Release Notes: Increased Speed Platform-Wide

This week, we’re excited to update you on recent improvements made to ToutApp. We’ve drastically improved the load times for pages throughout our existing infrastructure. These sweeping changes across our platform were made to enhance our product and ensure a seamless Tout experience.

You should notice faster performance in the following areas:

  • Loading the compose window in Salesforce (by using the “Email with Tout” button)
  • The “Suggest Meeting Time” functionality in Gmail using the Calendar Button
  • Previewing group emails
  • Setting reminders
  • Loading content via the “Link to File” or “Content” buttons
  • When ringing the Gong
Every new release of ToutApp includes improvements to our infrastructure and overall performance. As new features and bug fixes get rolled out, we’ll let you know, here.

What I’ve Learned From Being in Sales

We’ve built a culture of salespeople here at ToutApp, where every employee contributes in some way to closing a deal. The bottom line is everyone is selling something.

Back in January was the season of SKOs. Endless potential was the mission our team set for themselves at our Sales Kickoff. With this theme, I believe anyone can sell or close a deal.

What makes someone great at selling?

Be Fearless and Direct

If you want a deal to close this month, ask for what you want. Don’t be afraid. For me, fear was the biggest barrier I had to break through.

My big ah-ha moment was the last day of the month and I had to ask a decision maker, “Can we get this signed today?” The answer I got was a “yes.”

When I started applying a “Be Fearless” mentality to my sales process, I cut through the unknown clutter faster and closed more deals. My advice: start asking for what you want, whether it is an introduction to a decision maker or a straightforward “Is there any reason why you won’t move forward this month?”

Get Scrappy

One of my biggest learnings was do what it takes to close the deal. When I was on a two-person sales team, our resources were limited. So, we did it ourselves. Need a competitive comparison? We created one. Need a sales deck? We created one.

Don’t just wait for the resources to come to you or go through the motions. Scrappiness is where you start thinking outside of the box or your comfort zone.

Think Proactively

As soon as you’re flying through the sales process with ease on your way to a close, ask yourself or a teammate “What am I missing here?” Be a little paranoid.

Don’t drive yourself crazy, just because you’re going through the sales process and doing all the right things–there’s always room for the unknown. For example, what’s going to happen when your decision maker goes cold turkey on you and completely dark?

I heard a quote recently, “process is your purpose, you have to have a process.” The process sets you up for success and keeps you on track. The scrappiness is everything in between the lines. For any sales team, no matter the size (from one-person to a hundred, etc.), you need to have a solid process, but you also need to be scrappy.

Do it for the Customer

Salespeople are motivated by different things. I love the feeling of a win, but the greatest part is bringing a team onboard and knowing ToutApp is going to add tremendous value to their sales team.

My advice: Don’t get wrapped up in an end number. Focus on the customer. Do I know their business, true goals, priorities, the politics and the people? The sales process isn’t a one-way street with you speeding forward. It has to be a two-way street where you and the customer are moving forward, together, with a destination (to close) in mind.

In Conclusion

In the last month our company raised $15M in Series B funding led by Andreessen Horowitz, our sales team rang the gong daily and our Customer Success team closed renewals to contribute our 150% renewal rate.

Whether you’re the top performing AE feeling stuck in a deal, an SDR on your 17th call trying to book a meeting, a Customer Success Manager working on a renewal or a recent graduate just starting a career selling something – be fearless and direct, get scrappy, think proactively and do it for the customer.

MINDBODY Brings Wellness to the Masses with Tout

MINDBODY is the leading global provider of cloud-based health, wellness and beauty software with a team of 225+ sales reps. Across Sales Development, Account Executive, Managers and Operations–the entire sales team at MINDBODY previously had a gap in productivity and limited visibility on audience engagement.

“Before Tout, we sent blind emails and hoped they were opened. Now, we have full visibility so that we can actively manage the 2,500 leads in our funnel at any given time,” said Andy Stollmeyer, Sales Operations Manager.

Learn how the entire sales team at MINDBODY uses Tout to get deeper visibility and manage their large volume of leads.

