After graduation, I did have a lot of dreams, aspirations and visions for my future. I was envisioning myself as someone who works in a corporate setting, enjoying my hobbies and passions and just living a carefree life. Little did I expect the company that barged in called Bridge Southeast Asia.
To gain experience
I was 3-4 months from graduating and from that point, my parents, friends and those people more experienced than me were already persuading me to send out resumes and try to get part-time internships. I saw this company New Leaf Ventures among other companies trying to vie for the graduating students’ attention. The post read Business Development Internship which included talking with business owners and attending presentations. I was sold! I had a phone interview and it seemed a great interview because the person [Joaqui Malolos] told me, “I’ll see you on April 6 then.”
Not WHAT I thought it was
It was my first day and for a startup, it really looked like an established organization with set rules and policies. Our first duties were to create our LinkedIn accounts and fix our social media posts. It was a chill first day but Joaqui warned us that like diamonds from coal, we were going to get a lot of pressure. We enjoyed that first day because we really were welcomed to the team, got a lot of introduction for each department and even assigned our homeworks. Because we didn’t have a lot on our plate that day, we were allowed to leave at 4pm. The next days were not the same..
Cold calls, cold e-mails and cold everything
We got introduced to what we were going to do for the next 60 days and it involved a lot of e-mailing and talking to strangers. Because of the script and the linear workflow, it seemed that this was going to be a smooth ride. We were wrong. The first roadblock we had were our nerves. Our hands and our mouths were shaking as we were doing our first few calls. It took us about a week before the nerves were shaken off.
Eventually Joaqui told us the ridiculous target of 768 meetings to be passed on to Business Development. I think this was my first taste of a big goal. I was still an intern then so the burden wasn’t that big yet on me. Until, I was absorbed..
Word got to me that Joaqui was glad about my results and the performance I showed while being an intern. The next step was that he endorsed me to the CEO and basically, I was absorbed into the company. The goal of 768 meetings didn’t change. Since I already was an intern, my first day involved me going straight to work and starting immediately. I was lucky there were still a lot of interns so that if I didn’’t get my own results, there were the interns to back me up. It was still a bit easy and even fun since you have these interns to talk to regularly. Until, the time came for the interns to eventually leave. Once there were a lot of in-flux of leads and meetings that came in but now, we couldn’t even get at least one meeting in one week. The challenge then came to me in the form of Joaqui telling me to go and find my own interns. This was fine for me except for the fact that it was back to school season.
In a few months, we were going to change our name from New Leaf Ventures to Bridge Southeast Asia. Coupled with this, we had to get the best people which is why a Bridge Bootcamp was in the works. Joaqui was assigned the job of creating a program for the Bridge Bootcamp which is why Joaqui put the burden of getting interns upon me. It was school season and this was the time you would rarely see interns. I had to tap my friends to get interns. I was so lucky to get even just 3 interns from Facebook job groups. My last intern that I got was a French intern who I got from a friend. This was a group of interns that Joaqui told me, I would lead from now on. That gave me shivers and nerves all over again.
Great interns, Organizational restructuring and strategy changed
I had to train these interns from the ground up. But I didn’t know how to start which is why I adapted Joaqui’s style, and structure. After days or about a week of training, the group of interns I got I would say was unexpectedly great. They were relentless on their pursuit to get meetings and leads everyday. They would always push themselves to do a lot of calls even though in most cases they would get rejected. Then I had them go to meetings for them to see how client presentations work. I got a good feedback from Business Development that they were great at building rapport. They were so good that one big lead from them eventually converted to a close and I was so happy.
Until, one day, news came in that the organizational management would restructure leading Joaqui to be put the Business Development and my direct manager would change. Business Development also changed in their structure. I was shaken a bit. This means that the strategy would again change. Most of our old ways, if not all, would be changed drastically. But I should embrace it since this is part of being in a startup. It’s not comfortable but it doesn’t mean it isn’t one that is good.
Our process in Market Development changed drastically. We had to read a book called Predictable Revenue (by Aaron Ross) and apply most of what we learned. Our goal was to increase the number of closes that came from Market Development compared to last year’s low close rate when compared against the total number of meetings. The changes were effective starting November and the first 2 months were not easy. We only got perhaps 5-6 qualified leads for those first 2 months. It was really frustrating but we had to keep pushing.
New year, New People, New Challenges
2016 came and I had a lot of high hopes. Bad news was, there were no interns left, and the strategy was not to get interns but to get full-time market development people. First month of the year, I was alone and I was the only one trying to brute-force leads into our pipeline. First year was great. I got a couple of leads in my pipeline and one of them was even 2000 employees. But this soon deteriorated come February. I saw how inefficient my process was and how badly we needed to get more people doing what I was doing. We had to rethink and create a manual playbook for Market Development and had to roll this out to the new people getting hired. We got one more person for Market Development. We tried the manual playbook with him and this guy learned the processes in as fast as 2 weeks, faster than the Predictable Revenue average of 3 months on-boarding. But leads were still a challenge and we were getting a lot of Business Development people. Business Development stepped up and we had everyone on-board to do cold calls like the one in Wolf of Wall Street. This resulted in a lot of qualified leads to compensate for the bad month of February
Now we have new challenges. A lot’s changing in Bridge. We have a new product called Bridge Outsourced Payroll and because of that, scripts, spiels, personas etc will change. It’s hard but rather than seeing these challenges as a roadblock, we see it as a challenge, something that makes us a lot better.
Working in Bridge really put me out of my comfort zone. I was put in a leadership position even when I had little to none experience. Then I had to cope with changing management and I had to do things that I am not used to doing such as talking to strangers, creating manuals and instructing people what to do despite the difference of experience between us. But man I could say they are all worth it. If you compare the man I was after graduation compared to one year later, I would say I had grown a lot professionally and personally . I can honestly say most of this growth was because of my decision to work at Bridge. I still have a lot to learn and chew on though and I would say I was only able to tap less than 1/100 of what I have yet to learn.