Leaders of B2B, a podcast hosted by Jake Jorgovan and David (Ledge) Ledgerwood, recently invited Postal CEO and founder, Erik Kostelnik, to discuss the fundamentals of startup leadership. Erik spoke about Postal's success with offline marketing campaigns as well as the insights he's gained through his many years in the startup world. Below, find some of the highlights from Erik's conversation with Ledge, and listen to the full episode to hear more about Postal's leadership philosophy.
The Path to Postal
Erik has spent the past 15 years in the startup world with companies such as TextRecruit, Wrike, Identified, and CareerBuilder. After founding, building, and scaling TextRecruit, Erik was eager to venture into sales and martech. He saw inefficiencies in the offline channel, noting that it was underrepresented by technology, investment, and resources. Everything you send offline to your client base, prospect base, and employees "creates these tangible experiences, these tactile experiences that you just can't get through digital," Erik explains.
For the past 20 years, people have been optimizing digital, and Erik wanted a solution to consolidate offline engagement, integrate it into systems like Salesforce and HubSpot, and build a massive marketplace made up of the best vendors. Taking hints from the successful strategies at HubSpot and Outreach, plus B2C e-commerce platforms like Doordash and Shopify, Postal found that building a two-sided marketplace was the easiest way to seize the offline marketing technology opportunity.
Offline marketing includes direct mail, gift cards, bottles of wine, flowers—"whatever you're sending your customer to create a differentiation in your process," Erik explains."It's exciting to see companies get excited about being able to scale this outreach because it is driving tremendous value to businesses that are incorporating it." In fact, those businesses are seeing their conversion rates increase by 20%.
The Impact of COVID-19
Postal launched two years ago and had 200 customers after less than a year in the market; Erik says it's the fastest-growing company he's ever worked with. Postal even had a tailwind with COVID-19 as companies were looking to technology to help solve their problems. Postal was "helping brands create connections with their prospects and customers that they might not have had through the purely digital side of things," he explains.
When it comes to the vendor side of things, Postal functions much like DoorDash in that it adds vendors to a marketplace so people can search for and order their desired goods. Postal's customers have even brought vendors along with them as they aim to support their local coffee shop or send business to a friend's business that has been struggling during COVID."
For me, being able to impact local communities through building a vendor network, giving these companies that have gotten destroyed by COVID the ability to tap into this $125 billion market that is corporate offline spend—that is a massive, massive opportunity for them, too."
In other words, as Postal has pivoted and grown during this time of uncertainty, so, too, have many of its partners. Erik emphasizes the importance of having the right people, processes, and technology to set your company up for success, during good times and bad.
Building an All-Star Crew
"Nobody can prepare you to launch a company in the middle of a once-in-a-hundred-year-cycle pandemic," Erik says. But "the only thing you can do is move forward." When it comes to challenges and uncontrollable situations (pandemic or not), you have to "make sure you're agile enough to steer the ship in the right direction. And I feel like you can only do that by having amazing people that support you."
Erik calls his team the all-star crew and says that the incredible talent on board has helped Postal "weather the storm and ultimately created opportunity out of what was a pretty tough time." He notes that "as we start to come out of this pandemic, business is even stronger."
When it comes to hiring, Erik stresses the importance of having a stellar recruiter who understands your company's needs and establishing a model that can predict who your team will mesh well with. During the interview process, Erik asks people what their "chip on their shoulder" is, meaning what have they gone through in the past that is now pushing them toward their goals."
Growing up and going through that experience of failing and trying to prove something, that's something that drives everybody. I like finding those people who want to prove something; they want to be the best and be this valuable part of either their family or their community, and they have this intrinsic drive."
Erik also highlights the importance of hiring a variety of profiles. "Being able to have people that are different from you, introverted, extroverted … those components are very important because you need to be able to speak to people who have had different experiences."
Keeping the All-Star Crew
"Not micromanaging is number one," Erik says of nurturing a staff team. "You have to let people fail. It's going to happen and you have to have hard conversations when it does.""
As a leader, you have to help people distinguish what is a big fire and what is a little fire." You need to make sure people are agile enough to put little fires out on their own and seek help when there is a big fire that needs to be fought together, he says. "You have to rely on your people and have a consistent feedback engine."
Erik also spoke about the importance of "consistently sharing the version" with your team, including where you're going and why it's important. "By doing that, people will continue to solidify how they are built into this vision and where they are earning parts of that."
Looking to the Future
"I tell everybody that joins this company that it's a billion dollars or bust. This is either going to be a billion-dollar company or we're going to burn to the ground," Erik declares. "We want to be a billion-dollar company valuation by 2025 and we're on that path to get there."