How ToutApp Helps Me Help Others

At ToutApp, the Happiness Team is working hard to create an unparalleled customer experience. After a team decides to adopt ToutApp, we as Customer Success Managers are looped in to make sure they are successful. As CSMs, our goal is to help sales teams optimize, create more efficiency, inspire creativity and boost connection in their day to day. We want every customer to get more out of our platform, and more out of themselves. Here’s how we do it:

5 ToutApp Hacks I Take for Granted

Calendar Sync

CSM’s here at ToutApp are responsible for the success of every team that joins. From offering trainings and on-site visits, to hopping on calls to discuss renewals, our calendars can get crazy.

Often, I am juggling 80+ accounts and it can be hard to gain control of the my calendar.

Customer: Do you have time next Wednesday to teach me the 5X5 method?

Me: Let me see…

When trying to find a time that will work for a training call or even an internal sync, the calendar feature in Tout keeps me from goofing up.

  • Calendar sync functionality allows me to pull in times I am free for trainings, support calls, quarterly reviews and even internal brainstorms with just a few clicks. Calendar sync helps by cutting back on all the back and forth and preventing me from double booking myself saving me minutes off every email.

Email Templates

A big part of being a CSM at ToutApp is knowing how our customers are doing with adoption and ensuring each team is getting the most out of the platform. Instead of simply looking at the % of actively users, we go above and beyond by truly understanding how our customers are selling and where we can help. I’d much rather spend my time talking to teams and learning about their company goals than getting stuck doing anything monotonous. Templates help me focus on what’s important.

Just today I used a template to send resources after a training call, for a reply to direct someone to utilize our knowledge base and I even used one to close an upsell.

  • Templates are an amazing way to pull in baseline messaging so that I can spend my energy in more productive ways, like learning more about my team’s specific sales cycles, workflows, and needs. All I have to add is the personalization. Templates for NPS surveys, templates for training resources, templates for renewal notices, templates for check-ins – I can’t imagine starting every email from scratch anymore.

Group Emailing

Now, the only thing we love more than meeting our customers face to face, is meeting our customers face to face at a HAPPY HOUR. And while they are always a blast, they don’t happen without some coordination and planning.

How do I invite my team’s to celebrate with us without spending hours writing emails? How do I reach out and notify all of my account in a personalized friendly way? Group Emails. Drop mic.

  • Sending group emails through ToutApp allows me to send personalized message to individuals in my key accounts in a matter of minutes. Whether I am sending a follow-up after a training call or sending a personal invite to one of our infamous happy hours, group emails save me hours of time.

Reminders

There is a lot to do post-sales to keep the magic alive. From making sure teams are setup properly, trained, to the eventual renewal, it can be difficult to stay organized. As most CSMs will probably say, being proactive with accounts makes all the difference.

Staying five steps ahead can be tough but guess what, ToutApp helps me here too.

  • Reminders help me ensure nothing falls through the cracks. Setting myself reminders post training to follow up with teams in a week or two has been been invaluable. Reminders to reach out to renewals a couple months in advance and reminders to send ToutApp swag and “I Close Deals” shirts to our kickass customers help me level up my CSM game. Plus, nothing is more satisfying then checking that little box and seeing my productivity soar.

Live Feed

The Live Feed is not just for sales. CSMs at ToutApp benefit from knowing when someone has engaged with our emails for many of the same reasons as sales reps do. We’re just as hooked as our fellow colleagues.

Not only do I see my reminders in one place but I am notified when my own team rings the gong and updated in real time when someone closes a deal. Let the fireworks ignite!

  • Having insight into which resource emails my recipients have opened and which guides they have clicked through tells me who is engaged and who needs some extra nudging. In addition, when trying to get a renewal signed off persistence can be key. The Live Feed helps me time my follow ups to get the right person at just the right time.

I could keep going with these ToutApp pro-tips but I don’t want to give all my secrets away. After all, in my opinion, closing deals requires some science, some art, a dash of magic and a Happiness Officer waiting on the other side. But don’t fret, this is not the end.

If you want to learn more you can check out our Knowledge Base and level up your own Tout game. If you want to know how your CSM team can use ToutApp, talk to one of our Account Executives and if you have any questions, were just a click away! Write in and we’ll respond, it might even be me!

And as always, Happy Touting.

P.S

If you love ToutApp and want to work with a kickass team, we’re hiring! More on how to join the fun here!

Humans of Tout: From Life Guard to Happiness Officer with April Reynolds

“We don’t have a conference room large enough to hold forty plus people. But, since we’re in a sports arena, we’ve got a few microphones that you could use,” said Phil with a slight smile.

