The cavnessHR Podcast can be found at the following places or you can just type in cavnessHR on the respective app.
Google Play: https://cavnesshr.co/7bde0
Pocket Casts: https://cavnesshr.co/thecae05c8
Social Media links for Bill Below!!
HummingTree Twitter: @teamhummingtree
HummingTree FB: https://www.facebook.com/teamhummingtree/
Bill’s email: https://www.facebook.com/teamhummingtree/
Bill’s Book Recommendation!!!
"Story: Substance, Structure, Style and the Principles of Screenwriting Hardcover"
by Robert McKee
Link to purchase this book is below.
Yes we've got a T-shirt, HummingTree T-shirts. If anyone wants one they can send us an e-mail and we can figure out a way to ship it to them.
Jason: Hello and welcome to the cavnessHR podcast. I am your host Jason Cavness. Our guest is Bill Herling. Bill are you ready to be great today.
Bill: I am ready. Yes.
Jason: Bill runs Seattle based HummingTree a native advertisement content management platform. Bill previously ran Dial Inc. An interactive imaging technology which was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to be acquired. Bill has also written a few patents, is a marathon runner and volunteer coach. The youth cross-country team that he coaches recently won the city title. Bill, thank you for being here today. So what is your focus on right now. What is keeping you busy.
Bill: You know what we're in the process of hiring new folks. I'm just going through that cycle and finding the right fit. It's our main focus right now.
Jason: That brings up a good question. How do you go about building your team?
Bill: Well I would start with this. The motto hire slow, fire fast. It takes time to build the right team. It takes time to find the right people, takes time to find the right fit. But in the long run it is worth it. You know there is a really great book most everyone knows about called "Good to Great" and they talk about this idea of it doesn't really matter if you don't know where you're going. As long as you have the right people in the right seat that's all that matters. So in our hiring process we really try to vett as many people as we can. I try to get as many touch points from our team as possible. Try to have kind of a group interview. Our biggest thing is I really don't care about resume, especially on the technical side. I just look for what have you built. What have you done, what does your portfolio look like. In the end that's all that really matters. It's about finding that person who can add value to the team. But it's also that right fit who buys in long term to what you're doing. It's not good for anyone if they are just there for the money. You can find people that enjoy the process but also want to be there for the end product. You know why are we doing it. That's what matters.
Jason: A lot of people say fire fast. But very rarely do people really fire fast. No one wants to be the bad guy. There is a rule in HR that says that if you are thinking about firing someone. You should of already fired that person. How do you keep from doing this? Of course you want to be compassionate and emphatic. But there's a point you've got to cut the person loose.
Bill: Well, two things. I believe in kind of as you alluded. Are you sure that it's the decision you want to make. I believe in giving people opportunities to prove themselves. There's a pattern of a feeling that you don't believe this person is a good fit. Then my second point is that you got to do it fast, it's not fair to them. That's the way I look at it. If you just keep somebody on because it's hard to fire somebody. Because you don't want to be the mean guy. Well that's not really fair to them. The longer you wait the worst it will be for everybody. There's a really great kind of sandwich to actually letting somebody go. It's kind of laying down the first layer. Like hey you've done a really great job for these reasons. Then you lay down the meat of it but we have to let you go. Then you layer on top of it or whatever. So I think there's a process to doing it. But once you make that determination that this is the thing to do, then you have to act fast. Because it's better for you and it's better for them ultimately. That's the way I look at it. So it is hard.
Jason: Bill what lessons did you learn from your first startup. That is helping your second startup run easier?
Bill: I have had many failed businesses even before that. The most important thing to me is just enjoying the process. I feel like people get hooked on the idea. I could make a lot of money or I could be famous. But you forget the process. If you don't love the process then you never will find and never be fully fulfilled. So the biggest thing I've learned is just keep iterating fail fast, fail often. You have to change the rules. There's a Filipino martial art instructor, where the instructor has a big stick. He tells the student, I will hit you with a stick if you talk. I will hit you with this stick if you don't talk. I will hit you with this stick if try to fight back. So what he would do in a situation like that it seems like everything's all points of failure. But the student grabs the stick and breaks it. So when you're in a situation like this and when a situation seems like there's only failure ahead or there's only bad options.
Bill: You have to redefine what an option is and so you got to grab that stick and break it. That's the biggest thing that I that in my view that defines the entrepreneur. It is just the ability to adapt and change the definition of what their options are and what their circumstances are about.
Jason: Bill can you talk about how HummingTree came about.
Bill: In the previous app we were trying to advertise. It was a social media app which is a lot like pushing a rock uphill with your eye. It doesn't really go anywhere. It either takes off or it doesn't. What we're trying to advertise on it and trying to make money out of it. In that we recognized advertising is hard to do for the people that are trying to show ads. Because they're trying to make them. From that as HummingTree was born was a frame to essentially redefine the way people interact with brands. The way that we create ads, that we interact with them and the way that we share them. That's where I started. We started originally with an app that allows anybody to make an ad. Then we slowly realized the delivery process and mechanism was sedated through ad networks. Now when we started to build stuff that could kind of help our product and we found out that it could help other people too.
