Measure your productivity by what you get done, not how busy you are.
For the past 10 years, Teamworks Founder and President Zach Maurides has revolutionized communication and information sharing for athletic organizations across the country. What began as Maurides’ class project during his sophomore year at Duke University in 2004, has become the industry leader with an impressive list of 793 current clients.
Teamworks’ origins and progression stem from Maurides’ first-hand knowledge of the collegiate athletics landscape and experience as a former Duke offensive guard. Maurides’ idea to create a shared, web-based calendar to help athletics staff better manage student-athletes’ time, turned into a product prototype initially tested by Duke Football. During Maurides’ junior and senior years, Maurides refined the Teamworks platform, guided by Duke Football and Lacrosse staffs’ molding. Maurides and software developer Shaun Powell introduced Teamworks Messaging and steadily added system functionality aimed at streamlining communication, operations, and information for coaches, administrators, athletic trainers, academic advisors and thousands of student-athletes at NCAA institutions nationwide. Additionally, Teamworks’ platform is now utilized by high school and professional teams as well as other business organizations.
As Founder and President, Maurides has captained Teamworks to an unprecedented level of success in the athletic communication market. In 2008, Northwestern University became Teamworks’ first client beyond Duke’s campus. A notable milestone in 2010, Duke University was the first athletic department to adopt Teamworks across all sports. Other distinguished NCAA Division I athletic department-wide partnerships include Texas, Purdue, Virginia and Ole Miss. With more than 60 Football Bowl Subdivision clients, Teamworks was undeniably a natural selection as the Official Team Collaboration Software Provider to the inaugural College Football Playoff (CFP) for the 2014-15 season. Teamworks’ customizable features and functions also serve many non-athletic organizations including the largest family owned and operated school bus contractor in the United States, Cook-Illinois Corporation.
From Teamworks’ early Calendar and Messaging modules to today’s offering of a complete management solutions, Teamworks’ evolution speaks to Maurides leadership and customer-oriented focus. As the athletic organizations Teamworks serves continue to grow and develop, Maurides continues to listen. A testament to both the product and its direction, Teamworks attributes much of its success to having earned the trust of many industry leaders.
A precursor to his professional development, Maurides developed many leadership qualities as a collegiate football player at Duke. With much commitment and hard work, he earned a starting position at offensive guard during his junior and senior seasons and was also honored as a member of the All-ACC Academic Team his junior year.
A native of Glenview, Illinois, Maurides, 30, has made Durham, North Carolina his home for the past 11 years. Maurides is an active climber, having summited Mount Elbrus as well as Mount Kilimanjaro twice. In the community, Maurides and the Teamworks staff volunteer with Habitat for Humanity and other nonprofits. Maurides and his wife Melissa have a dog named Molly and enjoy traveling and attending Duke sporting events.
Where did the idea for Teamworks come from?
Like many 18-year-olds leaving home for the first time, I had to adjust to the demands of college life. I went to Duke, and, on top of all the normal requirements of a college student, I played football. Keeping up with class, workouts, practice, team events, rehab, study hall, and everything else was difficult, to say the least. The standard punishment for missing an appointment or showing up late was to run stadium stairs at 4:00 a.m., so you can imagine that my teammates and I had a lot of early mornings.
During my sophomore year, I was given an assignment in a computer science course to come up with a concept and prototype for a web-based platform that could solve a problem in my day-to-day life. I decided to build a web-based calendar system that allowed the staff who worked with Duke Football to operate more efficiently. The calendar consolidated class schedules, practice times, lifting, tutoring, study hall, community service, and medical appointments in one place, keeping all staff and student-athletes on the same page.
Since then, the product has evolved and expanded drastically. It now offers mass messaging and communication tools, electronic paperwork processing, file and video sharing, team travel planning, and more; however, the flagship, now much-evolved Teamworks Calendar tool is still a popular module among our customer base.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I wear a lot of hats. I like to stay connected to all parts of the business, so my days are often a mix of interactions with my clients and my team leads in product development, sales, marketing, finance, and account services. My days are long, as many of my clients in athletics are early risers, which means sometimes my first meeting will start at 6:00 AM. I try to use business hours for meetings and save my solitary work for after hours, when clients and employees have gone home. This means my days often end well after “dinner time.”
I employ a couple different time management and organizational strategies to make sure I maximize my productivity. I live by my calendar, which has all my work appointments blocked out, but I also time set aside for fitness, time with my family, and personal wellbeing. I defend each block of time the same, and I make sure each starts and ends on schedule. I am very adamant about punctuality – a habit I picked up from my football career where the motto was “If you’re early, you’re on time. If you’re on time, you’re late. If you’re late, you’re running!”
I also keep a notebook and pen with me at all times. It’s old fashioned, I know, but when someone is talking to me (client, employee, etc.) I am writing in my notebook to capture every valuable detail of each interaction. At the end of each day, I enter my notes into my calendar or various other tools and apps I use to stay organized (Trello is a favorite of mine!). I usually end up going through an entire notebook weekly.
How do you bring ideas to life?
