Hand to Hand Combat | Adam Berke from WorkPatterns

At his last company, Adam Berke went from being one of three people to one of seven hundred. It’s rare that someone gets to experience that scale of growth, and the lessons learned along the way are invaluable.

Some of those lessons inspired Adam’s current company, WorkPatterns, a tech startup that offers a simplified people management app to help managers organize, motivate, and engage their teams.

On this edition of Founders Journey, Adam discusses what he realized was missing from how we manage teams, and why the best way to get your business started is hand to hand combat.

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Adam Berke is a repeat entrepreneur, angel investor, and the CEO/co-founder of WorkPatterns, the people management software company. WorkPatterns cultivates the habits of great leaders to help organizations around the world achieve their mission through guided 1:1s, feedback, recognition, and goal setting.

The WorkPatterns app is used by hundreds of high performing organizations including Estée Lauder, Panasonic, Carfax, Automattic, Clorox, and many others.

Prior to founding WorkPatterns, Adam was part of the founding team of NextRoll (formerly AdRoll) and helped grow the company from 3 to 700 employees around the world. The company was voted one of the best places to work in the San Francisco Bay Area five times.

DISCLAIMER: Below is an AI generated transcript. There could be a few typos but it should be at least 90% accurate. Watch video or listen to the podcast for the full experience!

Adam Berke 0:00
Part of the process is a struggle. And you know, if you’re having a rough day and you’re having a bad you know, your company’s having a down month or you know struggling, you know, with a release or experiencing a big bug, usually, the only way you’re going to feel the UPS is if you have them.

Alexander Ferguson 0:21
Welcome to UpTech Report. This is our founders journey series UpTech Report is sponsored by TeraLeap. Learn how to leverage the power of video at Today, I’m joined by my guest, Adam Berke, who’s based in California. He’s the co founder and CEO at workpatterns. Welcome back, Adam, good to have you on the go. Now this is part two, you should definitely go back listen to part one, where we understood a bit more about work patterns, a people management platform, helping to improve team communication and accountability. The concept for this what you already heard for Part one is came from your your previous adventure and this concept that ad roll, going from three people to 700 people, managing people as your team grew. I mean, that is the the success of a company is based on the people that are there that can do the work. And what I like to hear though a bit more is the journey itself of like, this is a if I understood correctly, now you’re on your third company that you helped co found and build. Over the years I mentioned, there’s a lot of lessons learned. Have you just always been involved and interested in technology. And it’s just like from the beginning.

Adam Berke 1:32
Um, you know, the first company, I wasn’t really a co founder, I kind of joined at a time when the company was like changing, it was like bubble bursting, and it was changing directions that I was part of sort of relaunching the new model. And then ad roll, you know, very much from the from the beginning, and then work pattern from the beginning. Yeah, I mean, I think, I don’t know, I mean, technology, for sure. More so though, like entrepreneurship, and problem solving and trying to, you know, I’m very interested, I enjoy the both the ups and downs, I let them go down, but like the ups and the downs of early stage, company formation and creation, and working together to solve those problems and bring something into the world

Alexander Ferguson 2:26
that you think solves the real problem. Thinking back to let’s say, when you started with the co founders ad role. 2007 1314 years time, it’s just like, if you could think of one thing that you could share with yourself and something that you’ve learned and and and realize now, well, you didn’t then what would you tell yourself?

Adam Berke 2:52
I could tell myself back in 2007? I mean, I would say that well, I think that the I mean, I would almost want to tell myself, I would almost want that person to tell me some stuff now. You know, I think one, I think in some ways, that person had certain wisdom that, you know, is easy to forget, in the sense that, you know, in your second third venture, the expectations are a lot higher, that you’ll that you’ll be able to figure it out and you’ll you’ll be successful. And, you know, I think I had, you know, I think I think you know, I had a little bit more, as, you know, last time around, you know, more in it for, you know, just just a little lower lower expectations, I guess everyone expected us to fail. And, you know, and anything else would be outside like now it’s kind of flipped.

