As Spiro’s CEO, Adam is focused on the company’s overall market strategy and vision.
Previously, he co-founded a software company which he led through its successful IPO and sale. Afterward, Adam founded Innoveer, one of the largest CRM consulting firms, which was successfully acquired by Cloud Sherpas (and then Accenture).
Adam is passionate about helping sales teams make more money using artificial intelligence, and is the driving force behind Spiro’s proactive relationship management.
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Nicole Holland 0:04
Hey, there entrepreneur. Welcome back to another fascinating episode of Fascinating Founders. I'm your host, Nicole Holland and I'm thrilled to be your guide as we dive in and uncover the stories that came before the success of some of the world's most fascinating founders. Hailing from a multitude of industries and socio-economic starts, you're going to learn what's made these fascinating men and women realize their dreams from an inspired idea to millions in revenue, disrupting, innovating and impacting humanity for the better. Today's episode is brought to you in part by Podcasting Goldmine. Are you reaching and converting your ideal buyers through podcasts yet? You'd better believe that your competition is the podcast industry is exploding right now with billions of dollars being poured into it and well over 1 million active podcasts in the directories in just the past 90 days alone. Hundreds of thousands of new podcasts have been added and the industry will continue to grow. Whether or not you're a part of it your market my friend is listening to podcasts. And I would love to personally help you design a strategic podcast marketing plan to help your company scale and reach your business growth goals through podcasts from getting you featured as the expert guest on premium podcasts that your ideal buyers are already listening to, to designing and launching a profitable podcast for your company to show sponsorship and advertising. Podcasting for business growth is totally my jam. If you're ready to take a serious look at how you can effectively leverage podcasts for business growth, visit PodcastingGoldmine.com and request a complimentary consultation for us to explore how we can make podcasts work for you. Again, that URL is PodcastingGoldmine.com. Now you never know what we're going to get into on an episode of Fascinating Founders. So get your notebook ready, cozy up with a Great Cup of Joe. And let's dive into another inspiring journey with today's guest.
Spiro CEO Adam Honig is focused on the company's overall market strategy and vision. Previously, he co founded a software company which he led through its successful IPO and sale. Afterwards, Adam founded in revere, one of the largest CRM consulting firms, which was successfully acquired by Cloud Sherpas. And then Accenture. Adam is passionate about helping sales teams make more money using artificial intelligence, and is the driving force behind sparrows proactive relationship management. Hello, Adam, thank you so much for being with me today. Super excited to get into your founders journey story. Thanks. It's really great to be here. antastic so today you are co founder of Spiro and a number of other companies, you've got huge history that we're going to try and like, zoom through in a very short period of time. But before we do just want to give the listeners kind of what's going on today and a little bit more about yourself.
Adam Honig 3:21
Sure, sure. So, you know, I'm, as you said, I'm the founder and CEO of a company called Spiro.ai. And we, you know, we had this crazy idea that maybe there was a sales tool that sales people should, you know, work with that didn't require them to do anything. And I know it sounds strange, but salespeople, we like to sell. We don't like to spend our time time pickup notes or writing call reports or anything like that. So our dream was, you know that if there was a way that we could use this crazy artificial intelligence technologies, do all of that in the background for salespeople, we could make them a lot more effective. Make them More money in companies, they work for more money, and then we'd make more money. I don't know, just for sort of an idea that we had. And here we are four years later, and we have about 200 customers and, you know, about 44 employees, and it's been going really great.
Nicole Holland 4:15
Awesome. And who is your ideal client? That's an enterprise solution, or Who's your buyer?
Adam Honig 4:21
You know, we're focused on mid market companies right now. So not, not big enterprises. But you know, companies that are big enough to have real challenges in their sales process and need to see the visibility in, you know, their pipeline and their forecast and, you know, really want to increase sales. And, you know, our best customers sell to businesses, you know, and they're often in the manufacturing or business services or distribution businesses, but we work with telecom companies and other software companies and you know, anybody who needs to really increase sales, awesome.
Nicole Holland 4:57
So now when you started out when you had Your first idea for creating a business. What was that out of?
Adam Honig 5:04
Yeah, really interesting. So this is my third company. And my first company. You know, I've been in sales for most of my career, and I was a salesperson at a technical company. And there were a bunch of really technical guys who wanted to start a company. And they were like, you're in sales, you can join us, and you can help us sell this thing. And I was like, Oh, great. I'm the only person on the team who can speak in full sentences. Excellent. I'll do sales. And it was an awesome company called Open Environment. And we sold and built what was called Middleware software, which is like the worst name ever. But basically, it's software that connects other software together. And we did sell it to enterprises. And at the time, you know, connecting IBM mainframes with PCs and stuff like that was complicated, so was really important. And, you know, we built that company up to about $30 million in sales took it public on the NASDAQ, and it will all You know, the whole start of the company was all about how do we connect different computers together and make it easier for IT professionals to build systems that, you know, work together. So that's that's kind of how I got started in this whole entrepreneurial thing. So I had a bunch of engineers who were friends.
