In this article by Forbes, Mary interviews entrepreneur Austin where he talks about [Persistence] A Trait Successful Entrepreneurs Have.
Over the years, I have met some founders with grit and the ability to persevere, and Austin Rolling, the founder and CEO of Outfield, is no exception. Austin, like many, had dreams of being an entrepreneur from a young age. But after earning an MBA, he watched his classmates get six figure jobs while he earned $12 an hour at Sports Authority.
When launching a company of his own, he went into foreclosure on his home and his car was repossessed. So Austin found himself homeless and carless while trying to hold onto the vision of his company. Austin utilized several different tactics to remain positive and persist through the challenges. Today, those lessons continue to impact him as he runs a successful business in Outfield, a web and mobile-based CRM and field sales application for organizations who compete through outside sales and marketing teams. Founded in March 2015 in Bryan, Texas, the platform currently serves companies worldwide. Austin’s approach includes focusing on mental health as a key to success, encouraging failure, and more.
Mary Juetten: What problem are you solving?
Austin Rolling: Outfield was built to address the data needs of organizations that rely on outside sales and marketing teams. Managers of field sales teams struggle to know where their reps are actually going, how long they are spending at stops and the quality of the visits they are making. Outfield helps managers track reps and centralize data from their work. For the reps, we are helping them become better organized and equipping them to become productive in their field activities.
Juetten: Who are your customers and how do you find them?
Rolling: We sell to companies that utilize outside sales and marketing teams. We currently have around 200 enterprise customers in nearly 80 countries around the world. We have gained a large number of customers through inbound leads that stem from the online presence we have built. We follow up on those leads with discovery calls to learn how we can be of solution to prospective customers. In markets where we receive inbound leads that turn into closed deals, we turn around and market to those regions, leveraging referrals, customer testimonies, and digital advertising.
Juetten: How did past projects and/or experience help with this new project?
Rolling: My experience working in various outside sales roles helped inspire the idea for Outfield. I saw firsthand the need for technology that is built specifically for the workflow of outside sales. While my cofounder and I were building Outfield, I was actually working in an outside sales role. This helped me to understand the nuances of the industry and build a product better suited to meet those needs.
My past failures taught me a lot and really shaped my approach to this project. I had tried starting multiple companies, individually, and with my co-founder. They all failed. The major reasons being poor execution, lack of resources, or weak market conditions. As I launched Outfield, I knew I needed to focus on building the best product I could, developing a solid infrastructure around me, and then we could start really marketing our product.
Continue reading [Persistence] A Trait Successful Entrepreneurs Have below…
Juetten: Who is on your team?
Rolling: I started the company with Adam Steele, a former aerospace engineer, who now serves as the Chief Technical Officer. The core of our team was built with talented business and engineering minds that attended Texas A&M University. Currently, we have a team of 17 employees including marketing, sales, developers, and data scientists.
Juetten: Did you raise money?
Rolling: Outfield is completely bootstrapped. In the beginning years, I was not even on the payroll, as we focused on putting every dollar earned back into the company.
Juetten: Startups are an adventure — what’s your favorite startup story?
Rolling: One of my favorite parts of being an entrepreneur and working with Outfield are the brainstorming sessions I have with my team. We are constantly looking to solve problems and make an impact on the world through our creativity.
One particular weekend night several years ago, members of our core team were together over drinks and started to apply our imagination to how we could create a better experience for the sales reps who were using our platform in a way that would position their company towards increased productivity. Naturally, all of us being sports fans thought to create a program that aligned with sales rep’s competitive side and natural inclination to promote. After more drinks, our dialogue went further into the direction of the already established brand positioning of Outfield – the marriage of sports and sales. That night began the discourse of what is now a common phrase around the office – “Sales is a Sport”.
I love that we were able to explore our imagination and desire to drive value over some drinks. Our conversation led to what is now officially called League Play, which a gamification program built into Outfield designed to serve as a platform to drive competition and productivity among sales rep. We believe sales reps viewing themselves in a similar way to athletes will be a big hit moving into the future.
Juetten: How do you measure success and what is your favorite success story?
Rolling: According to research conducted by Berkeley, Stanford, and Steve Blank, most startups (including those that raised VC funding) fail within 3 years. We are heading into our 6th and with no VC or angel backing. Not knocking companies that leveraged those options, but I think it’s a testament to how talented our team is and how hard we work. I am most proud of how far we’ve come while facing all the obstacles that commonly impede progress for startups.
Juetten: Any tips to add for early-stage founders?
Rolling: When I was trying to get Outfield off the ground, I was in a really difficult place in life – I had just lost my home and my car. It takes faith to be a founder. You have to believe something will happen even when you don’t see it at the present moment. I knew I had a vision for my company, and that kept me going. From my circumstances, I realized the importance of managing my mental health. Find things that help you shift your perspective and keep you positive, whether that be exercise, reading, or listening to music. If you are leading a team, they are going to take their cues from you. So display confidence and positivity to your team, and they will begin to follow.
Juetten: And of course, any IP horror stories to share (they can be anonymous)?
Rolling: Yes. We didn’t learn until four and half years into business that another company owned our name in our specific trademark class. They either were waiting for an opportune time to exploit their rights, or they were unaware that we existed. Either way, our lack of due diligence in this category taught a valuable lesson around protecting your brands. Protect your IP early. Otherwise, you may end up paying a hefty penalty. In our case, six figures to own our name. Ouch!
Juetten: What’s the long-term vision for your company?
Rolling: Currently, our focus is on expanding our product suite. We want to continue developing solutions to help field sales and marketing teams better execute. This includes two major focus areas. The first is gamification, which is the idea of taking the element of games (competition, incentives, etc.) and applying it to the sales world. The millennial generation thrives on competition. As they take over the workforce, gamification will become an increasingly beneficial strategy to motivate employees and boost their performance. In light of this, we have created a platform where reps can compete against coworkers and even other professionals outside their companies. The idea is to create a community that spurs competition. The second area of focus is data. Businesses are going to have to become smarter about the decisions they make, which will lead to more and more companies relying on their data. As a sales tool, we want to provide data-driven insights directly to users through our platform.
As a founder, I think sales are a very hard sport and not one that I enjoy. However, the lessons above are universal for all startups. #onwards.
Source: Persistence Wins: Outfield
Thanks for reading this Forbes article by Mary and for reading [Persistence] A Trait Successful Entrepreneurs Have.