Putting People First and Pursuit of Funding Last Propels This Startup's Growth
Recontent has quickly built revenue into the hundreds of millions without outside investors, despite well-established competitors.
I got the opportunity to sit down with the CEO of Revcontent, a pretty hot topic company right now, to get to know the man behind the brand. John Lemp is an entrepreneur who has built two internet companies from the ground up into multi-million dollar businesses, and all with $0 in funding.
Revcontent is a content recommendation network, similar to its longer-established competitors Outbrain and Taboola. In the last year or so has come into the scene as an industry leader. However, they’ve also faced their fair share of criticism, which is why I was interested to see how this entrepreneur handles the struggles and success of building an Internet company twice.
Establish a durable culture focused on your mission.
Cool office spaces get a lot of hype today, and CEOs want to brag about all the video games and beer and ice cream they have. But what happens if the budget isn’t there for perks like that? And is this the best way to recruit and maintain top talent long-term?
Not necessarily. For Revcontent, Lemp says the company culture goes far past bringing your dog to work and Beer Cart Fridays. “I believe building a strong organization comes from hiring amazing people, being genuine to your mission, and creating an environment where those amazing people aren’t afraid of failure, and as a result, can own their success,” said Lemp.
Truly empowering employees is not an easy job either. It’s tempting to micromanage as a business leader, especially during periods of rapid growth.
It is up to the leaders of a company to foster and emphasize workplace culture. Often times when businesses face rapid growth, they fail to maintain that culture.
Why is company culture so important? It displays your brand’s identity, it makes people feel like they belong to your organization, and it helps identify your company values. Some tips for maintaining company culture include maintaining high standards for hiring, fostering and preserving company traditions, and empowering your employees.
Put people first in every aspect of your business.
Putting people first is much more than simply treating your employees to lunch, or making sure your customer service is on par. It is something that every aspect of your business should revolve around.
For Lemp, Revcontent has never been about the money. He believes that one of the best strategic decisions he ever made was to focus on people, whether it’s his company’s media partners, consumers, or employees. Lemp's guiding philosophy is “Love people, not things. Use things, not people.”
“For consumers we learn from them and connect with them to build relationships. Our focus will always be on people in every area of our organization and I can confidently say that is our biggest differentiator and the sole reason for our growth,” said Lemp.
Take it from the global hotel brand, Marriott. The company’s philosophy of “putting people first” dates back to 1927, and is just as relevant now as it was 90 years ago. Marriott was onto something back then. This mindset to “take care of employees and they will take care of customers” has led Marriott to become one of the top hospitality companies in the world.
Don’t lose sight of your mission.
Your mission statement serves as the foundation of your entire company.
One of the biggest mistakes that business leaders make is failing to foster an environment that aligns with their mission, and forgetting what that mission was in the first place.
Maybe that company made a deal that didn’t align with it’s mission because the focus was on profits. At the time it may not seem like a big deal, but it can make a huge impact on your bottom-line down the road.
Staying true to your company’s purpose is essential to being successful in the long run.
Lemp maintains his original vision for Revcontent, which is to empower an open and free world of media, and ensuring that free speech and independent thought flourishes. Even when big money is on the line, the easiest way to fail as a company is to lose sight of your mission.
Mergers and acquisitions are an exciting part of business growth and strategy, but only if it’s with the right people and the right brands. Revcontent recently acquired machine learning technology company, Rover. A huge influence in this decision was the fact that Rover shared the same values of Revcontent- a vision of a more personalized web, and a web that helps users discover content that is more relevant to them than ever.
IBM’s Thomas Watson, Sr., once said, “the fastest way to succeed is to double your failure rate.”
Many leaders are quick to celebrate the successes of their employees, but what about failures? What about those failed attempts at creating a major breakthrough that your employees worked endlessly for?
The way Lemp sees it, those failures can serve as milestones as well, and they are putting you one step closer to reaching that breakthrough. In fact, Lemp believes those failures are essential to success.
The fear of failure is something that prevents many young entrepreneurs from reaching their fullest potential. A standard that Lemp lives by is “Don’t fear failure, expect it.”
What does this mean? Many people will tell you that success is ‘the opposite of failure’, but Lemp views success as ‘the result of failure.’ He sees every failure as the greatest opportunities, and believes that you can’t experience a major breakthrough if you aren’t willing to take the risks.
This mindset of embracing fast failures has been the basis of Revcontent’s rapid growth. According to Quantcast, Revcontent is now the largest content recommendation network in the world in terms of reach.
“I make dozens of mistakes every day, and I actually look forward to these learning opportunities,” said Lemp.
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