Think like a Founder, it’s more powerful than you realize

Jen Spencer

Have you ever heard someone say “ownership mentality”?

It’s common in the startup world, but most people don’t realize how powerful it can truly be. Thinking and acting like a Founder is a must-have when looking to join an early-stage startup.

Jen Spencer, CEO of SmartBug Media, joined me on The Startup Sidekick podcast to talk all about her journey. From inbound lead gen expert to leading sales & marketing teams to CEO, Jen has done it all.

Whether you’re looking to join a startup for the first time or make a leap to another opportunity, Jen explains the difference between the different stages of startups and where you might fit best based on your personality & work ethic.

Read the Podcast Transcript

Clare Dobson (00:01):
Hello everyone. I’m Claire Dobson. And boy do I have an incredible guest on today’s episode. If you’re interested in startups and looking to grow and scale a company, then this episode’s gonna be a must listen, our guest has made a huge impact in the sales and marketing world, especially when it comes to inbound marketing. She’s currently the CEO of Smart Bug Media and has really been through it all when it comes to startups. So everybody, please say hi to Jen Spencer. Jen, please say hi.

Jen Spencer (00:34):
Hello. Hi everyone. Hi Claire.

Clare Dobson (00:37):
Good to have you. I’m excited for this. Jen, I’ve read a lot about you. I’ve heard a lot about you, so we’re gonna dive in and get to down to the nitty gritty.

Jen Spencer (00:45):

Clare Dobson (00:47):
Okay, so let’s talk about, I mean, we go to your LinkedIn page. I mean, you’ve been everywhere from nonprofits to director to VP level, now ceo. What is something that your LinkedIn might not tell us about you?

Jen Spencer (01:00):
Um, let’s see. So it would not tell you that, uh, I just moved my twin boys into college last month. Cool. Cool. Uh, so I, I went from my husband and I went from, um, having a full house to being empty nesters and, uh, and so one is at University of Arizona in Tucson as a pre-business major, and the other one is that ASU Polytechnic campus studying graphic information technology with a focus in user experience. So Wow.

Clare Dobson (01:31):
Lots of changes.

Jen Spencer (01:33):
Yeah. Yeah.

Clare Dobson (01:34):
That’s exciting. Well, that’s awesome. I, I mean, I’m, so, I went to uba, so I’m definitely a big, big fan of, but Yes. You know, so, Alright, let’s dive into the good stuff. Let’s, I mean, we talked about in our, our pre-meeting, we were talking about net time solutions mm-hmm. , and that’s kind of what really got things started for you. So can you talk a little bit about your role and just maybe how scaling and growing that type of company as, I think there was about 30 employees when you joined versus later on when you were top five employees and all of that. So let’s start there.

Jen Spencer (02:09):
Yeah, absolutely. So, yeah, I think net, the net time experience was a really pivotal part of my, of my career because I, and the organization was at a, at a really cool point in for them mm-hmm. . So they had built a standalone SaaS solution, um, that previously their product had only really been sold through distributors. Um, and done, you know, in conjunction with payroll systems or, um, H R I S systems because it was a time and attendance solution. They built something that really could, could, um, integrate with any other kind of platform. So you could be like payroll or H R I S agnostic. And the founder and CEO brought me in and said, I wanna bring you in mm-hmm. actually before I hire a new a sales leader and give you a couple of months to ramp marketing. And, and, and, and he, you know, said, I have a million dollars to spend on marketing and I want you to tell us how we should do that. So, really cool opportunity, um,

Clare Dobson (03:19):
. Yeah. Very, you

Jen Spencer (03:20):
Know, very unique and having done a lot of my homework research, you know, especially at other organizations on the inbound methodology and on HubSpot’s product offering, and this is back in 2013, I knew exactly what I wanted to roll out. And so implemented, uh, HubSpot implemented an inbound marketing strategy, built a team, and, uh, really started to generate inbound leads for that sales team. And so it went from feeding a sales team of four people with inbound leads to feeding a sales team of 19 all within a year. Um, and, and we had, there was a, a timeframe of like a three to five year kind of trajectory for mm-hmm. to try to become acquired, um, to package the company for sale. And after a year, actually paychecks, uh, came knocking on our door and, and wanted to acquire us. And so then got a, you know, we, we ran so quickly and got a really got a chance to, to take that company through acquisition, which was an extraordinary opportunity.