Nicole Holland 6:17
That's so funny. And so you never envisioned yourself as an entrepreneur, then you were just super happy with sales and oh, I need other things.
Adam Honig 6:26
You know, I never gave it much thought I was always the kind of kid who I, you know, had a newspaper route and shoveling sidewalks. And you know, when I went to college, I printed up funny t shirts and sold them to people, but I never thought of it as like a career. You know, I studied philosophy in school, you know, and so I really wanted to know about truth. That was, you know, what I was really into, and epistemology and all that kind of good stuff. But it turns out that, you know, going into philosophy doesn't pay that well. And so, when I graduated college, my dad was like, you need to get a job. And so I was like, Okay, I'll go into sales. That sounds good. I can talk with people all day. That doesn't sound too hard. How hard could that be? So that's kind of how I got going.
Nicole Holland 7:03
That's wild. So once you had the first company, and you should get public and you exited, is that right?
Adam Honig 7:10
Yeah, yeah. This is the part of the story where I lost $100 million. Because I know it was terrible. It was the worst thing ever. So So we worked for five years to build up this company. I traveled 220 days a year like Monday, I was in Cleveland Tuesday, I was in Dallas Wednesday, I was in Seattle, we built up a 50 person sales team selling the software. We took the company public, we had a 350 million dollar market cap. Every relative that I had invested in the IPO, you know, they were so excited. So and then unfortunately, you know, about a year later, we weren't doing so well and the whole company was worth $50 million. And it was a big disaster and we managed to recover it and build it back up and we went we ended up selling it to another company. But unfortunately the sale price for the company was was a lot less than what the peak value was. And so now every wedding or Bar Mitzvah I go to, you know, I'm still reminded by the loss that I caused all of my distant relatives in that. So, you know, I like I don't have an MBA, you know, I've got this degree in philosophy, and it served me really well. I feel like especially if you want to discuss con or something like that, but this was kind of my MBA in a way, you know, but, you know, we went out there, we did something really, really exciting, but it didn't quite work out the way I was hoping that it would. So I don't know it was it was good experience, I guess.
Nicole Holland 8:34
Yeah, everything is in hindsight, right? There's always a learning exact. So I am totally fine if you say no, but I'm curious if we can dig into this a little bit and talk about kind of what that what that was like in the moment and also how you got through it because I think this is something that especially in podcasts, you know, and anything that is forward facing social media, stuff like that. They will times entrepreneurs, startup founders, they struggle we struggle with the reality of heartache, you know, and big financial losses. And we're expected to sort of grin and bear it and not not really talk about it. So is this somewhere we can go a little deeper?
Adam Honig 9:20
Yeah, sure. No, no problem.
Nicole Holland 9:22
Cool. So in terms of, you know, friends and family and having all that support from your personal life, when things started going south, did you guys believe that it ever could get as bad as it dead or like, was there somewhere where you went like, this is awful, but we can do this. We're not telling anyone. We're not like folding. We're not throwing in the towel. Like, we're going to get this out of where it's at. And everything's going to be good again. Were you like, oh, man, this is not good. And did the friends and families weigh on you at all during that time?
Adam Honig 9:58
Yeah. You know, So I think looking back on it, I think the benefit that we had and this is sound really backwards, so just go with me for a second. So, you know, the, when we we had a $300 million valuation for the business, and we missed a quarterly financial target that we were supposed to achieve. And so the stock went down. 90%. And the good news was, you know, we went down so far that expectations got really low again, you know, and so people, not us, not me, but you know, people were like, Okay, well, I'm gonna have to write that off, you know, and we managed to get them to about 50 cents on the dollar on it. And so it felt like it was an improvement off of the bottom. But but this is this is us something really interesting in that question in the answer is, I never will say it can't get worse than this. Because just when you think you say that, it always gets worse. Like it doesn't matter. Like you're like we're at 50 cents, right? To 25, we're going to 10 like it's Oh, you can always get worse. I never say that, because I'm just like a little superstitious that way, but yeah, no, you know, it took, you know, I think having family invested in the business made me need to dig a little bit deeper, and get something back on that, you know what I mean? And it was a pride issue. It was a financial issue. But it really motivated me to, to go forward with that. And, you know, listen, I have family invested in my new company. So it's not something I shied away from. I mean, I'm very, I'm a very, you know, confident person, I guess. And, you know, I really believe in what I'm doing, and I'd rather bet on myself than other people, as I'm sure a lot of your listeners would. So, yeah, I think you just got to stick it through. You know, sometimes, I mean, you got to know when to fold too, but you know, you need to know when to stick it out.
