Mikita Mikado de PandaDoc

Café Fundador episodio 020

Soy Jeroen de Salesflare y éste es el Café Fundador.

Cada dos semanas tomo un café con un fundador diferente. Hablamos de la vida, las pasiones, los aprendizajes,... en una charla íntima, conociendo a la persona que hay detrás de la empresa.

En este vigésimo episodio, hablo con Mikita Mikado, fundador de PandaDoc, una de las principales soluciones de propuestas y presupuestos para comerciales.

Mikita pursued the American Dream and moved from Belarus to the US to start a company. At first he flipped burgers, worked in moving, in cleaning, … He took every job he could get. Then he started a web design business, got into extensions for content management systems, and then into documents solutions for sales people.

En sólo cuatro años, Mikita creó una empresa de unos 160 empleados centrada en aprender, dejar huella y divertirse.

Hablamos de cómo cultiva la cultura que hace especial a PandaDoc, de por qué pasa la mayor parte del tiempo comunicando y elaborando estrategias, y de su afición favorita, el surf.

Bienvenido a Founder Coffee.


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Jeroen: Hi Mikita. It’s great to have you on Founder Coffee.

Mikita: Hola, Jeroen. Encantado de estar aquí.

Jeroen: You’re the Founder of PandaDoc. For those of us who are not so much into documents and things, what does PandaDoc exactly do?

Mikita: PandaDoc helps to make sales customer-centric with beautiful digital proposals, contracts, signatures, payments, and workflows around those documents. That’s what we do.

Jeroen: ¿Se trata sobre todo de diseñar documentos, de las firmas o los flujos de trabajo, o de todo ello de forma muy horizontal?

Mikita: All of that in a very horizontal way. We basically plug into your CRM system, allow you to build a library of templated collaterals – be that proposals, contracts or quotes. Then your sales team can save tremendous amount of time generating those documents, delivering those documents to the end customers, collaborating with the customers, and negotiating the deals. Then finally, enabling the end client to sign on the dotted line.

Jeroen: Yeah, yeah. It’s the whole document process. But all around sales, if I hear it well.

Mikita: Sí, nos centramos en las ventas.

Jeroen: Muy bien. ¿Esto se debe a que antes eras vendedor o de dónde viene exactamente?

Mikita: Bueno, la idea podríamos decir que nació del dolor interno. Tuve que vender. Hace muchos años, mi cofundador y yo dirigíamos una empresa de software y creábamos software para otros. Teníamos que hacer muchas propuestas de venta, y el proceso nos parecía extremadamente tedioso, y queríamos construir algo que resolviera ese problema interno.

We built a product, not PandaDoc, had a decent success with that product, and the product aimed at just small web design agencies, helping them to do proposal automation. Then we discovered that there are a lot more documents involved in the sales process, and a lot of the clients that purchase that product used it for more than proposals – for contracts, for SOWs, for invoices, and yada, yada.

Yeah, that’s the story behind PandaDoc. I’m going to say four and a half years ago, maybe even five years ago, we came up with the idea, a horizontal, all-in-one, quote-to-cash software. We launched it about three and a half years ago.

En la actualidad, PandaDoc ayuda a cerca de 10.000 equipos de ventas a centrarse en el cliente y a ser más eficientes y eficaces.

Jeroen: Yeah. You’re saying you had a software business with your co-founder. Is your background in software?

Mikita: Yeah. I’m a software engineer by trade.

Jeroen: Y usted es de Bielorrusia, ¿verdad?

Mikita: That’s correct, yeah.

Jeroen: Creció en Bielorrusia, estudió ingeniería informática. ¿Qué hizo exactamente después? ¿Tuviste algún trabajo antes de montar la empresa de software con tu cofundador o fue lo primero que hiciste al salir de la universidad?

Mikita: I had all kinds of jobs. I had jobs when I was a kid. I used to wash cars, and I used to sell berries on the farmer’s market. Then I used to do work in construction, and sell whatever I can sell, be that Pogs. I don’t know if you remember those or Nintendo cartridges or mobile cell phones. You name it.