Clare Dobson (04:24):
That’s incredible. Did you, so when you entered in, when you got brought on, did you already have this like confidence, like, this is what I’m gonna do I got this? Or did you have any of that, like hesitation when, you know, you usually join and get this big opportunity?

Jen Spencer (04:40):
Mm. Well, I think I, I, well, I didn’t understand the time and attendance space. I did understand that by a persona, that HR leader, um, and that we were, we were selling to from okay. Experience at, at past companies. Um, and I understood that the problem that we were solving for that persona mm-hmm. , um, was significant in the organization, had a financial impact. Um, and I understood behaviorally how to target different individuals depending on really who they were. Mm-hmm. the role that the payroll manager played in that process of selecting the time and attendance solution, the role that the HR leader played, the role that the, the CFO played, the CIO played. And I, what I did is I actually had asked our founder for time, um, weekly, and it started off on these 30 minute sessions where I just wanted these brain dumps from her might, initial intention was, I wanna learn from you and like, create content and then re and kind of publish that under your brand.

Jen Spencer (05:48):
What it end ended up actually happening is we would meet for hours or hours at a time, and he really taught me the key differences between our technology and our competitor’s technology. But, but really it’s like, I just knew based off of the problem we were solving and what the sales motion was going to be, I knew that inbound was gonna work or my, my gut, you know, everything. I, all of the data and my gut instinct said inbound was gonna work, and, and we really got early traction. And so it didn’t take long to start to see those results, um, kind of, which just enabled us to expand our efforts and invest a little bit more of the strategy.

Clare Dobson (06:31):
Yeah, absolutely. So when you, Cause so let’s transition to Allbound a little bit, will kind of play off both. So it all bounds, you were one of the first employees right? Really early stage, there was so much opportunity, there was a lot of risk too. Yeah. I mean, how did you feel after you had a success making that step over it? Allbound.

Jen Spencer (06:53):
So I think if we ac we actually go back even further in my career. Yeah. I have had a mantra of always, you know, taking some risks and, um, and, and being prepared to fall back on myself. So when I started my career, I was a high school English and drama teacher. Okay. Um, I move, I was happy, I was successful and, but I had an opportunity to join, um, a non-profit professional regional theater company and get, and that’s how I ended up getting into sales and marketing. And I thought, Well, I’m gonna try this and if it doesn’t work, I know I can always teach mm-hmm. and, and I got into marketing, and then my first opportunity even kind of getting into software, it’s like the same thing. It’s the same idea. Like, well, I know I can do these things mm-hmm. , so I’m just gonna keep building, building on these skills.

Jen Spencer (07:46):
So when I was, when I was at Paychecks, you know, which was a nearly $2 billion company, and I had, I had all these opportunities I could have grown within that organization mm-hmm. , at one point I was at this, this where I, I had like five or six job offers. Right. Wow. Or opportunities I could I path that could go down. Yeah. And there were like four of them that were like very like, well, this is exactly what you’re gonna get out of this. Like, I could see, I could see the Yeah. Right. Um, very, very safe. Um, but with Allbound it was, it was really early, it was new, it was pre-product, pre-revenue, which means it was people with an idea and like a little bit of like, maybe some like seed money. Right.

