SaaS Capital CEO Series: Scott Shickler from 7 Mindsets Discusses Growth and Building a Strong Culture
In this conversation with Scott Shickler, CEO and founder of 7 Mindsets, we discuss the obstacles of growing a SaaS business from zero to $10M in ARR, and the importance of building and maintaining a strong culture at work – the kind of culture that keeps your employees. 7 Mindsets provides the industry leading social emotional learning curriculum for school systems around the United States. Key points about Scott’s experience:
- 7 Mindsets has been doubling in size year over year by expanding existing accounts and landing new customers.
- In the last 5 years, 7 Mindsets has experienced zero resignations.
- As a serial entrepreneur, Scott has experienced selling too soon and selling too late.
The “TL;DR” (too long; didn’t read) version of the conversation is:
- There is a “just right” combination of growth, timing, and capital sources that lead to the best outcome.
- Growing your customer base in the early years is tough, and you need to be creative. You’re not always going to have the right customers out of the gate.
- Tracking gross and net retention is key; but you need to allow some forgiveness in the early years. This is when you’re learning what your product needs to do in the marketplace and who will benefit from using it.
- Figure out where your leads are coming from – that is how you determine where to spend your marketing dollars.
- The sophistication and reliability of forecasting should get better over time. Once you know an appropriate sales quota and ramp time, you can create a predictable budget.
- It’s all about your people. Culture is everything. Having the requisite skillset matters, but if an employee doesn’t fit into the culture, it slows everyone down. The team is the secret sauce.
- Connect your business to something bigger – define the impact that your company is making. This is what makes people want to come to work. The impact then influences product design and development. Even if your company sells a solution that doesn’t have an obvious “feel good” impact like 7 Mindsets, try reframing the problem you’re solving.
- Personal and professional development should be woven into the culture. Celebrate successes. 7 Mindsets does this on a weekly basis, recognizing the double impact of landing an account – how many students and educators will be impacted?
- Ensure that each team member knows the value of their contribution. Their DNA is on the company’s success, and the team needs to be operating at its best for the company to achieve its full potential.
- 1:53 – Scotts’ experience in growing companies from 0 to $10M in ARR
- 3:52 – Can you tell us about the growth of your previous businesses?
- 8:06 – What challenges were unique to companies in this growth stage?
- 10:35 – SaaS is full of metrics. What do you think are the most important top two or three that have mattered to you?
- 14:57 – In the early stage, $0-$3M, what did forecasting look like?
- 17:00 – What is your biggest mistake, best thing you’ve learned?
- 18:20 – How strong the culture is at 7MS – not a single resignation in 5 years. Is that your secret? Cultural fit and maintaining it?
- 19:56 – How do you maintain culture as you grow, WFH, great resignation?
- 23:48 – You’re not just an entrepreneur, you’re an author and you have experience in the nonprofit world. Do you think that lens has shaped the way you’ve been as a leader in shaping culture?
- 27:42 – What’s next?
You can view previous conversations with Andre Lavoie, CEO of ClearCompany, about strategies for scaling from $3 million in ARR to $30 million in ARR, and Julie Rieken of Trakstar, about growth through acquisition. In future conversations, we will cover fundraising, developing channel partnerships, instituting a customer success organization, and more.