Nicole Holland 11:50
And when you when you do have that confidence and you're going okay, I'm going to stick it out. More I'm going to you know, do it again. I guess maybe I'm not phrasing the question, right. Hey, I feel like there's still something there. I'd love to hear in the very short Aftermath as like going through it right? Like Did you get from people that you had a connection with? Did you get I'm not sure of the word. But what was going on for you? In that hindsight moment when you guys were not happy with the outcome, you were happy that you got up to 50 cents on the dollar, but that the people found out like, this is it? This was a loss.
Adam Honig 12:32
Oh, yeah. No, I felt like the world's biggest asshole. I mean, that's, you know, like, every day, you know, I was walking around with like, a sign around my neck in my mind, you know, saying, This is terrible. What am I going to do? I've got to make it back. I got to make it up. And it was it was a very, very challenging time. For me personally. You know, and I, you know, I have a tendency to work hard, and when things are tough, I tend to work with More. And one of the things I've really had to learn is that's not always the right strategy. And like taking on hard work can stop, you can blind you from making the better decisions about what needed to be done. And one of my colleagues at the at open environment whose name was Omar, who ran marketing for us at the time, great guy went on to be a very successful CEO in his own right. He really had a lot more perspective on it, maybe because his family wasn't invested in the business. And he kind of guided us through the process of finding a strategic buyer for the business and kind of wrapping up what we had done successfully, you know, at the end, and I think if it were just me, I would have been like, no, we're gonna stick it out. And we're gonna blow you know, like charge right ahead into battle and you know, whatever. And so I think that was a big lesson learned for me, that sort of just being able to put the thing on your shoulders and get it forward doesn't mean that's always the right strategy for the business. So God, I don't know if that was kind of what you were going for. But
Nicole Holland 13:59
yeah, I think So that was, that's great. I think that's something that people can learn a lot from. Also, he really spearheaded the business side of it. I wonder if you can talk a little bit about like your own personal getting through it, and what are some of those things that you in having that awareness of? Okay, maybe not charging ahead, like Were there any tools or things that happened that helped you move forward? And not to put a label but I can only imagine that that would be a potentially depressing time or really a time that is that doesn't feel good, and that when it's just us and internally, we feel like we have that tied around our neck. You know, sometimes we it really is just us and sometimes there are people externally saying the same thing like you screwed me or you, you know something bad, right? So I'm curious how whether it was only internal or also external Colonel. And again, I'm putting that label. So if you didn't tell if you didn't go through this, I'd love to hear it also. But if you did have some challenges during that time, personally and emotionally, like what are some of the things you did to come out of the funk?
Adam Honig 15:15
Yeah, so I mean, I, I find for myself, my emotional state is very dependent upon the short term direction of what success looks like. And so what I mean by that is, like, if we're having a good day, then I feel like I can kind of project that out for the whole future to look like the whole future is going to be bad and if they like Converse, five a bad day we lose a client or and I'm not just talking about smaller issues, you know, we can, you know, really kind of crater my mood that day. So, in that way, I think I can use that, you know, two points makes a line kind of philosophy to project up from where we are, and I you know, I I find that very helpful in the moment of going through that. But what I'll tell you is actually now, now that I'm a more experienced entrepreneur, I don't know kind of what that sounds weird to say. But older in any rate, you know, so we had an issue in my current business a couple of weeks ago, we had a software glitch, and we had some unhappy customers and we had to deal with some stuff and it was a minor buyer. And, you know, we were all really calm about it. And you know, in the some of the more junior staff on the team, it worked at other companies, and they were really remarked about how come we were in dealing with this issue. And I was like, Listen, you know, when you have to go tell your relatives that you've lost them a lot of money, that's when you get panicked guys don't come to me with we had a glitch that we need to fix and we had an hour of downtime. That's that's a different story. You know, so I think, I think that the Not at the moment, but I think later that experience really helped gain a lot of perspective. For me on things, so I think I think people can, you know, use that lightly in the move, as well.
Nicole Holland 17:07
So like, in the moment looking at what's right opposed to what's wrong.