Clare Dobson (08:33):
. Um,

Jen Spencer (08:34):
And, but it was the thing that I, I just, I, I thought, I’m gonna regret it in my career if I don’t try this and if it doesn’t work, I know I am good at all these other things. Like I know I can kind of fall back on myself. Yeah. So, so that was so that, you know, eliminated some of that, that risk kind of for me. But it, it also, I understood, I I I tried to understand, you know, what the founders, the co-founders, um, point of view was mm-hmm. , what they were, what, how they were trying to be disruptive in this space. I had lived the life of the persona that they were planning to sell a product too. So I understood the value. So I didn’t see it as being extraordinarily risky because Okay. I believed in what the product was aiming to do and the, like, the problem was looking to solve mm-hmm. , um, what was risky was, of course, it was so early stage, right? Yeah. And like, were we gonna succeed or not? Um, but you know, if I if you don’t take risks in your career, you, you, you never know, right? Yeah. And I was in a position where I felt like, okay, we could, we could take a risk.

Clare Dobson (09:44):
Yeah. And do you, do you think that’s something inherent that you’ve always been driven to that, like risks taking, like from when you were a kid and growing up? Or is that something you learned along the way in your career?

Jen Spencer (09:57):
Hmm. I think I’ve always been ambitious. Okay. So I’ve always been, um, I think if you, if you were to like, kind of think back, if I think back to report cards from, even as early as elementary school, the teacher would always say I had a hunger for knowledge, a hunger to learn. I also, you’d see it would say that I talk too much,

Jen Spencer (10:19):
In class. But, um, I, I honestly think I was talking to people around me about whatever we were learning. I think I just was so excited about whatever, whatever that was we were talking about. Um, but, but I think that hunger was sort of innate. Yeah. Um, but also, I mean, I definitely, my family experienced some tragedy, um, in, in, uh, the fall of, of 2001. My younger brother passed away, um, from a fairly short battle with cancer. And, you know, and when that happens, some something like that happens in your life, you realize how precious kind of your life is and not just squander opportunities. And, you know, maybe may put me in a position where I was more open to taking risks mm-hmm. . Um, because, you know, I felt, well, this is my chance. Right. Yeah.

Clare Dobson (11:11):
Yeah. Well, I’m very sorry to hear that about your younger brother, but it’s, I think for everybody listening, there’s always some, someone has some tragedy that happens in their life, the scale can be different, but I think the lesson is taking it and learning from it and figuring out how you can make what you have better off. Right. And I think you’ve absolutely done that. And I know your little brother would be proud.

Jen Spencer (11:38):
Yeah. Thank you. Thank you. Of

Clare Dobson (11:40):
Course. I mean, as, so when you’re looking at Allbound and you made that risk, like, do you think when someone else is looking to join a startup, and maybe they’ve never, maybe, maybe their version of a startup is 30 to 50 employees, Right? They’ve never truly been an early stage employee, but they get this opportunity. Do you think there’s certain characteristics that they have to have in order to be successful?

Jen Spencer (12:07):
Yes, I do. Um, and I used to make a joke around the, the Allbound office that, um, people think they wanna work for a startup, but they, but they really just wanna wear flip flops to work . Um, and we’d always try to like weed those folks out because it, it’s, it’s, it’s hard work, right? Yeah. Um, it’s, it’s, it can be a lot of fun. Um, and, but it also, it also is, is can be very, um, very taxing. Right? I think the benefits of working for a startup is that you’re gonna have the opportunity to get your hands on things that you never in a million years might have. Right. Um, so where I left an organiza, a large organization after we were acquired where there was someone who, there was someone in the company that all they did was launch emails. Like that’s it.

Jen Spencer (12:57):
Like that was their whole job. There was someone who all they did was monitor Twitter. Right. Bigger corporations are gonna have that kind of specialty. I was able to get really broad with my skills and really develop skills that I wouldn’t have had a chance to. Um, sometimes just for lack of, like, they’re not being anyone else to do it. So you’re just, you’re just kind of thrown in. Um, even you think, yes, I was responsible for sales when I was at Arizona Theater Company. Um, but it was a different kind of sale mm-hmm. than, it wasn’t, like, wasn’t a B2B sale. I wasn’t, the first time I was demoing software myself was at Allbound. And, you know, when I joined, I was originally asked to run marketing. I mean, I was applied for the job to run marketing. Yeah. And, and within the first week being on board, the, the, the CEO said, Hey, how about you do sales too, ?