The Sleep Train Arena on One Sports Parkway is not your average on-site training location. It’s the home of the National Basketball Association’s Sacramento Kings and a sales team of forty reps.

At the Arena, basketball players practice their slam dunks, coaches strategize plays and maneuvers and fans fill the seats and cheer on the home team. But, today isn’t about basketball. Today is about customer success.

The walk from her Russian Hill apartment, down through Chinatown and into her office in the Financial District usually takes 34 minutes. This morning however, at 6am, it takes 25 minutes. Every morning, April Reynolds walks the same path to work. But this morning, she’s up extra early and ready to tackle the most nerve-wracking part of her job–an on-site training.

Upon arrival at the office, Jennifer Nordine, an Account Executive and colleague at ToutApp, was waiting for April in a car. On the hour and a half trek north from San Francisco to Sacramento, the two talked training strategy and devised a game plan to address specific pain points that the Sacramento Kings’ sales team had surfaced prior to the training.

Though this wasn’t her first training or even first on-site training, April was still nervous. She was about train forty people. All 80 eyes and 80 ears would descend upon her. She had never conducted such a large on-site, in-person or online training before. But, she’s been building up and training for this moment for most of her life.

April is a third generation educator. Her grandfather and grandmother were educators and their daughter, April’s mother, was an elementary school teacher for many years before becoming a Principal. April, is an educator in the modern sense of the word and has been one since girlhood.

Growing up in Santa Cruz, naturally, summers were spent poolside. April’s first job was at the Simpkins Family Swim Center as one of their summer lifeguards. At fifteen, April thought that this was the most glamorous job out there–she got to hang out poolside all day, all summer long.

April’s responsibilities ranged from keeping swimmers safe, securing the 50 meter pool and teaching everyone from newborns, children, teens and adults how to swim. After a handful of summers at the pool, April got promoted to Head Guard where she supervised a team of lifeguards and conducted trainings on how to teach swimming lessons. There, while almost fully submerged in water, April discovered her calling–she loved teaching people new skills and was addicted to helping people succeed.

As much as she loved the pool and swimming, after nine summers–April realized that she was outgrowing the pool. It was time to move on and discover new opportunities.

After thinking of where she could best apply her passion for training and learning, she made a list of top companies she’d love to work for. Apple, the computer technology company, was at the top of her list. The application and interview process to work at an Apple retail store was incredibly competitive. April’s experience in training and talking to customers edged her in front of the competition.

At Apple, April was a Specialist and taught customers how to setup, use and troubleshoot their products. No matter the situation, from a customer who wants to buy a new laptop to a customer that’s alarmingly near nervous breakdown due to a computer snafu–April greets every scenario with warmth and ease. No problem is too small or big for her to handle. April learned sales,  critical skills in customer escalation and technical troubleshooting. Within a year, April was promoted to being an in-house employee trainer for Apple’s retail locations around Silicon Valley.

The immediate challenge of her new role was conducting employee trainings. The truth is, many training programs aren’t fun. People don’t want to sit in a room all day and learn out of a binder. April developed her own spin on training.

As an in-house Apple employee trainer, your day-to-day consists of talking to new employees, running demos and acting out various scenarios. She played music during her trainings and got people out of their seats and mingling with each other. Through her enthusiasm for technology and Apple, it gave her a credible voice with her trainees.

Within six months, April was promoted to an Expert. She went back on the retail floor, but knew her opportunities at Apple were limited. So, much like leaving her comfort zone of the pool, she left Apple and decided to create her own adventure where she’d be challenged everyday.

She found it in being a Happiness Officer at ToutApp.

“Alright, let’s get started. It’s training day!” said April earnestly. She was still nervous.

She looked at the DJ microphone that was plopped right on a half-cubicle desk where she’d sit and conduct her training. She couldn’t help but laugh and go with it.

A second later, she enthusiastically added, “Who’s ready to start touting emails and closing deals? Let’s get Touting.”

And with that, April’s nerves dimmed down and she eased into what she’s best at–training sessions. She was in good company and had the support of her colleague, Jen, and the instrumental support of Phil Horn, VP of Ticket Sales & Service for the Kings.

