What I’ve Learned as a Growth Nomad
Blog post by ELP student Zach Simpson (Computer Engineering | Class of 2020) Interning at LineLeap
This blog post will center around my background, what I’ve learned this summer, and how I think it ties into the greater scheme of things. I don’t think this will be a traditional post because I don’t think I have a traditional internship. I hope you enjoy the read – if you feel compelled, don’t hesitate to drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
LineLeap is a Y-Combinator backed company focused on consolidating your night out. Founded in September of 2016, we started as a company based around skipping lines (hence the name), but have since evolved into a service that provides table reservations, VIP packages, pre-ordered drink specials, GA ticketing – basically any service you can imagine that involves nightlife or event technology. We’re currently operational at 50 venues around 16 cities in the United States, and we don’t plan on stopping.
What does Zach do there?
I was LineLeap’s first hire four months after launch. I met Patrick the CEO in a first-year marketing class and got to know all of the co-founders by the summer. As the first employee, I’ve been tasked with several different tasks ranging from cold calling, designing marketing strategies, hiring, customer discovery, you name it. I feel a strong connection to the company because I’ve been with the company for a long time, so I work on anything that I can do to ensure success. The team and I (six of us full-time), have taken on many different roles and responsibilities, and I wouldn’t want it any other way. The two previous summers included multiple trips to Chicago and pitching the idea to bar owners and GMs. This summer I’ve scaled to the entire east half of the country while exec is in Mountain View. I have been to 30 different cities so far, and covered over 5,000+ miles of the U.S. Let’s dive into what I’ve learned.
There is No Framework to Growth
Research → Drive → Talk → Repeat. If I were to piece this summer into four actions, that’s what they would be, but no matter how many “How I Built This” episodes you listen to, you will still have a unique experience when you’re trying to scale a company. There is no cut and dry formula for what works and what doesn’t. On the B2B side of my role, the different personalities I meet on a daily basis are always changing, so the way I interact with potential partners is always changing. An opener that works in Kalamazoo might not work in Indianapolis, and a follow-up schedule that worked in Baton Rouge might be the opposite of what you want in Chicago. Bottom line is that I have learned to stay on my toes – this leads into the next topic.
You Need to Be Independent
Imagine this: you’re on the road in Cincinnati and you’re on a dry streak. Two calls that you had scheduled didn’t even pick up, and you already know their voicemail is full. If you call again you’ll come off as annoying, but if you leave for the next town they could call back in an hour. What do you do?
Well, you shouldn’t overthink things. You should stay focused, make up your mind, and make sure to not take anything personally. Staying true to the company – and more importantly yourself – is key to staying sane on the road. Things can pile up very quickly, and if you’re not in the right frame of mind to handle them, then you’re not going to have a good time.
Your Timeline Doesn’t Matter
Let’s rephrase that – it doesn’t matter to other people. Owners and GMs don’t care if you just drove for 15 hours, or if you pulled a back muscle. Staying on top of your follow-ups is very important when you’re bouncing from city to city, but the name of the game is growth. At any minute, an owner can call your phone from the number on the card that you left at their bar five weeks ago and demand a meeting. Since we’re in grow mode, if nothing is on our plate at the time, you best believe we’re on the way to that meeting as quickly as possible. Things change like crazy on the road, and creating a schedule (or lack thereof) that can flow with these changes has been a big learning curve from the clockwork routine at U-M. This point has mainly taught me to always expect the worst, that way the bounce back is a lot easier if anything goes wrong. As bad as it sounds, it helps me stay level headed.
Make It Worth It
All work and no play, or something like that. I admit that living out of a suitcase can be quite dull. Checking into a hotel at 11 p.m. – hoping that they believe your excuse of not seeing the “21+ Only” banner before booking – can get pretty old. However, each morning I wake up feeling energized and ready to attack the next day. I truly believe that my mindset of “work” has changed this summer, allowing me to realize that being able to travel and meet people in different cities every day is really an amazing thing, and I definitely wouldn’t trade it for the desk job that I was expecting. The work-life balance is exacerbated when you’re on your own, so taking a day to go to a zoo or a baseball game can be essential in staying in the right mindset. Andrew Wilkinson said, “You don’t have to make yourself miserable to be successful.” No matter how many long nights at a buzzing line, ignored calls, or cancelled meetings, you need to leave room for yourself. I have learned to occasionally take a step back and appreciate all of the things that I’ve learned this summer. Patrick and LineLeap have taught me so much about my love for entrepreneurship since my journey began. I look up to Pat and what he does to keep his head on straight – if he can do it, so can I. He’s only three years older than me after all.
Tying It All Back Together
I didn’t know what to expect from my third summer with LineLeap. We’ve entered a program that boasts a 1.5% acceptance rate, received an investment from TopGolf, and talked with the largest alcohol producing company in the world. There’s no telling where things will go from here, but no matter what, I know that the time I’ve spent with my team has been life-changing. Learning things on the road can be a little different than in a classroom or in an office, but that’s what makes it exciting. The purpose of this summer was growth – I guess I didn’t specify if it was for the company or myself.