Shrad Rao - CEO of Wagepoint

Give yourself the permission and time to enjoy your weekend.

Shrad has always been passionate about entrepreneurship because it allows him the ability to influence change, make decisions and most of all, choose the company he keeps. After meeting his future business partner, Bill Murphy in Halifax, NS, they decided to tackle the challenge of building work-flow and productivity apps for small businesses, starting with simplifying the function of payroll. That’s how Wagepoint was born. Wagepoint’s mission is to help small businesses owners feel awesome about payroll. Shrad has a business degree with a background in Financial and Business Analysis. He has lived and traveled all over the globe and now considers New York City as his home. Shrad’s leadership style involves making Wagepoint‘s employees giddy-happy and to that end, he is constantly engaging in new experiments to challenge existing workplace norms.

Where did the idea for Wagepoint come from?

In a dream… just like Stephenie Meyer’s academic treatise on vampires. Seriously though, I’ve always known I was going to be an entrepreneur – it was just a matter of time and opportunity. For me, the product matters less and the thrill is all in solving problems around business-building. So, when I began looking for a business idea, I knew it had to meet three important criteria for me. A large addressable market, established players in a space that was begging to be disrupted, and a product that was a ‘pain-killer’ and not a ‘vitamin’.

As fate would have it – my business partner, Bill Murphy had a payroll services company that targeted small businesses looking to outsource their payroll processing. When I started to research the space, I realized that the HR & Payroll segment met all my criteria and there was a clear need for a simple software solution built just for small businesses.

I believe that many people wait for a magical idea to pop into their heads before they decide to get into business, but my story is proof that all you need is the ability to think differently about solving a problem for customers. We approached the development of our product with a sharp focus on solving the needs of our small business customers and providing exceptional service – which we knew was important to that target market.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

I always start the day with good intentions, but the reality is, I get interrupted so many times a day that if I can get one/ two things off my to-do list, I consider it a good day.

My day involves mostly answering questions for the team or helping them move something along or just checking in. We try to be careful of getting into a ‘meeting rut’ by not having too many meetings that are not about something specific we are trying to solve. I also work on funding and partnership deals that are in play with the company. The first part of the day is usually spent on internal issues and I usually get down to my own to-do list around 2pm – which is incidentally, when I am writing this article.

How do you bring ideas to life?

Well, the first thing that I try to do is figure out what success looks like once the idea has come to life. Basically, how will we know when we have reached our objective and how can we measure it? If the answer to that is obvious, it becomes our North Star. If not, then we begin taking small steps with research and analysis before we get to the stage where we can describe success.

The other thing that we do is try to execute in an agile format – even non-dev related items get done in batches so that it doesn’t feel overwhelming to the team trying to execute. Some days we do it well, others not so much but that is par for the course with business-building.

Finally, we always involve front-line staff with most decisions because they are the best resources to vet and test ideas.. Also, they get to hear positive or negative feedback directly from the customer, so they are generally the first people who have to champion an idea or dismiss it.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

I love that culture has become a visceral thing for companies and their employees. I love that, as a millennial, I get to work in a time where culture matters and that there is evidence to show that it can dramatically affect the financial performance of a company.

I usually say that Wagepoint is a social experiment for me to answer the question of what happens when you bring together people with a core set of values, give them a clear objective and provide them with opportunities to be themselves. So far the experiment has been wildly successful given that the culture of our company is incredible, even as a remote team. For proof, check out our employee reviews on Glassdoor.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

I can move multiple tasks along to the finish line efficiently. I wouldn’t call it multi-tasking as I am still doing only one thing at a time. Essentially, I can pick up and drop things as needed without getting disoriented or overwhelmed by it all. I think this is more of an intrinsic trait than a learned behaviour, but I have certainly trained myself to hone this skill over the years.

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

I cannot really say that I have had a worst job. There are aspects of every job that I don’t enjoy – for instance, like most tech entrepreneurs, I really don’t like the fundraising process. It’s a time-suck and it is pretty joyless until you hit the right combination of factors that results in a check.

My takeaway from this aspect of my job is to build as much hype around your company as possible, especially in the early days so that it helps create a sense of familiarity in the minds of investors you are pitching to.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

I would probably build out a smaller MVP and raise a bigger round of funding in the first round. It’s what has made some of our competitors successful and I see it as a lesson learned.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Give yourself the permission and time to enjoy your weekend. As a rule, I do not work on a Saturday. I check my mail, but I rarely respond. This helps me get my energy reserves back up for the upcoming week.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.

Relentless focus on customer service to the point where it frames the culture of the company. Literally every question we ask ourselves is – how does this make a customer’s life better? This focus has helped us grow our business because customers refer friends and family over to us and they know we will take care of them.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

One failure is launching new products quickly right after your core product launch. It meant that we couldn’t adequately invest resources in growing the core product quickly. Today, we resist the urge to build more unless it is mission critical and do more with what we have.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

I think the market for alternative proteins is just starting to take off. Last year it grew to $4.5 Billion and was the fastest growing segment in food. As a vegan myself, I spend a lot of money on sustainable and animal friendly businesses.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

I bought my fiance a vintage edition of Enid Blyton’s Faraway Tree series that she had read and loved as a child. The process that I had to go through to review the different editions and find the ones she had read was a bit time-intensive, which made it a labor of love and totally worth it when I saw the look on her face.

What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?

We use the usual suspects like Slack, Groove for support ticketing, Hubspot for marketing, Uberflip for our blog etc. I love all these products because they make running a remote team super easy and efficient. And of course, we use Wagepoint for our own payroll.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

I loved Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh. It discusses the importance of culture in building a profitable company, and it also demonstrates the risks and close-calls that entrepreneurs have to put themselves through to really score big on any idea.

What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?

Neil Patel’s blog
Redpoint VC’s blog
Jason Lemkin’s blog

Connect:

https://wagepoint.com/
Shrad Rao on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/shradrao
Wagepoint on Twitter: https://twitter.com/wagepoint
Wagepoint on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/wagepoint

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