You can’t do it alone. If you are producing a product, you need to prioritize and make sure your product has business value.
Ben Rubenstein is co-founder and Vice President of Sales Operations at Yodle. During his seven year tenure with Yodle, Ben has been instrumental to the company’s explosive growth. Ben helped lead the first round of venture capital financing, initiated both the Feet on the Street and Tele-sales models, and started the Yodle offices in Philadelphia, New York City, in addition to running the Boston Office. During his time leading the sales team, Ben has sold and closed thousands of customers. Prior to Yodle, Ben Rubenstein graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of Pennsylvania where he studied History and Latin American Studies.
What are you working on right now?
Right now, I’m focused on creating sales efficiency at Yodle. This includes building compensation plans, unification plans for our acquired company, a brand new CRM system and commission systems among other projects that will help support Yodle’s infrastructure.
Where did the idea for Yodle come from?
Our co-founder, Nathaniel Stevens, was in charge of online marketing for his family’s car dealership while in undergraduate school. He found there to be many middlemen in the online marketing world for auto dealers (Auto Trader, Cars.com, etc) and he wanted his local business to connect directly to consumers. I joined Nathaniel and we won a business plan competition for our idea that could better address the marketing needs of small businesses. We were invited to the Venture Initiation Program (part of the Small Business Development Center at Penn) and received free office space, printing, and resources to make this company a reality. We wanted to build one platform where small businesses could go for all of their web needs.
What does your typical day look like?
My day consists of a lot of calls and meetings that focus on how we build the company and scale our business. I do a lot of strategizing with the other department leaders and spend as much time as possible on the sales floor to see how our sales reps are performing.
How do you bring ideas to life?
You can’t do it alone. If you are producing a product, you need to prioritize and make sure your product has business value. Get group consensus and figure out how to create the best and most useful product given limited resources. It’s really important to bring high value to life as quickly as possible.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
Mobile. By next year more searches will be done on mobile devices than desktop computers. Mobile has changed how people search – especially for location based services.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
I did a lot of medical studies in college to make money. I had to smell things, taste things, and even shoot carbon dioxide up my nose once to test pain my threshold. After feeling the pain of that test, I learned that just because something will pay you doesn’t mean you should do it.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
The second time around I think we’d add more experience to the team in the early days. We made a bunch of basic mistakes early on and a little extra experience could have gone a long way.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Obsess with focus and optimize your day. Don’t get distracted, prioritize. Have monthly goals and weekly updates on those goals. Check in with yourself constantly to make sure you’re on course and know when to say no to something that will take your focus away from what’s important.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
As I began to hire people to join our sales team, I figured I was good at selling, so I tried to replicate myself in who we hired and how we structured our sales process. My reasoning was that we had a sales system that was working for me so it should scale even if was complicated. Instead, I should have thought about what type of salespeople were available and what type of sales system should be built to make them, and thus our company, more successful, faster.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
We have been so focused on innovating within Yodle I haven’t given much thought to the outside world. I have a few new things up my sleeve, but nothing fully fleshed out.
If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?
There are several vaccines that aren’t available in third world countries. Food engineers have been able to get vaccines into bananas and other foods that can be grown in third world countries, and I would like to see a larger, more dedicated effort to seeing that these types of resources become accessible to the countries that need them.
Tell us a secret.
When I was in 6th grade I built a low rider bicycle and was featured in Low Rider Bicycle Magazine.
What are your three favorite online tools or resources and what do you love about them?
WhoIs.com – This is a domain tool where you can do reverse lookups and find out who owns a domain name or website.
HideMyAss — This allows you to block your IP address.
AwardWallet – This allows you to track all of your miles programs in one place for free (I travel a lot).
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?
It’s strange but I don’t have a Twitter account. If I were to create one I’d follow President Obama, football players who say ridiculously funny things like Ochocinco, and Reggie Watts, a very funny comedian from New York.
When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?
Talking about who I should follow on Twitter.
Who is your hero?
My mom is very impressive. She works harder than anyone I know and she does amazing things for the City of New Haven and local businesses. She’s a lawyer who has worked with Planned Parenthood of Connecticut and many other important local organizations.
What motivates you to do your job?
Building something really big. Yodle recently just opened a 100,000 sq.ft. office in Austin and we’ve surpassed the 800 employee mark nationwide. It’s amazing to see this, especially when I think back to when we began 7.5 years ago in a small shared university incubator space. I also know there is so much more growth ahead of us. Yodle helps small businesses because SMBs are the backbone on this country’s economy. The majority of people employed and hired in the United States come from small businesses. We want to help small companies get more leads and drive more business so they can in turn hire more. My grandfather was a butcher and my father is a lawyer. I come from family of small business owners and I want to help other small businesses grow.
Outside of work, what are two things you’d like to accomplish?
1) When I was younger, I bought some land in Nicaragua and I’d like to build an eco-surf resort there, visit every country in South and Central America, and perfect my Spanish.
2) I’d like to dedicate more of my time to volunteering. In the past, I worked at the Harlem Children’s Zone teaching media literacy and video production. I’d like to continue some type of work in child development.
Yodle’s Website: http://www.yodle.com/
Ben Rubenstein on LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/ben-rubenstein/28/b47/872