Jason: Bill, you are located in the Seattle area correct.
Jason: Also you are you just in the Seattle area or are you trying to expand your market?.
Bill: We are national I guess. We work with folks a lot of folks in Manhattan, London and Ukraine. So it's where these publishers are, it's were these advertisers are. In fact we don't really have any customers in Seattle.
Jason: What kind of push back have you been getting from potential customers?
Bill: It starts with a fundamental misunderstanding of what the product is and that's on us. If we can't fully explain what we're trying to do. The people that don't get it always have a different understanding of what we're trying to do. Then people that get it are the people that understand what we're trying to do. That's really natural with every product. But our biggest thing is to streamline, put the bumpers up, put this holding up. That's the biggest thing that we get it. It's a failure on our part for not adequately presenting it properly.
Jason: Next, talk about a time that you were successful in the past. What you learned and we can learn from your success.
Bill: I think success is defined obviously and that takes a lot of time and that definition is always changing. But you know one specific example would be in hiring and finding the right people. That's probably my biggest accomplishment. Just finding teams that get along with each other. Just have fun together and that takes time. What I learned was don't settle. Take the time to find that person.
Jason: Next talk about a time you failed. What you learned and what we can learn from this..
Bill: We failed to define kind of who we were trying to target. That is really dangerous. Originally, we were trying to market it to everyone and anyone. We were like any website could make an ad. Literally any web site could use what we do. The failure in that is that you don't find your first initial group. Those people that are really into what you're doing. That's something that I learned and it's very important for entrepreneurs to learn that you will get there. You can get the long term vision over time. But to start you have to find that next core group and find that really targeted Niche. My failure was trying to go for too big, too early. We kept trying to take on way more than we could chew too early. With the rationale that oh we'll learn more if we try to do this. True, to a certain agree, but you don't fully find your traction. It takes awhile to find that first jumping off point that you can build from. So take your time during that.
Jason: Bill what industries or companies are you actually targeting right now.
Bill: We work with pretty large scale folks Automatic, Bloomberg, The Guardian, Cars.com stuff like that. Folks that we try to work with trying to find a fit with them and exploring ways to work with these people. To really automate their ad delivery in a way that people create ads and what that looks like. So we're targeting pretty large scale enterprise companies who work with news outlets you that this.
Jason: Bill can you tell us about someone who's helped you in the past and how they helped you.
Bill: I was very fortunate to have a couple of advisers who started some companies and had a couple exits under their belts. They have 20 years on me and they raised some venture capital money. But besides that, too there's everyday people that provide a lot of value. You know a specific instance that a guy in Portland named G.O. who started a company and is awesome. Always giving time to help out when you connect with other people and to generate interest and drum up support. The way he helped me was just early on when this thing was just an idea. Helping to believe in it gave a really targeted KPIs as it turned a beat and then when we he sought out what we did. Just people around that helped you certainly your customers more than me.
Jason: Bill tell us about yourself that most people don't know. Of course you're close family, close friends know this. But most people who deal with you day to day don't know this about you.
Bill: I wrote a children's book. That's probably the only interesting thing about me. So yeah it's called the Egregious Duck. You should totally get it. There's like two copies ever sold both to me probably. I don't even think it's on Amazon anymore. I don't know. I think they take it down if it does not have enough sells. But I wrote a children's book when I was in college because I just bored really more than anything.
Jason: Bill, I understand you will book to recommend for our listeners.
Bill: The book is called "story" by Robert McKay and substance stretcher style and the principles of screenwriting. It really breaks down the idea of a story and how stories have been told for thousands of years. It's really the thing that kind of keeps you together in a way and why people love stories and why it's important for an entrepreneur to be a storyteller. You're telling a story why does someone want to buy this product. Here's the story, why should someone invest in you. Here's the story, why should people care. So understanding what that looks like and what that means. It's very important and that's the book I would recommend as understanding the principles of screenwriting. But in general principles of telling a story.
Jason: People don't realize that as CEO you are the chief storyteller and you have to tell your story over and over and over and you have to continue to refine it. Bill I understand you have something for our listeners.
Bill: Yes we've got a T-shirt, HummingTree T-shirts. If anyone wants one they can send us an e-mail and we can figure out a way to ship it to them.
Jason: Bill can you give us your social media links for yourself and your company so people can reach out to you?
Bill: I think that Facebook and Twitter is just @teamhummingtree. You can just email me at email@example.com. I encourage you guys reach out to us.
Jason: Bill, can you provide us any last minute words or wisdom on any subject you want to talk about.
Bill: Just understand things take time. There's patience in everything and that it's very important to be an entrepreneur and that you know you want to be aggressive and move fast and break things. That's great. But at the same time to understand you have to enjoy the process and enjoy what you're doing. If you don't, what's it all worth, you've got one life. You might as well enjoy it. Take the time to find the right people, with the right product to find the right advisors, investors. It just takes time, but it all work out in the end. If you just believe in the process, trust yourself you're doing well and just adapt and iterate.
Jason: Bill, thank you for your time on the podcast. You are doing some great things. To our listeners, thank you for your time as well and remember to be great every day!