With the forty sales reps at their desks, and April’s soothing and cheerful voice flowing out of their overhead speakers, the training session had officially begun. As the ToutApp platform was projected onto the TV monitors surrounding the perimeter of the office, the reps got to follow along and explore Tout in real-time on their own computers.

April puts her heart into every training. When people are fresh to Tout, April facilitates their path to understanding of the platform. It’s an inexplicable feeling of excitement and gratification for her.

It seems as though her whole life has been in training roles, from being Head Guard at the pool to working the retail floor at Apple, to now as a Happiness Officer. In each role, April got to help people and build their foundation for success.

And even if before success, there are bumps along the way, April deals with them in stride. The role of being customer-facing and the point of contact for platform hiccups is tough. It’s challenging, but the rewards of seeing a customer’s success makes up for it all.

At the end of the one-hour training session, the energy in the Kings’ salesroom floor was incredibly high. Each rep was pumped and ready to start touting emails. And for April, not only did she feel successful in her training–she felt a real connection to the forty fellow tout-ers in the room.

Success achieved.

April training the Sacramento Kings. 

 

3 Hacks that Make Your Email Sell For You

I’m sure by now you’ve read a million and one blog posts, articles, and book chapters on writing cold emails. This ISN’T one of those posts. This is how to you your email account, address, out of office, signature, and everything else to work for you.

We won’t get into cold email copy here today, just the things you can do in your resting state that will contribute to better or even unexpected results.

Here are our top 4 hacks to allow you to make the most out of email.

E-mail Signature

For starters, too many people throw a bunch of images in their e-mail signatures. I don’t care if it looks pretty, don’t do it. Make your signature as simple as possible. The only thing you should add is a link to recent positive PR. If the title of the story isn’t that good, but the article is awesome change the title in the link that you share.

Good links include:

  • Funding announcement
  • Exec mentioned in an article
  • Video of CEO on TV
  • Company hiring like crazy
  • Any good press

Example Signature

[Name]  |  [Twitter Handle]

[Title], [Company name]

[Mobile/Skype]  |  [Office/Skype]

Forbes Names [Company Name] Top 10 Fastest Growing in 2015, Find Out Why!

Just link that to the Forbes article, even if it’s just a slide in the Forbes article titled Top 10 Fastest Growing Companies of 2015.

If you’re selling experts on signing up for Udemy, you can take an article titled, “Udemy Raises $32 Million to Democratize Education” and link it in your signature with the words “Udemy Raises $32 Million from Top Investors to Make Experts More Money.”

The Out Of Office Advertisement

Another thing you can do it put your Out Of Office (OOO) reply to work for you. I see too many people with the generic, “I’m out of the office with limited access to Internet and will be back [date]. If it’s urgent please contact [co-worker’s name].”

How many e-mails do you get per day? I think I might get hundreds and this would be a key time for me to advertise.

Instead of a generic OOO, try something like this:

I’m currently traveling with limited access to Internet and will be back [date].

In the meantime, check out our most recent article [company blog post, personal blog post, or recent good press].

If it’s urgent, please contact [co-worker’s name].”

This way you’re not wasting those eyeballs you’re getting while you’re offline.

The {Personal Note} Message

If you’re reading this than you’re probably using a service that allows you to set up dynamic fields within an email template. One thing I like to have a Virtual Assistant do is put a personal note based on their research into the spreadsheet that I upload to send emails to.

I have a custom field made beforehand for Personal Note. This way when I map the fields, I can import this personal note and easily add it to my templated email. It does a good job making the email more personalized while still being scalable.

Hey {First Name},

{Personal Note}

I see you’re doing …. value prop….body of email….etc.

Best,

{Your Name}

Bonus – Happy Birthday/Holidays

Try to remember to send your recipient a Happy Birthday or Happy Holidays email. You should at least be able to remember the ladder. Make sure the subject of the email has Happy Holidays or Happy Birthday in it.

Whether they replied or not, reach back out on the same thread in no more than a week to talk business. Don’t jump into it right away. Say something genuine like you hope they enjoyed their birthday/holiday, then jump into business.

If they keep seeing that subject line bump back up to the top, it might stick out to them more than they other pitches titled “Reaching Out” that are floating around their inboxes. It also shows that you put in the extra energy and time and reminds them.

There you have it. I promised you 3 but I gave you 4 hacky ways to make your emails sell for you. I guess I covered the first rule of sales- under promise and over deliver!