Alexander Ferguson 3:45
It’s interesting point that you make like, you have a success. Now on the next one, that expectation of success just suddenly amped up for you, for everyone around you. How do you handle that? How do you be able to manage that expectation?

Adam Berke 4:02
It’s hard. Yeah. I mean, honestly. Yeah. I mean, yeah, for other personal share. Yeah, it’s hard. And it’s something that I’ve been trying to like work on lately and catch myself and just remind myself that, you know, on about two things like one that whether, you know, the company is successful or not successful, won’t have any indication of whether or not it’s due to a bill, you know, my anything related to my amount, of course, it will, you know, I’ll have an impact on it, but like, on a, like, my self worth, it shouldn’t be dictated, like starting stuff is really hard, most fail most second time ventures fail. So, you know, trying to just remind myself that you know, and can disconnect myself from it being all about myself worth and secondly, you know, it’s a little bit you know, it feels like a fortune cookie thing a little bit but Like, it is about the journey, and it is about the process. And part of the process is the struggle. And, you know, if you’re having a rough day and you’re having a bad, you know, your company’s having a down month or you know, struggling, you know, with a release or experiencing a big bug, you, the only way you’re going to feel the UPS is if you have those, and so you know, you gotta just, you know, put it in perspective and know that’s going to be a part of it, there is no, there is there is no experience without those, no one just crushes it all day in and out. And if you did, you’re just, you know, your dopamine would be at that level. And that’s just, you, wouldn’t you, that would feel normal to you. So try to remind myself of that. And then like, thirdly, you said it also, and you said it earlier, and you’ve done it a couple times, but like it, you know, again, one of those like, it feels almost like tried to say, but it truly is all about the people and the relationships that you develop along the way. And that is like core to our product. And something I try to keep in mind and like, you know, I have friends for life from, you know, the previous company, and, you know, going into battle with those folks. And, and, you know, that’s, that’s the crucible for building relationships. And, you know, we’re earlier in on this experience, but I’m sure, you know, the same relationships will emerge. And, you know, it’s been awesome to see, you know, all the all those people who I met through the last journey, also, you know, start other than other employees start other companies and, and, you know, come to me for whatever, you know, input I can provide and having and, you know, other people they met, you know, so there’s a whole network and community that we kind of helped create and foster and so that’s just, that’s just like the most rewarding thing of the whole experience. And hopefully something that you know, I can hopefully do that. That’s something I think I have more control over making sure have strong relationships with

Alexander Ferguson 6:52
people, as you mentioned, it’s like, yes, it’s crucial, right from the beginning, but use mentioned with with ad roll this start with with three guys. And both now with with work pattern co founding it, how do you find good co founders? That’s always a, you know, a question. I’ve been everyone wonders, okay. You just come across some of their friends. And how do you say, Okay, if you you’re the right one, we’re gonna make a good team.

Adam Berke 7:17
Yeah, I think you’re saying I mean, I’ve, I’ve done that. And I mean, the two companies are two totally different ways. You know, so ad roll were people that I had been friends with, for, you know, since I moved to San Francisco, so you know, that would have been like, seven years, people I knew for like, seven years, and I’m going to spend with and we’re the, like, Jared and Aaron were like two people that like I, you know, definitely wanted to do something with. And so when they kind of proactively came to me, it kind of made the decision kind of easy, in fact, wasn’t really an industry that I wanted to necessarily be in, I thought I was gonna kind of move out of that world of marketing knowledge, but it was like, Okay, well, you know, these are the people that I want to do something with. So let’s go. And so that was much more about the people and the team. And then, you know, the problem face, candidly, was somewhat secondary. And this time around, it’s more about the problem space, and then finding the people that would be the best people to kind of attack that problem with. And so yeah, the way it ended up working this time around, was getting introduced to an existing technical team that was already working on a similar problem space. And, you know, started talking with them kind of sharing my ideas, realizing that we had very complementary skill sets, which was a big learning from the first time around, where you know, you it’s really helpful if you’re, if you’re complementary, and not kind of stepping on each other’s toes, as, because there is so much to do. And if there’s high, like Venn diagram, overlap and skill set, there’s probably a big area you’re missing. And so you know, having had, you know, a very having net, a very strong technical team that was very interested in you know, a two person technical team that was very interested in this problem space, and my being able to bring the operational experience and having been in the seat of the customer, and having seen how organizations operate and what manner of different management system can look like, it was a really nice compliment. And so, you know, that’s how we ended up joining forces this time around.

