The most challenging part of starting and growing a company is hiring the right people and allowing them to grow with the system. Chris Martin, the COO, and co-founder of MightyHive, shares his journey of how he left big tech companies for the startup space and what their company is all about. Chris notes that with every company’s growth comes bigger responsibilities as he shares how they manage teams from all over the world and why the need for having people performing well on each market is crucial. Chris describes their growth arc and how they plan out their future and work towards that, placing emphasis on the policies, procedures, solutions that work with the changing times.
Chris Martin is the COO and Cofounder of MightyHive, the programmatic solutions partner. Chris continues a fourteen-year track record of building and leading successful operations and client services organizations across digital advertising and marketing companies, including his long tenure at Yahoo. At MightyHive, Chris is responsible for day-to-day operations at one of the world’s largest and fastest growing buyers of programmatic advertising. His unique talent and expertise help MightyHive partners develop expertise, drive efficiency in their marketing organizations and gained the most of their engagements with MightyHive.
A respected leader in finance and accounting, Chris previously held executive positions at Yahoo, including Chief of Staff to the controllership overseeing the company’s $6 billion P&L and Director of targeting operations for Yahoo’s $200 million dynamic creative and audience targeting ad products. He received his BS in Computer Engineering from Lehigh University and his MBA from the Wharton School of Business in Pennsylvania. An MBA from Wharton, that’s not an easy one to pull up. What did you benefit most out of your MBA program that you still carry with you?
I’m definitely of the school who thought that education comes from many different sources. I actually never thought that I was going to be an MBA candidate at some point in my future. First of all, thank you very much for the time and for inviting me. I was considering myself a relatively scrappy upstart and I was going to be able to take the world by the horns without any of the traditional methods of advancing one’s career. When the opportunity for an MBA from Wharton was even a consideration, I think it was at Yahoo at the time. In your introduction, you mentioned the Chief of Staff of Yahoo’s controllership.
I’m an electrical engineer and computer scientist by education. I always thought I was going to start my own company and build my own services and deployments. It turns out that I’m a terrible engineer. I understand how to code. I wrote a couple of assembly language, instruction sets for CPs and processors in college. Life takes its turns when you think about what you want out of life, what you’re actually good at and what you should become passionate about. I found myself constantly drawn towards building new things and helping others become unlocked in an organization. When I was at Yahoo, I looked at my career there and I realized it had a ceiling. I was never going to be the controller of Yahoo. I was never going to move beyond the roles that I had taken at the company and be able to escalate past it without going back and getting some formal education or putting that credential on the resume.
When I researched programs, it’s an interesting story. Yahoo, of course, would reimburse for education $3,000, $5,000 a year for online courses. I took a few University of Phoenix courses because it was the first thing that popped up in the search results. I don’t need that much structure. I dug a little bit deeper, “How can I actually get formula education in the areas of accounting and finance?” Not where my trade was from engineering. Lo and behold, this part-time program at Wharton popped up. It’s an executive program that’s specifically designed as a full program, full curriculum. They fly you out to their centers in California and in Philadelphia. You go through the full MBA program with folks who are a little bit more seasoned, mid-career, the late twenties, early 30s. It’s usually people who just want to change their career path. They want to accelerate. They’ve got enough experience. They know what they’re doing. I thought the program was amazing. My Cofounder, Pete Kim at MightyHive also worked at Google and Yahoo. That’s where he and I met at Yahoo. He went to Wharton full-time program.
He helped me navigate the process. Figure out how to help Yahoo subsidize and pay for it and then ultimately helps write a recommendation for me to get into the program. I went to the West Coast program, got the MBA, handled the migration and emanate at Yahoo at the same time that I was doing this MBA program. I was able to manage both as well as my personal life. My then girlfriend, now wife, have been living together for some time. I was able to navigate all three worlds at the same time and eventually put the MBA on the resume without sacrificing the career trajectory. It was a good thing for me to do but not for everybody. I’m a big fan of people who can self-motivate and self-learn. The internet pioneers and the folks who never had formal education, I’m definitely down with that approach to life and professional development.
