment for me or a very small amount to purchase a laptop versus the other engineering disciplines, they needed to effectively purchase huge equipment to enable them to do these advanced experiments the same is true when you think about a software business like this in terms of capital investment. It’s very small, right? We’re talking about how writing software is time but that but the machinery required is very limited in terms of cost. So I think that’s part of what’s enabled us to build a business and not require a lot of capital that other businesses would otherwise have required so I don’t know I think that I’ve always thought that’s a kind of ah illuminating experience with respect to a software business and how we can scale with so much less capital.

 

Courtney

Sure investors aren’t needed because you’ve invested in such great resources in your employees and the leadership team as well and you know have lots of confidence in all of us. So let’s talk about that transition from you know, being a startup to a more mature growth company right? When do you feel like that transition occurred?

 

Laure

I know I was thinking about this I know I felt it when we crossed 50 employees. We’re at 70 now and when we crossed 50 employees things just started to kind of fall apart that used to work fine when we were 10 employees and you know. I think one of the the biggest things is that Todd and I reached the point where we realized that we couldn’t be involved in everything at that point it just in. You know they say that 50 employees is this kind of you know this transitional point in a company and I do we really felt that it was hard. We had to really think about doing things in a different way. You know that was the year that we started our HR team, we brought in an HR director and built an HR team. It’s the year we created a product management team. It’s the year we created a finance team. It was Todd and I kind of thinking about all these things that we did, just you know, us, like we interviewed every person, right? We hired every person we handled all the HR, we handled all the finance and we reached that point where we couldn’t do it all so we had to really let go of it and bring people in that specialized in that and knew how to do it. And so it’s still a transition I’d say that’s still going on right? It’s even now that we’re at 70 employees. It takes time and we’re building up the internal processes and you know the things that need to be in place to make sure that.

 

Laure

Everybody knows what they need to be doing without Todd and I personally talking to them about it every day. Yes, right? Yes.

Todd Fisher

Which we’d still enjoy doing. It’s just that there are not enough hours in the day. 

 

Laure

Yeah and you know it’s also like I think one of the big transitions that happened then too is as a company the runup to you know, 50 employees. You know it was all about just growing right? It was all about you know, bring in more customers, grow revenue grow grow grow, and at that point we also had to start thinking about like, well, wait a minute, h many customers do we actually keep? What does our churn look like, you know how much does it cost to support a customer and how do we make sure that we’re really fulfilling the promise that we’re making in sales conversations? 

 

Laure

So we invested a lot of resources in Customer success, you know as we were crossing 50 employees and really turning attention to the post-sales process and how do we actually keep customers and getting a handle on what does Churn look like at different points in the customer journey and so that was definitely a transition for us as a company too and the way that we all thought it wasn’t just about selling right, It was also about supporting customers and really growing them and helping to grow their business.

 

Courtney

It’s cool how you can put like an actual number right on when you felt that transition occur at that 50 employee mark when you were like with 50 employees, we can’t wear every hat. It’s just not possible. It’s neat you can kind of you know. But obviously, you know our employees and our office culture have played a huge role in our growth trajectory So can you talk a little bit more you know about our hybrid office, our emphasis on diversity, and our hiring strategy? How has all of that kind of played into how we’ve grown?

 

