Ross Andrew Paquette – Founder & CEO, Maropost

Maropost is a B2C, cloud-based revenue optimization suite that gives companies the ability to increase cross-channel customer engagement to maximize revenue. Through integrated marketing and sales automation, Maropost provides essential tools, strategic guidance, and support needed to create more personalized customer experiences through a 360-degree business view—from marketing automation, to CRM, commerce, and customer support. Headquartered in Toronto, Canada with development offices in Chandigarh, India, Maropost is trusted by 300 brands, including New York Post, DigitalMarketer, Golden State Warriors, SHOP.com, and Mercedes-Benz.

After founding Maropost in 2011, Ross has gone on to consistently double the annual growth of the company. As he continues to determine the direction and oversee the strategy of the company, Ross remains dedicated to his original vision: customer-centric innovation.

Tell me about your early career.
I started working right after my first year of university, and I haven’t stopped since. In second year, I was working three jobs—at a shipping company, a hotel, and a bar. The more I worked, the less interest I had in school. At the same time, those three jobs were starting to take a toll. I was about to take off and travel for a while, when one of my friends reached out about a job at a tech company in Ottawa.

There wasn’t much of an interview or onboarding. I was making calls and booking meetings for my Account Executive on day one. I hadn’t been working there long when they let my AE go. Rather than setting me back, him leaving was actually what got me started in email. He referenced me at his new job, and I quickly made the jump over there.

From there, I went to work at a mid-sized email marketing provider, then a smaller ESP. By the third job, I’d started to see trends in the space. The industry was, and still is, underserved. That consistent lack of innovation I was seeing—that’s what drove me to start Maropost.

How did the concept for Maropost come about?
Like I was saying, the email space has an innovation problem. Companies get comfortable, and their customers pay the price. What you end up with is outdated infrastructure that isn’t adapting to a changing marketplace. That’s where I saw an opportunity. With Maropost, I set out to build a response to stagnation; a company that was constantly evolving and adding to its features and functionality.

Part of that evolution means we’ve gone from being email-only, to completely cross-channel. There was a point when we had to stop looking at ourselves as competing with email marketing offerings, and start looking at the entire digital marketing industry. Lucky for us, innovation is a problem across the board, which is an opportunity.

How was the first year in business?
We didn’t have your standard “first year as a startup.” We weren’t raising capital. We weren’t running to burn. We were focused on the business. Because I was still working full-time, I had a level of security. I wasn’t panicking about how to keep the lights on until our next round of funding, unlike most young startups. Looking back, this was the calm before the storm.

What was your marketing strategy?
We didn’t have one. Our innovative approach to building out the platform; that’s what brought in clients. Referrals were what grew our client base over the first few years, but our lack of a marketing strategy has been a double-edged sword. On the one hand, for a long time we didn’t need one. On the other hand, when we’d grown enough to need one, we didn’t have the fundamentals built out. Marketing strategy is a recent development at Maropost, but being late to the game has had its advantages. We’ve been able to take a wholly-unique approach to our marketing, one completely unlike our competitors.

How fast did the company grow during the first few years?
The early years we saw were very divided, growth-wise. We grew revenue at a rapid rate, but our team stayed the same size. Word-of-mouth marketing and a small sales team is what took us to $25 million in annual revenue during our first four years.

How do you define success?
For me, success is about creating something that lasts—a legacy. I don’t want to found a series of startups or build a series of products. That’s not why I got into this business. I want to create something larger.

The legacy I’m looking to build is an organization; one that leads industry trends, that’s mentioned in same breath as IBM, Oracle, and Salesforce, and one that those companies are measuring themselves against.

We’re in the process of putting together a complete ecosystem and there are a lot of changes that come along with that—but there are a few things I refuse to change. We built Maropost on customer-first innovation. What I want, what I consider success, is building a global organization that still operates on that original principle. If we lose that in the process of building an organization, then we haven’t succeeded.

Continued platform improvements, in-house development, dedicated customer support—this is what customer-first innovation demands and it’s how we’re going to grow into an organization.

What is the key to success?
Focus on the why. Losing sight of that driving idea—that’s where companies fail. If you’re looking at your business in terms of valuations and buyouts alone, you aren’t operating around ‘why’ but ‘what.’ ”What’ is good, but not without ‘why.’ ‘Why’ aligns goals, and it makes accomplishments mean something.

What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
Your team is everything. The people you surround yourself with are either going to be your biggest motivators or your biggest detractors. Hiring for more than expertise—for attitude, for drive, for values—that’s how you grow your business and the team you need.

What are some of your favorite books?
I’m not much of a reader. I got about an hour into a book ten years ago and haven’t gotten any further since. Audiobooks, on the other hand, I like. I think the last book I listened to was The Gold Standard by Ari Gold, which is a fictional telling of his, also fictional, business acumen.

What are some quotes that you live by?
“Success seems to be connected with action. Successful people keep moving. They make mistakes, but they don’t quit.”

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal – it is the courage to continue that counts.”

“The two most important days in your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why.”

“The ones who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones that do.”

Tell me about one of the toughest days you’ve had as an entrepreneur.
Being an entrepreneur, there are a lot of tough days. Maybe more tough days than easy days. The toughest days aren’t the ones where you question what you’re doing, but the days you question why you’re doing it.

When I’ve questioned the ‘why’ behind Maropost, it’s been because the people I was working with were questioning it. Having people on your team who don’t believe in the same core concept—you lose your drive.

We’re looking for people who believe in what we’re doing, who want to be a part of it, who have the skills to be a part of it—which isn’t easy. It’s a special type of person that ticks all these boxes. Today, we’re skilled in spotting this type of person, but only after years of trial and error.

When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
It all comes back to that ‘why.’ As long as I keep that in mind, I keep moving forward. For staying on top of specific goals, all the ‘what’ that goes into that ‘why,’ I print them out and have them at my desk as a constant reminder of what I’m working towards.

What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
Focus on building a strong business, not just growing a big business. You don’t have to look far to find companies failing in the midst of hyper-growth. It’s okay to slow down and focus on the fundamentals—the stronger your foundations, the more you’re prepared for future growth.

This interview was conducted for research purposes by Jason Navallo for his upcoming book, Underdog.