“Never Build Your Company On Someone Else’s Algorithm” 5 Leadership Lessons With Robert Hartsfield
“Never build your company on someone else’s algorithm. Don’t take short cuts. You will make mistakes but never let that stop you from taking a stab at them anyway. Be truly committed to your mission!”
I had the pleasure to interview Robert Hartsfield Co-Founder and CEO of SpokeHub. Robert has extensive leadership experience within the software industry. His experience and ability to be forward thinking has allowed SpokeHub to move rapidly after the app released with strong networking connections that compose the company’s aggressive go-to-market strategy. Robert has built a team with over 50 years of combined experience in sales, technology, business development and marketing.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your backstory?
I was born and raised in Durham, NC and am a proud graduate of North Carolina A&T State University. I started my career in technology in the late 90s during the .com boom. From there I’ve spent the last 20 years building and leading sales organizations across all types of businesses in the software industry. I feel blessed to have met some incredible people along the way and have built some of the best sales teams out there. My parents always dared me to dream big and never look back and that’s exactly what we are doing with SpokeHub. My goal is to inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs to pursue their passions and follow their dreams.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened since you began leading your company?
When we first launched SpokeHub I was told by other local CEOs that I should expect it will take over 2 years to raise the kind of capital that we were looking for. Immediately after I sat down with Mrs. Lori Jones Gibbs who is a local executive and long-time mentor of mine. She instantly saw our mission and understood the impact that SpokeHub could make in our community. She started putting together investor meetings and in a matter of months we have raised over $1,500,000 African American dollars from our local community.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
We stand out because we are nothing like your typical Silicon Valley tech start up. First off, we are an African American founded and funded company with a dynamic leadership team made up of women running every major department. Second, we are based in Durham, NC. This is creating a movement because aside from solving a true need which is real time engagement, it’s humbling to see companies, brands and investors support diversity in technology.
What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?
Empower (first and foremost!), always lead with transparency, set clear goals, operate with a high sense of urgency and demonstrate a strong work ethic.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped you get where you are today?
I consider myself lucky to have had several people help me get where I am today. One that stands out is Dr. Thaddeus McEwen, professor at North Carolina A&T State University. He really helped me prepare for life post-college. He was a resource, a mentor and an integral component to my college career.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Something important to me is giving back in an impactful and meaningful way. With SpokeHub we are focusing our efforts on the youth in our community. Our mission is to inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs and we truly practice what we preach. We have partnered with several youth organizations such as STEM In The Park, Triangle Uplift Foundation, and Jack and Jill Youth Conference to name a few. We’ve also established a board of advisors comprised only of millennials and Gen-Zers to allow the youth to actively participate in all facets of starting a tech company.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became CEO” and why? (please share a story or example for each)
Don’t take yourself too seriously! Entrepreneurship is a grind, take the time to laugh at yourself or with your team. Everyone needs an outlet and finding the right balance is key! As a father of 3 my downtime is spent with my family.
Never build your company on someone else’s algorithm. Don’t take short cuts. You will make mistakes but never let that stop you from taking a stab at them anyway. Be truly committed to your mission!
Your team is your most valuable asset. Surround yourself with people who make you level up and pour everything into them. Assemble a group of people who are just as willing to lose sleep and make the sacrifices that you are!
No one tells your story better than you. Use your voice and be as authentic as possible and you’ll be your own best salesperson.
BUCKLE UP! It’s a wild ride but I promise every single twist, turn and loop will be worth it. Enjoy every second!
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson” Quote?
“Set a goal so big that you can’t achieve it until you grow into the person who can.” -Will Smith
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC Funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this.
Robert Smith is an inspiration to me. I admire how he has moved through his career from working as a chemical engineer and investment banker to transitioning to entrepreneurship. He has set an incredible example for other young African American entrepreneurs like myself.