Brian Stroeh of Heroic Rhino tells us about how they connect ambitious startup founders with highly skilled & experienced business mentors worldwide.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Brian Stroeh: We are doing very well, thank you. As with business, we also have to adapt as a family to the new conditions that the Covid-19 pandemic has set. But that’s ok, we really can’t complain. Now we actually get to spend more time together as a family. And with the rising tendency of people working from home during (and likely after) the pandemic is over, this could be a new normal for many other families around the world and us.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Heroic Rhino.
Brian Stroeh: Well, I have spent the past fifteen years working within Sales and Marketing management, mainly in SaaS and Digital Marketplace SMB’s.
With a combination of a blue-collar background, a college degree, and much restlessness, I jumped on the business train with a passion for building teams, growing companies, and satisfying my love for sales and marketing. I wanted to kick in the door to the real world and, by all means, lacked the energy to sit in an auditorium, watching time pass me. I have never been the type to idealize institutionalized schooling, which still shows today when I choose my team. I like the “doers” more than the “talkers”! My notion for building teams and business relations led me to mentor three years ago. It’s a way for me to channel my energy into helping new founders succeed by giving candid and honest advice. For me, that unique and professional relation between talented founders and mentors is the source of so much positive energy, which really spiraled my idea for Heroic Rhino. On a global scale, I wanted to give founders a fair chance to get the right advice from mentors with the proven experience, the willingness to give back, and the knowledge to do so. Heck, I was willing to give back and felt the rewards of doing so.
Through my connection to the startup community, I met numerous talented founders who fell short in their attempt to really get their startup lifted off the ground. Some got started but failed in their management of the company. Others struggled to grow and stagnated. Others never even got started. Too many talented people fall short and fail to start, run, and grow their businesses, despite the many opportunities to connect with business people—mentor programs, incubators, accelerators, social networks, etc. The problem isn’t the number of programs. It’s the old rigid structures around mentoring that need some innovation. The key is the easy access and the ongoing structured digital mentor and founder relationship that creates value on both sides.
How does Heroic Rhino innovate?
Brian Stroeh: For me, innovation has always been about looking at a challenge from different perspectives and often through my team members’ eyes. I have learned that brainstorming sessions with the team away from the noise of our everyday routine will open up new ideas worth pursuing. At Heroic Rhino, innovation is all about taking a step back and allowing ourselves to trust our instincts and then letting our ideas stand the test of time. You could say it’s a combination of allowing the best ideas to prevail, no matters whose idea it is, and then putting it to the test.
That is also a great way to delegate responsibility. If it’s your ideas, you own it, but we will make it happen as a team.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Brian Stroeh: It’s kind of like the old saying with the winds of change and the choice of building windmills or not. It seems that our concept of matching founders and mentors through the establishment of a digital community fits in well with the challenges that the pandemic has presented. The app solution and on-demand mentor communication that we provide are overcoming the challenges that many mentor programs face right now – the dependence on physical meetups.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Brian Stroeh: We are still a relatively small team, so HR challenges are manageable at the moment. The lesson would be that smaller teams often are more adaptable in a crisis. Still, then again, we are looking into ways of turning the situation around by delivering a solution for other struggling companies. Let’s face it. The pandemic is not going away tomorrow or the next day. But a way to combat that threat is to make long-lasting founder and mentor relations. In a crisis time, every founder (including myself) needs to take a hard look at their business and pinpoint where they need guidance. It’s fair to speculate that startups with a more complex structure and a larger salary budget could need a steady HR hand to guide them or maybe a legal expert to figure out a solution. Through the founder and mentor matching and the ability to create a lasting advisory board of mentors, we are actually able to steer founders through this crisis in the best way possible.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Brian Stroeh: Your customer relationship is very important to us, as should be, and swift and professional automated processes are a significant part of that. Our service of creating on-demand communication between mentors and founders is at the core of what we provide. That service should be as smooth and automated as possible because that is what we promised, which determines our relationship with our users. The automatic way of running our business also leaves room to focus on innovation and value-creating elements and opportunities.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Brian Stroeh: We are in the fortunate position that we are able to finance Heroic Rhino ourselves. This leaves us with the agility to steer through the current pandemic by making choices that are explicitly our own, as we are not hinged upon investors, business angels, or the like.
Your final thoughts?
Brian Stroeh: On a global scale, the pandemic is both horrible and surreal. Many companies that deal in events, have restaurants, and otherwise depend on their customers’ attendance are in a bad place right now. It wouldn’t be fair to state that every company is responsible for their own fate, in the situation we are all in now. The chips are dealt with unevenly, but I hope that most companies discover that a time of crisis is also a time for innovating their streams of revenue. My advice would be; keep innovating, keep pushing forward, keep reinventing in accordance with the new normal. It’s not going to be easy, but then again, entrepreneurship never was.