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Grayson Morris of Performio: 5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Successful App or SaaS

Never stop talking to customers. Especially in the beginning, you need to understand how they are using your product and what needs they want your product to satisfy.


An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

As part of our series about the “5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Successful App, SaaS, or Software Business”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Grayson Morris, CEO at Performio.

Grayson Morris serves as Chief Executive Officer and Board Member at Performio. He was a Co-Founder and served as Managing Director at Stables Partners. Prior to founding Stables Partners, Grayson led the acquisition and turnaround of Birdwell Beach Britches. Before Birdwell, he worked in sales and sales operations at Sunrun, the largest dedicated residential solar company in the US. Previous to Sunrun, he worked in sales at SolarCity and as an investment associate at Horsley Bridge, a venture capital and private equity fund-of-funds. Grayson began his career at Guidant Corporation where he designed drug-eluting cardiac stents. Grayson holds an MBA from Stanford University, an MS in Mechanical Engineering from UC Berkeley, and a BS in Mechanical Engineering from Rice University.

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

Ihad always wanted to be an engineer my entire life growing up. I was fascinated by biomedical engineering, and I ended up going to school for it and got a job in that field. I realized pretty quickly that I didn’t like it, and that is what started my journey in the business world. I transitioned from biomedical engineering and went to business school. Eventually, I was in multiple industries, and my best friend and I purchased a software business.

Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

When my business partner and I started, it was very exciting. We raised capital to acquire a software business, but then we had to turn our attention and energy to phone calls and canvas the country to find a software business owner who wanted to sell his or her company to us. It’s extremely hard to find a great software business where the owner is also willing to sell to two first-time software executives. We reached out to about 5,200 companies and completely exhausted all the software companies in the United States. After that, we looked in Europe and New Zealand and eventually found a great business in Australia, which is now Performio. Even though it took about 27 months, giving up wasn’t an option for me. I have a deep belief in never giving up and that belief served me well in the end.

So, how are things going today? How did your grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?

We are still in the early chapters of this journey, but so far things are going extremely well. Since acquiring Performio, an incentive compensation management company in June 2019, we have seen impressive year-over-year growth. We started at 75 employees and now we are up to 125 and are growing at about 75% each year. We have a great team and a great product and are very excited about the market opportunity.

It has been said that our mistakes are our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

Early in my entrepreneurial journey, I started a solar residential construction business. I had no background in construction, and naively I hired a small team in order to save money. I eventually became personally involved and physically involved with installing the first solar systems. I was on the roof with drills installing solar panels and I spent 4 hours driving a metal rod 6 feet deep into the ground. I remember thinking that this is not the right way to do this. I should have hired people better than myself and trust them to do the work I didn’t know how to do. It was a great lesson to learn to surround yourself with people better than you and smarter than you at what they are doing and trust them to fulfill their functions of the business. You can’t do it all and take it all on your shoulders. To this day, I still have the top of the ground rod I dug into the ground. It is representative to me of foolish behavior and of my mistake.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

What makes Performio stand out is our people. We hire great people that care about doing a great job, serving our customers, and getting value out of our product. A story that comes to mind is one of the women on our implementation team, Catherine, who had a customer in Perth in Western Australia, in a time zone 14 hours ahead of us. Over weeks at a time, she willingly stayed up late answering phone calls and emails and was always available despite the time. She did not do this upon request, but because she genuinely cared for and wanted the customer to be successful. This isn’t an isolated example, we have hundreds of more stories like this.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

You burn out not because of working hard, but because of doing work that’s not fulfilling or personally satisfying. It doesn’t always have to be ‘fun’ per se, but it does need to be fulfilling and satisfying and you do need to feel like what you are doing matters. People at Performio are working on things that are impactful. All of our colleagues are working really hard as a team, so you know that you are not alone in working hard and everyone helps each other out. There is certainly grunt work and admin work that has to be done, but everyone is in it as a team. Colleagues in other departments take time out of their schedules to help you if you ask for it.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

The credit has to go to my wife. When she married me, she wasn’t fully aware of the entrepreneurial journey that I was going to take during the course of our marriage. There were certainly tough times when I didn’t have a dependable salary, but she was always supportive and always believed in me and I don’t take that for granted. She could have told me that I had an obligation to my family to go out and get a job, make more money, and put food on the table but she never said that to me. Instead, she supported me and my dream.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. Approximately how many users or subscribers does your app or software currently have? Can you share with our readers three of the main steps you’ve taken to build such a large community?

Our software currently has over 50,000 users.

Three of the main steps to building a large community are:

1. Institute a strong hiring process that allows you to select the best people. It all comes back to the people, you can’t build a successful business without great people who are passionate about the work that they do.

2. Create a great onboarding program that allows you to train those people. You can hire great people but if you don’t train and onboard them successfully they aren’t going to be effective in your business.

3. Be very clear about who you are as a company, and what pain points you solve for customers. Get clarity on who your ideal customer is.

What is your monetization model? How do you monetize your community of users? Have you considered other monetization options? Why did you not use those?

We are a B2B enterprise, SaaS company, and we charge a monthly license fee per user.

Thank you. Here is the main question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to create a very successful app or a SaaS? If you can, please share a story or an example for each.

1. Make sure you are solving a clear pain point for your customers. In our case, we automate sales commission calculations. It’s very apparent that many companies across the world have somebody using Excel every month to calculate sales commissions and it’s very painful. There is lots of data at hand and it is difficult to link that data together and get those calculations right. It is also easy to think that you are solving a problem that doesn’t exist. When we bought Performio I knew it was solving a clear pain point for people across the globe.

2. Hire great people and recognize how important it is to hire great people. You should read the book by Geoffrey Smart called “Who: The A Method For Hiring.” Almost all of the failed hires I’ve made were because I didn’t follow this process. Even a referral from a trusted colleague or friend does not guarantee that that person is right for the job.

3. Absolutely learn how to sell. You are going to have to learn to sell as a founder or owner of an early business, whether it’s selling your product to customers or selling yourself to early employees and selling your vision of the company. I recommend you throw yourself into the sales side of the business as early as possible so you are forced to learn it.

4. Nail the product itself and create a great product that resonates with customers. This is what your customers are going to be using and interacting with. If you create a product even after identifying a clear pain, if it’s too difficult to use or doesn’t meet all of your customers’ needs, you are likely going to fail.

5. Never stop talking to customers. Especially in the beginning, you need to understand how they are using your product and what needs they want your product to satisfy.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

The movement that I would like to start is teaching sales to people that haven’t entered the corporate world. I would target people that have regular jobs like serving coffee or working in a retail store, people who don’t have a formal education, and teach them how to sell so they can go out and find fulfilling jobs. You don’t need to go to a fancy college to learn how to be a good seller, and it’s not taught in business schools.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

You can check out the Performio website and follow me on LinkedIn.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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