Adam Honig 17:11
Exactly, exactly. You know, and there's lots of stories about businesses, you know, Slack, all kinds of different businesses that start off in the wrong direction, and was only by not, you know, not achieving what they wanted to do that they find the right success, you know, and so for me, I felt very determined to move on and start a new company and do things differently. And, you know, there were a lot of mistakes that we made, you know, at an open environment first company that you know, I just vowed never to repeat so that was just part of it.
Nicole Holland 17:40
Amazing. What was the getting the next company off the ground? How was it conceptualized or is that when the engineers kind of said, hey, you're in sales, you could help us sell this as
Adam Honig 17:50
well. So after we sold, you know, open environment and kind of wrap that up and got our 50 cents on the dollar on that i i was just really fascinated with that. Sales having run this, you know, fairly good sized sales team, and we're looking for ways to make the track sales understand it better. And that's how I kind of got involved in CRM, which is, you know, obviously a four letter word for salespeople. But back, you know, when I started company number two, a company that's called interviewer was called interview. You know, we I started a consulting business to help companies understand how to use CRM, and how to implement the technology. And we, you know, I knew a bunch of folks at different software companies that were doing that and so we quickly, you know, struck up partnerships with them. And you know, over the course of about 15 years, you know, I grew that business to be one of the largest CRM consulting businesses in the world before selling it to a larger consulting business. And so, in a way, you know, the second business, being a consulting business as opposed to a software business. It had a number of really interesting attributes for me personally at the time. One was customer intimacy. And so when you're in the software business, often you deliver your product and you move on, you go to the next customer and so on. But when you're consulting with a company, you're living with them, you know, you're helping them with their most intimate problems, if you will, and trying to improve things in their business. And that was just something that I felt like I needed coming out of the past experience. Maybe. So that kind of helped my journey in in that way.
Nicole Holland 19:24
Awesome. And then, did you ever take breaks between I mean, now then from there to Spiro? Was there any kind of pause or were you just ready to move on
Adam Honig 19:36
real unfortunate to be sort of a high energy kind of person? So I did after I sold interview in 2012, I did take a couple weeks off, and I went to China. And I, I've always wanted to go to China. And you know, kind of having grown up eating a lot of Chinese food and reading a lot about it and stuff like that. It was always like a mystery to me, and I've traveled a lot. I You know, my last couple, we had a big operation in India, I've been all over, but I've never been to China. So that was sort of something I really wanted to do. So I did that for a little bit, you know, so I'll do little things. But no, I'm, I get too restless, you know, I just start doing stuff. So
Nicole Holland 20:14
awesome. And so throughout this entire journey, what are some of your biggest takeaways that you can share with my listeners, about really anything? I've asked you enough questions that are pointed that share with me what you want people to take away from from you?
Adam Honig 20:30
Well, I just you know, what I want them to take away. I mean, so many things. I mean, I love you know, talking in working with entrepreneurs, you know, but I think I really would very much encourage people to make sure that they're having fun and what they're doing and really take a lot of personal enjoyment out of it. And so, we we do a lot of things here at Spiro to make sure that that happens. You know, we've built funny things into the product, our product tells jokes, not for any reason, except for the fact that we thought it would be fun. And we wanted to have a sense of humor about things. So if you find the right place in the product, it'll tell you a joke. And we name all of our conference rooms after submarine sandwiches, because we love them so much here at spiros. I'm in the Italian sub, doing this interview. And you know, we just love to bring in sandwiches and try things and do crazy stuff with the team, you know, so it's all about, you know, everybody who's an entrepreneur knows that it's gonna be a lot of work. And there's gonna be ups and downs and hard things. And so if you can have fun, and enjoy, you know, not only the result, but the process of it. I think that's super important. And I think early in my career, I was to end result, focus to Eric tilian for our philosophy oriented, you know, listeners not quite platonic, in my approach. So I'd say that's a big thing.