Then I got this really good opportunity to go to the US. I took it, had about $400 in my backpack, and I flew to Honolulu, Hawaii. There, I had all kinds of random jobs. I had been bartending. I worked at the airport flipping burgers, at a café. I did moving. I did cleaning. Like, you name it. All kinds of labor jobs you can do out of Craigslist, I probably did them all.

Bueno, quizá no encuentros casuales. Ese me lo salté, pero en general me mantuve ocupado.

Jeroen: ¿Fue antes o después de estudiar informática o ingeniería, o durante los mismos?

Mikita: Mientras.

Jeroen: Mientras, vale.

Mikita: Sí.

Jeroen: Una mano volteando hamburguesas y la otra codificando.

Mikita: It’s funny, but that actually what it was. During the day, I was flipping burgers. During the night, I was trying to catch up on school back in Belarus because while in the US, I had to transfer to study remotely, so that I get a degree. Plus additionally, in Belarus, if you don’t go to school, you go to military for a couple years, and it’s very different. For the most part, you just shuffle snow there, so I figured I better get that degree.

Jeroen: Sí. ¿Fuiste con tu familia a Estados Unidos o solo?

Mikita: Era sólo yo.

Jeroen: Sólo eras tú.

Mikita: Sí.

Jeroen: ¿Cuál fue entonces exactamente la oportunidad que te hizo irte a Estados Unidos sin tu familia, estudiando a distancia?

Mikita: I mean, the average salary in Belarus was something like $300 or $400 a month. It’s not that much, as you can imagine. So I wanted to be able to build, I always wanted to have and run a business. I thought that, I don’t know why, but probably the American dream is very well-marketed, so I really thought America is the best place to do that.

Sí, quería hacer algo significativo en mi vida. Quería tener una vida decente, tener una vida decente para mi familia. Así que hice las maletas y me mudé a EE.UU.

Jeroen: Genial. ¿Hiciste algo entre los estudios y esta startup con tu cofundador?

Mikita: Sí. Tenía una tienda de diseño web. Cuando llegué a los EE.UU., hice todo tipo de trabajos al azar, pero empecé con la creación de un sitio web y hacer un poco de SEO en ese sitio web, la conducción, el tráfico de adelgazamiento, la conducción de algunas consultas para Craigslist sobre diseño web. Lo convertí en un pequeño negocio.

Tenía un empleado y yo, y también contraté a algunas personas de Bielorrusia. Mi cofundador era uno de ellos, y antes éramos amigos en la universidad. De hecho, ese fue nuestro primer viaje. Construimos sitios web juntos.

De acuerdo. Luego pasaste de alguna manera a crear software.

Mikita: Sí, empezamos con sitios web, luego creamos un montón de extensiones para distintos sistemas de gestión de contenidos web. Las pusimos en línea y empezamos a venderlas. A través de esas extensiones, también conseguimos clientes para personalizar, modificar esas extensiones, hacer cosas que son más complejas.

At some point, I decided to pack my things, and go back to Belarus to be able to hire people, and build a software business – which is what I did. I want to say that was 2007 when we started that company. We grew it to like 30 employees. Then Quote Roller, which is the proposal product, and PandaDoc came around. That’s another story.

Jeroen: ¿Sigue su cofundador en Bielorrusia?

Mikita: No, se movió.

¿Se ha mudado?

Mikita: Se mudó a EE.UU. Hace unos dos años y medio o tres. Ahora dirige nuestra oficina de Florida.

Jeroen: Bien. Parece que siempre te interesó crear startups. ¿Qué es lo que te interesaba tanto de eso?

Mikita: I don’t know. I just like building. I loved Legos when I was a kid.

Jeroen: It’s the building.

Mikita: Sí. Me gusta el proceso, montar cosas, ponerlas en marcha, verlas triunfar o fracasar. Disfruto con ello.

Jeroen: ¿Algo en concreto? ¿Más empresa, más producto, más marca o todo ello?

Mikita: All of them, yeah. I wouldn’t say there’s one that I love the most. I like them all.

Jeroen: If you see yourself building these things, are there any other startups or founders that you’re looking up to that you’re like, “Wow. The things they built are just amazing. I wish we would be more like that?”