Jen Spencer (13:47):
You know, I had never led, you know, like a, I mean, I had been adjacent to a b2b, uh, SaaS sales team, but never in that, in the driver’s seat of it. But startups are an extraordinary place to get experience. Same as non-profits. I mean, that’s how I grew over eight years in, in nonprofit at the theater company, was by always raising my hand, always saying, Hey, let me help you. Always asking, Hey, can I pull up a chair? Can I shadow you? And gosh, there’s just such extraordinary opportunity for growth in a startup like that.

Clare Dobson (14:23):
Yeah. So you have to be ambitious in wanting to learn. But also the other side is realizing that you might not be successful every day and there’s gonna be hard days. So learning how to balance both of those is, is very important.

Jen Spencer (14:39):
Absolutely. Absolutely.

Clare Dobson (14:41):
It’s very, it’s, it’s interesting to hear you describe it because it’s, I mean, this is my first startup working that worked at an agency before, so like, I kind of knew part of it mm-hmm. , but I never really was fully in my company. So this working net abstract has been my first one. And it’s exactly, I think as you explained it, like you always have to be ready to step up and help. And you learn, you learn every day there’s something new every day.

Jen Spencer (15:07):
That that’s the most important thing, Right. Is that you, And that’s where I think you can grow so quickly, where people have asked me, like over the years, like, how did you move so quickly up in your, like, your career trajectory? Mm-hmm. And it was like, it was, you know, being able, being in a position to raise my hand for things, to try things on, to get a sense of what I liked and maybe what I didn’t, um, and ugh, gosh, I start up is a great place. You just have to, to your point, like learn from every opor, learn from every, every interaction mm-hmm. that you have and, and iterate, um, all of your strategies and skills from there.

Clare Dobson (15:41):
Yeah. On that note, cause well now you’re a ceo, so now you have the other side of it. Yeah. But working with a founder, there’s just that different level of, I think, responsibility a founder takes on mm-hmm. , but still, as an early stage employee, yes, you get equity, but like, you’re not, it’s not the same. Right? Yeah. So working with a founder, did you have any issues with that? Or how did you navigate that path?

Jen Spencer (16:07):
Yeah. Um, I think it’s really important to understand that that founder, that this, the, the company is like their child, right? It’s like their baby. There’s probably a lot of their own, um, like capital fi, financial capital that they’ve put in and their own like sweat equity that they’ve put in. And so I think it’s really important to be able to empathize with a founder, uh, who’s leading an organization. Um, and, and so I think that’s, that’s kind of one thing is just understanding the human element of, of, of things. Um, I think it’s, it’s also really important to understand kind of their vision and like why they created this organization, why they created this product. And the more you can sort of tap into that and you can like, use it as part of your marketing and your sales, um, kind of talk tracks and the way you connect with customers is, is really important.

Jen Spencer (17:10):
So for me, I’ve always tried to just embody, like get put myself in that founder’s shoes. Okay. And to a point where almost every organization I’ve been at, I’ve been mistaken for being the founder of the organization because I just got really in lockstep with, with, with that, that the founder. Um, there can definitely be challenges sometimes, right? Because a founder might make more emotional decisions or kind of lean, have more emotional reactions mm-hmm. . Um, and so that’s why as when you’re like in the revenue side, you really have to understand your data, Okay. And, and, and use your data to have those type conversations with a founder. So you’re not gonna win a battle. Let’s, Okay. You’re not gonna win an emotional battle or like a point of view perspective battle. So they have a really strong point of view perspective, and that’s why the company exists, right? Mm-hmm. . And that’s why you’re, you have to be on board with what that perspective is and not try to change it. Um, but, but then if you feel things are not going the direction that, you know, the founder is wanting it to go, to have the data, to be able to support that conversation, I think is, is really important.