Todd Fisher

I think if you think about the beginning of covid when we went fully remote and then when we decided to come back. We decided to make this investment in this office space. You know we reflected a lot on what that would look like and and and how to make that important like. I think the idea is that we all come back together on the same days, if you recall we kind of experimented a little bit where we said “Hey, it’s up to individuals to decide what days of the week they want to come back or not” and we quickly we noticed that like we would be back in the old office when we were on different floors too and it was easier or more common just to stay at your desk and zoom to meetings with people right because half the team was remote that day so it kind of was like, well let’s just everyone get on a virtual meeting and so when we made the decision to buy this office and bring everyone back into the office and in a hybrid capacity as we’ve done. I think one of the really important things we did is we said hey let’s make sure that we’re all back in the office on the same days right? That way days that we’re here it’s actually really meaningful to be in person together so we could do things together and I think that was one of the best decisions we made. I mean, was it an easy decision, no, but if you think about it from an impact perspective and a communication with your peers perspective, like, you get better interactions when you’re all together than when you’re like half in the room and half not in the room and so of course I mean we do have remote employees and so it’s not you know, perfect? Ah, but I think it’s a pretty good approximation for that because the other thing I wanted to get was this feeling of you’re in a conference. Right? What’s that energy you have when you go to a conference and there’s like it’s the beginning of the conference and everyone’s really hyped up about it and they’re excited about what’s happening. You know that energy you share with the other people at the conference and I always kind of thought when we come back to the office I want us to feel like that and so actually I feel like we’ve maybe kind of gotten close to that because being in the office three days a week means that you know there’s plenty of recoup time and then you know it’s a little bit more high energy. Maybe when we’re together in the office than it was previously where it was five days and you know get kind of worn out so I don’t know that’s my thoughts on that and there’s more right? So diversity and how we make sure we hire you know in an unbiased way with you know I think has been really important to what do you think, Laure?

 

Laure

Yeah you know we think about the evolution of our culture. It’s interesting that you know when we were small every person we hired was forming the culture right? It was you know each person we brought in was kind of making the culture and especially when we were small. It felt like almost kind of a group of friends working together right? Because a lot of our hires were referrals somebody knew somebody. You know it was a very kind of homogeneous group in a way and we all you know we all kind of work together almost like friends working together. 

And we didn’t really define our culture because it was really just you know each of us was kind of defining it as we go and so you know across the past few years we’ve had to really regularly actually just kind of talk about our culture and talk about what it is and to recognize that it continues to evolve. And as you move from the startup to growth phase it’s how do you hold onto those the nuggets of what was really special about you when you were in that startup phase and bring them forward through this growth phase.  Some of it has to go. You know when we the first time we put together our values it’s funny because when we look at them now we all kind of laugh, because when we first put them together we thought they were great. You know we were 15 employees putting together our values. We’re like yes, this is these are awesome and you know as we looked at them then like three years later we’re like oh.

 

Courtney

Yeah, for sure.

 

Laure

Yeah, like they had profanity in them like what were we thinking?  And so each time we look at it we have a slightly different perspective because our culture’s evolved and the world around us has evolved but there’s these nuggets of things that.

 

Laure

Each time we evolve them, they stay true. You know things like innovation and the purpose that we work with and you know are the focus on our customers. Those things stay through. It’s just we think about them in slightly different ways.  I think the other thing is you know we never talked about culture when we hired people, we just kind of threw them in and like hey you know get to know everybody? And now we have to be more purposeful when we talk about the culture. We teach them about the culture. We tell them the history of how we got there and why each value is really important as we think about our mission. We can’t just assume that everybody can kind of put those pieces together. We have to really you know, educate people on them and why they’re important to us so that’s definitely been something. That’s different, and then on diversity, you know as we grew so organically right? like I said like it was referrals. It was. I know somebody used to work with them five years ago yeah they might be good. You know it was a very very kind of organic way that we hired people Todd and I interviewed every single person, we just waited for people to come to us right? You know we’d post something wait for them to come to us. And now you know our hiring process is so different now where. We’re really you know we’re reaching out to the people that we think are the right people for this role and you know sourcing candidates in a whole different way and also being purposeful in how we hire from the perspective of diversity because if you just kind of hire all your friends you’re not going to have a diverse group of opinions necessarily coming into the organization and as we think about our mission is so focused on our customers and their customers like that’s a very diverse group that we’re trying to serve so we have to be a diverse company in order to be able to effectively support our customers and to to keep that pace of innovation. So we have to as a company make that transition where we were purposefully thinking about our hiring and making sure that we were. Reflecting a diverse group of candidates even kind of coming into the hiring pipeline so that we ultimately get to the right decisions that are a diverse group of people coming into the company. So it definitely was a different way of thinking like when you first start out, you want the easy path with hiring where you’re like oh yeah I know this guy let’s just bring him in it’ll be easy, you know, we don’t have to have a recruiter just let’s just bring them in. Hopefully, it works out where now we really think like who’s the best person for this role and what do they bring to the organization and it’s been great to see. I commend our HR team they’ve done a fantastic job with it across the past couple of years.

