Ryan Allis

Ryan Allis is the CEO and co-founder of iContact, a leading on-demand email marketing service. As CEO, he's managed iContact from its start in July 2003 to its current size with more than 90 employees and 25,000 customers worldwide. In 2005, Ryan was named by BusinessWeek as one of the "Top 25 Entrepreneurs Under 25." Ryan is also the author book Zero to One Million: How I Built a Company To $1 Million in Sales and How You Can Too, published by McGraw-Hill. As an email marketing expert, Ryan will provide guidance in his blog posts on how to enhance and improve your online marketing campaigns.

You developed your business idea, closed on deals with suppliers, ordered your inventory of products, written your business plan, incorporated, and raised the money you need to get started. Now what? Every aspiring entrepreneur should put considerable thought into building a solid infrastructure and eventually constructing a team full of key players.

First, find and investigate a possible business partner. Usually the candidate can be someone with whom you have been friends for a while and in whom you have developed and established trust- someone who has worked for you for some time or someone you’ve worked with in the past. Finding a dependable business partner will make future decisions such as negotiating equity distribution and granting stock options, much easier.

Creating an extraordinary team is not easy. Crafting a unique and thorough interviewing process will allow you to bring on board the expertise that will drive your business. In the early days of iContact, I conducted all the interviews. During the initial interview, I looked for three defining qualities in applicants: bias towards action, initiative, and work ethic. Today, our Director of Human Resources conducts the first interview, followed by the manger within the relevant department. I perform the final interview where generally, I check to see if the applicant is sane, possess a good work ethic and can communicate well. Performing the groundwork during the interview process to seek and secure the right talent, will save you trouble and hesitations in the future.

As employees start to come on board and you begin to assume the role of a manager, you’ll need to set priorities and gain new skills. You’ll need to learn how to manage people, delegate responsibility, and identify leaders. Here are a few management lessons I have learned over the past five years managing people at iContact:

  • Have a vision and communicate it. Make sure you clearly communicate your vision for the company. No one follows a leader who cannot communicate the way in which the company will succeed. The future of all your employees is tied closely to the success of your company. Make sure they believe in your company, what it stands for, and its products and services, and make sure they know that the hard work they are putting in now will pay off.

  • Show respect. Treat people, including your customers, suppliers, partners, and employees, with respect at all times.

  • Keep your door open. Whether or not you have your own office yet, keep your “door” open. Make sure your employees and managers know that you are approachable at any time about any problem they are having.

  • Commend more than you criticize. Too many business owners (and I have been guilty of this as well) speak to an employee only when he or she has done something wrong. Or something that has negatively affected the company. While constructive criticism and appropriate guidance have their place, if you seem to only condemn and never praise, your employees will quickly either dislike you or show apathy toward their jobs.

I hope the above information is useful in building and managing your employee base properly. I will be back in a few days to discuss more topics and tips relating to business and email marketing.


Ryan Allis

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