I’m always enamored with people who have been able to grasp that brass ring. I don’t think I could have spelled Wharton when I was in high school. I was not the guy who was going to be able to ever get into those programs. I always love to listen to the stories, especially when they are what you’ve done as well, where you didn’t just leave an undergrad and go into an MBA because it was the next step. You left a career to go back into it very intentionally. I think that’s where you get some huge leverage from that. I’m curious as to how you and your partner then decided to go out, leave big technology companies and go into the startup space. How you’ve made that transition?
Peter Kim and I were on the shuttle bus that runs from Silicon Valley to San Francisco together. There’d be three buses and let’s say one-third of the time we’d accidentally be on the same bus. For a number of months, he would be the loud guy on the other side of the bus always talking on the phone doing business development deals, larger than life character. Everybody else who was trying to watch their Netflix videos or read accounting books like me was trying to ignore him as best as possible. You’re already getting a glimpse into how he and I worked together. He is the type A outgoing social network builder, resume politic navigator. He is one of the most amazing and inspirational business development leaders that I could ever possibly have hoped to be partnered with.
I on the other side of the foil, introverted, take implicit satisfaction to the work and the deliverables that I provide. I take myself very seriously, but at the same time realize it should be fun too. The two of us together are a very interesting dynamic. Pete’s on a call one day sitting across from me on this bus going up and down from Silicon Valley. He ends his call early and then he just looks at me. You can tell all he wanted to do is talk to me and all I wanted to do is crawl further into my book. Eventually, he does it and he goes, “What are you reading?” I was like, “I’m reading my accounting book.” I gave him my quick backstory.
He said, “You sound like a perfect candidate for Wharton.” I was like, “I’ve known you for eight seconds. Sure, tell me about Wharton.” Oddly enough, that’s how Pete and I met. Over the next couple of months, we actually became relatively good friends. We consistently talked about our entrepreneurial background where he and I both have started our own businesses. We’ve both been scrappy upstarters. He took a very different approach to build business than I did. I took a very independent contributor, buy small residential properties, start small franchises. I always wanted to own and build everything on my own and I didn’t need to rely on other people to do it. Pete, on the other hand, goes out and builds a network of people to do the work for him, which is an amazing talent. The two of us together, when you think about the grand scheme of how you build businesses, are an amazing yin and yang.
I know one of your themes here is also second-in-command, which I firmly don’t believe and I think there are two commanders. You need a night watch and a day watch, or a mom and a dad or however you work on it. It takes a village. He and I have found this natural feeling where there’s a mutual exclusion event going on where he and I automatically know what the other is going to be better at. It’s because we’re honest with ourselves about it, we have such an open relationship, discussing it in an open and honest way. We’re able to very quickly navigate any business decision even if we’re not physically next to each other. I work in Sydney, Australia and I fly back and forth to the US and Europe.
I’m trying to build this global business. Pete does the exact same things and we’re rarely in the same place at the same time, yet the business is still successful and growing because we have this innate ability to be able to communicate with each other, even though we’re totally polar opposite people. We do have the same love and interest for entrepreneurial business and building something new in your own way that nobody’s ever done before. That’s what excites us and brings us together even though we have such different approaches to solve the same problems.
Can you give us in layman’s terms what it is exactly that MightyHive does? Give us a little bit more clarity around it.
The digital marketing industry or even the marketing and advertising industry is such a complex place to navigate. It’s the Wild West when it comes to the modern-day industry. That’s part of the reason why I think our company is relatively successful because we’re able to navigate that Wild West. Let’s just set the stage to the complexity, but I’ll do my best to normalize it and make it simple to everybody. Billions of people surf the internet every day. It is a very large channel for marketers to be able to reach consumers. Classically, you would have newspapers, print, television or radio, which would be a one to many discussion. You would think as a brand to try and get your brand message out to as many people as you can and economically. You would then try and tailor that message to very broad audiences, females, males, residents of this country, people in this zip code.