Alexander Ferguson 9:30
This, this concept of, of balancing out and making sure that you don’t overlap too much and interesting that you come already with another team that was building something or like, you saw that they had something that resonate with your idea. Yeah, that’s right. Was merging that concept of your, your idea and their idea pretty seamless, of just like, Oh, we have the same thing, or was there a little bit of friction and development there?

Adam Berke 9:59
Um, I mean, You know, like, I think the most important thing was that, you know, we had a similar Northstar, which was like, how can you bring? How can you bring data and technology into people management to make it more human? and effective? And? Yes, absolutely. You know, we just had our first like, Monday, Tuesday, this week, we had our first off site or on site, you know, with everybody in the same place. And yeah, we’re hashing out and debating all sorts of things and priorities? And should we do A or B, or C. And so that’s, that’s kind of a natural, you know, the details, those details are like your if you’re ever, if you’re always fully aligned, then you’re probably missing something. So yeah, you know, we’re constantly debating things and try, you know, trying to put them into frameworks and prioritize in certain ways, but the North Stars is pretty solid, which is what, what’s really key your strengths,

Alexander Ferguson 11:03
you mentioned is operations, and I see previous roles is cmo. At so is, it comes from the marketing side, and then the overall operations.

Adam Berke 11:13
Yeah, I mean, customer facing, you know, stuff. But yeah, having been inside a, you know, a scaling and larger organization, you know, I have I’ve seen, I wouldn’t say like I’m an operational wizard, there are people who are that, you know, I’d say, you know, one of my greatest strengths, like breast and that I knew how, you know, maybe maybe a jack of all trades expert at none type situation. But, you know, I’ve built and managed sales teams, I’ve done business development myself, I’ve, you know, been involved in enterprise sales, I’ve been a marketer, cmo, building a marketing team of, you know, 4050 people. So you know, and add product roles. So,

Alexander Ferguson 11:56
take insights from across those different pieces is crucial. If you want to be able to run a new startup, your lessons learned, when you think back, and even learning them right now, I’m sure. Being able to bring a product to market to get interest to get people on board, especially when you’re starting, how, what tactics worked for you in the in the past, and it kind of resonate with, with capturing that initial attention getting people on board?

Adam Berke 12:27
Yeah, I mean, I don’t think there’s any way around the early, the first handful of customers just being like, hand to hand combat and like face to face. And obviously, the, you know, with Admiral, I didn’t have as much of a network as it were, to go to. And so like I, you know, we went to trade shows, and I would, you know, hit the floor and have to, like, go around and just talk to people and try to, you know, find people who, what we were working on with the residents, or what we were working on resonated and, you know, that, that was, that was hard work. But you get a lot of very clear, very salient feedback. You know, and so, you know, there, there was a lot of that, obviously, there aren’t trade shows now, but like our starting point where people that I had develop relationships with, you know, I had a cohort of other people who were also executives, and founders and managers, and, you know, some of the people that I mentioned that, you know, who had, you know, on that those 700 employees, we had a lot of manager there who had gone on to be, you know, high level managers and other companies. And so I had kind of a really good group of people that we could kind of talk to, initially, and, you know, not sell anything to, but show prototypes show demos. And you know, over time, we said, okay, well now actually use it with your team. And then over time is like, Okay, if you’re actually using for it, here’s what we’re thinking of charging. And, you know, there’s a whole evolution that you can go on. But yeah, I think it all starts with hand to hand combat. And having, you know, those one getting those one on one conversations and how you do that is going to sort of depend on who you are as a person, and, you know, the access that you have, and you know, for some, it might have to be a bit more cold. And for others, it might be a bit more warm.