Nicole Holland 21:52
Awesome. And then I guess, before we wrap up to then you identified that fun, that was paramount. How did you From the beginning, set that as a part of your company culture,
Adam Honig 22:05
yeah, you know, I believe that company culture is emergent. So, you know, we just always did fun things, you know, that was just something we built into what we did. And then it kind of took a life of its own. And there's no, like, formal process for creating fun. It's just like someone's like, I think we should have badges to show all the great things we accomplished were like, yes, do that. Or, you know, let's go, you know, sponsor this charity and go do this kind of outing to make sure this happens. We're like, Yeah, let's do it. And so like, the team knows that we're all in on ideas like that. And we constantly encourage it. So I think it just starts to be take a life of its own, if you will. There's another thing I want to mention, though, just like coming to my mind about what I think is super important, you know, for people, especially first time, entrepreneurs to hear is I find that first time entrepreneurs in particular get a lot of advice from all kinds of people. And some of the worst mistakes I've made in my career have been from well intentioned advice from people who didn't really understand. And so I would strongly encourage people who are, you know, doing their own business, you know, getting a startup off the ground, to really make sure that they hone that inner voice of what they think is super important. And to recognize that that is, I'm just going to go out there and say that 90% of the time, I'm going to bet on that versus anybody else who's going to come in and give you advice. And, you know, so in my first company, we made the mistake of bringing in like an external CEO to come run the company because we were obviously too new and stuff like that to do and he wrecked the whole thing, and we totally had to repair it from there. And I just I'm very much you know, in the mindset that, you know, people who are living it day to day have got the right answers. So that's it. felt compelled to say that
Nicole Holland 24:02
that's perfect. I love that you brought that in. It's so important. And it is hard. It's hard. I mean, even right now at time of recording, like, I am writing my first book, and I had this great idea because I love collaborating. I love deepening relationships. I love sharing the brilliant people that I know, with others and helping more people. So I had this brilliant idea, okay. My friends are going to some of my friends are going to give me advice about writing a book. And I love that because they're publishers or authors or marketers, or whatever the case may be, and I love tapping in. At the end of the day, I realize I have to make the decisions. However, I thought, if they're spending time with me, what a great opportunity for me to record and share those recordings with others who want to write a book, just like me. There's plenty of experts out there. who have been doing their thing for some years and the book, they just haven't prioritized putting it on paper, but they know it. It needs to come out. So I thought, this is a great idea. And I mean, in 2015 2016 2017, I was doing summit's. I've done podcasts since 2016. So I thought, I'm going to share, I'm going to learn everybody wins. Yay. And now I was just driving back from Canada. And I'm sitting here going, Oh, gosh, I think I have too much information now too much feedback. So it's great because I I'm aware I need to go back and pick and choose Okay, here's different perspectives. And here's what I want. And so based on what my clarity is, what can I use best and what can I let go of? And yeah, so it's something I've literally just been thinking about in the last 2448 hours a lot, because I never want to overwhelm people and I never want to be over Well, I think sometimes when we bring information in, and when we put information out, it can get to a point where it can be overwhelming. And I think that's one of the curses of entrepreneurs is that we have all these ideas, and we want to implement and so we also are eager to learn and to, to say yes. Okay, that sounds great. Okay, that sounds great. Okay, that sounds great. And then it's like, Wait, you're not doing anything because you're stuck in the all these ideas and all these things to do. So I love that you brought that up. Good timing, for me at least. Well, thank you so much, Adam. Is there anything else you want to share? And then also, before we go, let's make sure our listeners know how they can continue the conversation with you.
Adam Honig 26:44
Sure. Well, I mean, if anybody is interested in learning more about sales, and I know a lot of you know, people who are entrepreneurs don't necessarily have a sales background, but we publish a very extensive and funny blog about sales at Spiro.AI that you can check out. Some some of the blog posts that we do are practical tips. And some of them are funny, like, you know, the seven reasons why everybody should marry a salesperson or things like that. But often it contains very practical sales tips and advice, you know, ways that you can incorporate into your your sales process and make it better. So you can definitely check that out at our website. And you know, I'm on Twitter, if people want to connect on LinkedIn, I'm on both of those social platforms. happy to chat with anybody about entrepreneurship. Awesome. Well, thank you so much.
Nicole Holland 27:35
And there you have it. Thanks again, for tuning in. I do realize that there are about a million other things you could have been doing over the past half hour. And the fact that you chose to spend it listening to this podcast means the world to me. I would love to know what your biggest takeaway from today's episode was. So feel free to send it on social tagging me @TheNicoleHolland on Facebook or Instagram, or send me a message from my website FascinatingFounders.com. You'll also find show notes with the transcript from this and all other past and future podcast episodes on the website. that URL once more is FascinatingFounders.com Thanks to my Podcasting Goldmine team for the production of today's episode, and a special shout out to Effy Ceruti, for composing the intro and outro music for this season. If you're looking for custom composed music for your own podcast or any other aspect of strategy, design, or production for your existing or new podcasts, the Podcasting Goldmine team can help give us a ring at 218-GET-SEEN or contact us through the website for a custom quote. And once again, if you are ready to explore effectively leveraging podcasts for business growth, visit PodcastingGoldmine.com and request a complimentary consultation to explore making podcasts work for you. Again, that URL is PodcastingGoldmine.com. Coming up on Fascinating Founders. I'm excited to introduce you to more fascinating men and women who've taken their inspired idea and against all odds have grown it into a multi-million or billion-dollar enterprise. Until next time, this is Nicole Holland, signing off.