The Burger Interview- By Krishnavelu Balaji

The Beginning

“Hi Balaji, I got your reference from Shaivya and I am in Dwarka. Can we meet? I am at Burger King, Sector 10!” Despite the sultry summer afternoon, there was a different energy in his tone. ” Sure Mayank, I’ll be there in 10 minutes” I replied hurriedly, I was out of the door at 5. 

I cannot recall how much time had passed in the conversation, all I remember is that it was one packet of fries, one burger, and two cokes long. When you have worked at established companies with formalized processes and “Corporate culture”, this was a leap of faith for me. I had never heard of the company before, nor had it featured anywhere nor had it had any corporate “Public display of affection” on any social media. Nonetheless, the man was sincere in his ideas and laid bare his expectations. This was a rare find, I had made up my mind that I was going to work with him. 

“Let’s do this Mayank”, I retorted after thoroughly absorbing all he had to say and running the war scenario over and over again in my mind that was to ensue when I would break the news to my wife that I had joined a Startup with just 5 other people in it.

The Hustle 

A week into the new job I was in the field delivering product demos, I knew what selling is and what the sales process was, after all, I am an MBA graduate with extensive experience, so I thought.

 

 

The Burger Interview
A glimpse of days when I was out on the field for product demos

 

I could not have been far from the reality of SaaS sales, rejections were frequent, approvals were rarefied. “We are competing with the giants, keep at it! This is fun too” a continuous reminder that kept ringing in my head. I believe this is what is called “learning on the Job”. We were bleeding, Zimyo was drowning, the only thing that kept it afloat was the team’s unyielding spartan-like spirit. We were (and still are) a bunch of headstrong, never give up, “Jo Hoga Dekha Jayega” set of crazies, and one could see that in our actions, our conversations, and the pace at which the product was being developed.

A sinusoidal curve starts at zero value and rises until the peak (profit-making) and falls to a negative peak (in wretched debt). I believe this phenomenon does not apply to Zimyo strangely. We were at zero and now we dived to a negative peak. Reality check time: we were broke, the leaders laid down 2 options :

  • Pull up our socks, take a deep breath and slog till we make it, this could entitle that we might not get our salaries for the next few months

Or

  • Accept investors offer who could control every bit of the company, the leaders would have least to no power to effect change let alone the employees

Some left, some stayed, I came to understand the obviousness of the truth, this was a hustlers’ game. Our processes changed almost every day. Every day we discovered something new, we were learning constantly and consuming domain knowledge for breakfast-lunch and dinner. 

I struggled through my first closure, a 12 employee count marketing company called The Social Booth– a small win with a relatively big impact, I felt Invincible! We went on to acquire one customer after another, we looked back only to learn from our failures and celebrate our failures more than our wins.

The Reward 

Fast forward: It has been 3 years, 3 funding’s and 500+ customers since my “Burger interview” and I recall the rushed client calls, BNI meets with Ajay at 7-star hotels at 7 am, cramping meetings in an unknown city, constant brainstorming sessions, and executions, waddling through the yucky marshes of Bahadurgarh, hustling every day. The hustle has been worth it, my learning curve has been a linear upward slope, an experience that I would not have otherwise witnessed if I hadn’t accepted that offer on that sultry summer afternoon.

“Feet on the ground,  eyes towards the skies, Dream on, Dream big!”

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