Enjoy, and use them wisely and only for good ;-)

You can check out more hacks, tips, and tactics on the entire sales process and over 150 sales and BD tools in my new book Hacking Sales: The Playbook for Building a High Velocity Sales Machine out on Amazon now.

Release Notes: Platform Improvements 3/11

At Tout, we’re always adding to Tout’s arsenal of deal-closing features but, as a company, we’re also laser-focused on ensuring our foundation is rock-solid. As a result, our engineering team has been working around the clock to improve Tout at it’s core. This week, I’m excited to share recent updates we’ve made to our platform.

Here’s what we’ve improved:

  • We removed functionality that would auto ring the ToutApp Sales Gong when an Opportunity was marked to “Closed/Won” in Salesforce. (You can still ring the gong and choose a Closed/Won Opportunity to close in ToutApp.com.)
  • We identified and fixed race condition that was causing data inconsistency in our Analytics pages.
  • The team fixed an issue with unsubscribes where some users would get redirected to 404 pages
  • Lastly, we’ve added additional logging across the platform and to our third-party integrations so can continue to improve Tout.

Every new release of ToutApp includes improvements to our infrastructure and overall performance. As new features and bug fixes get rolled out, we’ll let you know, here.

Sacramento Kings Use Tout to Strengthen the Bond with Customers [Video Case Study]

17,317 fans descend on the Sleep Train Arena every night to cheer on the National Basketball Association’s Sacramento Kings. Behind the slam dunks, mascots and fans is a talented group of sales professionals that work hard to sell tickets and suites to prospects and customers.

Led by Phil Horn (@PhilKingsTix), VP of Ticket Sales & Services, the forty sales reps realized that there was a need to understand when was the right time to respond to a prospect and keep a human element to emailing. ToutApp filled that void for the team.

Watch the video below to learn more about how the Kings’ sales team strengthens their bond with their passionate customers.

Learn more about the amazing ToutApp Customer Community here.

How to Create a Holistic Sales Team from SDRs, AEs to Managers

As a manager, it’s inevitable to see your direct reports move into new positions and roles. When a sales rep moves up the ladder, many managers see it as a proud moment in both their reps career and their success as a manager. In a study conducted by the Society of Human Resources Management, it stated that “71% of [business leaders] prefer developing current employees’ skills to move them into more-senior roles over hiring external candidates.”

As many organizations are rethinking the structure of their sales team, many are changing the way how companies promote reps from within into more-senior roles.

In our book about SDRs, we wrote “the SDR role is a foundational one within the larger structure of a sales team. For many SDRs, this role is a stepping stone for upward mobility within their company. SDRs gain an invaluable skill set that prepares them for long-term success.”

Many sales manager have cited the importance of investing time and effort into properly hiring, training, structuring and motivating the team. And many believe it’s important to start career development conversations early in their lifecycle as an SDR. Why? Intelligent people want to work at your company. Chances are those bright people already work in your company and rather than starting from zero, promote from within and create your holistic sales team.

Culture of Growth

Hiring new and intelligent reps to join the team stirs creativity and brings expertise into your team.However, don’t forget about the bright people that already work at your company and know your product like the back of their hand. When it comes to hiring, you want to hire reps that are coachable and are thinking about long-term career development.

“What I’m looking for is someone who is organized and is driven to succeed. They want a career. For myself, I want to get someone from SDR to Account Executive role to a manager role–to wherever they want to be in a few years,” said Neal Donahue, Director of Sales Development at KISSmetrics.

It’s important to invest in the tools, training programs and career growth discussions with your reps in order to have them truly ingrained into the sales organization and the entire company.

Focused Team Collaboration

If you keep facilitating career growth conversations and continually improve training programs–your reps will have a better setup for their future in sales. Many companies want their SDRs thinking like Account Executives from day one. The collaboration between the two specialized segments of the sales team is not only natural, but should be considered a core value within your sales organization.

Think about it: SDRs prospecting into companies and book meetings for AEs. In turn, AEs conduct training calls and close deals with those prospects. The handoff between the two roles is natural and focused team collaboration is a must.

“The relationship between SDRs and AEs is very close. We sit at one big table, interspersed with one another. There’s no bullpen of SDRs that are throwing accounts upstairs to AEs who are sitting in a siloed environment. We’re all one sales team,” said Jack McNeilly, SDR at Take the Interview.