Clare Dobson (18:26):
That’s, that is valuable information that I, I haven’t heard yet, but everybody said it in a different way, but just putting it like, have the data, right? Yeah. If you want, if you wanna argue something, you’re not gonna win on a, you know, emotional level. I think that’s so true and it’s great, it’s great advice for anybody looking who’s maybe struggling with that as well. But I also think there’s the other side of it. And, and you have to think like a founder, exactly like you said, you have to put yourselves in the owner’s shoes and pretend that you’re have the same responsibility to be able to think that way. Cuz if you always say, Oh, well it’s theirs, or let them do it. Like its not a, we don’t wanna Yes. Man mentality, right? You have to be able to articulate and move the product forward. Yeah. Move the marketing, move the sales forward.

Jen Spencer (19:18):
Yeah. I think, um, non-profit really prepared me for that, honestly. I mean, I don’t know, I think this is just innate in me, but, but, but as a non-profit leader, you, I learned how important it was to treat every dollar as if it were your own. So every dollar spent, um, and we really lived that as an organization that was cash strapped and had, um, a community to re kind of, that were responsible for. Um, and, and like the same goes for, for a startup is if you treat every dollar like it’s coming out of your own checkbook, how does that shape the decision? Like the way you spend your time, the way you spend your budget, and having that, that perspective. And so I think early stage companies really need to have people who have that ownership mentality. Once you get to a certain size organization, you’re, you’re not gonna have that. You’re not gonna have, you know, 200, 300 people with that sort of ownership mentality. But early stage, when you’re, you know, below I think 20 or 30 people having everyone kind of have that sentiment, um, is it can be really powerful in helping propel the organization forward in a good way.

Clare Dobson (20:28):
Yeah, absolutely. How do you, how do you keep going in a sense of like how each time you keep pushing yourself for more, to take on more responsibility, Is that just, I mean you, or is there something that you feel like drives you to continue to push yourself for more?

Jen Spencer (20:50):
I think that’s, it’s part of it. It’s just me, right? Yeah. It’s, it’s, I I’m, I I love what I do. I have to love what I do. Yeah. I got, I love, I love what I do and I, and, and so it’s, it’s, it makes it, cuz there’s, there’s hard days, of course, you know, there’s challenges mm-hmm. , um, but you, but they’re all worth it because you, you’re passionate about the work that, that you’re doing and the team you, you represent and the team that you lead. Um, but, but so over my career it’s been, you know, I want to gain more business acumen. I wanna strengthen that business acumen. I want to learn mm-hmm. , I want to be able to answer questions. You know, I want to be able to help other businesses grow. Right? Um, so that was what propelled me forward, right?

Jen Spencer (21:39):
What motivated me to continue to grow and learn. And I always felt like knowledge was power, right? And like, um, and, and, and I could be a better leader and better asset to my team, the more I learned now in my seat, now I look at, I’m very proud of the culture we have as an organization at Smart Bug. We’re almost 200 people. And I see the way, our way of operating as a marketing agency is different from a lot of other agencies. I see the way we focus on our people and how us having happy employees leads to better client outcomes. I can see it. I have the data to prove it. Um, and so that makes me want to expand even more. That makes me want to grow from 200 employees to 300 to 500 to a thousand because I look at the good that we’re doing for our people and for our clients. And I just want more of that in the world.

Clare Dobson (22:40):
Yeah. Yeah. That’s awesome. I love that everybody should want more good in the world. So I’m glad you are spreading this.

Jen Spencer (22:48):

Clare Dobson (22:49):
Is there anything you would have done differently throughout your career or journey looking back?

