This week’s Misfit Entrepreneur is Jeff Wald. Jeff is a serial entrepreneur and founder of WorkMarket, an enterprise software platform that enables companies to organize, manage and pay freelancers efficiently and compliantly. Jeff built WorkMarket from scratch and sold the company to ADP in 2018 for over $400 million. Jeff and WorkMarket won the Stevie Award for best HR software, were ranked as one of CNBC’s 25 Companies to Watch and received several other awards.
But as with any entrepreneur story, it wasn’t success out of the gate. Jeff had failures and learned a lot of lessons on his way to success. His story and the legacy he has created with it is truly amazing and I cannot wait for him to share it with you today, along with his best advice to succeed as an entrepreneur.
Jeff says he was fortunate to be born into his family and be born in the U.S. He started his career in finance as an M&A banker at JP Morgan working 100+ hours a week. He then went to business school and when he came back, he realized that it wasn’t the best fit for him or his life. He ended up at a venture firm and after a few years in, he really felt the call to entrepreneurship. He was helping people create their dreams and there was something about that was so amazing to him.
His boss told him that he needed to go after this calling. He did and funded the business himself. The business failed and he lost everything. In fact, his mother called and asked him if he needed to move back home. He had 30 days before he couldn’t pay rent and figured out how to create some income. Ironically, several years later, he restarted the business and ended up selling it for a nice profit. For a while Jeff wouldn’t tell people about the failure and the 2-year depression he went through. He didn’t want to own it. Eventually, he did and learned that sharing his story and telling the truth about his journey helped him find his true self and become a more effective person. It was freeing.
At the 9 min mark, Jeff and talk about this process of freeing yourself, but realizing fear and those things are still there, but you learn to handle them better.
At the 14 min mark, Jeff shares the story or Workmarket…
- The idea had been around Jeff and his co-founder’s idea board for almost a decade.
- In 2010, they decided it was time.
- They raised $6 million for the business from VC’s
- The idea was to create a solution to help manage the Gig workers and contractors.
- After a year, they launched the product connecting the buyer and an on-demand labor force.
- They ended raising a total of $70 million and then ADP came knocking.
- At the 18 min mark, Jeff tells the story of how ADP ended up buying the business.
What was in the PowerPoint slides that landed you $6 million in initial investment?
- Looking back, the presentation/look was terrible.
- But the ideas and what they were setting out to do was spot on and exactly what they did. That was what people invested in and what they did.
What is the future of work nowadays?
- There are 3 broad trends
- Remote work and flexible work are one bucket
- The on demand/gig economy
- The 4th industrial revolution of robots and AI and how it will impact the labor force.
- In Jeff’s book, The End of Jobs, he discusses these trends.
- A lot of people out there talking about this stuff want to be heard more than they want to get it right.
- Jeff’s goal is to present the trends based on evidence, so his framework in the book is looking at the history of work, looking at the data and the trends/patterns, and then looking at how companies engage workers.
What are the main findings from work?
- For remote and flexible work, the pandemic has rapidly brought forward a more flexible workforce and has broken the 9-5 paradigm. It has also changed the need for location proximity to work.
- As for on-demand labor, this is not something new and has been around for a long time. About 25% of the labor force is on-demand and it is growing slowly.
- As for robots and AI, it is important to understand that we have been here before. We have been through huge technological improvements that greatly improve productivity.
- Each time, we end up with more jobs from new ones being created where others are lost, people making more money and ultimately working less.
- The key challenge is how we help people transition to new types of work and how smoothly that can be done.
At the 33 min mark, Jeff and I discuss why it is such a good time to be an entrepreneur.
You’ve said, “Ideas are cheap.” Explain that.
- “Ideas are cheap, the will to execute is expensive.”
- The idea you have is not unique – someone else has had it.
- The difference is whether you act on it and bring it to fruition or not. The idea is super cheap. It is the will to do it that is expensive.
Top 3 lessons learned going through a process to sell a company?
- Bankers are useless.
- Going through a process is a huge time suck. It takes a lot of your time and you need to be prepared. It’s like having another full-time job.
- As you build your company, you need to be building it with the mindset of creating value in the capital window you have to sell or maximize its potential to investors or buyers.
- You should know what you potential buyers or investors care about for a business like yours and focus on those things.
What are the values you used to build the company that resulted in a lot of other companies being created by employees?
- Jeff would tell employees and encourage them to go after their own dreams and create their own businesses if that is what they really wanted.
- Core values were learning and transparency.
- He would share everything with his team about the business to be transparent and help them learn.
- Jeff would put on startup events for his team to help them walk their own journey.
- It helped make employees more well-rounded at a minimum.
"Best Quote: Ideas are cheap, the will to execute is expensive."
Jeff's Misfit 3:
- Ideas are cheap, the will to execute is expensive. Get out there and start!
- No one will care how much you know, unless they know how much you care.
- The key to success is getting knocked down 7 times and standing up 8.
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