Motivate for the Future

Promoting from within is a great way to strengthen the core of your sales team and your overall company. Often, many sales organizations struggle with hiring and building the right sales team for their product. Here’s a solution: take stock of your current sales stars, talk early and often about career development and look into building a holistic sales team.

If you start with the right training plan, your entry-level reps will have the best foundation to go off on as the jumpstart their career in sales. Brands often rely on “brand loyalty” to connect with their customers. For sales managers, take note of that and don’t be afraid to inspire company and team loyalty.

In June 2013, Chris Flores joined the Namely sales team as their first SDR. Alongside the company’s Director of Sales, Chris was able to lay the groundwork for an SDR training program, grew company pipeline and lead to closed deals. Within seven months, Chris was promoted to Manager of Inside Sales and currently manages a team of seven SDRs.

Build a Holistic Sales Team

What does a holistic sales team look like? For many sales managers, they hire for career ambition, business acumen, composure and tenacity. Salespeople want to get ahead–whether it’s ahead of their competitors, deals or even their own careers–they won’t stop and can’t stop. Be sure to be there to help them through that process.

 

Header Image by Daniel Walsh.

Humans of Tout: How Two Engineers Built ToutApp from the Ground Up

In the past four years, ToutApp has seen an explosion of growth. The company’s success has skyrocketed and has an exponential room for growth. Today, the company is excited to announce their Series B funding led by Andreessen Horowitz that will give the company ammunition for their future.

Before Series A, Series B or massive growth, back in 2011 the core of ToutApp were two engineers. In comparison to other technology companies and their army of engineers, the two engineers of ToutApp were able to do what those companies do every day–but with a much leaner and strategic team.

Tawheed “TK” Kader and Steven Steffen built ToutApp from the ground up. What they built was a web based application that became an integral part of the everyday lives of thousands of people. Two engineers, not a dozen or even a handful, built the initial framework and infrastructure of code for the platform that has since scaled to sending over a million emails per month.

When TK founded the company, he was the Head of Engineering, Head of Design, VP of Marketing, Director of Sales and VP of Customer Success. ToutApp was his company–his vision of the future. The vision of ToutApp was simple: build an email platform that empowers salespeople. Building a platform that could capture email data and prioritize a salesperson’s workflow was no easy task.

The early days of ToutApp were stocked with limitations and learnings. Instead, TK and Steven turned those limitations into a challenging opportunity and were motivated to build a better platform.

With a two-person engineering team, it meant that you had to move fast, yet incredibly carefully. It was crucial that TK and Steven took the necessary steps to understand what they could accomplish together and expand from there.

When TK was eight years old, he knew he wanted to run his own company. His father was a businessman and TK wanted to follow in his footsteps. That same year, TK’s parents also bought him a computer, which in hindsight was the first investment in their son’s bright future. A year later the family immigrated from Bangladesh to New York to reinvent their lives and the entire future of their two sons.

By age ten, TK began coding. He was fascinated with being able to tell a computer what to do–even if it was simple calculations and search queries. Tawfiq Kader, TK’s father, saw his son’s interest in coding and integrated his son’s talents into his business.

Even though TK’s middle school classes didn’t offer computer programming courses or books, he knew he wanted to dive into that world. At age twelve, TK created a book search engine dedicated solely to MFC language books. If there was a book out there that could help in his learnings, he wanted to find it and read it.

Over time, TK taught himself much more than coding. TK taught himself that through hard work–you can create value in your output. He taught himself how to be a self-starter: from helping his father’s business to getting into the prestigious Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute for college and to bootstrapping his own company.

Similarly in Illinois, from an early age, Steven found his knack for computers. As the youngest of three boys, Steven was influenced by his twin older brothers and father. The four Steffen men shared an affinity for video and computer games that still persists today.

In his late high school years, Steven and a few friends set out to create their own computer game. For Steven, computers were always a hobby. Music was his first passion. He started playing the euphonium in the fifth grade and continued to play the instrument into college. But, when it came down to choosing a major in college–Steven couldn’t decide between music and Computer Science.

Steven appreciated the creativity and focus of music. But also valued the problem-solving strategies and creativity that he found in Computer Science. Ultimately, he went with Computer Science because he felt that it was a full-encompassing major and allowed for a more practical future career path.