The challenge with that is 90% of your advertising is totally wasted. If you spend $1 on the media to reach those people, 90% of it just burns and goes out the window right away. That’s because those people will never buy your product, and there’s a spectrum to this conversation as well. Coca-Cola is something very different than somebody who is selling very specific widgets or services. Our industry in general because of this digital transformation or this digital uprise has become incredibly fragmented but individualized at the same time. I can reach out to somebody with an email, an individual person with a specifically tailored message very easily. It’s very difficult to do when somebody is browsing the internet, going from one website to another.
How do you put a specific ad in front of a specific person in the same way that I would send them a piece of mail or a direct email? Over the years, the industry has fragmented into all these different ways to communicate and talk with people and it’s become relatively unwieldy for the market to navigate. It used to be you’d go out at the beginning of the year and talk with one newspaper or one magazine and you say, “I’ll buy a certain placement over this year. Let’s finish up dinners and drinks and then I will send you a check for a couple of million dollars.” That’s the way we use to do it, but in the digital world, you have all these different opportunities and real-time opportunities to send one message to one person in one channel and you need to make that decision in a microsecond. You need to be able to set up rules and mechanisms to be able to manage that communication.
This is where MightyHives starts to see the industry going. Enterprise platforms or large-scale services platforms that can handle all this decision-making and aggregate all this data. They bring all these, what we call customer journey touch points, into a centralized place for processing. This just unlocks an enormous amount of opportunity but also an enormous amount of complexity, pitfalls, systems integration, people and training problems. Our business has grown up on this chaos. We are the leading consultants or experts in implementing these large-scale platforms. There are multiple platforms that you can choose from to try, consolidate and centralize an enterprise resource planning tool like an Oracle and SAP to accountants to supply chain people for marketers. We’re trying to build this ERP from marketers. That’s what we’re solving for the industry. It’s becoming a bigger and bigger business. That’s where we’re growing up. We are a consultancy and an execution arm for marketers that need to bring systems, data, and people all together to navigate digital transformation in the marketing. That’s what we do. It’s very difficult to define to somebody who’s not in the industry.
That’s fairly complicated for sure for a layman. That makes sense. You’re not meant for us even to understand. Talk about building every one, I guess you’re not remote organizations, but you’re running into a couple of different countries. Do you have teams all over the world? Are you mostly in a few geographic areas? How do you manage remotely, both even with you and your partner and then just across the organization?
We are global and we have people in every market and that was our preference. When you talk about marketing, people are individually different, regionally different, different in many different dimensions. Having local expertise in marketing is absolutely critical. I can guarantee you a message design for the United States will not work in Russia, will not work in a good chunk of Europe. You need to change and tailor your messaging and marketing and approach to each region. You have to have people on the ground fighting the good fight in each market. We are firm believers in this. The challenge though for us is that economies of scale market by market are conflicting interests. You need to have a specialization, but you also want to take advantage of economy of scale. You need to have centralized systems. You need to have centralized data assets. You need to have centralized methodologies, rollout, reporting, branding standards.
Sometimes it’s very difficult to navigate when you’re changing your message and your product perception region by region, market by market, ZIP Code by ZIP Code and person by person. For us, navigating the localization or personalization of marketing platforms is the challenge and the opportunity. We try and make that a lot easier for our clients to navigate. How does the center of excellence or the brand marketer or the global deployment expert propagate their global standards and allow for the local markets to do what they do best? The way we look at it is you need a standardized global solution that your individualized markets can all jump on. It’s not just technology, it’s training, it’s localization, it’s the platforms, it’s the systems integration, it’s the legal navigation. We’ve got a big challenge in our industry around moving data country to country.