Mikita: I mean, I look up to a lot of people and a lot of companies. I try to learn as much as possible from them. If you think of any well-known SaaS brand, there’s going to be a story of a lot of work and a lot of struggle behind them. It’s really, really hard. Yeah, there are a lot of people and a lot of companies that I look up to and I admire.

Jeroen: Correcto. ¿Cuál es exactamente tu ambición con PandaDoc en este momento?

Mikita: Hay tres cosas que a mi cofundador y a mí nos importan profundamente.

La primera es que queremos aprender y progresar, y mejorar lo que hacemos. La segunda es que queremos tener un impacto, y cuando empezamos el negocio, el impacto que queríamos tener era tener como 1.000 empresas utilizando nuestro producto. Eso sonaba muy, muy bien. Luego cambió. Se convirtió en 10.000. Luego cambió. Se convirtió en 100.000. Y volvió a cambiar.

It was like, okay, so making our customers successful is really cool. It’s amazing. It’s a hell of an impact, but how about we look around. Dude, people are building careers at PandaDoc.

We’re having a blast, they’re having a blast. We’re all learning. We all are making an impact. The impact that the business started to make on people’s lives, on their careers is also huge. The internal impact aspect of it added, is quite amazing.

If I can help someone to build a career, hell yeah, that’s awesome. The impact is a very big part of the ‘why we are doing what we’re doing’.

Then finally, we want to have fun. As long as we’re learning, as long as we’re making an impact, and we’re having fun, we’re good. Those are the key values and they say that values aren’t goals, and I would agree with that, but for me, they are so close together that it’s very, very hard to separate.

Yeah, I want PandaDoc to be a successful business. I want PandaDoc to be a place where people are learning, where we are making an impact on the world, on the community we’re in, and then I want to have fun while all of that is happening. I want the same for our clients as well. I want them to have fun while they’re using our product.

Jeroen: Yeah. Now, I saw that you’re well on the investment track right now. How, because nowhere in these values or goals, I heard about financial goals, while probably for the parties you took on board, this is the most important metric? How do you combine these things?

Mikita: ¿Cómo combino las métricas financieras y?

Jeroen: The fact that their goals are different from yours. Goals align with impact somehow, but it doesn’t align with fun, and it doesn’t so much align with learning.

Mikita: En realidad creo que sí. En realidad creo que sí.

Jeroen: ¿Con el aprendizaje?

Mikita: Yeah. With both actually – having fun and learning. It’s impossible to build a successful software business if you’re not having fun. What we do is highly cognitive work. You can’t perform highly cognitive tasks out of fear or be bored to death, and innovate.

It is just that those things don’t work together. It’s not how our brain works. Yeah, I think actually they do go hand in hand.

Now, in terms of the impact, most definitely this is aligned with financial results; as long as our customers are happy. Well, first, actually, as long as your employees are happy, then your customers are going to be happy. Your customers are happy, you’re going to do well. So it’s all connected. It’s all intertwined.

Jeroen: Sí. ¿Qué hacéis para divertiros?

Mikita: ¿Qué hacemos para divertirnos?

Jeroen: ¿Qué significa eso en la empresa? ¿Es poner un futbolín o algo así?

Mikita: [laughs] A foosball table…

Jeroen: Today I read on The Intercom Blog that they don’t put a foosball table because work is serious, and you shouldn’t put foosball tables because that’s not serious.

Mikita: I see. We don’t have one in San Francisco. We might have one in Belarus. We do have a ping pong table though.

Jeroen: ¿Una mesa de ping pong?

Mikita: Sí. Tenemos una mesa de ping pong, para ser completamente transparente.

First of all, I think for work to be fun for anyone, it’s important to own what you do. It’s important to have a stake at whatever is that piece of work you’re involved in. It’s important to understand the vision, the mission and the goals. It’s important to understand the direction of the company. If you’re all in and you get it, then it’s a lot more fun than to just do the job, if you know what I mean.

Jeroen: Sé lo que quieres decir.