In 2008, while he was still a student, Steven was hired as an Assistant Web Developer at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale’s Residence Halls. He was first tasked with website maintenance, but his role quickly evolved into building new features for the website. Steven built out a dynamic form generator for students living in the Residence Halls and built an internal accounting application for the staff.

Coupled with finishing his degree and his two years of Rails and Web Developer experience, Steven gained the learnings and credibility needed to tackle any future project as a engineer.

Think About Architecture First
From the beginning, TK and Steven’s scrappiness brought on the company’s early success. As this success grew into thousands of customers as did their subsequent feature requests from those customers. At the start, TK and Steven sought to build a platform that would make an immediate impact. And, as a young company and an incredibly small team, they couldn’t afford to make any mistakes.

As a two-person team, engineering momentum was vital. Defining the platform’s architecture before jumping in to reinvent the wheel was a must before writing a single line of code. The architecture process at ToutApp was twofold:

First, TK and Steven talked through the available tools and libraries that would allow for them to optimize their time and tackle features that would make the highest impact on their platform.

“We didn’t have the luxury of going down the wrong direction or focusing on the wrong features. We thought about what were the available tools out there and what will help us get to 80 percent and we’ll tackle the remaining 20 percent ourselves,” said TK.

Second, they found that the best way to tackle a large-scale platform was to break it down into smaller and reasonable chunks.

TK and Steven took a step back and analyzed what were the highest potential impact features and how they could best introduce them into the platform. This approach allowed them to quickly scale the platform with new features and build upon it.

“When you’re a two-person engineering team and your other half is the Founder and he’s driving product–it’s really easy to sit down with him and say this is what we need to do and this is how it needs to behave. We could get the whole thing mapped out in a day,” said Steven.

Be Pragmatic
In those early days, the potential and dynamic environment of ToutApp was exponential (it still today, too). In short, there was a lot to do for just two people.

In the interest of time and to reduce context switching, the team was split into back-end and front-end. TK was in charge of creating the logistics and database for the platform (back-end) and Steven was in charge of what a user can see and interact with for the platform (front-end).

This pragmatic approach meant that the team was able to handle everything from new features, system bugs and code fixes in a sensible and realistic manner. It allowed for TK, Steven and ToutApp to branch out much faster than what would be possible for a two-person engineering team.

Always Be Learning
Scrappiness aside, every company runs into their fair share of bumps along the road. TK always jokes about the moment he knew Steven was the right person to join ToutApp. During Steven’s technical interview, they were talking through a hypothetical problem and Steven listed off a few possible solutions and ended with “I don’t know, we’ll figure it out.”

One of the challenges in building a new product means that you don’t have all the answers. You figure it out. You go and you find tools that you can leverage to get to your endpoint faster and more accurately.

When TK started ToutApp, he went to a Desk.com talk at Dreamforce, and learned how the company uses Backbone in their platform and he immediately downloaded the learned information into his brain and went back to the office and built a new feature. When Steven started at ToutApp, Backbone was fairly new to him but saw it as a great learning opportunity that he wouldn’t have received anywhere else.

For TK and Steven, scaling didn’t mean more engineers. Scaling meant working smarter with what you know and learning the rest. Sure, TK and Steven could have used another set of helping hands on their engineering team at ToutApp, but that never stopped them from learning from hiccups and overcoming limitations.

What’s next?
The early limitations and learnings helped shape the company, the engineering team and drove the platform to what it is today. There’s still a lot to accomplish and the engineering team has only begun to scratch the surface.

Today, TK has dived deeper into his role as ToutApp’s CEO and doesn’t roll out code anymore. Though he might not push code into production, his day to day is more strategic in driving business growth and value for customers.

Steven has since built out numerous features and was promoted to Engineering Manager last year. Since his promotion, Steven has been instrumental in growing the engineering team in size and role specialization.

Currently, the ToutApp engineering team has tripled in size and are continuing to scale their platform and tackle interesting technical problems.

ToutApp customers don’t use the platform for five minutes once a day. ToutApp is email. And email is always on. ToutApp customers use it every second of the day. That’s not going to change.

“We have a really great engineering team right now. I don’t know how we find our people, but I’m glad that we did find them and everyone has a unique background and personality. It’s a motley crue,” said TK.