Profit & Purpose: Growing a company that aims to put a dent in the universe
How do you define what motivates you, what gets you out of bed each morning? If you can sum it up in 140-characters, you might be onto something. For Nathaniel Mueller, CEO of SaaSfocus, his one line bio pointedly states: "If anyone ever questions my purpose or intentions they are simple. I want to do interesting, compelling and meaningful things ALL the time."
Purpose and meaning are the alchemy that fuels Mueller. Spend just ten minutes with this Meridian-based global entrepreneur and that becomes clear. The ability to do meaningful work that can 'put a dent in the universe' is at the core of the start and rapid growth of his agile consulting, design and development company SaaSfocus. “We are trying to accomplish projects where we can implement meaningful change,” says Mueller. And that is their competitive advantage, at least when it comes down to the key battleground for growth - finding talent. So, what makes a SaaSfocus candidate?
“You need to have a good motor and you need to give a damn…everything else we do we can train people to do.” It’s a philosophy that Mueller shared in his most recent job posting. More of a stream-of-consciousness blog than traditional posting, he ended with: "If you get what I mean about operating with intention and that is more an inseparable fiber of your being than an aspirational idea we probably want to hire you."
It's an approach that has worked well as Mueller and co-founder Manvir Sandhu built the company over the past three years. Find those with passion and purpose, then train for skills. SaaSfocus now has more than 250 employees spread across its offices in California, Idaho, New Delhi, Australia, New Zealand, Serbia and Singapore. And at the Downtown Meridian headquarters, they're hiring. "When you’re building a company, at least in my mind, you’re trying to build a great core of leaders that no matter where you go in the future, you want to take them with you...our big focus right now is building our talent pipeline and building our leadership talent."
The Work & The Purpose
As for what exactly SaaSfocus does, that’s a question Mueller can struggle to answer for those expecting a product-oriented or transactional statement of value.
In essence, “We help companies scale and take on new technologies that help them grow.” That means providing process and technology consulting with strong expertise in implementation, integration, and customization of cloud based applications such as Salesforce.com, Force.com and Amazon Web Services. In fact, SaaSfocus is a Platinum Alliance Partner with Salesforce.com and has completed hundreds of successful cloud implementations and customizations around the world. Clients range from government organizations like the CDC, State of California and State of Idaho to technology leaders like HP, Taos and Audi, to a growing focus in healthcare with companies such as UNICEF, the Clinton Foundation, Sutter Health and St. Luke's.
But at the core, “Everyone works at SaaSfocus because we have a common vision and belief to leave this world a little bit of a better place." That means getting to work on projects that have a measureable impact - from helping small companies revolutionize how they do business, to their newest global initiative to develop an Electronic Health record system and Community Health Worker Management platform to take on the challenges of treating tuberculosis in the developing world.
That interest in solving complex problems speaks to the purpose that fuels the SaaSfocus team and its company culture. "The soul of work culture is giving people an environment to work in where they feel valued, and giving them things to work on that they find meaning in and where they have a shot at making a real difference. If you get people to buy into the vision that you can have a big impact - then give them the opportunity to do that - you will find people who will run through brick walls..."
SaaSfocus isn't just focused on making a difference in the developing world, but in their headquarters' hometown. “When I first decided to emerge from our basement, I checked out the area and then met with the Meridian Chamber. They were just so insanely enthusiastic and ready to help… and I had the realization that in Meridian we would be a big fish in a small pond." He has also come to realize that the impact they sought to have globally they could have at a local level by building a company in, and attracting employees and other companies to, Downtown Meridian. "This is just one more cause we get to work on."
SaaSfocus has expanded into multiple floors of the Heritage Building in Downtown Meridian, and Mueller has plans to invest in property in the downtown core. But the investment mentality extends beyond bricks and mortar. SaaSFocus is working with the Meridian Library District's unBound technology lab and educational facility to develop and deliver a free community training series to cultivate SalesForce administrators and developers locally. Recognizing there is a shortage in the Valley of people with these highly sought skillsets, Mueller "...wants to partner with this public tech library space to help people who feel stuck find the opportunity to pivot and grow into better careers. I was given a shot early in my career that I didn’t deserve and I thrived in it. And now I want to give people the same type of shot I was given."
With details still being worked out with unBound and a goal to kick the program off later this spring, SaaSfocus is committed to providing the materials, trainers and senior consultant office hours to support those who sign up. Mueller says the free training won't just benefit community members but the SaaSFocus team. "To take someone who deserves a shot and give them mentorship, skills and opportunity to thrive - it’s powerful for the students but also for the mentors. It’s meaningful work and extremely rewarding to mentor someone and see them grow and succeed."
While revenue growth is one measurement of a startup's success, Mueller finds the growth in people and purpose to be of equal importance as he looks to the future of SaaSfocus
"There is a healthy internal battle to continually fight to find meaning in the world. Even if you never find it but you work your whole life towards trying to, it becomes meaningful. We want to give more people a shot and support to create a better world… and create a far more interesting life."