Bryce Maddock: Pushing Past False Starts

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Bryce Maddock (LinkedIn) knew being an entrepreneur wouldn’t be easy – but he didn’t know that he’d have to start over from scratch after a failed business venture left him jobless and sleeping on his parents’ couch.

It was a tough spot to be in, but Bryce is thankful for the lessons he learned early in his career – lessons that help him now as the CEO and Co-Founder of TaskUs – the world’s leading digital customer experience outsourcing company.

From the beginning, Bryce knew he wanted to do something in business. He and his best friend, Jasper, had been launching joint business ventures together since high school. Even when Bryce went to college in New York and Jasper attended school in LA – they still spoke regularly about going into business together. That opportunity came (or so they thought) after Bryce went to work at an investment bank. He returned home for Christmas and realized he was miserable. So when Jasper proposed an idea, Bryce was all for it. “Jasper told me he wanted to go down to Argentina and open a frozen yogurt shop. He had studied abroad in Argentina… he thought that frozen yogurt was exactly what the country needed.”

So Bryce quit his job – and he and Jasper went to Argentina to start a frozen yogurt business.

It didn’t take off.

About a month later, Bryce was living with his parents in LA and the yogurt shop idea had stopped before it even really started.

Though it was a low moment, Bryce didn’t give up. He had an idea – something that had crept into the back of his mind as he was working at his job as an investment banker. “When I was working [at the bank], there was quite a bit of work that was simple and repetitive, and I used to say to my other co-investment banking analysts that I could easily outsource the work that they were doing.”

That simple idea – outsourcing – was the beginning of TaskUs. “We wanted to build a virtual assistant network where busy professionals could send a task in and we would use pretty rudimentary skill-based routing to assign that task to someone in our network.”

It’s a brilliant idea – simple and user-based. But it wasn’t an easy thing to execute. They had many false starts. “Pulling it off, in reality, was a real challenge because we were trying to be all things to all people. It took us eighteen months to figure out that the model [we had] was not going to work.  “We ended up with not many customers, and the ones that we did have were pretty frustrated and disappointed with the results that we produced.”

It was back to the drawing board, then. Bryce and Jasper opened a small office in the Philippines and recalibrated their business model. They put their network to work answering some of the needs of their friend’s startups.

Things started working, and they gained momentum. Soon, they had to build more offices to keep up with the demand.

Today, they employ over 15,000 people around the world.

Bryce had to learn many hard lessons on his way to the top, and they are the ones he keeps close.

Keep solid relationships. Not many entrepreneurs want to go into business with their best friends. In fact, not many friendships couldn’t survive joint business ventures. But Bryce has a different experience – he says that his friendship with Jasper was integral to the creation of TaskUs and its success. “There were countless times when we had been in really challenging situations, very stressful situations, and the fact that we could fall back on that bond and a history of really enjoying one another’s company…made a big difference.”

Invest in an Executive Coach. They aren’t cheap, of course, but if you ask Bryce – they are worth every penny. “[Executive coaching] was not something in the first five years of business that we could have afforded, but [it was] another thing that was super helpful for us.”

Get face to face. This is a tall order – especially for a big company based in a different country. It is hard to travel when the option of picking up a phone and doing a FaceTime call is right there. But Bryce says that going to his offices and meeting with his employees face-to-face has made all the difference. “A phone conversation is always preferable, particularly if you have to deliver or receive bad news. A video call is probably slightly better than that, but…doing something face to face whenever possible is critical.”

Invest in yourself: It’s easy to take the money you’ve earned and invest it in the nitty-gritty nuts and bolts of your business. It’s not as easy to invest in things that don’t seem vital. But Bryce remembers a time when he decided to invest in something that wasn’t vital, but that wound up making all the difference: “The first time that we built an office from scratch in the Philippines, I was involved and I was very adamant about controlling costs. At the time I was hiring a new country leader for the region…a great guy who has gone on now to run our global operations. He had come to me and explained this theory that if we spent not a ton more – 10-15% more – we could create an office space that would look and feel like our Silicon Valley clients’ offices. These would be offices that would be inspiring to come into and a really exciting place for our workforce to work.” At first, Bryce was skeptical about spending money on looks. But he became convinced. “We built a really cool office, and it was totally different from anything in the industry. And, the buzz that got out and our ability to just organically recruit people to come and work purely because the office was so cool, I mean, I think it was worth it. Almost instantaneously comes the ROI. We started to win business just because our offices were cool.”

Decide what you’re not going to do. This can be something that is just as – nay, more – important than deciding what you are going to do. According to Bryce, it’s important to clear your plate of things that aren’t the highest priority. “That doesn’t mean low priority items get crossed off the list. It means deciding that they’re not the absolute highest priority item. The discipline of saying – ‘here are probably seven or eight things that we’d like to accomplish this year…what are the four or five that we’re going to just decide we’re not going to do so that we can absolutely focus on the top three?’”

These ideas have worked wonders for Bryce and Jasper – business is booming. “We’ve got 15,000 employees across four different countries,” and they’re just getting started.

Want to hear more from Bryce? Check out our podcast here.

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