[quote style=”boxed”]Paying for my $75 bus ticket to college. The summer before college, everyday I walked three miles to the mall at 7am to get picked up to paint classrooms for 8 hours, and then I worked at McDonalds from 7:30 to close 4 days a week. I was exhausted, and I was partially supporting my family while working. I just could not save money because when your family has nothing you need EVERYTHING. Broke, I worked 80 hours my last week to try to pump up my check. That summer I really saw how low minimum wage was. In the end I had saved $150. Half went to my ticket. The other half went to my future.[/quote]
Don Charlton is the founder & CEO of The Resumator, an online application that helps employers take the hassle out of hiring. Despite living in poverty until he was 18, Don blended his love of art with computer programming to forge on and earn a BFA (with honors) from Rochester Institute of Technology in 1999. Over the next decade, he established himself as an award-winning interactive designer, software developer and inspirational public speaker. In 2009, Don designed, built and launched TheResumator.com, which today employs ten people and recently earned a spot on Entreprenuer magazine’s list of 100 Brilliant Companies.
If you meet Don Charlton, you’ll see determination in its human form.
What are you working on right now?
I am working on our product roadmap. Our corporate name is actually named Hireku, and ultimately The Resumator will be one of multiple interrelated products meant to enhance the connections between employers, employees, jobseekers and recruiters. In four years I’d like the ability to say that during any given month 50% of the U.S. workforce uses one of our Web-based products. That means we need to look for opportunities that are what I call SaaSocial—that is, recurring revenue opportunities (in our space) that scale based on how well we tie them to the social layer of the Web.
What does your typical day look like?
Well, I wake up pretty early and 15% of the time I will hit my elliptical. The other 85% of the time I watch Morning Joe on MSNBC. I’m already at the computer and I’m pulling metrics from yesterday, trying to project the whole month. Eventually I get ready for work and arrive around nine. I’d say the common events I have each day are quick morning meetings with sales, marketing, and the whole team, followed by a day of trying to balance being the quasi product manager and business development person. Everything else that injects itself into my day is triaged. We recently raised a round of funding to expand the team, so ironically right now I spend that triage time trying to recruit people to reduce my time doing triaged things. When you’re the owner of a small company every day seems like a triage exercise.
3 trends that excite you?
1) Software-as-a-service (SaaS) is becoming a term more and more people understand. As more and more people rely on Web-based services to handle their business, that makes finding those customers easier and easier.
2) Cloud infrastructure. Being able to scale infrastructure without scaling your team (immediately) is amazing. We recently moved to the cloud management platform RightScale and we’re just amazed at how easy it is to get started. And being able to buy computing cycles from the cloud is pretty cool.
3) Recruiting 2.0. Monster, CareerBuilder and recruiting in general need to be rethought. We’re trying to be innovative in this space.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I like to do what I call a “race to the finish”. I don’t think about the “minimum viable product”. I like to think about what I want the app to ultimately be, and then pull back from that to determine the MVP. As a designer you learn to make educated guesses as to what is a viable solution to a design problem. You need to do the same with software. Just write code. I think the value ratio of a line of code for your app to a line of text in a business plan is 2000 to 1.
What inspires you?
People overcoming obstacles. That is the story of my life. I went to college with $75 and my bus ticket. I did okay. Jay-Z grew up in the Marcy housing projects. He’s worth half a billion. I will always root for the kid who comes from nothing and does something before the kid who came from something and is simply following someone else’s Blueprint (Jay-Z reference intended). Of course we know of plenty entrepreneurs who’ve overcome obstacles when trying to launch their business. They should be applauded. I just prefer to root for the people who’ve overcome obstacles to LIVING.
What is one mistake you’ve made, and what did you learn from it?
Not hiring when it hurts. There was a decent stretch there when we were just 2 people. If I had simply buckled down and brought in employee three and four earlier, we’d have iterated the product faster and probably would have grown faster. You need to hire even if you’re not sure a year’s pay is in the bank for the employee. You can’t fear the future.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Someone needs to take Rapportive and Highrise and create an awesome Social CRM. Like a CRM off steroids, and on social. Ever try to use a CRM? Ugh.
What do you read every day? Why?
I wish I could say the Bible here, but I can’t. I prefer audiobooks over regular books because you can multitask. I don’t read anything everyday except a few websites by habit (TechCrunch, HuffPo). But I churn through 6 podcasts and at least one audiobook a week.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read, and why?
“Founders at Work” by Jessica Livingston. There’s a ton of great stories in there about how some high profile companies became successful. Great read.
What is your favorite gadget, app or piece of software that helps you every day?
iPad. I own about 25 Mac products. I have only used Macs my whole life. Never in my years have I ever been so awestruck by a device. I thought there would be redundancy with my laptop, but gesh it’s an entirely different experience. It makes me want to work for Apple.
Who would you love to see interviewed on IdeaMensch?
Josh Dzbiak and Linsey Campbell from Showclix.
What are your thoughts about diversity in high tech startups?
I would argue the best opportunities for minorities can be found in tech. Product is everything. I raised funds from 3 different investors who never met me face to face, but loved The Resumator as a product. VCs and angels will always want to see product above everything else. If you make a good product, you can get attention, and you can be on the path to winning. I would argue high tech is perhaps the most fair space in which to start a business. Product matters, period.
You mentioned overcoming obstacles inspires you. What is the biggest specific obstacle that you personally have overcome?
Paying for my $75 bus ticket to college. The summer before college, everyday I walked three miles to the mall at 7am to get picked up to paint classrooms for 8 hours, and then I worked at McDonalds from 7:30 to close 4 days a week. I was exhausted, and I was partially supporting my family while working. I just could not save money because when your family has nothing you need EVERYTHING. Broke, I worked 80 hours my last week to try to pump up my check. That summer I really saw how low minimum wage was. In the end I had saved $150. Half went to my ticket. The other half went to my future.
Don Charlton on Twitter – @dontrepreneur
[box size=”small” border=”full”]This interview was brought to you by Rohit Jain who works in business development. You can follow Rohit via his blog and on Twitter. [/box]
Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.