David Kilimnik is the founder and CEO of Hero Digital, one of the fastest-growing business services companies in the lower middle market. Dave and his team have built one of the world's leading digital customer experience companies. Any major company wanting to better empathize with their customers at scale across digital comes to Hero for leading-edge CX/UX design strategy and downstream technology solutions. They deliver like no other in the sector, and fueling their execution capabilities are very high employee engagement levels.
Dave grew up in Massachusetts and started running services businesses early on He and his friend figured out one way of improving customer experience with snow removal was to use dental tools to get the ice out of the driveway cracks. He got started in the tech economy as a an e-commerce software platform trainer/teacher and from there what has driven him is simply a desire to jump the steepest learning curves out there.
Dave co-founded Hero Digital in 2014 and without any outside capital or sales team grew the company to $25 million in two years. And they did it with high margins and limiting scale by how rigorous they approach new hire screening. They partnered with CI Capital in 2016 and since then have doubled from $25M to $50M and are now tacking towards a $150M revenue run rate. What’s amazing is how well Hero continues to perform in the area of employee experience/engagement during such rapid growth of a services business.
Dave did his undergrad at UC Berkeley where he studied biology. He later got his MBA at Babson, where he graduated magna cum laude.
Here are the takeaways from the discussion with David Kilimnik:
1. Recruit people that get off on steep learning curves. These are the company builder types. Also a great focal point for recruiting growth mindset A players in a competitive labor market. If you’re like Hero, you can articulate the impact of close feedback loops to development. Paraphrasing: “At a large company, you can turn a knob and you won’t really know what impact that had or get feedback on the outputs to cause improvement. At Hero, we have a close feedback loop so you will know cause/effect in a way that will make you a more and more successful executive over time.”
2. Competitive advantage of “It’s Not About Me” mindset. This isn’t something Dave mentioned but something we picked up on. When you can build a company that is low ego, enablement-focused and exclusively focused on customers, you’re laying a foundation for a best-in-class execution culture. You can’t fake low self-orientation, so this is more an observation than anything prescriptive.
3. Scaling as a CEO across revenue life cycles. Very few CEOs can scale with a company from start up to $25M let alone start up to $1B. Having the humility to acknowledge and compensate for your deficits is key. Comes back again to low self-orientation as a basis to only care about what is best for growth prospects and the health of the business. The best executives know it’s not about them.