 

Courtney

Yeah I think what’s so special about our culture is that it’s very healthy. It’s very positive and I think that’s a tribute to  the fact that you as leaders are constantly looking at our values and our mission and just making sure that they evolve as we evolve and we change and I think too a huge part of our culture is is the diversity right? Having so many diverse opinions and ideas. It’s just been very kind of exciting to watch and see change as time goes on. So what are the top 3 pieces of advice you would give to other startups looking to reach a new level of growth?

 

Todd Fisher

Shoot for the moono, if you miss you’ll land among the stars. Never surrender! I mean there is something to it. You just never give up and always be listening to the customer and the most important part of your business from the perspective of you have a business because of them. And focus on your employees there, too. They’re going to make the business and your customers happy. Know they’re the most important asset you have. I’m sure Laurie you have some really good thoughts on this too.

 

Laure

I think invest in people who have done this before and is really important, especially for those areas you know as you’re moving from startup to growth. There are those areas that you naturally like and I naturally gravitate towards certain things in the organization that is just kind of like our backgrounds and kind of what we’re most comfortable with and so I think you need to to make sure that you’re investing in people who have done this before who can build departments and who can build up teams.  You know they’ve seen companies grow and that might be kind of uncomfortable right? Because if you thinking about coming out of this startup phase and like you’ve called all the shots right? You know every decision you’ve made, you know you’ve called all the shots. You know you’re the ultimate authority and you’re going to have to bring people in that are going to come maybe with challenging opinions and might push you in different directions and you have to be open to that as a leader to just recognize you don’t know all the answers for this. There’s no way you can do it all so you’ve got to bring in people who have done it before and it might be uncomfortable because they’re going to be pushing you. And directions that maybe you don’t even want to be pushed in, the other thing would be I’d say and I’ve said this before but I think it’s really important to define your culture early and often like I said we went through the first exercise I think we were maybe like fifteen-twenty people when we first defined our culture.

 

And it almost kind of felt silly then we’re like why we all work with so well together, why do we have to be talking about this? We all know what we’re doing but it’s interesting even when you’re super small going through that conversation because you’re like wait a minute you actually have a totally different idea of what we’re doing than I do. Right? You know you’ll see differences in the way that people approach them and that might be fine when you’re 15 people if that’s not okay when you’re 5,000 people like you you really need to all come together and have a consensus around what it is that you’re trying to do so define it even though it might seem like It’s like ah you know is this really a good use of everybody’s time it is really important to keep defining it because it is going to keep evolving and if people are not bought into it. It can cause big problems for the company, and then the last thing I would say is have cash built up. You know, coming out of the startup phase you run lean right? And it’s when you get into the growth phase you’re going to have to make investments as a company that are big for the company of your size you’re going to have to invest in systems and software and in people that maybe feel like a little ahead the curve right? Like, why are we spending so much money on you know this ERP system, we don’t need this, but we’re going to need it in a few years and it takes years to get it where it needs to be, so you have to be flexible. 

 

Todd Fisher

Well and it’s easier to do it now when you’re small before it’s totally established and it will be later So there’s that too.

 

Laure

Yes, and it might feel like overkill, but have the resources and the financial flexibility to make those investments that might feel a little ahead and I think that’s where a lot of people often will get to the point where they’re like I can’t do this I have to reach I have to go to a third-party investor or I have to go to a bank. And so if you maintain that flexibility yourself. You don’t necessarily have to do that and so you know you have if you have that cushion built up where you can kind of get ahead of yourself a little bit to make those investments they will pay off in the long run for sure because you’re going to be operating that much more efficiently and it’ll allow you to grow faster in the long run.

 

Todd Fisher

Which is counter to what a lot of people here in Silicon Valley startups where they’re saying you know, spend spend spend you know, lean lean lean reinvest everything, how do you avoid keeping any cash on hand is what you constantly hear from the Silicon Valley startups at least.

 

Laure

So those are big things.

 

Courtney

For sure.