These are all things that you could build internally and try and start from scratch. You’ll find very quickly that there are economies of scale from external services providers, outsourced systems and vendors that can help make this a lot easier for your marketing department to navigate. That’s the space where we play. Your second part of the question was how do we approach a global company and how do we make sure that MightyHive services are harmonized and standardized all the way from the C-suite down to the implementation level. Honestly, the way that we do it is we promote global mobility for resources. We make sure that travel visas and the ability to work in different countries and allow for cross-pollination consistently whom we take care of our people first.
Second, we move into systems and digital communication both real-time and non-real-time. We centralize on Slack. We create global channels for clients. We make sure that everybody who is touching a client globally can see what’s going on where they’re allowed to see it. Finally, we try and centralize all the standards and systems that support account operations like billing, contracting, all of the other tangential services that go into primary business and make sure that those are harmonized appropriately. We create this infrastructure where everybody surrounds the client. Everybody knows what’s going on globally, so we can actually help our clients communicate within their own organization.
Sometimes they use us to communicate internationally to other parts of the world because we have better infrastructure for global asset deployment, global communications, and it’s part of the onboarding process. People come into MightyHive and they learn about these fundamental concepts, exactly what we’re talking about and we make sure we get them right away. We implicitly drill into them the concept of global communication coordination and that is part of the service we provide to our clients. If you make that number one in everyone’s head than any of the local decisions that they make, hopefully, we’ll piggyback on that general theme, which hopefully downstream makes us a better services organization for our clients globally.
Were there any systems that you pulled from Yahoo that you guys use without giving away any of the systems? Were there any things that best practices you guys do at Yahoo that you still do, and were there any that you totally left at Yahoo and said we would never do that?
You learn things from big organizations and you learn what not to do from big organizations. It’s important to see that story arc because what you might do as a startup is perfectly acceptable and in fact, gives you a competitive advantage in the lifecycle of your company right up front. That might be different when you start with than what you end with. Understanding that full arc of how you slowly transform the business over time as you continue to grow and have different needs and you’re solving for different things. If you don’t understand that growth trajectory and that arc and you don’t have it planned out or at least thought about from the very beginning, you’re already hamstringing yourself into getting quagmire in myopic processes and things that aren’t flexible and can’t change.
Tell me about that growth arc and how you guys have actually planned out the future? How you’re working towards that? Walk us through that. It sounded like you’re very clear on what the future looks like, so you’re always working towards that.
We’d like to think so, but the future is always changing. That’s what’s cool about the future. Big companies generally need to have scaled persisted policies, procedures, solutions because people change over time. The thing about big companies is that you hire thousands of resources and you have to train them to do specific tasks. The second that resource walks out the door, you need to have a way to replace that person one way or the other. When you’re a small startup, generally the turnover is smaller and you have a lot of people that build up tribal knowledge and process and can work together. In the beginning, sitting up a huge ticketing system or billing policies and procedures is almost too early. You don’t want to constrict your growth by institutionalizing things that can’t be changed.
That causes a little chaos, a little confusion, and new people being added to the mix need to be culturally indoctrinated to your little tribal village. Over time you have to start centralizing because humans just physically can’t scale. We haven’t solved that augmented artificial intelligence into the brain thing yet. If you can’t scale people, you have to scale systems and processes. I would say that there are certain milestones in the company’s life cycles where you needed to be robust in testing and figuring out your perfect product-market fit. You figure out your perfect product-market fit and the customer subset you want to go after and you enter milestone number two, where you need to put in some light scaling mechanisms. That might be a central ticketing system.
What you’re saying here is we probably need more through for some of the big companies that the systems that you’re trying to perfect in the early stages in a year, you’re going to have to fix them. Whatever you’re anticipating being perfect is going to change. The environment changes, the needs change, the economy changes, the people change. There’s almost no point in creating the perfect system because perfect is going to change.
The assumption during your company’s growth arc should be that infrastructure and systems and process change will be the only consistency. I don’t even like to use the word fix because that’s often what people do when they come into a growing organization. They come in and say, “I’ve seen this process done before. I want to fix it because it’s not being done right here.” What they don’t realize is that it was being done right for that snapshot in time for the company. There are a lot of people who have built that process and who love it and needed to do it at the time and understand why it’s there. The new people need to be indoctrinated into why the history of why that was done that way and they can slowly start the story to move it into the next phase.
