In this interview, I’m talking with Josh Melick. He is a co-founder and CEO of Broadly, a company that’s raised more than $20M to build tools that help businesses better communicate with their customers. He is an engineer by trade and previously was in executive leadership at Intuit and AT&T. I first came across his blog, which caught my eye with some pretty impressive startup numbers, so I wanted to learn more. So here are a few highlights from our 45-minute conversation.

On growing an early customer base:

“Once you have the initial product-market fit, then the hard part of actually building a business begins.”

“We had this vision of helping small businesses to help their customers, but that doesn’t necessarily mean anything unless you have the right product. We dove deep into understanding our customers, who they are, how they work, what their problems are.”

“Once we built something that solved a pain point for them, then it was about getting out and marketing and distributing that product. And that required a lot of repetitive outreach and sales.”

On business mentors:

“I learned a ton from those guys, particularly about transparency and authenticity, which I think is important given our type of service.”

“We’re not selling widgets; we’re solving problems for small businesses…which means that our success is going to be dependent on the strength of those relationships.”

On his favorite sales tool:

“We’re a data-driven sales team, and we use a lot of different technologies. But I am a big fan of manual labor, so old fashion phone calls and meetings are critical too.”

On company culture:

“We want to attract and retain the best talent we can, and we think both performance and culture play a big role in that.”

“If you’re not culturally aligned with who we are, then there’s no sense of trying to make it work. So we turned down candidates because they weren’t willing to go “all-in.”

“We’re more of a high-performance sports team than we are a family business. We’re more like the San Francisco 49’ers…and we want everyone to be on board with that.”

On his three keys to success:

“Be obsessive about solving your customer’s problem. On the other hand, they have empathy for what they go through every day. Be transparent. And last but not least, be honest with yourself and the people around you.”

On the first steps he took when starting their company:

“I had this belief in myself that I wanted to do something entrepreneurial…and then it was about really educating myself on how you build a business.”

“For the first six months, it’s all about learning. After that, you’re seeking out mentors who can teach you what they’ve learned. Of course, there are different schools of thought on this, but I think it’s crucial to surround yourself with people who know what they’re doing.”

“I was very much in the camp of, “go deep vs. wide”…I knew enough to start Broadly, but I left a pretty cushy job at Intuit to try and figure this out, so it was sink or swim.”

On advice to new entrepreneurs:

“Take action, don’t be afraid of it. Because the more you do that, the better off you’ll be. Everything is learnable.”

“There will always be some fear around it…but if there’s something inside of you, like wanting to create something or wanting to solve a customer’s problem…then I would say do it. The only way you’ll learn is by actually doing something.”

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