Jen Spencer (22:57):
Mm. You know, I don’t, I don’t think so. I don’t think there’s, there’s nothing kind of big and glaring that’s like, well, I wish I would’ve taken this path or that mm-hmm. , um, uh, I think any of the things I wish I would’ve had, you know, more confidence or spoken up for myself, like there’s, I can think about instances throughout my career, but honestly I think it was too much to expect me to do anything different or say anything differently. Um, at that, at that stage, I think everything that’s happened has, it’s all really like fall fallen into place and this strategy of just trusting my instincts mm-hmm. kind of leaning into those, um, looking at, um, like what’s the best, like how do I make myself indispensable for the organization that I’m working at in that moment That has just paid off really well for me, uh, over, over my career. So, no, I don’t think I would’ve done anything majorly different. Right. I wish there’s times I can think, I wish I could have, knowing what I know now, given myself a little bit of advice or guidance, but

Clare Dobson (24:03):
Don’t we all, you

Jen Spencer (24:04):
Know? Yeah, for sure.

Clare Dobson (24:07):
So transitioning to, uh, CEO side now running the company, what are you, what skills or what qualities do you look for for on your leadership team?

Jen Spencer (24:20):
Um, on my leadership team, I’m looking for people with really strong business acumen, right? Mm-hmm. who maybe, you know, even if they don’t know the agency world that we have that we’re in, they understand the way we, they can wrap their head around the way we, um, make money the way we lose money, Right. What’s important drivers in our organization, the role that people play, that’s a really important thing because we are, our product is our people as a professional services organization. Yeah. So anyone on my executive team, whether they’re in finance or they’re in HR or they’re in technology, they really have to understand that mm-hmm. , um, that we’re not a machine, we are human beings that are producing work. So that, that’s a really important part of our culture and I, and really then what ends up differentiating us from our competitors.

Jen Spencer (25:13):
Yeah. Like even throughout that, that that sort of sales process. Um, so you would, you might look at the way that we roll out changes the way that we make announcements to our team and the way that we do it might probably feels really, really different from the way it would be done in an accounting firm. Even like something that would also be professional services mm-hmm. . So, so that, that part of it, the culture of who we are and understanding how to meet our team where they are and listen to them and take their feedback and adapt to that feedback that’s, that’s like a real top like intangible that I need to have on my executive team.

Clare Dobson (25:53):
Yeah. That’s huge. And it makes, it makes all the difference, especially with how big you, you guys are at 200 employees. Like, you have to have the culture emanate from everybody mm-hmm. and if, if it’s missing somewhere, you’re gonna see that dip and it all starts with the leadership, Right. And that Yep. Um, as they would say lead by example or you know, the, um, I can’t recall what Simon Sinek would call it, but I’ll remember it later. I

Jen Spencer (26:23):
Know. Well I know he has is his book Leaders Eat Last. Yep. Um, yep. Yeah. So I think that’s a piece of it too, is it’s a lot of our culture is built from like the bottom up. Like there’s top down, but a lot of it is bottom up mm-hmm. and, and being able to kind of embrace that and giving the team kind of the space and flexibility to be able to be, be additive to our culture and having an executive team that, that embraces that as opposed to more of a, um, old fashioned way of thinking of everything has to be like top down. Yeah. Um, so, so we try to have it from both, both sides. Right.

Clare Dobson (26:59):
Yeah. No, that makes sense. And it makes a big difference too. Absolutely. Mm-hmm. .

Jen Spencer (27:03):

Clare Dobson (27:03):
So is there, for someone looking to join a startup, let’s just talk big picture. Is there any misconceptions? I mean, you talked about the, you know, people just wanna wear flip flops to work. But is is there anything that you think people should know before they join a startup and if it’s gonna be the right decision for them? Yeah,

Jen Spencer (27:22):
They should know that they are most likely, or at least in my experience, they’re going to have the most fun in their career that they’ve ever had. But at the same time, they’re gonna work harder than they’ve ever had. So they’re gonna have a new version of busy, what it means to be busy. Um, and so I think that’s, that’s, it’s, it’s the, it’s kind of that the, the mix of like, the work, like where work hard, play hard, I think mm-hmm. , um, really, really comes from, because you end up spending more time with those people in that startup than you will do your own family. It’s just the way it will be. Um, and, and so it’s also, you have to really, really believe, like really be all in understand the value that you provide. You know, I think that’s, that’s what gets you through kind of the, the hard, the harder days.