Alexander Ferguson 14:30
You mentioned, going to trade shows this kind of the first guerilla place of just getting making it happen. Yeah, it’s been a little hard in the last year and a lot of questions like, should we go back to investing and trade shows and being able to show up places like that? Where do you see as marketing opportunities go and be able to do more guerrilla hand to hand opportunities of getting that first word out?

Adam Berke 14:53
Yeah, it’s it’s hard to be honest and it moves really fast these days. There’s a There’s a great like Andrew Chen blog posts from years ago now, but it’s called the law of should he should he clickthroughs. And basically, you know, it’s basically the idea that like, when you discover any new marketing channel, the quicker you know, the response rate, click through as a proxy for that it’s going to be, it’s going to be great because it’s unpenetrated. And then there’s always going to be this natural decline as it becomes saturated, and people figure it out. And it feels what that cycle is just like accelerated these days. And the window of time, in which, you know, there’s a channel is high is like, unpenetrated is like, really small. And so, you know, I think the way that, you know, this is something we’re trying to figure out, frankly, and I don’t think we’ve cracked it. I think at a higher level. The way though that I’m that I’m thinking about it is to try to maybe not try to play the game of like racing into the news. Not trying to like okay, clubhouse is having a moment. I mean, by all means we were talking about I wish we use them in clubhouse going, you know, like, whatever. But I think the lesson that, you know, by the time we were ready and had a plan to do that, and you know, had bandwidth, it was already like, well, is that really still the best thing? Hey, you know, so like, I think I think the, I think instead of getting into that game of like, how can we, you know, be the first in some channel is like the focus on quality and focus on like, just creating and putting out content that is genuinely useful. And, you know, in terms of what the distribution channels for that ends up being, we can be then, you know, fairly flexible and dynamic. But look, in your history of content created.

Alexander Ferguson 16:48
What was the best piece of content that that was created that got the most interest and work really well?

Adam Berke 16:54
Yeah, well, two things come to mind. When you when you ask that one is, man, there was a explainer video that I just did just to date myself on a flip cam, that I just literally stood in front of a whiteboard and explained how ad targeting work, essentially. And that just dominated for so long. And I think it’s because it was authentic. It wasn’t glossy. It wasn’t. It wasn’t, it wasn’t meant to be. It didn’t have it.

Alexander Ferguson 17:33
In front of a whiteboard, just drawing this is how ad work advertising works.

Adam Berke 17:37
Yeah, and, you know, the various intermediaries and, you know, just some simple concepts. And, you know, I think, you know, going back to like mistakes made, you know, I think we moved away from that a bit later, you know, it was almost like a curse, and that we had more resources, and more made it too shiny. And yeah, like there was anything took a bit longer, and we’re a bit produced. And yeah, people have a bit, you know, a great bs detector. And, you know, they know what marketing content looks like, man. And the other thing, like we were, you know, I was a marketer, marketing, a marketing technology product to other marketers, who were the buyer, right, like, so like, these are people who are like, Hey, I know exactly what you’re doing here, like, this is content marketing, you’re doing this type of gated content, so that you can put me in a funnel, I’m super attuned to everything that’s going on. So, you know, especially in that audience, you know, I think, and I hear, you know, similar stuff to people who market to developers, who are, you know, don’t want your glossy sales presentation at all they want to get in the product, you know, and see how it works. You know, I think

Alexander Ferguson 18:48
I’m curious, like, as one is experience in marketing, is there a category market that doesn’t mind the glossy shine? Is that just general consumers? Is that is that where shine comes in?

Adam Berke 19:01
I think authenticity resonates with general consumers as well. And I don’t think that doesn’t that means you don’t have budget or you don’t produce things. Well, you know, I think of like the Dollar Shave video, you know, which was super famous, like that was well produced. That was, you know, that that was like a commercial, but it was very authentic, and, you know, the personality came, came through in the same way that like, that I could come through perhaps in just the quick cam video to, you know, a more niche audience, but, you know, in a similar way, so I don’t think like, you know, when I say glossy, I guess I don’t necessarily mean unproduced or I mean, produced or that it doesn’t

Alexander Ferguson 19:43
underlie like Gossage. Yeah,

Adam Berke 19:45
yeah. And authenticity.