 

Todd Fisher

I was out there talking with folks and that was what they always told me their biggest issue was, but then that short-sightedness meant that they would just need to continue to raise more money right to continue to grow to where you want to go.

 

Courtney

Yeah, that’s a good perspective for sure and those are 3 great pieces of advice. So just to recap, you said invest in people who you know have built things before, like departments and companies. Define your culture early and often, constantly be thinking about your culture and asking how it’s going to change and evolve as the company grows and have the cash built up to prepare for those investments that are going to come as you enter that next phase of growth I think those are all really really great. Great takeaways for our listeners. , so you know it’s been an exciting challenging crazy fun positive year for us. What’s next?

 

Todd Fisher

I mean hope hopefully more of the same right? You know I think we’re going to continue to push the envelope with the product, we’re going to continue to innovate on the product, we’re going to continue to listen to what the customers need, evolving with them, you know I still am looking forward to those moments where I can be put on a phone call and somebody explaining what they need and I could say ah well yeah, we have that already, you just click this button and push that button and voila, but it’s still always very exciting when you know you’re like oh we haven’t quite solved that problem the best way yet. So then it becomes a fun challenge right? To figure out how to do that, and then you know we overcome it right? One way or another and then I think our people right? We’re going to continue to grow this team and you know we’ve already hired a handful of people this year and their onboarding has started. I think I think it’s going to be pretty exciting.

Courtney

All right? So further investments in people and the product.

 

Laure

And we’ve got our new partner ecosystem that we launched late last year last fall that’s going to continue to roll out this year, so lots of exciting things going on for our agency partners and our solution partners and integration partners and marketplaces coming. There’s I’m really excited about think there are so so many interesting things that we can do to help them grow their businesses and get you to know  CallTrackingMetrics and even get more and more value from it. So I think there are lots of interesting things that we’ll be doing on that front this year and also to get ahead and get that money.

 

Todd Fisher

I think bringing I was gonna say bringing people here to the office and having some gatherings where we can meet with these customers and partners in person and you know collaborate on site. Yeah sorry, Laurie Enterprise yeah

 

Laure

Yeah, an enterprise that’s something else that you know is something that we’re as a company you know spending a lot of time working on is building up our suite of offerings for enterprise customers. Because they need things that are slightly different from our small businesses that might be customers of ours and so how do we make sure that we’ve got the right level of support for them. The right pricing options. You know the right contracts the right you know, just making sure that we got all the pieces that they need compliance, that we’re working on to make sure that we’re ready to support them and so we’ve got some wonderful enterprise customers now. We have a whole team now that’s dedicated to enterprise customers and we’re relaunching our premier support offering, which is our kind of top tier support for our enterprise customers that need dedicated support, we’ve got a great team working on providing you know those services for our enterprise customers.

 

Courtney

Very cool that sounds like we’re just kind of taking everything to the next level we’re going to continue to invest in people, our product, our support teams which we know are just you know the best in in the industry and continue to kind of expand in new cllient strategies around partnership and Enterprise and just kind of dive into some new ways of nurturing and growing relationships there. All very exciting stuff and it’s been truly fun to be a part of the ride.

 

Courtney

So before we wrapped everything up Laurie and Todd is there anything else, you’d like to plug.

 

Todd Fisher

I mean I think I think we have some pretty cool speech analytics on the roadmap for this year as well. Pretty excited about that. It’s on you know on the horizon.

 

Courtney

Always the highly requested feature very cool that and automation of course so all good stuff and as you said before Todd. Always always listen to our customers about how we can get better so feedback’s always appreciated.

 

Todd Fisher

Yes, yes, yes, yes.

 

Courtney

Well thank you, Laure and Todd, we appreciate you taking the time to  to share part 2 of your story. Your journey has really been incredible and, of course, I wish you all the best moving forward. 

 

Laure

Yeah, thanks for having us.

 

Courtney

Thank you to our listeners too for your support keep in touch with us on Twitter at SmartRoutepod also be sure to subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts. You’d be the first one to know when our next episode drops and that’s it for SmartRoute episode 13. We’ll talk to you soon! Thank you.

 

Laure

Thank you.

 

Todd Fisher

Thank you.

 

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