Make your own luck. There’s a certain amount of luck that comes with making a successful startup — be open to timing around when a lucky opportunity presents itself and be smart enough to capitalize on that luck. In business, by trying lots of different things, not giving up, and being open to timing, you can make luck materialize.
The COVID19 pandemic has disrupted all of our lives. But sometimes disruptions can be times of opportunity. Many people’s livelihoods have been hurt by the pandemic. But some saw this as an opportune time to take their lives in a new direction.
As a part of this series called “How I Was Able To Pivot To A New Exciting Opportunity Because Of The Pandemic”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jamie Baxter.
Jamie Baxter is an entrepreneur and the Co-Founder and CEO of Qwick, where he provides technical leadership and strategic vision focused on creating an on-demand workforce for the hospitality industry. Prior to Qwick, Jamie led 7 HR technology products from concept to revenue, growing the largest to 130M dollars ARR and previously led an international team of 380 people at Willis Towers Watson. An HR tech veteran, Jamie’s passion for Qwick comes from his love of building technology products, assembling amazing teams, and a drive to help the thousands of individuals on the Qwick platform earn extra income.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
I grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and in second grade my parents helped get me admitted into a gifted and talented program. The teacher, Mrs. Hill, was amazing and created specific curriculums for each student that were designed to enhance their interests and talents. When I told her I was interested in computers, she taught me (and likely taught herself) how to program on a computer she bought. At the time, my parents were living modestly but they scraped the money together to buy me my first computer, a TI 80 which had two floppy disk drives (the real OG floppy disks). This early interest in computers and the support of my parents and Mrs. Hill helped me to get to where I am today.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” — Theodore Roosevelt.
This quote lives in our Qwick offices because we like to remind everyone they have to be vulnerable to be able to build something great. We want everyone on our team to enter the arena knowing that they may stumble, but by being willing to do so, they can achieve greatness.
Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
The book, “The Orange Revolution” by Chester Elton. I read it while at my previous company, and it helped introduce my leadership style at the time, and then helped me build up a new team of 250 people over a two-year period. We had everyone on the team read it and it really encouraged us all to get on the same page. What I love about the content is that it captures what servant leadership is and puts emphasis on the importance of empowering people to think differently, and rewarding them for the good work that they do. It was one of the first leadership books I read that truly resonated with me and the way that I thought.
Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before the Pandemic began?
Qwick was born in 2018 out of the need to match hospitality employers with high-quality, trained professionals who could fill roles at the last minute. By the end of 2018, we had raised 1.3 million dollars, then expanded to six more cities, starting with San Diego in January 2019. February 2020 was the company’s second strongest month, then everything changed just a few short weeks later when the service industry almost entirely shut down. Our business model relied entirely on one of the industries hit hardest by the pandemic, and we knew we had to think creatively.
What did you do to pivot as a result of the Pandemic?
We had a responsibility not only to ensure our business survived but that we kept earnings coming to our Professionals. While remaining true to our core business offering, we looked at the landscape across our country and saw that hospitals and groceries were overrun. We pivoted to offer our Professionals to fill these shifts, working with over 26 grocery stores across the country and we worked with a caterer that was making prepared meals for hospitals that had been pushed to the brink. We helped the military find staff to help feed new marine recruits in quarantine before entering basic training. We expanded our services to delivery-only restaurants and caterers exploring this territory for the first time. Next Qwick began working with vaccination sites that needed administrative and general labor support.
Additionally, we were able to really focus our efforts on restaurants. Our revenue from restaurants grew 32% through the pandemic and we were able to help many restaurants reopen during this tough time. Throughout this time period, we’ve been able to identify opportunities where our product could fit in, and a year after the pandemic hit the United States we have 115% MoM growth, are filling more shifts each week, and have many of our original business partners coming back and posting hospitality shifts.
Can you tell us about the specific “Aha moment” that gave you the idea to start this new path?
Before the pandemic, our business partners mostly included hotels, event venues, caterers, and some restaurants. However, what surprised us is that the restaurant partners we organically gained pre-pandemic were posting more shifts during the pandemic than we thought, and our typical business partners (hotels, event venues, caterers) were almost completely shut down. Restaurants were able to start to come back faster and we realized we could really help them get back on their feet. That’s when we started placing more of a focus on them.
