Build a Healthy Ecosystem to Deliver Business Success with Scott Burns & Ron Lancaster

scott-burns-structural-and-ron-lancaster

This episode kicks off Season 2 of The Founders’ Mentality with a bang. We were super excited to welcome Scott and Ron to the show because they truly represent how powerful and necessary a collaborative culture is to any company seeking to solve for millions of people and complex problems.

The nature of the Structural product, a modern take on the traditional people directory, and the collaborative company culture they shared with us are intertwined.

“At Structural we’re doing something very interesting with a very old concept. We are an all-in-one people directory, that uses very data-rich profiles on people in combination with intelligence search and realtime insight to reinvent the directory for the modern workforce. We combine all the business system data to unlock the connections that can happen to close deals, to staff projects, to find mentors, to be mobile in your organization. ” says Scott Burns, Co-Founder of Saint Paul-based startup.

Throughout our time with the Structural team, Scott shared with us his story about the interconnected relationships and complex ecosystem that define life as a founder.

Josh had Ron and Scott on for nearly a full hour, a first in The Founders’ Mentality history of 30-minute episodes. The conversation is packed with Scott’s hot-takes and experience as a founder of multiple companies and Ron’s deep technical knowledge as the CTO of a startup that is seeking to address the rapid pace of change in the future of workspace with artificial intelligence.

About the guests:

Your fundraising engine: technology, vision, and chops

Scott is clear that he’s never been an owner of a company he’s a truly collaborative partner when it comes to funding partners, the cofounders, the employees, everything else.

“When you’re trying to build a technology company and you’re not a technologist you need to have a Ron,” said Scott.

Ron is Structural’s CTO and according to Scott, Ron’s role has been critical not just from a code perspective.

Scott shares that the product your building and the vision you have for the company are only connected by the team.

He credits Ron with significant attribution on the 5 million dollars Structural raised during its seed financing round.

“[Investors] want to invest it with technology, vision, and chops behind it. And so Ron was a critical part of the conversations, particularly with our largest investor in getting them over the hump,” said Scott.

Founders should make sure they’re not spending too much time pitching, instead, they should bring their core team in on the fundraising because if you’ve hired the right people they’ll add more value.

Scott shares that he learned this lesson, “At GovDelivery, by the way, I completely hoarded those relationships [with investors] and I’ve learned my lesson that that’s not the right way to do it.”

To get the bigger checks, you have to show investors that you can recruit people of a high caliber.

Get more on leadership from Scott via his video series.

Be motivated by what is sustainable

To those who are interested in starting their own companies, Scott advises caution and clear thinking.

“It’s an incredible journey and lifestyle, but you have to kind of be motivated by things that are sustainable,” said Scott.

For those who might be employed with a good company Scott remarked, “If you’re happy there, I don’t know that you should leave but if you have that kind of artistic desire to see something in the world and really have a belief behind it, and you’re driven and excited about building the teams and going on the learning journey that’s involved in the leadership of a growing company, I think, it’s a great move for people.”

Passion can be a powerful motivation but it’s important to focus one’s passion in the right direction and not conflate passions.

“I’m always careful about calling work a family or a company, a baby. I have a family and I have children. These things are very different. It’s more like a professional sports team. I’m always trying to win and have the right players and build a great team and a culture,” said Scott.

Which makes sense to us. Practically you can’t really fire a family member or set performance expectations. The distinction is also important from a mental health perspective, holding those work and family as separate in your head can ensure you’re thinking clearly about both.

Because, sometimes it’s appropriate to move on as Scott shares about his exit from Gov Delivery, now Granicus.

Advice to founders on their exit: celebrate the days not the day

Scott Burns is a person who loves the journey and building a company is his choice of adventure.

When we asked him what it was like taking a company from the basement to 200+ people he lit up and had a lot to share but when we asked him about a moment some people might perceive as monumental he had some advice.

We asked about his personal transition after GovDelivery’s merger with Granicus he said, “You got to figure out what you’re gonna do next personally and reallocate your time… you really have to adapt to the situation and be present in it.”

An exit can be a great experience and many founders are hopeful they’ll find theirs. Scott’s advice is to keep looking forward, even after.

“The journey was amazing. Building [a product] and working with people but the end was uneventful. You know, your bank account’s a little bigger and you can reflect and celebrate, but I think you have to celebrate the days, not the day.”

Since the exit Scott got back to what he loved, another adventure with Structural and giving back to the community while fostering an ecosystem of entrepreneurship in downtown Saint Paul, Minnesota.

Inside the Osborne 370 building with tenants Scott Burns, co-founder of Structural, Bill Emory, CEO of Smart Care and Caroline Karanja, owner of 26 Letters
Photography credit: The Star Tribune

“It is a place where companies lease space and grow,” said Scott.

He’s incredibly proud of what everyone has done to transform the space. It’s perhaps what he’s most proud of at this point.

“Anybody who defines themselves as an innovator and wants to be in the building is welcome in the building. That’s created a diverse, extraordinary community. If you walk over there, the thing I’m most proud of—that really was driven by others, it wasn’t the original plan—is that it is the most diverse commercial office building in the Midwest,” said Scott.

More about Structural

Structural’s vision is to build a platform that puts people data to work in new and powerful ways for organizations worldwide. Learn more about Structural and their vision on their website.

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