I see a lot of that in fast-growth companies where the new folks come in and new sheriffs in town. The company antibodies from the original startup come in and try and eat the new people who are trying to make a change because the new people don’t get it. The new people come in looking at this crazy startup going, “These folks have no idea what they’re doing.” That’s one of our biggest challenges in a story arc that I’m talking about. Understanding how companies need to be more organic and adaptable to change in the beginning and then slowly over time, once you’ve found your product-market fit, once you start having scale needs, you introduce these policies, procedures and more rigidity. It’s a tough concept to wrap your head around unless you’ve seen it a couple of times.
My guess is that you guys in building the company have learned a fair bit in terms of the entrepreneurial world that related the people that you probably didn’t see at Yahoo in terms of the recruiting, interviewing, selecting and onboarding. It’s probably very different than working at a big company. Can you walk us through some of what you learned and what you guys would see as best practices you use internally?
That is a complex problem. Who do you hire at the beginning of the story arc, who do you hire in the middle and who do you hire in the plateau? I’m in the services industry. I will call it the knowledge-based services industry. Advanced topics, math, science, systems platforms, not services. We need a college education, we need MBAs. We need self-starters who are able to navigate some pretty complex, new and undefined areas potentially without even the education. In our industry specifically, we hire very adaptable, bright, entrepreneurial personalities that take implicit satisfaction in the work that they’re doing. They’re not ladder climbing, they’re not looking for other political means.
They can get excited about the ambiguity of starting something new and take a passion hold of it. They want to come on board. They liked the idea of a new company. They love the fact that it’s unstructured and we look for that type of talent. You find your product market fit, you’re ready to start scaling things and then you need to bring in some different resources. Not folks who are raw talent, but in some cases the extreme experts like, “We built this new analytics widget. Now we’re going to bring in some folks who have done this before in a similar circle. We’re going to teach them about the new way of doing things that we think we’ve disrupted and then we’re going to let them figure out how to insert that into the rest of the marketplace,” and that helps you scale.
The third step for the plateau is you bring in people who can operate at a lower cost, more efficient costs and help persist the scale that you’ve already achieved in phase two. In the beginning, it’s super adaptable people. In the middle are the hyper experts that already know the industry. In plateau three, you start focusing on the maximization of profits, the broader scale, the folks who can handle grinding it out or coming into work every day. Those are tough conversations to have as you’re growing and scaling a company. You have to realize the talent mix will definitely shift over time. Plateau phase number three, you get into the longer-term conversations around how do we become nimble and adapt? How do we change our products? How do we cannibalize our own revenue streams? That’s a totally different conversation, which we’re not thinking about quite yet. We’ll be happy with plateau and we’ll solve for the continuous adaption once we know we’re successful.
Tell me about the whole area of growing people. I’ve always believed that a leader’s job is to grow people. The more that we’re obsessive about growing our employees and growing our skill set, the faster the company’s going to scale. One of the clients that I’ve been coaching, I was talking to the CFO and I asked what their budget was for employee training on a per person basis. She said, “We don’t have one.” I was like, “No, you need to have a budget for that.” She goes, “No, what I meant was we have no cap on it. He’s willing to spend however much we spend.” I was like, “You’re kidding.” They were about a $24 million company. They spend $1 million on employee development and training programs, coaching programs, sending them to courses. They’ll do $40 million now. From $24 million to $40 million. They’re absolutely on fire. Do you guys have any systems, programs, thoughts related to growing people or to grow the skill set of people?
I brought you through the three phases. I believe that MightyHive at the end of phase two in the general scheme of things. We have about 250 people worldwide. We’re going to be somewhere between 400, 450 in our organization. The massive scale at the end of phase two and moving into phase three. For this specific investment in people question, we do like to bring in at least in phase one and phase two a cross-section of raw talent that wants to further their careers. You need to have that hunger. You need to provide them that vision. What is it that taking this job with our company is going to propel this individual into the next phase of their career or the next phase of their personal life and development?