Alexander Ferguson 19:47
Yeah, authenticity. So for you. Part of it is marketing. The other part is, is the team which is what your entire focus is on is building, providing a tool that allows you to build good But then it also is your vision of like how you spend your time, and I’m just curious as a leader, what your typical day looks like, like, when you wake up in the morning, what do you do?

Adam Berke 20:11
Yeah, I’m all over the place right now. I mean, we’re still relatively early stage. So, you know, I and I, frankly, I like that, you know, going back to, you know, my career having, you know, you know, I, like, you know, I think one of my strengths is being able to do a diverse thing that have things like, reasonably well, and, and, you know, I’m, I’m great at getting to like a B plus level of things. That, you know, maybe if I had to frame it as a blog post in there, like the power of being a generalist, there’s such emphasis on being, like, narrow and deep these days, you know, from even like, you know, parenting and bringing, you know, like, okay, you’re going to be a world class golfer at age, you know, whatever. There’s a lot of power these days and being a generalist, and being a B plus that a lot of things. And so, that’s, that’s a lot of what my day is, like, you know, today I’m talking to you, I’m having three, one on one with different people on my team. We’re doing a lot of admin stuff, setting us up to you know, now that people have, that we’re that we’re like, we were always remote, but now people are different states. And there’s a lot of intrastate taxation stuff that I need to deal with. I’m writing I’m writing up some, some spec work that came out of the off site, you know, based on the priorities that we identified, I want to get that a little bit more granular and specific. So yeah, really a lot of context shifting and jumping to different areas. But I like that, that’s easy. Well,

Alexander Ferguson 21:40
if there had to be a book, audio book, podcast or other resource that you have, resonate with them enjoy in the past as a leader, anything that you can recommend?

Adam Berke 21:55
Um, yeah, I mean, you know, the classics that have always stuck with me, you know, are, you know, the, the Jim Collins stuff, you know, so you know, like, I don’t think you’re gonna be original ideas, but you know, built to last, and, and good grade, those types of like, those, those, those business classics, you know, just just have stuck with me. Clay Christians and stuff, as well around disruption has stuck with me. You know, I think that that was sort of a playbook that we ran at the last company where ad roll were, you know, there was a lot of sophisticated ad technology for very high, very high end of the market. And we were one of the one of the first to kind of try to democratize that and build something that was simpler and easier to use. And, you know, is one of those situations where there was just this, this was pre, you know, the wave of BTC and direct to consumer brands, and we were kind of right place, right time in recognizing that and that we were building from that was really easy to use for for any size brand. And that really resonated with that, that that type of customer so you know, that type of stuff. And and in a way we’re doing some of the similar thing with work patterns where, you know, there are enterprises, large, you know, multi 1000 organizations have, you know, very sophisticated systems and processes for this stuff. We’ve similarly identified sort of this market in sort of, like 50 to 250 organizations that have outgrown informal systems, and you know, you can’t go and like sign up for a free trial of workday, you know, like, you know, these enterprise systems, so we see an opportunity to kind of really solve that problem and move up market over time.

Alexander Ferguson 23:50
adds an interesting also approaches like looking for ways to disrupted by, by how is it traditionally done, have, they can’t get free software from the bottom up. So let’s actually come at it from the bottom up so that it actually can trickle for. Well, I’m excited for the journey. In many ways. You said, this is just beginning. You have a lot of adventures to come. But I appreciate you sharing just a few of those lessons learned from from your past from your experience, and excited to see where you go next. So thank you out for this.

Adam Berke 24:18
Oh, man, thanks for your time. My pleasure.

Alexander Ferguson 24:20
Definitely go back. Listen for those two part one. So you can hear a bit more about work patterns and the people management simplified, which is their approach. You can also go to, and we’ll see you all on the next episode of UpTech Report. Have you seen a company using AI machine learning or other technology to transform the way we live, work and do business? Go to UpTech And let us know


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