Mikita: I don’t know why I’m doing it. I don’t know what’s the purpose of it, what’s the point of it. I was told to do it, and I’m paid, so I’m doing the job. Yeah. When things are not like that, when things are mission-driven, vision-driven, when you truly care, it is a lot more fun, and when you own what you’re working on, when you’re completely bought into the stuff you do.

Genial.

Mikita: I don’t want to pretend we’re doing an amazing job on that front. But we try to be there. Like I try to basically enable others at PandaDoc to own their part of PandaDoc. That’s number one.

Jeroen: Propiedad.

Mikita: Yeah, ownership. Number two is the ability to travel, ability to interact with other cultures. I mean, half of our business, half of our people are in Belarus, and the other half is in the US, and we try to blend people together, blend the offices, blend the functions within the business. It’s not easy, and it requires a lot of work from each employee, but it’s different, and we try to be different.

We try to mix and match cultures, and there’s a travel budget. There’s an education budget. There’s a budget for everyone to have fun. So whenever we’re doing really well, we travel somewhere together, and that kind of stuff.

Yeah, then finally, just regular, I guess, startup-y ways of having fun. We do have parties. I think a lot of people at PandaDoc are friends, so we go to shows together. There’s this weekend, a couple of folks from Belarus visited. We went surfing.

Vino nuestro vicepresidente de marketing, así que teníamos un grupito para eso. El fin de semana anterior, o los dos fines de semana anteriores, hicimos una barbacoa. Ese tipo de cosas se hacen. Muchas empresas lo hacen, y nosotros también.

Jeroen: Volviendo a lo serio, ¿qué es lo que hace a diario?

Mikita: What is it that I do on the daily basis? At this point, I communicate. Really, that’s what I do on a daily basis. Yeah, I mean, there are 160 people at PandaDoc, right. When we were at 30, I would answer this question, “Oh, I do some things on product.” Or like, “This.” Or, “That.” Or, “Blah, blah, blah.” But I don’t really do anything anymore.

All I do is talk. That is actually my most important job right now, to communicate the vision, the goals, the mission, what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, and just repeat it over, and over, and over, and over.

Then I work with the executive team and the rest of the company on strategy of the company. Again, a couple of years back, this was very vague, and it’s like what do you mean ‘strategy’? What do you mean you ‘work on strategy’?

Pero ahora es mucho más tangible. Trabajo en estrategia. Planifico mucho. Intento asegurarme de que la estrategia es sólida, la someto a pruebas de estrés, obtengo opiniones al respecto, etcétera.

Yeah, then finally, of course, external relationships – be that with investors or analysts or other CEOs or we’ll also stop there. Oh, and partners, yeah. That’s a big one.

Jeroen: Yeah. You’re mentioned that strategy became much more tangible now. What does that mean?

Mikita: It’s like I actually devote a lot of time to it, and I do it. Yeah. That’s what it means.

Jeroen: Vale. Haz estrategia.

Mikita: Sí.

De acuerdo.

Mikita: It’s like basically I would probably build 10 presentations a quarter on all kinds of different topics. There’s a master presentation for the company’s existence. Then it changes over time a little bit, gets tweaked, and it needs to be messaged, and blah, blah, blah. Then out of it, there is a yearly plan, and that gets tweaked, and that gets messaged. Then, there’s a quarterly plan, and that gets tweaked, and that gets messaged. So on, so forth.

Jeroen: Con todas estas cosas, ¿qué es exactamente lo que le hace seguir adelante? ¿Qué es lo que te da energía?

Mikita: ¿Qué me da energía?

Jeroen: Yeah. You’re doing all these things for years now. How do you keep going?

Mikita: I don’t know, actually.

De acuerdo.

Mikita: I don’t know. I wouldn’t be able to answer precisely what gives me energy. I think I’m a normal human being, so winning definitely helps to release the right hormones, and keep me excited, and motivated towards inventing something, coming up with some kind of ideas. Or I really like finishing projects, however they come out, before that successful or unsuccessful. I just like getting things done. Interacting with people, that also makes you a lot happier. Yeah. Those things help you move forward, and of course, my family is a huge support.

Jeroen: ¿Tienes mujer e hijos?

Mikita: Sí, tengo mujer y dos hijos.