At MightyHive, we call it the mighty resume process. Even during the interview process where you interview up to ten, maybe fifteen people before you are even given an offer at MightyHive. We do this cultural evaluation consistently and thematically throughout the interviews to learn more and more about you and what motivates you. What are your passions? What are you going to consider success? Why are you going to wake up at 6:00 every morning, hit the gym, and then come into MightyHive bright eyed, bushy tailed and then work until 4:00 in the morning? It’s not because we ask you to, but because you implicitly want to. It’s because you know that your personal goals are aligned perfectly with the strategic and implementation goals of MightyHive. We have this big discussion up front. We instantiated in something called the mighty resume process. We build out your resume over X number of years and we look forward to the future and we say, “Where are you going to be when you retire? What do you want to do over the next years?”
We try and back into the steps that you need to take in order to get you to that long-term goal. What that does is, first and foremost allows for the elephant in the room of misaligned incentives between the employer and employee to be completely removed. The elephant is now squarely there and we’re talking about the elephant. What is it that you want to get us? Is it an MBA? Is it a subsidy for continuing education? Do you want to become an independent contributor and a research development scientist? Do you want to manage a team of people? Do you want to be the executive of a big Fortune 100 company? Do you want to be entrepreneurial and start your own? Do you just want a ton of cash and want to retire in five years? It almost doesn’t matter because no matter what, the conversation alone is going to help you further your goal whether or not it’s with MightyHive or not.
I love that you’re actually connecting it with their core purpose, with their future, with what matters to them, and that winds them up with why they’re going to do it versus to do better in their job or because the company says so. The second part is you’re also starting with hiring the right people that are self-driven learners that already want to grow in their career. I think that’s key because you can’t force somebody to learn if they don’t want to.
That’s exactly it. You’ve got to find what motivates the person, then you try and layer in the education, the career advancement, and the value to your own company at the same time. That can be a tricky thing to do, but one of the first things you need to do is break down the artificial barrier of somehow imagining that this person is going to join your company and be there forever at the same salary. Let’s just get it out of the way right away. What do you want to do? Where do you want to be?
It’s also not even necessarily enviable if you want somebody to stay with your company for that long. Unless they’ve absolutely continued to scale with the company, it’s often not even the best solution. You’re right. The reality is probably not going to happen. Why set ourselves up for failure to be frustrated? Let’s just help them get out of the company while they’re with us and then move on in the best way as well and be raving fans when they do leave.
Half of my conversations when I’m talking about organizational building is, “What are you doing in a couple of years because I’m going to fire you? You should plan on perfecting whatever it is you’re going to do within a 24-month span.” It’s because our industry is moving so fast and we’re growing, we had the luxury of being able to say asinine things like this. You’re going to change your job in a couple of years. What is it going to be? How do we get you there? What do we do between now and then? Sometimes it’s education. We invest in subsidizing furthering education outside of MightyHive. Sometimes we internalize it and create education series inside of the company, whether it be leadership and development nights, whether it be access to C-Suite and sitting in on senior-level conversations for that executive grooming track.
We try and provide accessibility. Younger generations, they’re hungry for information because they grew up with the internet. They can get it at the tip of their fingers. How do you as a manager respond to that type of want or desire? How do you give them that vision? How do you hand it to them on a silver platter and say, “You’ve got a future ahead of you. It may or may not be here. Let’s invest in your future regardless of whether or not it’s here and assume that if you want that longer vision, it will be perfectly aligned while you’re here and what we need to do?” I don’t worry about them coming in at 6:00 AM.
I know they’re going to do it because it furthers their interest and goals and it’s perfectly aligned with ours. I don’t need proactive management. I need passive management. That reduces overhead tax on managers and allows for flexibility to the organization. I have people coming to me and saying, “I’m thinking about leaving in six months, a year, two years. I want to go to this MBA program. I want to travel the world.” We have that open and honest discussion. I don’t have two weeks’ notice problems. I have six months to hire a replacement or better yet groom a replacement internally and allow for proper succession planning.
