Kevin Sproles started his first business at a small, bedroom desk in California when he was 16 years old.
Oh, how things have changed.
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The web design business Sproles founded later pivoted and became Volusion, an ecommerce startup that helps small- and medium-sized businesses set up online shops. Now in Austin, the company has 250 employees that help it generate $50 million of revenue a year — and growing.
The company’s offices are in North Austin, north of Highway 183 in an industrial area that’s quickly filling up with breweries and tech companies. And it recently expanded the footprint of its headquarters and got all of its employees under the same roof.
That follows a big shift for the company.
A few years ago, Sproles left his role as CEO after 12 years to spend more time with his wife and children and family in California. In the meantime, Volusion’s new CEO made a strong push to develop an enterprise-level ecommerce product and said the company was on track for an IPO.
But it didn’t happen. Instead, the company struggled to grow fast enough for an IPO. Then, Sproles moved his family back to Austin and quietly returned as CEO about a year and a half ago.
“When I came back, we had a business unit that wasn’t doing very well and not everyone was aware of that,” he said. “So, now that you guys know, we have to do a big pivot or we have to sell. So we gave it a shot for two quarters and went down the acquisition route and sold Mozu.”
Sproles said Volusion has since accelerated and is profitable. Earlier this month, it launched a rebranding campaign with a colorful new logo and a new platform, Volusion 2, which is being A/B tested. There’s also been a renewed focus on teamwork, building culture and inviting clients into the office on a regular basis.
“You do that through being humble and being transparent,” Sproles said, pointing out new company values posted on an office wall.
A Focus on Company Culture
Upon Sproles return, the company made a big push for transparency, sharing weekly revenue figures and a lot of other internal business indicators with all employees. It’s not the firehose of business data senior leaders have access to. But it’s a lot, and it requires a level of trust throughout the company, he said.
Sproles said he still sees a path to IPO, but it starts with re-building into a high-growth company and then stabalizing that for some time before going public. An IPO, he said, is most likely at least a couple years away.
“We have a mission to be the best tech company in Austin, and that’s measured in the typical building of a lot of value and high-growth, but also in culture,” he said. “We want to help build Austin’s tech culture.”
To do that, Volusion explored how HubSpot, Spotify and other startups have built great company cultures.
The company has a bunch of other nice perks as well, including:
Since Volusion enables business owners to easily create online stores — and assists them in all aspects — company employees get a free Volusion store for life. Though none of the employees has officially transitioned to a full-time ecommerce startup, several employees have opened stores and generate supplemental income.
Dog Fridays — when everyone can bring in their pooch (so long as they have proper papers). Sproles was surprsied by how well it works, and he said it’s a great social connector because everyone is asking about each other’s dogs.
Beer Fridays — when each team at Volusion buys beers and takes some time to drink brews and chat.
Breakfast taco Fridays — when the company buys a load of Austin’s favorite morning treat for everyone.
Random parties — like many startups, Volusion has its share of parties for fun holidays — National Cereal Day, for example. And they have some office Olympics, as well.
Yoga trainers — the company, which has a gym and showers, has yoga instructors come in to offer different types of sessions.
And, Sproles said, one of the keys to good company culture is knowing when to get out the way when employees have great ideas.
“We believe that everybody can take an idea, run with it, own it, cut through the red tape and execute quickly,” he said. “We’re really trying to make people happy about their contributions.”