Starting Your Own Start Up
Interview with Jill King, Founder of Twelve Consulting Group.
Jill King grew up in Stillwater, MN, and earned her Masters of Accountancy degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She has over nine years of experience leading accounting and finance initiatives within large enterprises. In 2012, she started working with the revolutionary Anaplan platform. Grounded, driven, smart, caring, genuine, humble, and family-oriented are a few of the adjectives used by Jill’s team to describe her. Jill is a leader who is held in high regard by the people that work for and with her, so we wanted to learn more about her experience starting her own start up.
Did you always know you wanted to start a company? What triggered you to make the leap into entrepreneurship?
Ever since I was little, I always said I wanted to start my own company. At one point I wanted to start a salon, and then I wanted to start a flower shop. Prior to working at Anaplan, I thought about starting a concierge business for working parents who needed people to run errands or complete tasks, so I’ve always been brainstorming what types of businesses I could start.
My leap into entrepreneurship was more of an accident. I was working at Anaplan and I loved working with Anaplan software and working with my clients, but I was having a hard time balancing the demand of the industry with the demands of raising my three young children. To alleviate this issue, I decided to work as a contractor. However, there ended up being so much demand for the services, that I had to decide if I wanted to remain as a contractor or if I wanted to turn my work into a business. I had three children under the age of five at the time and I knew if I was going to work and be away from them during the day, it had to be something that was meaningful, something that would make a positive impact on the people it touched and something they could be proud of. I believed in the Anaplan software and I believed I could make an impact, so I decided to start the business.
What were the biggest initial hurdles to building Twelve and how did you overcome them?
There were a lot of hurdles in the beginning, especially the sheer amount of things to do. There just wasn’t enough time in the day to get everything done.
Initially, I started hiring people, because I thought that if there were more people, then the work would get spread across more people, but we just kept getting more and more work due to the demand for Anaplan services. After about a year, I could finally afford to invest in an executive coach, which I think was really important to help me prioritize what to focus on and when to focus on it. Hiring a coach really helped me manage the big picture at Twelve and in my personal life.
The first people at a startup tend to wear multiple hats, so hiring the right people is a critical component. What was your initial hiring strategy?
It is hard to recruit when you are a one-person show. Luckily, Jon Howard (Head of Customer Acceleration, Twelve Consulting Group) was willing to take the leap and join me at Twelve. He believed in me and he was confident that we could make something of this business. Then, I had worked with Megan Henderson (Chief Customer and Culture Officer, Twelve Consulting Group) before starting Twelve, and I knew that she would come in and hit the ground running. She was willing to take on any task and we could trust her to do the right thing. At the beginning, Jon focused on Anaplan implementations and Megan juggled implementations while taking various other tasks off my plate. I wouldn’t say that I had a concrete hiring strategy, but I was determined to find people that would fit the culture that I wanted to build. It was important to me that we create a positive, dynamic, people-oriented, hard-working environment, and those were the type of people I hired. As long as our people fit this culture, I knew that we could teach them what they needed to learn about Anaplan.
How do you manage building a company and a family at the same time?
The hardest part of owning a business is that you really never get away from the business, especially in the beginning when you are trying to build up your infrastructure, your reputation, and your team. At the time, I felt mediocre at everything I was doing because I was spread so thin, but my goal is always excellence. So I ended up hiring an executive coach who taught me the importance of outsourcing what you can to create more time. So that’s what I did. We really leaned on our nanny to get our kids where they needed to be, we leveraged professional organizers to keep our house in order and we hired people to run errands. My husband and I needed people who could give us back more time, because when we weren’t at work, we wanted to spend time with our kids. Anytime we could delegate a task, we did.
Twelve has a very unique culture, with an emphasis on well-being. In the early days of the company, what inspired you to focus on this core value?
When I started Twelve, I thought about the best aspects of companies I’d worked for and companies I admired. I was always happiest working for companies where I had a flexible schedule that allowed me to do things that were important to me, personally and professionally, such as going to a workout class or cooking meals at home. Well-being means different things to different people. I am always happiest when I feel good about what I am doing, so I made well-being a core value at Twelve.
What piece of advice would you give aspiring entrepreneurs just starting out?
There are so many, but I think the most important one is that if you really believe in what you’re doing, never let anyone tell you that it can’t be done. There will always be people who want to tell you how to do something differently or people who criticize the way you are doing it. If you truly believe in what you’re doing and you know that you can make an impact, don’t let anyone lead you astray.