Jeroen: ¿Cómo mantiene el equilibrio? ¿Trabaja mucho en casa o va sobre todo a la oficina? ¿Qué tipo de horario tiene?

Mikita: I mostly go to the office. I don’t really have a set schedule, but if I’m not working before nine, then I don’t know, something is going on. I don’t really have a set schedule. Sometimes I take a flight in the middle of the week or try to work outside of the office just to basically reset my brain.

My job is not about putting a lot of hours in. It’s not how I believe I can be effective. My job is about making the right decisions, and that requires a clear mind that’s not triggered by anxiety or that’s not tired or fearing or whatever negative emotion that we might have because of that.

Jeroen: ¿Cómo mantiene la mente despejada?

Mikita: Oh, there’s a ton of stuff I do. Ta, ta, ta, ta, I meditate. I like to do morning runs. I surf. Surfing is amazing, and surfing in California, where I am, means surfing in the cold water. There is something about the cold water – be that cold showers or surfing on the West Coast in Central California, it refreshes you. It recharges you, and gives you that calm. Surfing gives me calm. What else?

Jeroen: Todo un, ¿cómo decirlo?

Mikita: Entrenamiento.

Jeroen: Yeah, it’s quite a big workout.

Mikita: Es un entrenamiento.

Jeroen: I think surfing is cold in most places, at least as far as I know. Like if we go surfing in Spain or so, it’s pretty cold. If you go to, I think Bali, perhaps could be warm. I don’t know.

Mikita: Yeah, dude, I lived in Hawaii, and there it’s beautiful.

¿Caliente?

Mikita: It’s so warm.

Sí.

Mikita: It’s really nice.

Jeroen: Is that where you mostly like to spend your time when you’re not working? Family and sports or surfing?

Mikita: Yeah. Family and sports. Honestly, if I can live in the forest for my vacation, for like a month, I would totally do that with my family, and surfboard or something. Something like that. I’d be really happy.

Jeroen: Yeah. That’s also what you do, if you wouldn’t work on PandaDoc, would it be that or would it be having another company?

Mikita: I don’t know. I really don’t know. Honestly, I thought about it, but I don’t know if I get bored, like if I will get bored really fast, but I’ll be sure to try. I mean, it’s just kind of like seeing the difference because the pace of life in Silicon Valley and the pace of a startup is very high. It’s intense, right? Yeah, sometimes you get to really wanting a break or a little bit of time to relax. The past five days, totally served that purpose. It was enough. Yeah, I don’t know if I can do a lot more than five days.

Jeroen: ¿Lees libros?

Mikita: Sí, pero escucho mucho más. Hoy en día escucho muchos más libros.

Jeroen: What’s the latest good book you’ve listened to and why did you choose to listen to it?

Mikita: The latest one I’ve listened is called Quiet Leadership. It’s a good book, and it’s about management, but based on the theory of management based on neuroscience. That was a really interesting book.

Then prior to that, I listened to Crucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson, very good book, extremely useful to executives. Actually, it’s extremely recommended for anyone as it is on how to have uncomfortable conversations that are hugely important to have.

Prior to that, I read a book about the CIA. Doesn’t matter what it’s called. Then prior to that, Five Dysfunctions of a Team, amazing book. I recommend it to everyone. Yeah, that’s the kind of stuff that I’ve listened to recently.

Jeroen: Última pregunta: si tuvieras que volver a empezar con PandaDoc, ¿qué habrías hecho de forma diferente?

Mikita: Oh man, a ton of things. I’ve done so many things wrong. I think the biggest thing I would change is that I would focus on people more. That’s definitely the case. I’m not necessarily the most, oh, it’s going to be hard, it’s a terrible thing to admit, but I’m very analytical. I’m not super empathetic.

Jeroen: Sí, más orientado a las tareas y menos a las personas.

Mikita: Exactamente. Y eso es algo que yo cambiaría, la proporción de eso. Yo lo cambiaría.

Jeroen: Yeah. Cool, well, that’s all I have for today, Mikita. Thank you for being on Founder Coffee.

Mikita: ¡Es un placer!


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Jeroen Corthout