We continue our series of interviews with CEOs, founders and team members of successful SaaS projects to find out more about their professional and personal secrets of success. This week we spoke to Michael Walsh, the CEO and co-founder of Agile Force.
About: Agile Force are the creators of the agile Office, an unmanned office equipped with the latest technologies to allow staffing firms and employers to conduct the full hiring process, from interviewing to job site deployment. Location: Los Angeles, California Website: http://agileforce.com/
Interviewer: Hello, Michael! In your own words, tell us about Agile Force.
Michael Walsh: Agile Force is a SaaS technology company building solutions to improve the interaction between candidates and employers. We are focused on the hourly worker and the $428B global staffing industry, which is burdened with heavy real estate and human capital cost.
Our unmanned agile Office can reduce their branch operating costs by as much as 60-70%. For the candidate we’ve created the agile Identification or “aID”, which is a modern identification portfolio that stores everything you need to get a job. Your aID will replace the resume as an objective measure of capabilities and provide an online marketplace for those skills.
I: What pushed you to create Agile Force?
MW: In the USA only 30% of Americans have a college degree and globally that number climbs to 93%. 43% of Americans make less than $15/hr and no one is really focused on helping them. We wanted to create an ecosystem for the hourly worker that provides a transferrable digital portfolio of their successes, recognizes the work they are doing objectively and creates a community that will allow them to find better opportunities.
I: How is Agile Force different from its competitors?
MW: No one is coming at this problem from both sides like we are. More importantly, we are focused on improving the future of the hourly worker, which is one of the most underserved segments of the workforce.
I: How have you grown Agile Force’s presence in the market?
MW: Grassroots selling of our unmanned agile Offices. We have been testing our MVP in a production environment for the past 3 months, and have now begun to expand our sales effort. At this point, we are below the radar with our aID launch, as we’re building out some key features that will insure its success.
“Have a partner. Two minds are better than one. Going it alone is hard.”
I: How does your team work? Do you use any specific techniques?
MW: Of course, with a name like Agile Force we must be agile! My product team uses agile and scrum to manage work. It’s been working well.
I: What are the biggest challenges you’ve had to overcome as a company?
MW: Bootstrapping a company is not for the faint of heart. It does provide the ultimate commitment to the success of your endeavor and puts skin in the game. Speed is always a challenge, whether it’s product/feature development, sales cycle, or raising funds. Nothing ever moves at the pace you wish it would.
I: What’s next for Agile Force? What’s in the nearest future?
MW: We continue to add customers and now we’ve begun our product research for expansion into the European market. We are looking for strategic investors to ramp up our commercialization.
I: Where would you ideally like to see yourself in 5 years?
MW: Profitable and growing. By then we believe aID will be the universal way to apply for a job. Much of the time you will do it without ever stepping foot into a manned staffing office.
I: If you had to give one piece of advice to a new entrepreneur, what would it be?
MW: Have a partner. Two minds are better than one. Going it alone is hard. The roller coaster ride that is a startup can mentally drain you. You need someone to keep you in balance and keep you motivated when the lows hit. Ideally your partner and you will have complementary skills.
“I don’t think failure breaks people. The lack of opportunity does.”
I: Is there something you believe your team can do better than anyone else? What is your strength?
MW: I was fortunate to work with an amazing group of talented engineers when I was CTO for iHeartMedia. I’ve kept those relationships alive and now work with many of them on this project. This team can do anything I ask of them. NEVER underestimate the power of the team. I think my strength is the ability to set a vision and motivate my team.
I: What is the skill you wish you or your team could perfect?
MW: To read the customer’s mind. Predicting the future of your product or the market you are in is the key to success.
I: What’s the best and worst advice you’ve ever been given?
MW: I only ever remember good advice. The best I’ve been given is “Learn to listen. Really listen.”
I: Do you believe failure can make or break a person?
MW: I don’t think failure breaks people. The lack of opportunity does.
“Success is a personal thing. It can’t be defined by money or power.”
I: How do you know when you’ve succeeded?
MW: When you’ve accomplished what you set out to do. Success is a personal thing. It can’t be defined by money or power.
I: What is the best investment of money, energy and time for someone who’s trying to succeed?
MW: The best investment of your time is pursuing the things you love to do. That make you smile. If you don’t like what you do 9 to 5, you really should change jobs. If the people around you don’t make you happy, maybe you should find new friends.
I: Do you have any weird or extraordinary habits? Any guilty pleasures?
MW: My guilty pleasure is ice cream. But who doesn’t love ice cream?
I: What’s the best decision you’ve made in the last 10 years?
MW: The best decision I’ve ever made was to marry my wife. A partner in life is more important than a partner in business. The best decision in the last 10 years? I hope it was giving up a corporate gig to build this company.
“Balance is more about doing the other things I love…Nobody wants a tombstone that reads “He was a great boss”.”
I: What are the top 5 books you would say have influenced your life or your work ethic the most?
MW: I read a book a month, so I have many favorites. Here’s a few.
For negotiations – Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss.
Leadership – Start With Why by Simon Sinek.
Psychology – The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor.
Leadership – Good People: The Only Leadership Decision that Really Matters by Anthony Tjan.
Current events – Red Notice by Bill Browder.
I: What would you say is or has been your worst time-waster both at home and at work? Do you watch TV? If yes, what is your favourite TV show/movie?
MW: Email can be useful, but it is also a huge distraction if you’re constantly checking it. This constant stream of information coming at us today makes it very difficult to stay focused. As for my favorite show…Game of Thrones, of course.
I: How do you wind down after a stressful day? How does one achieve that perfect work-life balance?
MW: I am fortunate to love what I do. So balance is more about doing the other things I love, like making sure I make time for family and friends. Nobody wants a tombstone that reads ”He was a great boss”.