Everybody gets results for the period there as well. Tell me about the merger that you had S4 Capital. For example, was it a merger? Was it an acquisition? How has it gone and what are the big lessons you’ve learned through going through it?
For the context for everybody reading, MightyHive is about 200 people, $25 million in net revenue and growing rapidly. We came to a decision that in order to scale our product market fit very quickly, we needed to go out and get funding. We need to be able to pay for our expansion efforts and that led us to the conclusion. We’ll go talk to some bankers and we’ll talk about expansion. A myriad of opportunities opened up because of that process. We thought we were just going to go out, recapitalize and either borrow or find a different set of investors, whatever it was.
What ended up happening is that the entire market exploded and said, “We need what you have. We want in.” We started talking with a whole bunch of much larger companies or same size companies that wanted to merge in this growth capital process. What we came to conclude was if we’re in phase two, we need to find some existing industry experts to help scale our brand-new thing. Maybe this company S4 Capital, which is led up by Sir Martin Sorrell who is the ex-chairman of WPP, a very large industry player in our space, he’s starting something brand new. He’s got all the existing connections in the industry.
He can bring a lot of value and direction to our small, nimble little startup here. It so happens that he’s combined with a gentle service offering called MediaMonks, integrated marketing services provider and do a lot of creative development in the marketing space globally. We said, “That is an asset that we need to expand our services capability for our clients both agencies and advertisers and brands alike.” It gives us access to public market capital. It gives us industry connections where we can introduce our new way of integrated marketing solution development and scale it to potential customers who’ve never even heard of our business model before.
All that came ticked and tied and in a pretty bow through this growth capital process. We learned a lot about ourselves going through that process. We had to justify why our business model was good. It was probably 50, 60 different entities. We did a lot of internal research. The external questions and pressure were super valuable for us to look at our business and redefine the way that we do things and explain them. It gave us lots of markets understanding, what was out there and what the opportunities were. Eventually, we selected S4 Capital. We went through the process. We closed on Christmas Eve. A ton of people was working right on the holidays. We’re part of this larger organization. I think 1,200 people globally, a brand-new integrated go-to-market planning going on. It’s a lovely experience end-to-end.
It’s going to help us move into that phase three or that end of phase two really scale out our global solutions, and having the senior executive teams moving through a public company, listing process. All of that was incredibly informative. It was stressful but exciting at the same time. It’s a real milestone or a marker and a validation in the business model that we set up, the culture that we’ve built. We look at it as a milestone. All of the management is still on board. We’re all incentivized to make this thing succeed and grow 10x. It’s a very exciting time. The merger has been successful. Lots of articles on the internet if anybody’s interested in reading about our story arc, learning more about Sir Martin Sorrell and WPP, and how that story arc happened.
You were right in the middle of that whole process as well. How did you focus on the core business while you were going through that and not let it completely distract you?
You physically can’t. I had three regions to cover. We were growing Europe, we were growing APAC, growing United States, Americas, and Latin all at the same time as a burgeoning business doubling year-on-year. We’re just fine. The positive cash flow, you throw in this growth capital process, which was a full-time job in of itself along with the other three full-time jobs. The answer is that things dropped. We didn’t grow as fast in this region, this customer churned. We weren’t able to pay attention to operations. What I did learn very quickly in the processes is that you need to expand the subset of people that you trust within your own company to be able to manage it. You’ve got to rely on others to be able to navigate some pretty tough conversations and do things that they’re uncomfortable doing because you physically don’t scale yourself. A founder-led company, it’s very difficult to scale that. You need to have a strong team that you trust implicitly to be able to run with things. Let them make mistakes because those mistakes are a lot less costly than what you have to give up by doing it all yourself.