Jen Spencer (28:12):
Right. But it’s, it’s a joy. It’s like you’re getting to build something, you’re getting to be part of something from the ground up. Very reminiscent to me of when I worked in the theater where we would do all of this work and then we would go to opening night and we would watch that, that show with Premier on stage and you’d see the audience re respond to that performance. And knowing you played some small part in that show, making it, you know, out into, into the, into the world. Um, and it, and it made it, it made all the difference, right? It made all of the late nights and the, those tough days kind of feel like nothing, like it was really worth it. Mm-hmm. . Um, and I think a startup is, is very, can be very much the same, very much the same.

Jen Spencer (28:54):
So I would say join for the reasons of like per career growth, join for the opportunity to get to do a lot of things that you might not otherwise get to do in a larger organization. Look at it as like, what other skills can I add to my tool belt as opposed to just looking at, um, salary compensation. Right. You’re not gonna get the best salary, you’re not gonna get the best benefits. Right. It’s just, that’s not it. And, and there are bigger enterprise companies you can go to, um mm-hmm. That you’re gonna have that, but it’s, you’re not gonna learn as fast, you’re not gonna grow as quickly. Um, so it’s a trade off.

Clare Dobson (29:33):
Yeah. It’s a grind. You gotta put it mm-hmm. Put in the work. Okay. Yeah. Yeah. Would you, would you do it all again, everything that you’ve been through, the decisions you made, would you do it all again?

Jen Spencer (29:45):
I would, I would do it. I would, I would not change what I’ve done. Right. Um, I would, I would not want to, I would not want to start over right this second , like I’m where, where I am. But yeah, I would, I would definitely, I would definitely do it all again, everything, every piece kind of ended up leading to kind of that next, that next stage. There’s nothing about my career, there’s nothing about working in a startup that I regret at all. At all. I think there’s no way I would be where I am now if I hadn’t taken those risks, taken those chances in my career.

Clare Dobson (30:22):
Love it. Uh, any advice before we kind of wrap things up? Any advice to someone who maybe just joined a startup is struggling or maybe someone who’s considering it versus more of a big enterprise role?

Jen Spencer (30:33):
Yeah, I think just know, like, you know, not all, not all companies are the same, right? You can have very different cultures from one organization to the next. So if you were at a startup and it was great, um, and you’re going to join another one, don’t assume that it’s gonna be the same. Um, on the, on the other side flip side of things, just cuz if you had a bad experience, don’t assume that you’ll have a bad experience at at another startup. I think it’s important to understand the culture of the organization and look for companies that have very transparent leadership, that are very transparent. Like maybe even like open book type of organization where you understand how money’s being made and how money’s being spent. Um, and, and I would also look at, um, customer happiness and how many customers the organization has.

Jen Spencer (31:24):
Um, and whether that product is really a viable product in the market. Cuz there’s a lot of, you know, there are a lot of startups and there’s, there’s a lot of, especially in the technology space, there’s a lot of technology that’s out there mm-hmm. . And so you, if you’re going to kind of hit your wagon to an organization, you’re gonna put in this kind of time and effort. Just, you wanna know that, you know, you’ve got a really solid product and you’re solving a really important problem for someone. Yeah. Um, so I would just make sure, make sure of that. And then, and then too, like, do you go big company? Do you do small c I mean, it, that’s a personal, that’s a personal thing. Like I’ve had friends where they’ve said, you know what? I, they’re more, they feel more comfortable, more secure in a larger organization. Mm-hmm. , they’re comfortable with small, with slower growth. Right. They don’t wanna move, they don’t need to move as quickly. And that’s, that’s, that pace is much more comfortable for them. So startup world is very fast, very fast paced. So, um, there’s something you have to know yourself, right?