How are things going with this new initiative?
Things are going really well. The market told us that our services were needed and our initiatives have contributed in a major way to the growth that we’re achieving. Because of this, we have expanded our focus from strictly food and beverage to a broader hospitality focus that includes event help, such as the work we’re doing to help staff COVID-19 vaccination sites in Phoenix, Arizona. We’re already witnessing other businesses utilize these types of shifts and see it as a major revenue stream for us in the future.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My dad. He was an entrepreneur himself and started a handful of different businesses when I was a young kid. While none turned out to be great successes, it showed me that you can create whatever you want to provide for yourself and your family. You don’t have to find a job, you can find an opportunity and create a business out of that. That, combined with how hard my parents worked to provide me with the tools I needed to fuel my passion, allowed me to learn and start my first business. Starting these businesses has allowed me to recognize that it’s okay to try something that you believe in and that sometimes you fail, but it helps to lead to something bigger.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?
It wasn’t a huge surprise that our revenue turned off so quickly in the first few months of COVID-19 because it hit the service industry entirely. However, I was really surprised with how quickly it turned back on. We weren’t expecting a full revenue recovery until Q3 but suddenly in February, it turned on as fast as it turned off. February ended up being Qwick’s second-best month ever, and in March, we almost doubled our February revenue, making March our best month ever by a long shot. In this case, an event that felt like the worst thing to ever impact the company resulted in the best thing that’s happened yet. Throughout the pandemic, we’ve improved the company, our talent density is at an all-time high, and now we’re getting the tailwinds of COVID-19 as hospitality starts to come back in a big way.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
1.) The company will not only be a success or failure in the end but it will be the culmination of many successes and failures along the way. Do your best to understand that going in and manage the roller coaster along the way.
2.) If you’re going to raise capital, set yourself up as a Delaware C-Corp. I set up as an LLC since I provided the seed capital at the beginning and thought it would help with tax implications. Ultimately, it cost me much more in legal fees, taxes, and brain damage than it ever could have saved me.
3.) Apply your previous experience to make your new venture a success. In my previous roles, I learned that the team is everything. Focus on hiring people smarter than you with experience and knowledge in areas that you don’t have. When building products, think big, start small, and scale-up.
4.) Don’t be afraid to build a board of directors. I initially put my own capital in and then raised a round of angel capital out of fear of creating a formal board structure and adding in too much governance. I have since realized that a board of directors can be as much or little governance as you need. Plus, they can be a great help in strategizing in future company direction and being good mentors and coaches to you outside of the board meetings.
5.) Make your own luck. There’s a certain amount of luck that comes with making a successful startup — be open to timing around when a lucky opportunity presents itself and be smart enough to capitalize on that luck. In business, by trying lots of different things, not giving up, and being open to timing, you can make luck materialize.
So many of us have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. Can you share the strategies that you have used to optimize your mental wellness during this stressful period?
Thankfully I have a really great support system and people in my life that make sure I’m taking care of myself mentally and physically. I think no matter how busy you are or what is going on in the world you can always make time to eat right, exercise, and have fun. There will always be an unlimited amount of work to do or news to consume, but if you don’t take time to care for yourself or take a break, you’ll ultimately burn out. It’s a marathon of sprints, not just one big sprint — you’ve got to take breaks to remain your best and best for your team as well.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
Equality — a movement around equality regardless of race, gender, or religion. There are so many great ideas and people that are never seen or realized because they aren’t given an opportunity or are dissuaded by peers. If we make a place that truly gives everyone the same opportunities we would have better companies, better ideas, and just a happier world.
Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!
Elon Musk. I’m impressed with the number of companies he’s started and how impactful those companies have been in such a short amount of time to truly change how we think about things. While there have been bigger companies in terms of revenue or size, the impact he is making on this generation and future generations in multiple ways are truly revolutionary. He’s a once-in-a-lifetime type of entrepreneur.
How can our readers follow you online?
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!