You’re certainly going through the evolution. Almost like we go as humans when we’re 5 years old, 15 years old, 25, 35. We’re the same person but we just continue to evolve. You guys are evolving as a company. One final question. If you were to have one great word of advice that you would have wished you’d known in the younger age. What advice would you give yourself now that you could give your 21-year-old self starting out?
I would say optimizing your time. The Theory of Concentric Circles of life, you’ve got a self, you have a professional career and then you have family and personal life. You’ve got this trifecta of things that in general humans need. They want another adding value to the world. They want to know that they’re adding value in itself and they want to know that they’ve got a special place for people that mean a lot to them. In order to become incredibly efficient, twenty-year-old Christopher Martin, you must bring all three together.
You can’t go to a 9:00 to 5:00 job and then go to 5:00 to 8:00 family and then on the weekends have a couple of hours for yourself. You’ve got to mix the workouts with listening to podcasts. You’ve got to mix your commute with writing emails. You’ve got to go on vacations to countries where you’re growing your company and bring your family with you. You have to create a family environment so your family can feel invested in your personal career and growth. You also need to take time for yourself. Hopefully, that time for yourself includes making yourself better, listening to podcasts, exercising, keeping control of the body, mind, and spirit.
If you don’t figure out how to do that early on and build up those important habits, you allow for the emergency of the day to slowly erode your very strong base. It’s that daily routine that helps you survive global travel, the flights, the myriad of things that come up in a modern society that can throw you kilter. You’ve got to focus on bringing those circles together to make your life more efficient and to make sure that you stay consistently moving it all forward together. If you don’t balance it all, then you start sacrificing one of them or two of them.
It’s truly required and we underestimate it. One of the books that I wrote was called The Miracle Morning for Entrepreneurs. I co-authored it with Hal Elrod. We talked about the morning success habits that you need to actually kickstart your day and to get life going in the right way. I get teased at times for some of the morning rituals that I’ve put in place over the last number of years. One of the hard ones has been a cold shower. Doing that after you finished your normal shower in the morning, 30 seconds to a minute in a cold shower, it certainly kickstarts you. Chris Martin, the COO from MightyHive and Cofounder of MightyHive. Thanks very much for joining us on the show. I appreciate all the time and the insights you gave us and how you guys have scaled the company.
It’s an absolute pleasure, and to the audience, enjoy your routine or whatever it is you’re doing and thanks so much for the time.
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About Chris Martin
Co-founder and Chief Operating Officer of MightyHive, a cutting edge advertising technology company that provides enterprise software for real-time data-driven marketing.
Christopher has built a career of leading successful Global Operations and Client Services organizations.
Currently serving as COO of MightyHive; working with a world-class team at MightyHive. Watching it grow from the inception of a crazy idea into the global advertising powerhouse it is today. Appointed to the Board of Directors of S4 Capital upon successful merger with MightyHive in 2018.
Previously, Christopher was Director of Business Operations for Yahoo!s $200M Dynamic Creative and Audience Targeting Ad Products. Prior to this, Christopher was brought on to the M&A team at Yahoo! to help drive the Zimbra divestiture and onboard the Dapper, 5to1 and interclick acquisitions. Prior to his move to advertising technology, Christopher spent ten years in Finance & Accounting operations and held the position of Chief of Staff to the Controllership of Yahoo!s $6B P&L.
Christopher’s experience in the financial, internet media and software industries gives him a unique understanding of numerous back-office business processes, systems, cultures and organizational models. Christopher has spent ten years consulting for Fortune 500 companies including Unisys, Qwest Communications, Wells Fargo, Nationwide Insurance, Yahoo! Inc., Medical Mutual of Ohio, and Motorists Insurance. He maintains an extensive network of advertising vendors, industry leaders, professionals, and trusted staff that will bring value to any organization.
Christopher graduated from Lehigh University with a B.S. in Computer Engineering and received his MBA from University of Pennsylvania – The Wharton School.
Specialties: Startup & Entrepreneurial Ventures, Process Design, Outsourcing, Online Marketing