Clare Dobson (32:24):
Yeah. Yeah. Absolutely. And I mean, I love small companies. Like for me it’s just, I, I don’t think I could just do one thing mm-hmm. and it’s more cuz like, Oh, I wanna learn this and like, I always wanna learn and grow. And I think, I think that is a personality thing and I don’t, Yeah. I don’t think there’s anything wrong if someone does. You don’t have to force yourself if you wanna try and join a startup, like find the right company for you. Yeah. And, and what you said about leadership, I think is so true. And, you know, it’s something like you really have to believe in the person as much as the product. And I know when I joined like abstract with Greg, it was like he just, he wanted to change the way things are and he just has this belief that there’s this technology can do it and it can make everyone’s life easier and it’s things he wish he had. Yeah. So it was just that belief that you’re like, Okay, I’m right. Like, I agree. Let me jump on like mm-hmm. , you have to have that as well. Yeah,

Jen Spencer (33:21):
Yeah, yeah. For

Clare Dobson (33:23):
Sure. So what, what’s next on your journey? I know you wanna grow a company, like what’s next?

Jen Spencer (33:28):
Yeah, well listen, it’s, uh, it’s, it’s, there’s, we, we acquired our first, um, we made our first acquisition as an organization, uh, in June of 2021. Uh, and that allowed us to expand into the direct to consumer e-commerce space. Um, I foresee additional acquisitions in our future of other agencies. And so doing that, I love the m and a space. I love the, I love kind of matching up organizations. I think in another life. That’s something I would, I would love to, to do. Um, maybe like the private equity space. Yeah. Uh, and really support m and a. So that’s a piece of it, but it’s also important, I’m looking forward to creating more career growth paths for our team members. Uh, and, and watching them kind of grow, grow and succeed. Um, and, and, and, and yeah. So I’m just, I’m, I’m heads down on, on just continuing to do good work, uh, for and with Smart Bug and with our, our, our tier one marketing technology partners who are HubSpot and Clavio and, uh, helping, you know, grow in lockstep with them. So it’s, uh, it’s a good, good place to be right now with those kids off to college and, um, the, the kind of the, the, the, this kind of time, uh, we’re just in a place of transformation as an organization.

Clare Dobson (34:50):
Yeah. That’s awesome. And if, if you haven’t heard of your listening and you haven’t heard of Smart Bug Media, you definitely need to go check them out. It’s very, I’m very excited for what you guys are doing. It’s exciting to follow the journey. Where can people follow you, contacting you as well as Smart Bug?

Jen Spencer (35:08):
Absolutely. So for Smart Bug, we’re smart bug So if you’re interested in understanding more about inbound marketing, um, techniques, we have a lot of content on our site. Very, very prolific blog and resource center, Lots of templates and tools that when I was a, uh, leading marketing at a SA startup would’ve been extraordinarily beneficial to me. So please take advantage of all those free tools that we have. Uh, as far as, as I’m concerned, I am pretty active on LinkedIn, so go ahead and reach out to me. It’s Jen Spencer, um, and, uh, Jen Spencer, Smart Bugg. I think there might be another Jen Spencer out there, I’m sure, I’m sure with our that name. Uh, but, uh, but send me a connection request and just let me know that you heard me on the Startup Psychic Podcast so that I have that kind of context for how we’re getting to know each other, uh, digitally.

Clare Dobson (36:02):
I love that. I love that. Everybody, go check out Smart Bug. Go follow Jen Spencer. You will not regret it. Thank you, Jen, for a great episode today.

Jen Spencer (36:11):
Wonderful to be here. Thanks, Claire.

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