September 19, 2017

 

BrightPearl CEO
Photos by Rudy Arocha

 

When Derek O'Carroll became CEO of Brightpearl in spring 2016, its average deal size was $6,000. Today, it is closer to $35,000.

Growing deal sizes was one of O'Carroll's many goals in taking on the new role, and he assembled a task force to do it. That task force helped clients come to the realization that they were underpaying for Brightpearl's back-office retail automation platform.

In the company's new United States headquarters in Austin, we met with O’Carroll to learn more about how he increased deal size by nearly 500 percent. While company values are often seen as “soft” and divorced from the bottom line, O'Carroll explained that Brightpearl’s values — like customer first and curiosity — made all the difference.  

 

BrightPearl Interior

BrightPearl Interior

 

FOUNDED: 2007.

EMPLOYEES: 100 total, 15 locally (with more on the way).

WHAT THEY DO: Develop cloud-based solutions that allow retailers to automate their back-office functions (think purchasing, supply, orders, etc. all from one system).

WHO THEY DO IT FOR: 1,400 retailers from 53 countries.

WHERE THEY DO IT: TechSpace Austin (98 San Jacinto Blvd).

GOOD CHEMISTRY: Derek was once a chemist, but he joined a group of “tech guys” to launch a Dublin startup in 1994. He hasn’t looked back since.

EARLY START IN BIZ: At age 15, Derek created a paid tennis club when he realized his school tennis courts weren’t being used.

HIRING FOR: Two types of candidates — those  have worked at a startup before or those that have contributed to a company’s revenue growth from $10M to $60M

 

Brightpearl

 

So you were brought on last year as CEO to drive individual deal size. How did you do so?

The team here built an amazing platform — it’s one of the reasons I joined. It’s extremely scalable and offers accounting, a full service management solution, point of sale system, warehousing and more. So when I looked at the cost of alternative solutions for a mid-market retailer, I found that you could go to a large enterprise provider and buy a hugely capable solution starting at around $100,000 — or you could sometimes get in at $50,000.

 

Brightpearl’s was about $6,000.

Yes, and when we mapped out all of our capabilities and the work we do for our customers, we found that we built a solution that was equal to — if not better than — the capability of what was already in the marketplace.

The team here built an amazing platform — it’s one of the reasons I joined"

How did you roll this out to the team?

You can’t make these changes quickly, especially when you have a company with six years under its belt. We explained the problem and why we were going to make the change. This took about two months. During this time, we had a team assigned to this challenge that talked to customers and connected with people in the market. As these conversations were being held, the team started to realize how great the Brightpearl product is. Our customers love the fact that we understand retail and they recognized they were underpaying. Pretty soon this team got the whole company on board.

We spent the next six months on the operations side rewriting our partner strategy and messaging and launched the new pricing model in December.

 

Brightpearl

 

A few months later, you moved Brightpearl’s U.S. headquarters from California to Austin. We have to ask, why Austin?

Austin is very good for an international company — you get more hours of the day to talk to Europe. Before this office, we only had about two hours in the day where our San Francisco team could talk to our U.K. office. There are also a lot of partner opportunities here with other tech companies like BigCommerce and ShipStation, and great universities that lead to exceptional talent.

Plus, the living standards are better. The week I came here to check it out, it was the same week as ACL, and I saw Radiohead. This is a happening city.

Leveraging your people’s own networks is the best way to grow a team"

How do you build a team from scratch?

Getting your initial talent requires hard work and an investment. You’re always tempted to rush, but you can’t because you’ll get your anchor talent wrong and have to start again. For us, we had to make sure we get someone from the U.S. to help us with interviews. I interview for values, but I think it’s important to get someone who understands the cultural nuances since they are very different. Then once you lock in your anchor talent, you can rely on networks. Leveraging your people’s own networks is the best way to grow a team.

 

Brightpearl

 

What are some of the cultural differences between the U.K. headquarters and the Austin team?

Our U.K. teams tend to err on the side of caution. They are very humble and don’t shout about their successes. It’s not that they don’t celebrate success naturally, it’s just not as overt. There’s not as much high fiving in the U.K., but all offices definitely share the same values. They just express themselves differently.  

If you don’t have values, you don’t give people a lens through which to make decisions without guidance."

Can you tell us a bit more about your team’s values?

If you were to ask me this question 20 years ago, I would’ve completely undervalued having everyone in the company follow the same values. They are hugely important — if you don’t have values, you don’t give people a lens through which to make decisions without guidance. A big organization without values won’t be around for too long. They are the biggest driver of organizational efficiency, productivity and team health.

As a team, we had a long discussion a year ago to create values that drive us to operate as a team and individuals. We ran a workshop for two days, and the team created our core values, as well as aspirational values per department. Our sequence of values is: customer first, curiousity, help, retail only and confidence.

 

Brightpearl

BrightPearl_019.jpg

 

How do Brightpearl’s values play into the interview process?

We’ve built these into our hiring process. Everyone’s final interview is with me, and I’m looking for a culture fit. Does the person have the right basic skills? Does this person have character?

 

Lastly, what’s ahead for Brightpearl?

This year, we’re hiring professionals that understand the back-office technology automation space in sales, design, implementation, support and post-implementation customer success.

Next year, we’re focusing on product management and engineering to bring to life our vision of automation and natural language query. We’re already building the foundation so clients can essentially talk to the system and ask things like, “What’s my margin today on this product?” It would respond via chat. There’s a whole world of opportunity to bring ease of access to the space, and we want to take it to the next level.

The interview has been edited for length and clarity.