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With every great element of my life, I like to reflect on what I’ve accomplished, what I’ve learned and the memories that will stick forever.

And man, SmashFly has given me a lot.

After seven years of seeing this company expand from 3 to 103+ and expanding our brand and influence in the market; building awareness of a product category that didn’t use to exist; sending thousands of tweets and having thousands of conversations; attending (for a long time solo) hundreds of recruiting conferences and writing even more blog posts; and spending an ungodly amount of hours in our technology, explaining our technology, writing about our technology and marketing our technology … the best way I saw fit to say goodbye to SmashFly was by adding one last perspective. Of course, in blog form.

 

Four Score and Seven Years Ago

OK, so maybe not four score, but if you’ve worked at a startup like SmashFly, you know that’s not far off.

Seven years ago, I was in the same shoes as many of the candidates we talk about today: I was on my career journey. I was two years out of school and worked at one of the largest life insurance companies in the U.S. I was looking for a change – I had pushed papers and managed projects to help maintain the status quo at a large organization … and I didn’t like doing that.

When I thought about what got me out of bed in the morning to work, I realized I was a builder at heart. And I was looking for a place to build.

This isn’t easy … and candidates today know that. It’s hard to convince organizations and hiring managers to give this type of opportunity to a green, but eager, person. Maybe I was being unrealistic or naïve, but I was really looking for the right fit: an organization that was willing to take a chance on me and me take a chance on them.

 

A Match Made on Craigslist

And that match happened on Craigslist.

I had been looking for my next career for a few months and started reading Hubspot’s Inbound Marketing book by Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah. I wanted to focus on inbound marketing in my next role, and it just so happened I came across a Craigslist ad for a Marketing Specialist to run inbound marketing programs for them (huge plus: this ad mentioned the book I was reading in the job description).

That company was SmashFly.

Three interviews (one over a beer at a Mexican restaurant in Waltham), a blog article to test my blogging skills (published here) and three weeks later, I had found my home for the next seven years.

I joined as the first marketing/sales hire at the organization (proud employee #3), and the job was simple: use inbound marketing and social media to build awareness for recruitment marketing and drive leads to SmashFly.

 

Evolution of Recruitment Marketing

Yeah, simple, right? With a blog, a Twitter handle (with less than 100 followers), a very meager budget, pretty great software and an audacious idea, we wanted to do something big: transform talent acquisition through recruitment marketing. 

When you think back to 2010, the industry was much different. While we were seeing the beginning stages of talent acquisition leveraging recruitment marketing channels like SEO, social media, mobile and employer branding, the majority of time and money was still spent on job boards. Even with all the spend and effort, very few organizations truly understood the results of job marketing – and wasting a lot of money in the process.

SmashFly’s passion for and purpose in recruitment marketing started here: providing insights on performance of job marketing channels in order to improve strategy, optimize spend and expand to new channels. In 10 years, we’ve seen the focus evolve from job marketing to career sites to social media to multichannel marketing to purpose-driven employer brand strategies. I believe SmashFly’s perspective and leadership (with the help of many practitioners, partners and analysts) has helped the discipline evolve and mature.

Case in point: SmashFly held its Transform Recruitment Marketing Conference this past November (and holding another virtual conference on June 22!). It was the first-ever Recruitment Marketing conference in the industry; one that was unthinkable when I started at SmashFly seven years ago. But now, we’re at a time where practitioners can lead sessions on their recruitment marketing strategies … complete with success metrics and learnings. And SmashFly gave them the platform (and literally the stage) to do it. (Shout out to SmashFly’s marketing team for creating a tremendous event … the reception we received was exceptional!)

 

Why SmashFly Has Been Successful

We’re now at 120+ employees, helping some of the biggest brands in the world build and optimize their recruitment marketing strategies through technology and services. We’ve won awards, been included as a leader in recruitment marketing platforms in analyst reports, and risen as a thriving best place to work in Boston. This success has not come overnight; rather, with a consistent determination, message and values that transcends everything we do.

As I think about at how SmashFly ended up here against long odds (every startup faces an uphill battle), I recognize three core pillars:

  • Fostering a Discipline: From the start, our goal wasn’t to control the conversation. Yes, we wrote hundreds of blog posts in the first few years (and continue to). Yes, we tweeted thousands of times over to a growing follower base (and continue to). But we did it to start and foster a dialogue that others could join and find valuable. We saw success not only due to our technology, but due to how we listened to and participated in the talent acquisition community. We sought to embrace the exchange of ideas and share best practices with practitioners, thought leaders and influencers to improve how everyone recruits talent.  Without a discipline that cared about recruitment marketing, we would never be successful. So we focused on helping foster a discipline first, then how to use recruitment marketing software to implement this discipline second … across product, marketing, sales, customer success and leadership. Though putting the discipline first, we’ve gained credibility and trust as a partner for practitioners at every stage of their recruitment marketing journey.
  • Putting People First: I truly believe the value of any company is driven not by the product, but by the people. If we did one thing right at SmashFly through the years, it was hiring the right people at the right time. It’s one thing to hire talented people that can get the job done; it’s another entirely to hire talented people that you actually enjoy being around and talking to. People that fit with your purpose. If you talk to SmashFly customers about what makes us different, people is at the top of their lists. They’ll likely tell you about their account manager, the marketing team they worked with on a webinar or the sales partner that helped them day and night to build a business case. We’ve hired people that genuinely care about helping each other, helping our customers and helping the discipline. I know for a fact that I’ve built an amazing group of friends, across every department, that I hope I talk to for life. I also walk away from the best marketing team I’ve ever been a part of, which has set a high bar for every future team I’ll join. Thank you for making me feel valued and inspired every day.
  • Embracing Risk and Potential: When I started at SmashFly, I had two years of work experience, most of which was NOT in inbound marketing. In a world where every recruiter is looking for a mountain of specific qualifications, I would never have been hired at SmashFly. Luckily, a recruiter didn’t hire me. You know from reading this that SmashFly’s Founder and CEO Mike Hennessy did. You’d have to ask him what he saw in me back then, but it’s a clear indicator of his leadership that he gave me the trust and opportunity to learn and excel. He pushed me to try new things, fail many times and expand my skillset. In the end, I achieved great marketing results and personal growth because he gave me the ownership over my domain and our strategy.  I have created all types of content, launched new websites, owned analyst relations, built a conference booth, developed an industry-first research report, and become a thought leader in the talent acquisition industry because Mike, Lori, Mary Grace and others gave me the keys to the car. I couldn’t be more appreciative. The best part is that this isn’t just my story; this is the story of the SmashFly employee. Giving people confidence in their potential has helped this company thrive.

 

It sounds corny, but I will always be a part of SmashFly. And I know that SmashFly will always be a part of me. This industry has been incredibly accepting of me from day one, and I value all of the relationships I’ve developed over the years. It’s been a formative time in my life: one that’s given me the confidence, skills and experience to thrive in my career, wherever it takes me next.

Chance has a funny way of working out. I took a chance on a small, bootstrapped startup that wanted to change an industry. And they took a chance on a smart kid who was looking to grow, build and transform (no pun intended).

All in all, I’d say it worked out extremely well on both sides.

I’ll be keeping in touch with the talent acquisition industry as a Council Member for the Candidate Experience Awards. Connect with me on LinkedIn if you ever want to chat.

One response to “Getting My Startup MBA at SmashFly”

  1. I’ve always loved reading your internal lookbacks Chris. This last one is so great too!! I look forward to seeing where your career takes you. MG

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