I’m going to start a series called, …lessons I’ve Learned From….
Since this is the first one of my series (hopefully many to follow), it is only right that I start with Hiten Shah, cofounder of KissMetrics.com. Why? Because I don’t know him personally. I have no affiliations with him other than using KissMetrics and CrazyEgg.
I met Hiten in 2011 briefly the night before a conference. There were only 4 of us getting a bite to eat. I admit, at this point I had no idea who Hiten was other than his involvement with KM. At one point, Hiten turned to a programmer at the table – we’ll call him Mike – and offered him a job. On the spot. Mike had recently (and successfully) exited from his startup. I’m not sure what the etiquette is for offering a person a job who just had an exit. In fact, at one point that night Mike had explained, that he was there to figure out his next startup. Contrary to your perception, Hiten’s question was not contrived or pretentious. He asked it in a very serious and a matter-of-fact manner. What was interesting is that we were also looking to hire a developer. So I was very intrigued by Hiten’s question.
Lesson 1: Be more intuitive
Mike said “no thanks” and the night continued. But the question always stayed with me. Why would Hiten offer a job to someone who labeled himself an entrepreneur. Nothing about Mike’s professional pedigree hinted that he would be an employee. Mike and I became acquaintances and every once in a while we email each other about life, business, etc. About a year later, Mike did indeed take a job a different startup. I reached out to him to find out why he accepted a job offer. To clarify, there is nothing wrong with working for someone else. Mike said after living with the challenges of running a startup he realized he would rather program than to deal with payroll, lawyers, employee issues, etc. People who run startups know that a bootstrapped life can take a toll and every founder (now-and-then) fantasizes about not having the weight of the world on his/her shoulders. I now realize that Hiten may have picked up on subtle clues. He may have realized that Mike was yearning for the next startup and not necessarily his own. He may have intuitively picked up on Mike’s demeanor.
Lesson 2: Be helpful
The last day of the conference we all hung out again and Hiten and I struck a conversation about Ties.com. I told him about some of our marketing challenges, our future aspirations, and our build cycle. What was amazing is that he listen intently and was genuine in his conversation. He told me of a similar situation KM had faced and what they did to overcome the challenge. After some trial and error my team and I were able put together awesome solutions (our “change agents”). Here, Hiten was helpful in a practical and tangible manner by being transparent about his own experiences – we were able to use KM’s experience as a roadmap for overcoming our obstacle.
Lesson 3: Remember unimportant details about people
Months later we were implementing KM on one of our sites and I needed his help to activate a code. We ended up getting on a phone call. He remembered exactly our past conversation. What struck me was how many details he remembered. Some of the things he remembered were completely unimportant to him. But he remembered them anyway. This left me with a lasting impression of the kind of person Hiten is.
From then on, I’ve been a huge fan of Hiten’s work. Admittedly KM was really not a good fit for us at that time and we stopped using it, but never-the-less he made me a fan.
Image courtesy of http://blog.bombfell.com/