I conducted an interview with Ryan Kelly, founder and CEO of Pear Analytics, a web startup in San Antonio, Texas. They build search engine optimization tools and software to help make SEO accessible to everyone. This interview focused on the culture of Pear Analytics—its purpose and core values.
SM. What is the purpose of your company? Why is the work you do important?
Mr. Kelly. The purpose of Pear Analytics is to help organizations compete online. We help companies do a better job of being more visible online. Our work is important because Internet marketing is not as expensive as other forms of marketing. It’s cost effective and trackable; therefore, any size business can do it and benefit from it. Companies that don’t understand online marketing will be left behind and will miss opportunities because many of their competitors are doing it better. Additionally, companies who don’t understand Internet marketing often waste a lot of money because they don’t spend their money wisely. Often, a company can get better results with less money. This is a rewarding business because this work can generate quantifiable improvements.
SM. What are the ideals that drove the founding of your company?
Mr. Kelly. We want to be transparent and honest in what we’re doing. A lot of companies in this business are not trustworthy. SEO has a bad connotation; there are many scammers in this business because most consumers don’t understand it. Customers often write checks without knowing what they’re getting. At Pear Analytics, we are transparent: we tell customers the steps; we tell them what they get for the price; we give a roadmap. Clients like knowing what’s happening. They understand our end goals.
We communicate; it’s a lot of hand holding up front. With other companies, you buy, for example, 1,000 links for $200 and never talk to a person, or you pay an agency charging huge markups. We’re trying to price our work to be super competitive and still make money.
SM. How is your company different from your competitors?
Mr. Kelly. We are different because we care if we help companies make money. Many in SEO just care about rankings, but traffic does not drive revenue. We care about conversions; we want the traffic to do something. We give customers pointers on how to improve conversions. We do conversion testing to ensure that clients are spending money on traffic that converts.
SM. How would you describe the personality or character of the company?
Mr. Kelly. It’s fun and flexible here. We have no set hours. We’re focused on getting tasks done. We have a project management system so we know if anyone is lagging. It’s like flexibility on a leash.
Employees have unlimited time off. Everyone works hard–at or over capacity. People often take one to two weeks off at a time. It’s important to work hard and play hard. People need to reenergize. You need balance to be productive.
There’s also flexibility in where you work. You can work from home or at the office—everything is in the Cloud so employees can do work remotely. We use our office for teamwork and collaborative activities, meeting with customers, and training.
We are also flexible in our processes. Employees give input in how we do things. They feel ownership. Employees can directly affect the way the company operates. We change things constantly.
We value decision-making and empowerment. I would rather have employees make mistakes and learn. They don’t need to come to me for every question. I’d rather have employees make decisions and make mistakes as long as they learn and are working to make customers happy.
We want to have fun, too. We have a ping-pong table and video games in the office. People work hard for two to three hours, and then they play a game. You need a break from looking at a computer screen.
Everyone is from different backgrounds. We train employees from the ground up. We have a lot of Gen Y, first-job employees who have recently graduated from college. They like a flexible, fun and empowering workplace.
SM. What are the things about Pear Analytics that should never be changed?
Mr. Kelly. We don’t have meetings. They’re often a waste of time. We have 5–15 minute maximum, morning huddles, often at 10am with Skype. We discuss news, where people are stuck, what’s happening, customer metrics, and where we are with tasks.
Also, everything is open. There are no closed-door offices or cubicles. We all sit together.
SM. What values, if followed by all employees, will allow the organization to compete and thrive?
Mr. Kelly. Integrity, honesty, and transparency–I’ve mentioned them earlier. Those are critical.
We also want to deliver “kick-ass” service. We want to be the best at that. We don’t sell what people don’t need or what they’re not ready for. We want to have the right customers—if $500 is all a person had, I wouldn’t take that customer. This work is an investment; it may take time to get the results you want. We set expectations upfront; there’s no crystal ball—only historical data.
We also are building our technology to make jobs easier. We have that Kaizen mentality of continuous improvement. We want to be the most efficient and the least wasteful. We must build scalable and repeatable work. We monitor what gives the best results, and we repeat it. We’ve taken a service model and are making it repeatable. We want to be in the middle–between service and software. We’re trying to invent new and better processes to enhance our technical competencies so its’ easier to do one’s job, and we can save time and can grow the business.
SM. How do you get employees to be on the same page?
Mr. Kelly. I try to communicate our mission, vision and values with employees. I want our company to be the most well known Internet marketing company in the world.
I also make sure we hire people who are self-starters and who don’t need explicit instructions. They just get done what needs to be done.