Two weeks ago, we welcomed a special guest here at the Bridge Southeast Asia office. JP Werlin, co-founder and CEO of PipelineDeals, flew in from Seattle to talk to us about the increasing role of technology in today’s sales.
It was a great opportunity for the team, not just to learn sales tactics from a pro, but to meet the man behind a tool that we use on a daily basis. PipelineDeals is an essential for the Bridge team—it has made our business development team more organized and more informed about our prospects and our pipeline, not to mention that it has saved us all from the headache of using excel sheets. We could not imagine using anything else.
And we are just one out of the thousands of sales teams around the world that PipelineDeals has helped, ranging from the large enterprises to small businesses and entrepreneurs. What started as a side project by JP and his co-founder Nick Bertolino nine years ago (in a second bedroom in JP’s house) is now being used in 60 countries—and it still has tremendous room for growth, especially here in the Philippines.
To learn a little bit more about JP Werlin’s story of founding PipelineDeals, check out our video interview (or read through the full transcript below):
WHY DID YOU START PIPELINEDEALS?
JP Werlin: Many companies use a spreadsheet or pen and paper to track their sales, and that’s what we were doing. We were using spreadsheets. I knew I could not afford the larger, more expensive, more overkill solutions on the market—this is why we found the technology that would make it very simple and easy to use a CRM in my business. So we built PipelineDeals for us first to solve our problems. It turns out that by solving our problem, we solved a lot of peoples’ problems. So this started in 2006, and we’ve been organically growing for the past nine years and we’re continuing to grow today into 60 countries around the world.
WHAT WAS THE FIRST YEAR LIKE?
JP: Just like with everything in life, you only get out of it what you put into it. When we started PipelineDeals in my second bedroom and at Nick (Bertolio’s) kitchen table, Nick and I were working two jobs. So we had a day job from 8 am – 5 pm, and then at night, we’d come home and work on PipelineDeals. And that’s hard. That is a long day. You’re working 12-14 hours a day, and you do that for three years.
It takes a lot of commitment, a lot of follow though. And getting through those first three years, you are looking down the barrel of failure every single day.And being able to have the faith and the confidence that we are going to see it through, and make this work no matter what, was what pulls you through to the other side.
So for us, having that resilience and commitment to a vision that you’re going to succeed and get to a point where the business can start to fund itself and get an office space, that you could afford a phone number that wasn’t your personal cell phone, where you can hire a personal customer service person to respond to a customer email and you would have to respond—that was luxury.
So it took us a long, arduous journey, that you spend many a sleepless night working instead of going out with friends or playing it took some hard work.
HOW DID YOU FIND THE MOTIVATION?
JP: For a lot of entrepreneurs, it basically comes down to that [determination that] You’re gonna make it work. Mistakes happen, difficulties arise, but you’re gonna make it work and you’re going to find a solution.
For me it’s an innate confidence that with the help of others, we can find a way to make this business work, and that’s what pulled us through in the early years. But more than me, finding some critical early hires—additional team members to employee number one—was critical. Finding ‘juniors’ as what we call them, and having this energy and passion and commitment, and giving him a forum to realize his full potential, was critical.
And so you can’t do it alone. But we couldn’t afford to pay him for a long time, right. So we had to do on our own for a few years, then finally we were able to hire our first employee. So if you get to the point that you get to hire, it’s critical to hire someone who really helps you succeed.
WHEN WAS YOUR BREAKTHROUGH?
JP: I think early on, we knew we were onto something when we had a random phone call from a large healthcare company in the United States. They kind of made a joke like “Oh, you guys are in your garage.” We were on our conference call and we just kind of laughed and said “Oh no, no,” but of course we were. We were one our second bedroom—its not really a garage so we didn’t necessarily fib—and that customer gave us the ability to hire.
And it wasn’t a lot of money, but it was enough to pay the first employee. So that was not necessarily a breakthrough, but it gave us some form of breathing room. Ever since then it was about building enough space, enough breathing room into the business, where you can continue to grow without dipping too far into your credit cards. You would have some revenue to offset the expenses.
HOW DO YOU HANDLE FAILURES?
JP: I’ve had more than my share of failures, I think that’s where I learned the most. So I embrace failure. I think if I don’t push the business near to the point of failure, then we’re not pushing ourselves hard enough. I’m not afraid of failure. Success is not a good teacher. I think failure is a true teacher. So my goal is to face that failure now with the best people who can see us through.
WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE BIG OPPORTUNITY HERE IN THE PHILIPPINES?
JP: The Philippine culture is young, it’s vibrant, it’s growing. Growth here is make parts of the cities int he US look a little bit sleepy. The youthful vigor is critical to an economy. I think there’s some fundamental things that the Philippines will be focusing on—around banking, around saving, around thinking about the future financially. The adoption of easy payment methods may be like Globe’s electronic money, other ways to save and store pesos, is going to change the way the younger generation thinks about money. And that will translate into business, right?
So that youthful energy and growth potential is the biggest thing. As far as the cons, I don’t see a lot. I’m not going it change anything in the Philippine culture or the Filipino mindset.
But what I learned with my colleagues—and I’ve spent very little time in the country compared to some of my friends—and what they tell is that the reticence of some [in the Filipino workforce] to take the responsibility and step up into a leadership level of a team lead or a management lead, is hard to find. I think those young professionals who see that not as a weakness, but those who can take the bull by the horns—I think those driven, entrepreneurial, aggressive young Filipinos in the workforce today, who’ll step and up and say “I am going to take a risk, and I am going to try to be successful in my company, and take a leadership position," I think they have a very bright future.
I think they’re going to be the business leaders of tomorrow. I know a lot of Philippine-based companies don’t want to hire expats as leaders anymore. They want more Filipino born-and-raised leaders. They need to cultivate the leaders of tomorrow. And those leaders start as the team leaders and sales managers of today.
And so I think that whole weakness-opportunity dynamic is true here in the Philippines. I encourage the young folks in the Philippine workforce to get a little more serious about your career and get more motivated. I’m not saying work longer hours. I’m all for ‘work smarter, not harder.’ I’d say work smarter, but step up and say ‘I’m willing to take responsibility. I’m wiling to take a risk. I’m willing to push my company further.’