We always like to start by white boarding the actual product/feature screens and user workflow. This gives us “what” we want to build. From there we can say, “OK If we had that product, what’s the value to our customers/is there a market for this?” If we see a significant opportunity, then we work backwards and look at “how” we can build it and think through all the different ways we can approach the problem of bringing it to market. This focuses us on finding creative ways to reach a defined goal, rather than getting hung up on “how we get there” before we even know “where we want to go.”
What’s one trend that really excites you?
Low energy Bluetooth beacons. I think this is technology is still very early in its adoption, but the possibilities are exciting! I can remember in college spending hours tracking down books and reference materials in the stacks of Duke’s library for research. With beacon technology, I could pull out my phone, load an app, see the floor plan of the library with internal walking directions and a dot on the screen showing my location. The inexpensive beacons in each room would emit data that lets my phone triangulate my location and guide me directly to the volume I needed. Can’t find a book in your messy dorm room? The beacon embedded in the binding lets your phone tell you if you are getting “hotter” or “colder” as you search for it – pretty cool!
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I focus on FINISHING and try to push my team to do the same – close deals, ship code, no loose ends. Measure your productivity by what you get done, not how busy you are.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
Working as a “Dirt Cop” at a limestone mine during the summer between my Freshman and Sophmore year at Duke. I would stand on a podium for 10 hours a day and direct traffic of large two story mining trucks. I lived about two hours from the facility which meant I had just enough time to get home, eat a sandwich and go to sleep before starting the next day. I appreciated the experience. It motivated me to work hard in school and take advantage of the opportunities I had in front of me.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
I would be bolder. Early on, I was too hesitant to put myself/our product/our company out there. I sacrificed valuable time and strategic advantage waiting for the product or situation to be “perfect.” Take the leap.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Question yourself, and find ways you can be better. No matter what you have achieved, there is always room to improve. One of the great things about starting a company from scratch is that as it evolves and goes through different phases, and so must you as its leader. I find the more I work on improving myself as a leader, the better my company does.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.
We started our business in Division I Football. We’ve since expanded into many other segments, but in our initial markets we wanted to take advantage of the competitive nature of athletics. In 2012, we stared a simple email campaign. We didn’t have a Director of Marketing or Graphic Designer at this point, so we just sent out a standard template each time a new team joined announcing, “The University of Texas joins the Teamworks Family,” “The University of Oregon joins the Teamworks Family,” etc. Rather than having to cold call prospects, they would read these emails and reach out to us, wanting to know what Teamworks was, nervous they were falling behind. Not only did this create new leads, but it changed the dynamic of our interactions with prospects. This was a really simple tactic, but it turned out to be a huge success in getting the attention of other potential clients.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I can remember one of my early presentations to a university athletic department that just went terribly. Whatever could have gone wrong, did. I remember feeling like I wanted to run out in the middle of the presentation and forget it had ever happened. Instead, I gutted it out, finished my presentation, and immediately drove to the nearest place with hot coffee – a Waffle House. I sat down with a fresh cup and wrote down everything that had gone wrong and what I thought I could do to prevent it in the future. That meeting completely changed the way I approach sales presentations. It could have been the start of me giving up, but instead, it was the catalyst that started my transformation into a successful salesman. I also learned that failure is not fatal. A year and a half later, I returned and closed that deal.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Location specific content in stadiums. College and professional teams alike are in a battle to sell tickets to their stadiums. They are competing against the living room as the preferred venue to watch games. I think a great concept (perhaps using Bluetooth Beacons to verify proximity?) would be an app that releases exclusive team content to fans IF they are in the stadium at the time of the game.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I recently bought a FitBit and have been tracking my daily steps. I try to stay as disciplined as possible about exercising and eating right, but it gets tough when I’m traveling and working long hours. The FitBit has added an extra element of personal discipline that has forced me to be a little more conscious of my fitness level throughout the day. I’ll now pace around my office while on the phone, or, when the weather’s nice, will take phone calls outside and walk the block while talking.
What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?
We use a several SaaS applications to streamline our operations –ZenPayroll, Zenefits, Asana, Jira, Expensify, Pingdom, to name a few. My personal favorite is Trello, which has many applications. It’s great as a simple personal organizational tool, but it extends to organizing large group efforts with folks internally and externally.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey Moore. When we started this business, one area that was particularly challenging was picking up on patterns within our customer base. From the outside looking in, it looks like a many individual units making their own (potentially irrational) decisions. Crossing the Chasm gave me a strong understanding of the technology adoption life-cycle and a structure for approaching our sales and marketing efforts. Crossing the Chasm is now one of the books that is required reading for all new Teamworks employees.
What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?
I am a big fan of Steve Jobs’ philosophies around product excellence. He preached simplicity and clean design, and that is something I try to emulate with our products. We have a poster up in the office with a quote that says, “A user interface is like a joke. If you have to explain it, it’s not that good.” With our development team, I am constantly trying to build a culture of simplicity and clean UI. We want our users, no matter what age or comfort level with technology, to be able to learn to use Teamworks naturally and quickly.