In episode two of the Second in Command Podcast Cameron sat down with Tony Cappaert, COO of Contactually.
Tony started his career in more of a technical role, as Product Manager at Microsoft where he built and designed features, as well as an ad center in Bing website. He (and his girlfriend at the time – now wife!) eventually relocated to DC, because he wanted to start a company and connect with a few different founders -or folks- he thought would be good to share ideas with.
How Contactually Co-Founders Met
Eventually, he met his Co-Founders Zvi, and they realized two things right away. One, they got along really well (complemented each other), and two, they both had a bunch of ideas that were buzzing around and were passionate about starting something.
They had not worked together before. They weren’t friends before. Tony met Zvi through a cold email through Quora, the Q & A site. Zvi had posted about some DC tech events, and Tony was just getting plugged into the DC community; so he reached out, and they grabbed a coffee.
How Contactually Was Born
Like a lot of folks, you have your little notebook of ideas that you’re always brewing and thinking about. And, one of the ideas that Zvi initially thought about was because he was an independent freelancer building websites and apps for folks. So, the thought was, “I know I should use something to organize my potential clients and current clients, some CRM system. But, whenever he tried to use something, it seemed to be overburdensome for himself.
From there it was about asking the right questions:
– Why do people need a CRM? What’s the real root?
– What did Zvi want a CRM?
– What do people want the CRM to do for them?
– Why does someone want to put information into a CRM?
Tony said that he remembers following up with everyone he asked, and what he kept hearing was that as people are slipping through the cracks. And so, they thought, well maybe we can solve that problem, not by necessarily building a better CRM, but by creating a product that would help people nurture the relationships they already have in are much more effective and personal way.
Tony says that at first, they struggled with calling Contactually a CRM because it’s more of a virtual assistant, or relationship marketing platform. They ultimately landed on calling themselves an intelligent CRM, because that’s where they see the evolution of CRM going. It should be a system that is proactively doing things on your behalf, and in an increasingly intelligent and automated way – so that’s what they built.
The COO/CEO Relationship
Zvi and Tony have a unique CEO/COO relationship in that Zvi was a freelance developer. He’s a strong technical founder who is also a strong people person, strong people eater. And so, Tony said that he thinks what Zvi brings to the company is a lot around relationship building externally regarding bringing in good talent, bringing investors, and working with our customers. And, Zvi was, and still is, strong technically speaking and so initially worked closely with our product engineering organizations.
Whereas, Tony said his biggest asset is that he is very process-driven and very analytical. And so, a lot of the community elements of the team, our sales, marketing, customer success, support. Those are the elements that he initially drove on.
Over time, those have shifted slightly, but just given that core strength of Tonys’ around analysis and being very good at problem-solving. That’s where he leaned in and drove the business, made improvements. And, Tony thinks where he wasn’t as experienced, is on the softer skills around people leadership and helping to drive initial decision-making.
Today Zvi is exclusively externally focused, and Tony is solely internally focused. With that split, there’s been a lot of excellent benefits. One is that all of the teams report to Tony and as a result, the functional areas mesh well together. Tony’s six direct reports are all functional heads; sales, marketing, customer success, support, HR people, and finance.
Tony’s Advice to Other COOs
“I think if there’s one takeaway from my experience as a COO here, it’s that to be as explicit as possible about what that delineation between our responsibilities are. I think when Zvi and I have had the most conflict, it’s when we felt like we were stepping on each other’s toes, and we didn’t have clear delineation in our roles. And so, having dialogue is helpful.
Also – we were fortunate to identify an influential and helpful mentor and advisor, Patrick, who has been critical for us, helping us come to those decisions. Maybe we wouldn’t have come as readily to it as ourselves.”
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